It was in the 1960s in a fourth grade social studies class that I first learned about the great Australian explorer, Hamilton Hume. The pages of my text books listed his adventures in the era of fellow explorers William Hovell, Charles Sturt, John Oxley, Gregory Blaxland, William Wentworth and William Lawson. With this in mind, I feel more than a little excited to be visiting Cooma Cottage, the home of Hamilton Hume. And I've been invited to stay for a picnic lunch, but more about that later.
So, who was Hamilton Hume? In short, Hamilton Hume was born in 1797 on his father's property near Parramatta in New South Wales. Having grown up in the bush, Hume was a skilled adventurer and explorer, and had gained a good understanding of bushcraft and the Australian landscape from the local indigenous people. In 1814, together with his younger brother and an Aboriginal lad, Hume set out on an adventure to find a way through to the Berrima district in the Southern Highlands. In the following two years, he made several more journeys, venturing as far as the Bungonia area. In 1821, Hume accompanied his brother-in-law, George Barber, to the Gunning district, apparently to establish a station. It was at this time that the party discovered Lake George and the Yass Plains. By the next year, Hume and Alexander Berry had travelled along the south coast to the Clyde River, exploring inland regions around what is now Braidwood. Incidentally, I might just throw in that it was Berry who introduced Hume to fellow explorer, Captain William Hovell.
Of course, Hume is best known for his controversial 1824 expedition with said William Hovell, on which the pair trekked from Gunning in NSW to Corio Bay, Geelong. This was the expedition that saw the discovery of the overland route between Sydney and what is now Melbourne. The eleven-week journey was extremely difficult and covered more than 900 kilometres of crossing mountains and rivers. Stories from the time tell of the squabbles that soon erupted between Hovell and Hume, resulting in a brief parting of company. There's even talk of them bickering over who should take ownership of a frypan, and cutting a tent in two! This quarrel was to continue for many years after their return.
In 1839, with grants rewarded for his discoveries, Hume purchased a bungalow and stables on 100 acres of sheep grazing land in the Yass Valley, near the Yass River. He spent the next twenty years enthusiastically building a series of extensions, which included a fashionable portico and various wings. Hamilton Hume died in Cooma Cottage, in 1873. His wife, Elizabeth, died thirteen years later. They are buried side by side at the Yass Cemetery.
Cooma Cottage: a National Trust Property...
According to tour guide, Dr Rick Williams, Manager of Cooma Cottage, because Hamilton Hume lived in the property for some 30 years after his days as an explorer ended, the significance of the property is huge. 'Cooma Cottage is the only 'standing' property that one of Australia's explorers actually lived in. It's era and how it was put together, what it's made of, the floor plan and structure are all significant. If it hadn't been for Hume owning this house, it probably would have been in complete ruins by now. In fact, the National Trust restored the property because it had been built and owned by Hume,' Dr Williams explains, as he leads the tour of the property.
So now, let's take a tour of Cooma Cottage...
The grounds at Cooma Cottage...
Dr Rick Williams, Manager of Cooma Cottage and knowledgeable tour guide...
Thyme to Taste deli - picnic at Cooma Cottage...
I mentioned at the top of this article that I was invited for a picnic lunch at Cooma Cottage. The picnic was created by Thyme to Taste, best known as 'the little deli and café' in Yass. Cured meats, roasted vegetables, locally-grown fruit, Homeleigh Grove olives and Small Cow Farm cheeses were amongst the goodies. There was also Pastor's Pleasure pork pie made with free-range pork from Boxgum Grazing, served with ploughman's pickle and salad. I particularly enjoyed the free-range duck terrine made by Kim de Poorter. Local wines were also served. Lunch was finished with freshly-picked, sun-ripened figs from a tree by the outhouses of the Cottage. All in all, it was delicious.
Hume's Heyday Festival: your chance to visit Cooma Cottage...
As it happens, the annual Hume's Heyday Festival will be held at Cooma Cottage on Sunday, 26 April 2015, from 10.00am to 4.00pm. The festival presents life in the mid 19th century and celebrates Hamilton Hume, his life in Colonial times, and his home. Visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy a ride in a Cobb & Co carriage or have their silhouette portrait cut out by a local artiste. Demonstrations include cow milking, blade shearing, horse ploughing, pole-lathe turning, black-smithing and side-saddle riding. There will also be a fun tug-of-war match, small cart rides for children, an egg tossing contest, a puppet show, wine and olive oil tastings, a petting pen and road coach display.
Lunches, tea, coffee and ice-cream will be available, and entertainment includes live music, poetry recitals and colonial games. Local artwork, local wine and local jams will also be for sale. Entry cost is $10.00 for adults. Children under 15 years of age are free.
Hume and Hovell walking track...
According to a guide map produced by the NSW Department of Lands, "the Hume and Hovell Walking Track follows the famous footsteps of Hamilton Hume and William Hovell on their expedition to Port Phillip in 1824. Starting at a point outside Cooma Cottage, the track stretches more than 440km between Yass and Albury, and offers a multitude of visually stunning and historically fascinating walking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts". Plan before you go, as this 21-day walk is said to be 'strenuous' and skirts around mountain ranges, farmland and forest tracks. Shorter walks options are shown on the map.
Good Things would like to thank Yass Valley Tourism, Cooma Cottage, Thyme to Taste, Black Glass Wine Tours and Threesides Media for the generous hospitality during my visit to the Yass Valley. I was accompanied by a lovely little party of food bloggers and Instagrammers.
Cooma Cottage information...
Cooma Cottage is located ten minutes from Yass and 45 minutes from the Canberra CBD, at 756 Yass Valley Way, Yass, NSW, Australia. Opening hours are Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4.00pm. Guided tours and groups of visitors are welcome by appointment. Telephone (02) 6226 1470 for details. Admission fees apply.
Tell me dear readers, have you heard of Hamilton Hume? And have you ever wondered about life in Colonial times?
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