A Bicycle Riding Holiday – Day 3: Gunning to Crookwell

Anzac Day 2018 I wanted to ride someplace quiet and beautiful. I chose the area around Goulburn, New South Wales.

This is the telling of that journey in words and pictures. I’ve split each day into three pieces – the story, some history, and the details (of route, accommodation and food). 

This is the fourth post in this series. The first, a prologue , the second – from Goulburn to Collector, the third – from Collector to Gunning.

Monday 23 April 2018

It’s Monday morning. Last Monday, next Monday, I’ll be riding my bicycle to work. So now the holiday really begins.

I’ve had another eight-plus hours of sleep and woke to quiet and the diffuse morning light of country New South Wales. Morning fog quickly burns off and I have a gorgeous sunny, crisp day for my big ride to Crookwell.

As with the Merino Café yesterday, the coffee here at the Old Hume Café is also very, very hot. The egg and bacon roll is messy and tasty, just as it should be.

Yummy messy bacon and egg roll with bbq sauce and a too-hot flat white.

From now on I’ll be following the suggested routes of the Trails Map the Goulburn Tourist Office gave me Saturday.

I follow the Old Hume Highway out of Gunning and it is beautiful. The road rolls through the countryside, still nicely paved from its era as the main artery from Sydney to Melbourne, but dead quiet with all the traffic now out on the Federal Highway. It is a bicycle rider’s dream road.

For a while it parallels the train tracks and when the Sydney to Melbourne train passes I sit up and wave madly with the small hope that someone will see me and be inspired to take up bicycle touring.

An old billboard for the Gunning Motel on the Old Hume Highway.

I turn onto Old South Road which is paved with loose, fist-sized rocks for about 3 km. It is truly horrible and I keep expecting a puncture. Amazingly, none comes and I’m suddenly back on pavement.  The road rolls across an expanse of grazing land, peppered with trees and homes. The latter hinting at human life but there is little more evidence of them about. There isn’t a lot of traffic, but what there is consists mainly of trucks. When I reach a juncture, with one road leading to Goulburn, I find all the trucks are coming and going from that direction while the road towards Crookwell is quiet and lovely.

The weather is drop-dead fabulous – warm, but not too hot, a big blue sky, not too much wind. Honestly, it’s everything my bicycle tourist’s heart desired from this holiday. I stop at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Gurrundah (the only thing not a farm in Gurrundah) to eat the lunch and have a look at the graves.

The Sacred Heart is a bit more modern than Saint Laurence O’Toole, where I stopped on Friday. It is red-brick and solid looking. The Memorial Stone was laid on 15 December 1918 which I imagine was a stinking hot day. And I imagine the service being full of parisioners with thoughts of their soldier sons and husbands never to return. The Sheridans, and their like, are still on my mind from yesterday.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Gurrundah

Not long after leaving the chuch, I turn on Bannister Lane – which is unpaved for 10 km and leads me to Range Road, then Kialla Road which delivers me into Crookwell.

There are times I ride sitting up, no hands on the bar – legs turning over easily, admiring the rolling fields on either side, the wind turbines on the horizon – I feel light and free.

Throughout the day I’m thinking about what could be done to promote this route: give it a name and and a logo – put up stickers on the route. Get rid of those stones on Old South Road. Make a Welcome scheme, signs for shops, that kind of thing. Maybe encourage some farms along the way to offer rooms or camping. I was thinking of the time I walked the Kumano Koda pilgrimage route in Japan and found a loungeroom café run by a farmer’s wife along the trail.

I arrive in Crookwell around 3:30 pm and roll up to Spud Murphy’s Inn. I find Spud and Mrs Spud – a couple in their mid-to-late 70s out back, as directed. Mrs Spud forgot I was coming today but they have plenty of space.

Spud shows me in and asks if I like dolphins. Um, sure, I like dolphins. So, he gives me the Dolphin Room which is decorated with dolphin posters and dolphin things including a dolphin head board.

“Do you like dolphins?” Spud asked.

I have a cuppa tea with Spud. He likes the wind turbines. Like me, he thinks they are beautiful. After I’ve showered, he takes me to the sock factory and I get locally made red socks. Before this holiday I had spotted the sock factory on Google maps – it had piqued my curiosity and I am happy to have a pair of their socks. The family is originally from Southern Germany – near Nuremburg. They moved to Crookwell with all their equipment in the 1980s fearing the fallout of the Chernobyl disaster. Their history is actually pretty interesting.

New socks in hand I wander off to explore Crookwell. I find an open cafe and have an apple slice and hot chocolate then take some photos of some of the town’s older buildings and their Anzac Memorial. We are just days from Anzac Day and the setting sun illuminates the memorial in a warm and golden light. It’s set on an odd angle in the park making me suspect it was designed to do just this – catch the light of the setting sun at Anzac Day.

Crookwell’s beautifully positioned Anzac Memorial glows in the setting sun in the days around Anzac Day

 

Moon over the Crown Theatre building.

I come back to the Inn so Spud can introduce me to the ducks – he was most insistent. But along the way we meet Susan, who recently bought the flour mill next door (a beautiful 19th century stone building) and moved in in December. She’s basically camping in the shell of a building as she renovates. She invites me to come back when it’d done. I tell her that when I’m next in Crookwell I’ll knock on the door.

Spud leads me down to the creek. He tells me about the bush regeneration they’ve done as we crack open the beers he’s brought and begin flinging bits of bread to the quickly gathering paddling of ducks. (I know, as does Spud, that feeding bread to ducks isn’t great but he does it anyway, and I was his guest.)

I’d had Chinese on my mind all day and knew from Google there was a Chinese restaurant in town, and then Spud gave them a raving review. But they’re closed – so sad. I had worried that having Chinese in Crookwell would mean not having potatos – the local crop – but with the Hong Kong Garden closed for the night, I end up at the Crookwell Hotel and a plate full of bangers, mash, and veggies.

I had looked forward to eating at Hong Kong Garden but they were closed (perhaps for the long-weekend) – sad, so sad.

History

Crookwell is 914 metres (2998 feet) above sea level (200 metres higher than Goulburn). They grow a lot of potatoes around here and it’s home to what was NSW’s first wind farm.

The original inhabitants were the Gundungara people and the first Europeans began arriving in the 1820s. On census night 2016 Crookwell was home to 2,641 people of whom 69 were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. The vast majority of Crookwellians are multi-generational Australians of Anglo/Irish/Scot extraction. But, as ever there are few curiosities: eight were born in Indonesia, there were 13 with Chinese born mothers, and 10 with German-born fathers. Nine people spoke Greek at home, eight Cantonese, four Italian, three Croatian, and three German (Hallo an die Familie Lindner).

The most curious place in Crookwell is the Lindner Sock Factory. The company started in 1921 in Thalheim, Germany. After World War II the family fled to the United States for a time before returning to West Germany. In 1974 they made the socks for the West German football team and were making socks under contract for Adidas. Fearing the fallout from Chernobyl, they split the company with one branch moving to Australia and originally setting up in Goulburn. They moved to Crookwell in 1997.

My new red socks.

Details

I had an egg and bacon roll with barbecue sauce (yummy) and a flat white (too hot) for breakfast and got a take away ham & lettuce sandwich on wholemeal bread (fine) from the Old Hume Café ($16.80).

I rode 66.59 kilometres from Gunning to Crookwell: Yass Street into Cullerin Road (Old Hume Highway), left into the truly terrible Old South Road, left on Mullins Creek Road, left on Gurrundah Road, right on Bannister Lane (which zigs and zags, is unpaved, and at times quite corrugated), left on Range Road and right on Kialla Road into Crookwell.

 

I stayed at Spud Murphy’s Inn in Crookwell – a double room with en suite bathroom for $60. The bed was comfy and the shower excellent. There were a lot of dolphins.

Once in Crookwell I had a very yummy apple slice and nice hot chocolate at Matt’s Bakery Café ($8) and dinner at the Crookwell Hotel – a plentiful serve of bangers and mash with veggies ($17).

Apple slice! Hot chocalate!

Bangers and mash … presume they were local spuds.

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