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Uralla

Chelfords around the world

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Here is the first of what we hope will be a new series of articles describing what it's like to live in "versions" of Chelford around the world. This article was written by my good friend Louis, who after many years of living and working in Sydney, moved to Uralla, New South Wales, Australia.

Louis and I have had a conversation over Skype in most weeks over many years and although he comes originally from the Netherlands, we always speak to each other in Welsh. This article contains more English then I have heard from Louis in the last 9 years or so. Louis is a well-travelled man of wide interests and a gifted linguist. He is devoted to and works hard in his local community and I think this shows through in his article.

If you have friends who live in a Chelford-like place anywhere in the world and they are willing to write a short article about their home town, please contact us here.

People of Chelford, I give you Mr Louis van Ekert.

Uralla, New South Wales, Australia

Uralla is a small rural town (I prefer to call it a village) in the New England region of New South Wales. It has a population of close to 3000 people, with about 6000 in the entire Uralla Shire. It has the only postcode in Australia that is part of the Fibonacci sequence: 2358. Not many people are aware of that.

Uralla is situated right in the Northern Tablelands granite belt at an altitude of 1000 meters, which means that it can be quite cold in winter, without suffering the humidity and excessive heat of the coastal regions in summer. At the moment, it is autumn here, and everywhere the trees are covered in beautiful auburn, red, bronze and yellow autumn leaves. I don't know if the New England region (an area the size of The Netherlands, but with only a little over 200,000 people) was so named because of the large number of European trees that have been planted here which give the area a distinct old world look, or a colonial ploy to attract settlers to the vast grazing lands of the area.

The original inhabitants and custodians of the area around Uralla are the Anaiwan (or Nganaywana). In fact, the word 'Uralla' itself is derived from Anaiwan 'oorala', meaning 'meeting place'. Theirs was sadly one of the first indigenous languages in Australia to disappear, but efforts are now being made to revive it, and some language classes are now being held. Much still needs to be done.

Uralla was first settled by European colonists in 1858, the district itself having been settled earlier by illegal 'squatters' from the 1830s on with the tacit approval of the colonial government of the day. Gold was discovered in 1856 at nearby Rocky River, and that attracted many people to the area. Some say that there is gold to be found still, if you know where to look. There is none on our property, I checked.

One who was attracted not just to gold, but other valuables as well was a certain Frederick Wordsworth Ward, aka Captain Thunderbolt, who made the district unsafe for many years as a bushranger until his shooting by Constable Alexander Walker at Kentucky Creek in May 1870. Uralla is the only town in Australia that has a statue dedicated to a bushranger. You can't miss it, a life-size bronze statue of Fred Ward on his horse Combo, right in the historic town centre on the New England Highway, next to the bridge across Uralla Creek.

The Uralla Historical Society operates a museum in a restored granite & brick flour mill dating back to 1870, known as McCrossin's Mill Museum, one of the main attractions in town. Apart from being a museum, it also serves as a venue for musical events, film nights, art workshops and community meetings, and as a function centre for weddings and the like. The museum has a large collection of paintings and paraphernalia relating to Captain Thunderbolt, as well as many exhibits dealing with the history and the people of Uralla.

One of my life rules is that I can only live somewhere that is within walking distance of a pub. Uralla fortunately has two, the Bottom Pub and the Top Pub (many Australian towns with two pubs follow this simple naming convention), but importantly, it also has a brewery, and a very good one at that. There are three active churches, Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Church; a Masonic Lodge; a Community Centre; a police station; a sports complex, golf club and bowling club; a municipal library; two primary schools and a junior high school. A railway connects Uralla with the university town of Armidale, 20 kms and half an hour to the north, and the metropolis of Sydney, 550 kms and 8 hours to the south. There is one train in each direction every day.

Uralla still has its own local council, the Uralla Shire Council. One of the good things about living in a small community such as Uralla is that you tend to get to know everyone, including councillors and council officials — that makes for accountable government, just ask the local butcher about that. The community of Uralla is very welcoming and friendly: I've lived here for about three years, but my brother-in-law who has spent all his life in the area reckons I know more people than he does.

Uralla is truly a wonderful place to live, the air is clean, it is quiet enough that you can hear the birds sing and the insects buzz, at night the sky is bright with the Milky Way and uncountable stars, kids play in the streets, people ride their horses around the place. I love it here!

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