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


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