Orange in New South Wales greeted us with garlands of autumn colour, almost as if celebrating our arrival. A thriving regional centre just a few hours drive from Sydney and Canberra, Orange is the kind of place where gentlemen smile and tip their hats, children play outside on the front lawn, and folks take the time to stop for a friendly chat. If you will, it's a city in the country. A destination where you can enjoy the benefits of city life minus the pressure and rat race, or soak up a quiet rural life without feeling isolated. Are you seeking a tree change? Spend a week or more exploring Orange and its surrounding towns and villages, taste the district's food and wine, meet the locals, and you'll quickly find yourself falling for this charming place.
Surveyor-General, Thomas Mitchell, named the region (which was previously known as 'Blackman's Swamp') in honour of the Prince of Orange, who was later crowned King of Holland. The traditional landowners were the Wiradjuri or Wirraayjuurray people, said to be 'the people of the mountains, three rivers and the plains'. Europeans settled in the area in the 1820s. Ophir, 26 kilometres outside Orange, was the site of Australia's first payable gold discovery and research tells me that in the 1850s inland NSW became the most densely part of the state. The Cadia Gold Mine, 25 kilometres south west of Orange is today one of the largest open pit gold mines in Australia!
Postcards and morsels...
Parks, gardens, nature reserves and rural vistas are plentiful in Orange and its wide streets are lined with tall trees; both exotics and natives which, as you will see from my postcards, become the showpiece of the region during autumn months. We noticed numerous bees flitting from tree to tree. Hardly surprising as there is so much foliage to choose from.
Unlike other cities where many 19th century and earlier buildings are sadly torn down to make way for shiny new shopping centres, Orange has many beautifully maintained and restored buildings. If you follow the Heritage Trail, you'll discover neo-classical sandstone buildings, Victorian terrace houses and gothic churches with tall steeples, and stuccoed Italianate structures. Put on your walking boots, take your camera and explore. There is much to see.
Mountains and lakes...
A striking feature of the landscape is Mount Canobolas which, at 1,395 metres, is the highest peak in a straight line between the Blue Mountains in New South Wales and Perth in Western Australia. The mountain is an extinct volcano that experienced a series of eruptions around 11 million years ago. A tranquil lake at the foot of the mountain was the original water supply for the city. The area is popular for picnics, swimming, sailing, fishing, canoeing, bush walking and cycling. There air here is crisp and clean, and with the cool nip and copse of tall trees reminded me of a lake region I once visited in Sweden.
First stop on our Orange itinerary was lunch at Sister's Rock Restaurant at Borrodell Vineyard, followed by a heritage apple walk in the orchards on site with owner, Borry Gartrell. The cellar door, vineyard, restaurant and orchard sit high on a hill overlooking the Towac Valley on the side of Mount Conobolas. It's raining and there's a delicious wood fire burning in the restaurant. After a splendid lunch cooked by Scottish chef Alan Meaney, and once the rain has settled, Borrie takes us for a walk through the orchard, plucking apples galore and handing them to us as we go along. 'I've been growing things since I was just five years old,' Borry tells us. 'I was born into a family that grows things and I find that growing things fills me with joy.'
At Borrodell, Borry grows 170 varieties of heirloom (and obscure) apples; including eating, cooking and cider apples. Among them are Bramleys, Gravensteins, Codlin, Cox's Orange Pippin, Winesap, and Dr Hogg. There's also 4,000 cherry trees (1,000 of which are weeping cherries); together with quinces, plums, pears, persimmons and truffles! As a grape grower, Borry produces award-winning wines. In James Halliday’s 2010 Wine Companion, Halliday awarded the vineyard with 4.5 stars and rated the Borrodell Gewürztraminer ’08 as one of 'Australia’s top wines', giving it 96 points. Borry's wife, Gaye Stewart-Nairne, joins us in the cellar door and, over a glass of their Cherry Elixir of Life, tells us a delightful tale about how she and Borry met. You meet some wonderful people in life. People that you would happily be in the company of again and again. Borry and Gaye fit into that very special category.
Orange Region Farmers Market...
On the second Saturday of each month a group of farmers, growers and producers gathers to sell their high quality goods to the public. Run by the Rotary Club of Orange, the Orange Region Farmers Market aims to:
Take your market basket, plenty of cash, and a hearty appetite, for you'll easily spend hours shopping, grazing and chatting to the people behind the food. Here are some postcards from the market:
A diverse range of produce, including apples, walnuts and cheese...
As well as honey and preserves, more apples, vegetables and flowers...
Orange F.O.O.D Week is one of Australia's longest running regional food events and FORAGE is one of the highlights. 'What will you be picking?,' asked one of my readers, thinking we would be hunting for (and harvesting) things like mushrooms and chestnuts. Not so. Forage takes punters over hill and dale on a 3.6 kilometre walk through a series of vineyards and a cattle property, sampling the food and wine of the district along the way. Among the many goodies enjoyed there was Mandagery Creek Venison prosciutto and pear with sauvignon blanc and cuvée...
And then country terrine served with cherry compote, chardonnay and shiraz viognier...
Refreshing and quite exquisite hand-pressed shiraz sorbet with moscato...
And braised Trunkey Creek pork neck with potato salad and aioli served with chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon; as well as a sweet hazelnut financier with poached figs prepared by Kate Bracks (MasterChef series 3) served with shiraz. Yum!
Fashionable footware for Forage...
The itinerary recommended that we wear 'sturdy sensible footwear suitable for walking on varying terrain'. Peter and I were both glad that we wore our Columbia walking boots and felt slightly sorry for a few ladies in high heels (!) and men in thongs (!!). Among the fashionable footwear, we spotted these eye catching gum boots, great for trudging around across countryside that has seen plenty of recent rain!
After a really big day out, it's great to 'come home' to a clean and comfortable hotel room, especially when there's a spa bath included in the suite! Our hosts provided accommodation at the Central Caleula Motor Lodge, which is well located just a short walk from the heart of the CBD. The suite was quiet and well appointed. There is a guest laundry, an outdoor pool, and buffet breakfast is available seven days a week.
If you plan to visit, there are plenty of options for accommodation in and around Orange, ranging from caravan parks to motels, B&Bs and luxury apartments. See links in The List below for details.
Wait, there's more...
Stay tuned to Good Things for an upcoming post in which I share with you more about our visit to the fabulous Borrodell Vineyard and heritage apple orchard. I'll also share with you the recipe for the BEST apple pie we've ever tasted! Don't miss it!
Incidentally, the photograph at the top of this post is of a statue of dancers, which was presented to the citizens of Orange as a gift from the citizens of Ushiku in Japan (Orange and Ushiki are sister cities). The statue is outside the Orange Civic Theatre.
Taste Orange - supporting and promoting events throughout the Orange region
F.O.O.D Week - Food of Orange District events, including F.O.O.D Week
Wineries in the Orange district
History and Heritage
Things to see and do
Borrodell Vineyard and Sisters Rock Restaurant
Orange Region Farmers Market
Accommodation in the Orange district
Luxury Accommodation at Borrodell Vineyard
Note: Orange City Council kindly hosted us for two nights at the Central Caleula Motor Lodge and generously sponsored our tickets to Forage. Good Things has not been otherwise compensated for this post.
Tell me dear readers, have you ever considered a tree change? What's your favourite thing about regional cities such as Orange? And have you been on Forage or other F.O.O.D Week activities?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.