King of the Ranges, Murrurundi, NSW, Australia

We went to the annual King of the Ranges Competition in Murrurundi

For the last 15 years, the small town of Murrurundi in New South Wales, Australia, has held the King of the Ranges Stockman’s Challenge and Bush Festival. Here, some of Australia’s top horse and rider combinations show off their skills, and compete for prize money  and various trophies.

It is an exciting time for competitors and spectators alike, as there is a whole raft of events over the 4-day festival. We only visited on one of the days, but next year we plan to spend the whole 4 days staying in Murrurundi so we can follow all the events.

Rider in the Stockman’s Challenge

In the Stockman’s Challenge, competitors have to complete a set of tasks within an allotted time. With bags and swag securely packed, the competitor leads the pack-horse through an obstacle course. They then unpack the bags, re-saddle the horse, and mend a broken fence, before showing off their stock-handling skills by moving cattle through a set obstacle course. Not at all easy.

Our next stop was the horse-shoeing competition.

In the horse-shoeing competition, competitors have to shoe one hind hoof, and one front hoof in 30 minutes, to the judges' satisfaction. This was serious competition, and everyone was working really hard.

I love having my nails polished.

Our next event was the Bareback Freestyle where the riders have to demonstrate control over their horse, while riding bareback.

This guy is cracking whips, while sitting on his calm horse…

 …and this one is somersaulting off the back of his horse.

 This rider is pivoting around on his horse…

…and this one genuflects to the judges…

…while this rider gets her horse to move a barrel along.

As you can see from this small sample, there were many interesting ways the riders showed their skill in managing their horses.

There were also some demonstrations to entertain the crowd. The first of these was a chainsaw artist.

This chainsaw artist started off with a large log…

…and ended with this carving,
which he will finish off in his workshop

Next up was traditional sheep shearing

The trick here is to get the fleece all off in one piece, apart from a small area on the stomach. This requires great skill on the part of the shearer.

Another demonstration was by working dogs showing their skills. This was especially interesting because all these dogs on show were rescue dogs, who had been re-educated and trained.

This dog was herding ducks,
which he had to put back into their cage…

…and this one showed his skill at sheep herding

All afternoon we were entertained by Des & Roley
as they played their “Old Timers’ Music”

King of the Ranges is such an entertaining event; we are so looking forward to going again next year.

Elizabeth Coughlan


The Big Dry, Upper Hunter, NSW, Australia

Drought-ridden land in the Upper Hunter

The land in the Upper Hunter, NSW, Australia, should be covered in lush green grass, where cattle and horses can graze to their hearts’ content. Unfortunately the land is dry and dusty, with not a blade of grass to be seen, as once green pastures have become a barren wasteland.

It has been more than a year since farmers in the New South Wales Upper Hunter Valley have received a decent drop of rain. Dams across the district have completely dried up and cattle producers and ranchers have little choice but to hand-feed their stock at great expense. Others have had to sell their herds and flocks because they can’t afford to buy any more feed. The situation is desperate.

Much of the land is completely parched

Remaining cattle seek shelter from the harsh sun

A compounding factor in this drought is the extremely hot temperatures which is making this drought different from previous ones. The region has experienced day after day of 40-plus Celsius, sucking the land dry.

Trees are dying, as their roots fail to find water

Great tracts of land are completely barren

Although, this goanna seemed quite happy

David and Brandyn went down to look at the Hunter River

This kangaroo shot past me, looking for the river, too.

The Hunter River starts in the Barrington tops, just above where Suzi and Neil live. The part that runs past their house is little more than a creek, where Brandyn loves to play.

Even in the drought, there is water in the upper reaches of the Hunter River

The water in the Hunter River was only trickling slowly, high up in the Hunter Valley. We decided to explore the Hunter lower down the valley, as we drove to Scone to stay with our daughter, Jane.

The Hunter River at Glenmore Bridge, looking rather low

At Bells Bridge we only saw damp patches

 Upper Razorback Bridge, no water at all

 The Hunter River, further down at Belltrees Bridge…

…and this is the Pages River at Gundy

As you can see, the water shortage is dire in the Upper Hunter Valley. But there is hope. It has begun to rain. Let’s hope there is enough rain over the next week to get the rivers running again, and the land to flourish. This is such a spectacular part of the world, we just need to see it burst into new life.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Upper Hunter Small Schools’ Swimming Carnival, NSW, Australia

Scone Memorial Swimming Pool

I love attending our grandchildren’s school functions, so I was delighted when Katelyn was involved in her school’s swimming carnival while I was here in Australia. It was held at the Scone Memorial Swimming Pool, originally built to commemorate those who died in service, or were killed in action in World Wars One and Two. I was very impressed by the 50 metre pool. It looked well cared for, and it is such a great amenity for a small town like Scone.

Suzi was there to support Katelyn, too.

Katelyn’s school is tiny, having only 21 children over all, and belongs to the Upper Hunter Small Schools’ Association. The swimming gala, or swimming carnival in Australian speak, was a competition between 5 country schools in the Upper Hunter. Only children aged 8 and over are allowed to swim, so this reduced Ellerston’s numbers even more, they were down to only 12 contestants.

Some of Ellerston’s swimmers before the carnival.

Suzi put zinc on Katelyn’s cheeks to protect them from the sun

Katelyn’s Headmaster was the starter for each race

Katelyn ready for her first race

Katelyn swimming the 25 metre freestyle race

Katelyn came third in her race

After her race, Katelyn needed some refreshment…

…which turned her tongue blue.

Katelyn also swam in the 25 metre noodle race

Parents turned out to help as timekeepers

The day was very hot, but fortunately each school had their own tent

Ellerston’s relay team with their awards

This was a fun day, and Ellerston Public School did really well, despite their small size. They won the most races in relation to the size of their school, although a much larger school, with far more pupils competing won over all. Well done Ellerston.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Two Rivers Hunter Valley Wines, NSW, Australia

Entrance to Two Rivers Wine Estate

We recently spent a fun weekend with our daughter, Jane, when we visited the Two Rivers Hunter Valley Wines vineyard. Here they offer wine tasting, and a cheese and antipasto platter of local produce which you can savour with the wine of your choice.

We so enjoyed the first wine that we tasted, we didn’t want to taste any more, so ordered a bottle of their Rocky Crossing Cabernet Sauvignon, together with the platter, and settled down to enjoy ourselves.

The view from the patio was amazing…

Everything was so beautifully manicured

The vineyard was named Two Rivers after its unique location on the banks of the Hunter River, near its confluence with the Goulburn River, the Hunter’s largest tributary.

We decided to test the wine before our food arrived. Cheers!

This was our cheese and antipasto platter

Here is another view

This was such a relaxing day, enjoying the food and wine while looking out over the vineyards with the  rolling hills in the background.

I went to inspect one of the vineyards

Here, in Australia, we are still in summer,
so there were no grapes to be seen

What a wonderful experience we had, and there was more. On the way home, we stopped off at the Pukara Estate, well known for its extra virgin olive oil and vinegars. There we enjoyed a coffee, before buying some of their olive oil, and caramelised balsamic vinegar.

The Hunter Valley is an amazing place to visit, we have only covered a very tiny part of what there is on offer here, and we are looking forward to more experiences like this.

Thank you, Jane, that was awesome.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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