John Oxley camped on the Apsley River 200 years ago in his role as surveyor general of NSW

DISCOVERING WALCHA: MP Kevin Anderson and Walcha Tourism Information manager Susie Crawford last December when funding was announced for the production of a brochure to commemorate the bicentenary of John Oxley's visit to the region.
DISCOVERING WALCHA: MP Kevin Anderson and Walcha Tourism Information manager Susie Crawford last December when funding was announced for the production of a brochure to commemorate the bicentenary of John Oxley's visit to the region.

John Oxley and his expedition were the first ‘official’ Europeans to visit the Walcha district, and in September the community will celebrate the bicentenary of him passing through our region.

A small committee comprising the Walcha Visitor Information Centre manager Susie Crawford,her colleague Lisa Kirton  and Walcha Historical Society member Nerida Hoy has coordinated a diverse array of community members to provide a weekend of entertainment starting on Saturday, September 8.

“The weekend marks 200 years, to the day, from when Oxley and his expedition camped on the Apsley River only a few kilometres south of where Walcha stands today,” said Mrs Crawford.

“John Oxley was the surveyor general of New South Wales, and he ranks amongst the great explorers of Australia. His journals published in London in 1820 are significant historical documents because they were the first detailed description on the Australian interior.”

In his journal written in 1818 Mr Oxley described the landscape as “ the finest open country, or rather park, imaginable.” and he went on to detail the water situation in a way that marks a stark contrast to the current drought situation: “A country of running waters, on every hill a spring and in every valley a rivulet.”

A country of running waters, on every hill a spring and in every valley a rivulet

John Joseph William Molesworth Oxley describing the Walcha region in 1818

The bicentenary weekend in September will start at 9.30am, with a mystery motorcycle ride organised by the Oxley Riders Club. The ride will culminate in a show and shine gathering at the Walcha Royal Cafe.

“John Oxley is well known amongst the motorbike community because the Oxley Highway is one of the most popular motorbike rides in the country,” said Mrs Crawford.

Two guided tours of Apsley Gorge, lead by Dunghutti  elders and a representative of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), will take place at 11am and 1pm on Saturday. 

“This will be a fabulous opportunity to hear about the Dreamtime stories, history and significance of the site as well as NPWS role and Oxley’s discovery of the falls,” said  Mrs Crawford.

On Saturday evening a John Oxley dinner will be held in the Walcha Sports Club ,with guest speaker Dr John Atchison OAM. Mr Atchinson is a retired University of New England academic historian and chair of the Saumarez Homestead Advisory Committee.   

On Sunday the regions eight schools will perform a series of bicentenary productions on the lawns at  historic Langford House. 

“Each school will be covering a different aspect of Walcha’s  history and identity including; Aboriginal traditional dance, the arrival of Oxley, farming and timber, bushrangers, gold in Walcha, Northern Rail Line, Anzac and other wars and art in Walcha,” said Mrs Crawford.  

“This is a wonderful day because all of the village schools are included. It really makes it a whole community event and brings everyone in from the edges of the shire to take part.”

This is a wonderful day because all of the village schools are included

Susie Crawford - Walcha tourism manager

Organisers say espresso coffee and a Lions Club sausage sizzle will be available and everyone is welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy lunch on the lawns at Langford House. 

“The Oxley Room at Langford House will also be open during the day, and it has a great amount of fascinating memorabilia on John Oxley,” Mrs Crawford said. 

For more information  contact the Walcha Tourism Information Centre.

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