My father-in-law Terry is visiting and we head to Murrurundi for the day. Whenever we are heading north through the Upper Hunter Valley on the New England Highway I always feel like I am almost home when we reach Murrurundi. The setting in the Page’s River Valley of the Liverpool Range is evocative of Nundle, although with a population of about 1300, it is more than four times the size of our town.
Driving south, down Nowland’s Gap we exclaim at the blanket of cloud resting over Murrurundi. When we park the car for a walk the temperature is a bracing 13 degrees Celsius. A timber and iron suspension pedestrian bridge over the Page’s River captures the boys’ imaginations and Terry can’t help himself, rocking the bridge to give the boys an extra thrill.
A new upholstery and home wares store, Jute and Honey, attracts our attention. It is owner Jen Hemming’ fourth weekend of trading. She has a wonderfully creative eye and we admire her collection of new and old wares, coming away with a vintage sign for Manning’s Poultry Spice that spruiks “Cockadoodle doo! Brings your chickens to life!”
It isn’t long before the boys complain of hunger and it doesn’t take much to twist the adults’ arms for morning tea at Café Telegraph. The smell of the wood fire is comforting as we step inside, but we choose to sit in the sun under the bare trellis in winter mode.
Wandering through neighbouring Plants on Pages, we stop to admire a wall of weathered garden tools on a rendered wall.
Our hero destination for the day is Michael Reid Gallery, Murrurundi. This is one of my favourite places. The sandstone gallery set in sweeps of oyster plants, hellebores, and emerging bulbs is so peaceful. Terry and I enjoy the joint exhibition of work by Christina Thwaites, Tracy Chaplin, Catherine Stewart and more. Catherine Stewart’s painting ‘Bee Boxes’ reminds me of my dad, Don, who has kept bees for more than 30 years, and a photograph I took of Scott Middlebrook’s multi-coloured bee boxes loaded onto a truck outside his parents’ house at Nundle. Gryf and Cormac make friends with the loping brown Labrador, Stoker, playing tug-of-war with a slobber soaked squeaky toy and throwing it across the lawn.