Young is a small town of around 7,000 in the South West Slopes region of New South Wales – less than two hours’ drive from Canberra and four hours from Sydney. It is, today, the self proclaimed ‘Cherry Capital of Australia’. I certainly would not deny the town this accolade and until I planted my own cherry tree I made an annual pilgrimages here to pick fresh, delicious cherries – often combining that visit with the town’s annual cherry festival, in early December. The cherry picking season runs from late October to January with peaches, plums and other stone fruits also available.
Young has not always grown cherries. Rather, like many regional New South Wales towns it grew out of Australia’s gold rush which began in the 1860s.
The first European to settle in the area was James White, a pastoralist who set up Burrangong Sheep Station in 1826. A few others followed and the area became known as Lambing Flats.
Gold was discovered here in 1860 and Lambing Flat was gazetted as a town in 1861, to be renamed Young in 1863, after the then Governor of New South Wales, Sir John Young.
In the intervening years around 20,000 miners including about 2,000 Chinese has worked the goldfields producing 15,000 kilograms (470,000 ounces) of gold.
By late 1860 gold reserves were dwindling and European miners, resentful of the well organised and successful Chinese miners, banded together to drive these Chinese prospectors out of town. What were essentially Australia’s first race riots – the Lambing Flat Riots – ensued. While the Chinese had their tenements restored the whole episode was a rather unsavoury affair which lead to Australia’s only “Reading the Riot Act” and the New South Wales Parliament passing the Chinese Immigration Act 1861 restricting the number of Chinese that could be brought into the state on any ship and imposing a tax per head on entry. Australia’s infamous White Australia Policy was thus initiated but that’s another story, for another day!
The gold rush finished as quickly as it started and while things were not as harmonious as they could have been during the mining days the town did prosper and many of the miners, including some Chinese, remained when the gold ran out. Vestiges of the towns then prosperous status remain today in the form of a rather grand High Victorian era courthouse, railway station and Anglican church – all befitting of a town ‘rolling in cash’ from a mining boom. Sadly the courthouse is not longer in use (perhaps happily for this one), trains don’t stop in Young and I suspect attendances at the Anglican church are not what they used to be.
A lot of what you see today in Young builds on the history I have briefly outlined above and in addition to the sights mentioned there is a good local museum worthy a visit, as are the Lambing Flat Chinese Tribute Gardens.
Of course, if you come in season, you cannot leave Young without a visit to one of the many orchards to pick some cherries to enjoy on your onward trip. An increasing number of the orchards have, in recent years, got into the wine and other ‘grog’ business so you can now enjoy a little local tipple with your locally grown cherries. How could you leave without a bottle of Wombat Widdle?
I had planned on writing a seperate review on my favourite pick-your-own orchard – Wombat Heights – but on checking its website I find it has just been sold (Sept 2017) and is no longer a pick-your-own orchard. That said, all is not bad as you can still get your bottle of Wombat Widdle from Wombat Cellars (aka The Grog Shed) in the village of Wombat, next to the Wombat Pub/Hotel from Thursday to Sunday 10am – 4pm. Wombat village is literally the pub/hotel, the Wombat Cellars and two or three houses – about 12 kms from Young en route to Canberra.
The Wombat Hotel has had a continuous liquor license since 1877, making it the longest operating pub in New South Wales on a single licence. It is a homely, traditional country pub serving good pub food inside, out front or in small beer garden at the back. I especially enjoyed a traditional Sunday lunch there on my last visit – a lovely roast lamb with seven different vegetables!
While my reviews here do not cover accommodation and are non-existent in terms of recommendations on where to eat (apart from the Wombat Hotel/Pub referred to above) neither will present a problem for the traveller unless you have a predilection for 5 star rooms or Michelin starred restaurants.
Do join me now as I delve a little deeper into the delights of Young.
This blog entry is the first of a group (loop) of entries on Young. I suggest you continue with my next entry – HERE.