New England is noted for its autumn colours but, in reality, much of that fame comes from the streets of Armidale, the largest city in the area.
I got some wonderful shots back in the days of film but could never transfer them over and so, for years, I tried to replicate them but years of drought made that impossible until around 2008 when they really started to look good again.
Most of these shots are of St. Peters Cathedral.
With 17,300 hectares and over 100 kilometres of walking tracks there's more than enough here to keep any avid bushwalker occupied.
However, if you add in the adjacent Washpool National Park at 27,700 hectares well, you'll probably be coming back for more.
This diverse park which ranges from sclerophyll forest to rainforest, sometimes in the space of 100 metres, is varied and interesting. Whether you like the sound of a trickling stream, the rustle of wind in the treetops or the crashing of a great waterfall, you will find solace here.
One of the falls here, Dandahra, is officially listed as 240 metres or 787 ft and photographs of it are rare. Considering the World Waterfall site hasn't any, I feel rather privileged to have seen them and photographed them. (pic 2)
One of the wonderful things about walking around in the bush is the variety of plant life. When you go beyond looking at the massive forest and start to see the trees then you also notice there are even smaller plants, some of which are quite fascinating.
May I present to you some examples such as one of my favourites, the sundew seen in picture one and, if it's colour you're looking for, keep your eyes peeled near the ground and, sooner or later, you'll come across some wood pore fungi (pic 2), always a standout with its bright orange face.
Something on a larger scale is the birds nest fern in pic 3, which can grow much larger than you see here but it needs to be able to collect more sunlight to proliferate.
Pic 4 shows some coral fungi, very delicate and very small. You can come across this sometimes on the trails but rarely see it off the track while the rock lily, in pic 5, is a standout when in bloom as you can clearly see here.
This is a National Parks controlled area just off the Gwydir Highway not far from where it starts its major descent to the coast. The road links Grafton to Glen Innes and beyond to Moree.
It has well graded tracks and good picnic and camping areas and, as you can clearly see, several waterfalls. This area marks where the rainfall starts to decline a little compared to just a few kilometres down the road where the uplift of the New England plateau causes much precipitation and jungle like growth.
At 27,700 hectares it's a large area and there's more than enough to satisfy the daytripper or those who seek long overnight walks.
Though the park was only declared in 1983 it achieved World Heritage status in 1986
I was keeping a keen eye on the time. Since I'd started later than I wished, it was fairly obvious I wasn't destined to get to the bottom of the main gorge this day. Still, it would have been nice to know just where I was. At each bend in the river I anticipated the major chasm would open up before me but, it never happened. Each bend brought more obstacles, each obstacle ate up more time.
It was just on the two hour mark when I came across a wooden bridge. Surely not I thought, this couldn't be the bridge on the National Parks walk. I reached it and got onto the made path. I was shattered. I'd come down the wrong stream. Instead of being on the Chandler River I was on the Wollomombi.
Damn and blast. Still, on the plus side I'd found some lovely sights and next time wouldn't make the same mistake. In addition it was such a nice day I managed to get some nice shots of the major gorge, ironically looking over to where I had been aiming. Missed by that much. (About three kilometres actually!)
The last shot in this group is one of the more extraordinary I've ever taken. It is actually on its side and shows a small section of Chandler Falls with a fair bit of water going over and where it comes to an abrupt halt before continuing on. Even if you rotate it 90 degrees anticlockwise it still doesn't seem to make sense but that's what it actually looked like.
As the rocks developed, so the way became more difficult. At one point I had to climb a little away from the water just to get around a crag. It wasn't impossible but certainly not the place for a family stroll either, as one can clearly see in the middle set of pictures.
In between noticing the wildlife, wallabies and crimson rosellas particularly, and picking burrs off my clothing at regular intervals the two things that dominated my attention were the lovely reflections and the granite.
Ever babbling, the brook gave a natural sound background to the visual splendour as I made my way ever onward.
I had this urge. Let me rephrase that. I've had this urge for sometime. I gaze fixedly at the bottom of Chandler Gorge and have a cat's curiousity about what it might be like at the bottom.
One thing for sure, it's nearly impossible to get down there. When you consider that fewer people have been to the base of Wollomombi Falls than have been to the top of Mount Everest you get some idea as to what it's like. Still, though I harbour no ambition to scale Everest, I really would like to see the end of the 220 metre cascade up close and personal. This is what happened on my first, not too serious, attempt.
I crossed the river and noticed a road going in to Chandler Public School which I duly took and parked nearby. With camera in my backpack and water (a must) as well I headed down to the river through a farm paddock.
At the stream it got a little tricky. There's an electric fence obviously intended to deter cattle and possibly walkers. I located a weak spot and slid through, literally.
Then the possibilities unfolded. I hoped to stay to the eastern side in case I eventually reached the gorge but, after a few minutes it was fairly clear that the stream would be able to be forded by rock hopping at several places so either side became an option.
Initially the creek was calm and the sides relatively flat (pic 1), but as I made southerly progress the rocks started to appear (pics 2 & 3) and the small gorge began to develop.
Having left the spot where I'd previously set up I had to race back, through the barbed wire fence (not easy to do when you're in a hurry), and into the area of the dead trees that made such a dramatic foreground, all the while taking care not to step in the cow poo.
I just made it in time and had about 4 minutes to rack off a few shots before it disappeared for another day.
This was around 20kms east of Glen Innes.
So there I was, rolling along the Gwydir Highway en route to Glen Innes when I suspected a sunset was about to occur.
I unpacked my camera and waited. All that happened was a small shaft of sun's rays shone like a torch on one small section.
I returned to the car, disappointed it must be said, but noticed the southern sky had a slight pastel tinge to it so I spent a minute or two shooting that. Thus distracted, I nearly missed what was happening behind me until I turned to go back to my vehicle. Behold, the sunset had started and was colouring the clouds.
This is one of the three most popular falls in one of Australia's great national parks. The other two are Apsley and Wollomombi, covered in my "off the beaten path" pages.
Though magnificent by any standards the downside to this park is that it's not on the Pacific Highway. Were it so, there would undoubtedly be ten times the number of tourists I suspect.
Never mind, I like it the way it is!
This is a fair flow over the cascade, it normally is considerably less but, if you're in the area frequently, you can time your visit accordingly.
Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is huge. Larger than a number of European countries. It covers 92,926 hectares. More than 500kms of rivers flow down its gorges. You could literally walk for days through this area and never see or hear a human being.
Dangars however, is quite popular. Easy drive (9 kms of dirt at the end) and picnic tables and barbecues plus easy access to the best views make it so.
The vast majority leave it at that. However, trails go on to Mihi Falls, Sarum Lookout and Salisbury Waters. Few venture here which is why I covered those in my "off the beaten path" pages.
Imagine rolling plains then, suddenly, there's a canyon carved into the granite over aeons of time right before you. That's what its like at Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
Ben Lomond was once a place of some importance. These days only the curious traveller will find time to divert off the New England Highway to bother with a visit
It's reasonable to suggest that there's not a lot of highlights though it is a pleasant enough route if you have the time.
In the old scale it's just under 5,000 feet (1520 metres) and is the highest point on the New England Range.
The somewhat forlon railway station, at 1363 metres, is Australia's highest and has been tarted up but as you stand midst the tall grasses enveloping the tracks you can't help but reflect on the demise of a once grand railway system slowly decaying due to neglect from successive state governments.
Ben Lomond was featured in the Australian movie, Little Boy Lost. The old memorial hall has many memories of crowds watching the old silent movies.
There is a village and some shops but you probably would be unlikely to buy your weekly groceries here.
If you would like a B&B in the guise of a farm stay then there are several in the area and they would be wonderful either for a romantic weekend or for a school holiday with the kids.
This is some of a series of shots I took adjacent to the New England Highway just south of Tamworth. I remember ringing my mate Col, another keen amateur photographer, and tipping him off it might be going to happen that night.
With the luck of the draw I was driving and found a lovely foreground that the whole spectacle worked around while Col, some 15 kilometres away, didn't even bother taking a picture as his viewpoint was so different and it didn't really happen where he was.
If you go to the extra pictures you will clearly see the various phases that it went through. I took about 10 to get these. Hope you enjoy.
Standing above gorges is something I find almost mesmerising. Here, almost surrounded by sheer rock faces on a blissful afternoon, your gaze transfixed on the panorama before you, the enormity of the chasm compells your senses to focus on your mortality; on your insignificance in the overall scheme of things.
The torrent's echoing roar up the canyone walls is softened by the green foliage as plants tenuously cling to their cliffside niche while the cool breeze flexes their stems and the leaves bow in homage to their demands.
Drought is a fact of life in rural Australia. Just about every year, somewhere in this wide brown land, there is a dearth of water.
This shot was actually taken at the beginning of a drought.
Three weeks before there had been a little bit of green shooting at the bottom of the grasses then the frosts came and knocked it off.
Now, the only natural colour other than fawn grasses are the introduced species of trees flaunting their autumnal colours.
This photo is of a property about 2kms south of Guyra.
Looks pretty on the side of the road. Shame it's on its way to being a noxious weed in Australia.
Those leaf tips are very pointed as well, so don't try messing with them. The Yucca plant (Yucca Gloriosa) is not for us.
This example was on the Bundarra Road between Uralla and Inverell.