To get Dungog into perspective head to Apex Lookout, located at the western edge of town. From this position it is clear that the town is nestled in a valley literally surrounded by mountains.
Brown Street Buildings
Near the intersection of Brown and Lord streets are several buildings of historical interest. Behind the police station, on the hillside, is the courthouse. In the town's earliest days the settlers petitioned the authorities for a military post to deal with bushranging. Captain Thunderbolt, Joe Burn, the Governors (made famous in Thomas Keneally's novel The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith) and the Jew Boy Gang were all active in the area. The hilly terrain made for natural cover. Hence the town courthouse was built between 1835 and 1838 as a barracks and stables for troopers who successfully drove Thunderbolt north over Gloucester Tops and out of the area.
This original element of the complex is now the brick court room. It was converted to its present usage in 1849. The police residence adjacent was originally a lock-up dating from 1884. Over the road is St Josephs School (established in 1888) and St Mary's Catholic Church. On the north-eastern corner is the Courthouse Hotel (established in 1868) with cast-iron lacework on the balconies and eaves.
At the north-eastern corner of Brown St and Dowling St is the Dungog Information Centre, tel: (02) 4992 2212. The staff know the area well and can give you directions, pamphlets on the town and district.
The main street of Dungog, named after Chief Justice James D. Dowling (an early landholder in the district), is an urban conservation area. With its old shops and facades, many dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it has a somewhat antiquated look and feel. One block north, at the corner of Dowling and Hooke Sts is the Bank Hotel, an attractive building with a lovely upstairs balcony, cast-iron fencing, and decorative columns.
Diagonally opposite is the former CBC Bank (1874), now the National Australia Bank. This fine two-storey building has a quality iron gate, cedar doors and fittings, an arched facade, an upstairs balcony with cast-iron lacework on the columns and eaves. It is capped by a pediment.
At 206 Dowling, between Hooke and Brown Sts, is Coolalie (1895), a beautiful two-storey brick building with cast-iron lacework on the eaves, ornate ceilings, cedar joinery and staircase, marble fireplaces and a lovely garden. The unusual squat, stocky design of the post office by the intersection of Dowling and Mackay Sts dates from 1880.
Across Mackay St is the old School of Arts building, now an historical museum with displays on local industry and history. It is open Sundays from 2.00 p.m. - 4.00 p.m. or by appointment, contact (02) 4992 1760. Almost opposite is the Royal Hotel and next door to that, at 72 Dowling St, is Kirralee, a gracious and carefully restored Edwardian house (1910) with wide verandahs and stained-glass work on the door. It is now a bed-and-breakfast, tel: (02) 4992 2210.
One of the oldest surviving buildings in town is the Anglican Christ Church, located at the corner of Chapman and Dowling Sts. The building was erected by the authority of Bishop Tyrrell who arrived in Australia in January 1848 after being appointed to the new diocese of Newcastle. Building of the church commenced in 1849 and was completed in 1858. It was consecrated by Bishop Tyrrell in 1861. Next door is the Masonic lodge (1894).
On the opposite corner to Christ Church is St Andrews Presbyterian Church, a substantial and attractive building with arched lancet windows dating from 1901.
The Northern Drive (the Williams Valley and Salisbury)
This is a loop drive through the Williams Valley, Barrington Tops National Park, Chichester State Forest, Mt Allyn and the Allyn River to East Gresford.
It is 125 km to East Gresford and 150 km back to Dungog. The trip can be done in a day with an early morning start if you restrict yourself to two or three of the shorter walks. If you intend taking time out to do a lot of bushwalking then you may wish to camp in Chichester State Forest or stay in accommodation en route.
Head north along Chichester Dam Rd for about 9 km to the intersection at the locality of Bendolba where Chichester Dam Rd continues northwards to the dam. It is about 5 or 6 km to Munni Bridge over the Williams River. Another 8.5 km will bring you to Underbank Congregational Church and, 250 m further on, Fulton Park Picnic Area. There are excellent views over the mountains that span the area from the south-east to the north-west. Those in the foreground are Mt Pleasant and Mt Toomybuc. There is also a directional marker indicating the distances to various sites.
Continuing northwards for 4.5 km Salisbury Uniting Church (established 1884) is to the right. Just beyond it, to the right, is a huge old brick chimney standing peculiarly by itself. After about 9 km you will see a very large sign indicating the driveway of the upmarket Salisbury Lodges (02-4995 3285).
The Northern Drive (The Williams River Day Use Area)
Just beyond Salisbury Lodges there is a choice of three roads. Salisbury Rd continues on to the award-winning, first-class Barrington Guest House (02-4995 3212) where there is horseriding, bushwalking, tennis, Devonshire teas etc. The road on the far right leads to the Williams River Day Use Area of Barrington Tops National Park which contains 26 endangered animal and 9 endangered plant species.
The Day Use Area has picnic and barbecue facilities, toilets, an information board and the pleasant, easy-going 3.5-km Twin Bridges Loop Track named for the two suspension bridges over the Williams River it incorporates. This is also the southern end of the Rocky Crossing Trail (16 km return). Cyclists can ride from here to Burraga Swamp or along the Allyn River (tel: 02-6558 1005 for further information on cycling).
The Northern Drive (Chichester State Forest - Lookouts, Walks and Campsites)
The dirt road to the left, Williams Top Rd, will take you into Chichester State Forest. After 3.5 km there is a sharp left which will take you the final 3 km to Williams Top Lookout. There is a picnic-barbecue area and fine views over the Williams Valley. This road is unusable when wet and is sometimes closed at such times.
An additional 2.4 km will bring you to another signposted turnoff to Headwaters Lookout (along a very short road to the right). If the trees have been cut back there are fine views of the start of the Williams River and the crags of Barrington Tops National Park. 1.4 km from this turnoff you will pass Lagoon Pinch Rd and after 800 m you will see an old grader to the right, once used for logging in the area. Barely visible on the grader is some writing and an arrow indicating the direction of Rocky Crossing Trail, a 1-km walk down to the Williams River. An optional extra: this track continues along the river for a further 7 km to Barrington Guest House.
Another 500 m along the road is Lagoon Pinch Forest Park where you can go on a 12-km, one-way walk to Careys Peak Lookout. It is a long, steep climb involving almost vertical sections and it links up with the Barrington Tops Walking Trails and Gloucester Tops for 2-3 day treks. Also for the outrageously fit there is a walk from here to Hawks Nest Surf Club along the 220-km Myall's Heritage Trail.
Return to Lagoon Pinch Rd turnoff and take the right. Drive for two km to the Peach Tree Picnic Area where you can go on the excellent and short Allyn River Rainforest Trail (800 m) where there are masses of thick vines, ferns and epiphytes.
A series of arrows lead to numbered sites. A brochure can be obtained, along with pamphlets on other walking trails in the area, from the Information Centre at Dungog, contact (02) 4992 2212 or ring (02) 4927 0977.
The walk includes the largest small-leaved fig in NSW (no.2) with a diameter of 3.3 m, a height of 50 m and a crown spread of 40 m. No.3 is a large stump with deep gouge marks made by loggers in pre-chain-saw days who inserted planks into the recesses. These they stood upon while felling the tree in order to raise them above the unusable base. No. 12 is the largest river oak in NSW with a diameter of 1.88 m and a height of 53 m.
250 m further along the road turn left and head back southwards along Mt Allyn River Rd, which will take you all the way to East Gresford. 300 m will bring you to the Allyn River Forest Park turnoff and an additional 1.8 km to a departure point on the right for the Double Bridges Walking Trail (4 km long it loops back to the roadway). Another 1.1 km along the road is a signpost indicating The Ladies Well swimming hole.
The Northern Drive (Mt Allyn and Burraga Swamp Walk)
Proceed south for another 700 m and there is a very sharp right turn which will take you to Mt Allyn Lookout (26 km return). Paddymelon Forest Park is to the left after 700 m and The Gunyah (one of two huts for rent - tel: 02-4933 2537) after 2 km. After 11.4 km there are two choices: either take the sharp left to Mt Allyn Lookout (1.6 km) or continue along the main road to Burraga Swamp Walk. The virtually 360-degree view from Mt Allyn Lookout (1143 m above sea-level) is stunning. The surrounding mountains appear bathed in a shimmering blue eucalypt haze, as is the case with the Blue Mountains. A walking track heads off and will join you up with the Burraga Swamp Walk.
The Northern Drive (Eccleston)
Return to Mt Allyn River Rd and turn right, heading south. A further 3 km along the road is Tristania Tops Farm Horse Riding, tel: (02) 4931 5212. There is a general store that is open (10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.) for weekend and holiday trading from the October long weekend to the end of the school holidays in January.
The gravel road continues for about 10 more kilometres then it's back on to bitumen just north of Eccleston. After about 1 km you reach a small timber church (St Paul's). Just past it is Eccleston Public School and a Congregational Church opposite, both established in 1867.
The Northern Drive (Allynbrook)
Allynbrook is about 15.5 km along this road. It is really nothing more than a locality. There is a little gravel road to the left that will lead you past a public school, which dates back to 1881, to the homestead 'Caegwrle' (c.1844) and St Mary-on-Allyn Church, built in 1840. In the graveyard are the tombs of William and Mary Boydell. The two met aboard the ship which brought them to Australia in 1836.
St Mary's is a handsome church with a fine graveyard but what makes it very special is the well-kept churchyard and the idyllic pastoral setting. A nice touch is the iron gateway with an old gas lamp dangling overhead. There are lancet-arched leadlight windows with timber tracery and a lancet-arched doorway topped by a gable with carved timber bargeboards. Caegwrle next door also has lancet arched windows and door. 2 km further south is Whitfield vineyard to the right. Another 5.5 km will bring you to the Camyr Allyn Bridge, which crosses the Allyn River at the northern end of East Gresford.
The Chichester Dam and Telegherry Forest Drive (Bandon Grove)
Head north of Dungog along Chichester Dam Rd. Just a little further on, heading off to the left, is Dowling Rd. Like its namesake in Dungog (and South Dowling St in Sydney) it is named after supreme court judge and future chief justice James D. Dowling. His great great grandson Bill Dowling is a naturalist and guide who has spent his entire life in this area. He has become a recognised expert on the district, conducting surveys of local fauna and flora and acting as a consultant to the State Forestry Dept and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. He is thus well-placed to recommend the best bushwalks and scenic spots or to lead you through them, and is available to do so. He also offers a bed-and-breakfast service at Canningalla and his personal collection of local fauna functions as something of a natural history museum, available for viewing by donation, tel: (02) 4995 9230.
The Chichester Dam and Telegherry Forest Drive (Chichester Dam)
A short distance further north is a fork where the Chichester Dam Rd branches off to the left. 3.9 km from the fork is a sign indicating several accommodation centres. There is Wangat Lodge, Wildlife Refuge and Recreation Study Centre - for groups, schools and families, with self-contained family cabins in a bush setting, tel (02) 4995 9265. Luxury accommodation and horseriding is available at Barrington Country Retreat, tel (02) 4995 9269. Ferndale Park is a privately owned camping reserve, tel: (02) 4995 9239.
After another 400 m turn left into Corlette Drive and the dam entrance where there is a carpark, childrens' play facilities, a nice green grassy area, picnic-barbecue facilities and the beautiful dam in the distance.
Chichester Dam was built between 1916 and 1923 when supplies from the Walka Waterworks near Maitland proved inadequate. It has a capacity of 22 750 megalitres, a maximum depth of 37 m and it covers 184 ha. The flooded area was once a decent-sized goldmining town named Wangat.
Continue along the bitumen road to a small parking area opposite the dam wall. The wall is 254 m long and rises 41 m above the water, offering superb views of the reservoir. Just past the wall is a little walking trail off to the left.
The Chichester Dam and Telegherry Forest Drive (Jerusalem Creek Walking Trail)
Return to the fork and turn left into Wangat Rd and Chichester State Forest. 3.6 km along the road there is a signpost to the left indicating the carpark at the start of Jerusalem Creek Walking Trail (2 km) which makes its way from an area of dry eucalypt forest down into a gully where the ecosystem undergoes a transition to moist sclerophyll forest. It finishes at Jerusalem Creek Forest Park. Sites along the trail are numbered to correspond with information in a state forestry department pamphlet relating to the walk. There are plenty of elkhorns and other epiphytes, mosses, lichens, vines and ferns. There is an old axe-cut log from pre-chainsaw days (no.5), an old and narrow bullock track from pre-bulldozer days (no.19) and a crop of blue gum cultivated by ring barking (no.14) which destroys the canopy, allowing light to reach the forest floor. This, in turn, encourages the growth of seedlings and hence regeneration.
Head north along Dowling Rd over the railway crossing and the bridge over the Williams River. Turn right at the signposted turnoff to Alison. To the right, 2 km south of town, is a sign indicating the entrance of Cangon Country Cottages. Cangon Homestead is an historic house, built in 1866 with fine outbuildings. The grounds are very attractive, particularly the Moreton Bay fig tree and the fine cottage garden surrounding the courtyard at the rear of the house. It is privately owned but the cottages are for hire, contact (02) 4992 1231.
Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre
There is a commercial organisation which organises adventure holidays in the Barrington Tops including kayaking and canoeing. Check them out on http://www.midcoast.com.au/~boac/.