Murrurundi is a small rural town near the head of the Hunter Valley, set in the foothills of the Liverpool Ranges.
Where is it?: Murrurundi is located by the Pages River, 327 km north of Sydney; 44 km north of Scone; 91 km south of Tamworth.
Places of Interest: Timor Caves; 'Eye of the Needle' gap; Nowlands Gap; Wallabadah Rock (the plug of an extinct volcano, 959 m above sea-level; it is located on private property); Gem Fossicking (agate, naturalite and zeolite crystal, calcite crystals, quartz, petrified wood and limestone fossils); Burning Mountain, Wingen.
former Haydonton Inn. Murrurundi was originally called Haydonton, after Thomas Haydon who subdivided a large block of land in 1840 which became the townsite.
Heritage buildings: former Haydonton Inn (1852); White Hart Hotel (from 1842); 'Rosebank' (1889); St Joseph's Catholic Church (1855-60); Murrurundi House (1880, built as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy); Railway Station (1872); Heritage Cottage; Manchester Unity Hall (1897); Presbyterian Church (1886-98); Murrurundi Museum (Literary Institute, 1913); old Methodist (now Uniting) Church (1890); St Paul's Anglican Church (1872-74); Old Gaol and Lockup Keeper's Residence (1860-1861); Sergeant's Residence (1890s); 'Elouera' (1854); former Joint Stock Bank (1865); old Royal Hotel (1863); old stables (1860); former Old Telegraph Office (1861); Bobadil House (1843), old shale works and manager's residence (1912, on private property); 'Rosedale' (1848-52); Glenalvon labourer's cottage and stables (1874); Timor timber church (1883); Ardglen railway tunnel (1877); Blandford St Luke's Anglican Church, 1879-80.
Ardglen Tunnel (1877): a summit tunnel on the Main North railway between Newcastle and Werris Creek. It crosses under the Liverpool Range near its east end below Nowlands Gap, the crossing used by the New England Highway. It is approximately 500 metres long, and is approached on either side by 10-kilometre climbs at the ruling grade of 1 in 40 (2.5%). The tunnel is single tracked, which combined with the steep grades make this section a bottleneck.
Work on the tunnel commenced after 1872 and took several years to complete. Additional steam engines were required to haul the steam trains from Murrurundi to Kankool through the tunnel. Several accidents occurred at the end of the tunnel on the Ardglen side as the smoky soot from several engines affected the crew. In 1909 a fireman on one of the trains was scalded to death.
Nowlands Gap: just north of Murrurundi the road rises up into and over the Liverpool Range via the Murrurundi Gap, otherwise known as Nowlands Gap recalling William Nowland, a farmer from Singleton who discovered this route across the mountains in the late 1820s. Today there are truck stops at Nowlands Gap which provide excellent views south over Murrurundi and the upper Hunter Valley. Nowlands Gap marks the boundary between the Northern Tablelands and Hunter regions.
Burning Mountain (23 km south): For as long as anyone can remember Mt. Wingen has been burning, with an acrid smell of sulphur in the fumes issuing from cracks along its summit. Burning Mountain is not a volcano - Australia being fortunate in not having any volcanoes still active today. Instead, within Mt. Wingen is a layer of coal that is burning, having been set alight by natural means centuries ago.
About Murrurundi: Except for shale mining in the early 20th century there has been an absence of heavy industry in the locality and consequently change has been gradual. Murrurundi and its rural heritage have been preserved. The main street has been declared an urban conservation area. Murrurundi is today sustained by quality sheep, beef and horse studs and by both crop and meat production. The sheepdog trials are held in April and the Bushman's Carnival and Rodeo in October.
Paradise Park: a delightful picnic area in semi-tropical surroundings is located at the end of Paradise Road, past the Golf Course. Take a stroll through the Eye of the Needle rock formation, which is located at the end of the park. The Eye is a narrow gap wide enough for a person to fit through, which you must pass to reach the summit.
The trail continues to the lookout which affords fine views across to the mountains and the valley. The very high hills and the Liverpool Range offer spectacular views of Murrurundi. The natural beauty surrounding Murrurundi provides a magnificent setting for this beautiful untouched historical village.
Murrurundi Museum: housed in the Literary Institute (1913), the museum contains artefacts of early settlement and local industry, and a collection of historical photographs. The Fishburn Room contains a 1:60 scale model of the HMS Endeavour, built by a member of the Fishburn family who are descendents of mariner Andrew Fishburn, who came to Australia in 1788 on the First Fleet. Ph (02) 6546 6142.
Wallabadah Rock (19 km): the plug of an extinct volcano, the base of the rock covers 61 hectares and it rises to 959 m above sea-level. It is possible to climb to the top. In October it is covered with flowering rock orchids. However, it is located on private property so any visit must be arranged in advance with the owners. Ph (02) 6546 6329.
Timor Caves: the Timor limestone caves and the nearby camping areas are located in the upper Hunter Valley. These 'wild' caves are located in the picturesque Isaac's Creek valley. There are no electric lights or concrete steps in the caves so bring a good torch and some strong but old shoes. Some of the caves are believed to date from before the Late Cretaceous geological period making them over 73.5 million years old.
Though the surrounding land is private property, the caves themselves are a declared public cave reserve but no permits or bookings are required to visit the caves or camp there. The owners of the land will often visit the camping areas on a weekend and collect modest camping fees.
Chilcott's Creek: At Chilcott's Creek (15 km north) the remains of a huge diprotodon were found. It is now in the Australian Museum, Sydney.
Bushrangers in the Hunter Valley
The first purchase of a block of land in the private village of Haydonton in 1842 was by ex-convict Benjamin Hall, the father of one of Australia's best-known bushrangers, Ben Hall. The family moved temporarily to the Lachlan district in the late 1840s. Ben's parents and some of the children returned to Murrurundi in the early 1850s, but Ben stayed. There is a photograph of the old cottage in the local history museum.
Ben Hall's grave at Forbes
The Jewboy Gang were known to frequent the area known as Doughboy Hollow (the area between Ardglen and Willow Tree). After they murdered John Graham at Scone in 1840 they stopped at Murrurundi, where they exchanged their horses and headed north over the range to the Hollow. There police magistrate Edward Denny Day and his party caught up with the gang who were captured after a shoot-out and hanged in 1841.