After leaving Bathurst I headed north into an area where a lot of gold was discovered in 1851. The first town was Wattle Flat, but it can hardly be called a town now.
To quote Wikipedia again “It is said that, at the peak of the gold boom, the area had a population of 20,000 and Wattle Flat had ten hotels, four large stores and several smaller ones. By 1932, the population had fallen to around 400.”
It’s hard to believe it was as big as that as now there is just a string of houses and one general store.
I spent about an hour sketching here. This is rather an eclectic page but it was fun to do.
Note: I decided to buy a tube of WN Yellow Ochre after Chris mentioned how much she had used it. Generally I prefer a raw sienna colour as it creates grey when mixed with blue rather than green, but at the moment I want a more yellowish earth colour. I’m still using Monte Amiata Natural Sienna but I’m enjoying the Yellow Ochre(YO) as well. I’m just squeezing a little YO into the corner of my palette when I need it.
My destination for the day was Hill End (the most well-known Gold Rush town in NSW?) but on the way I stopped at Sofala. It is a gorgeous little town with narrow streets and lots of heritage buildings!
Before planning this trip I had not heard of Sofala before, but these paintings by Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend were familiar. The top photo is roughly the same view… but when I was on location I was facing the other direction when trying to find the view.
There was a lot to sketch but as the road was narrow and cars coming and going I found it hard to find a spot to sit and sketch. Here is my (almost) finished spread. Since taking this photo I extended my notes down the full column as a background to the rusty bushranger and it looks much better.
Note: I’m absolutely loving the layout options of this A4 vertical moleskine and have been doing lots of experiments. When I used these books in 2019 (big Europe trip) I found that I often filled double page spreads with a single sketch. I seem to be generally working smaller so far this trip. It might be because of the smaller scale buildings that I’m seeing.
Final stop for the day was Hill End. National Parks site says this about it “Hill End is not your run-of-the-mill gold rush town. A small village full of original Victorian buildings, it’s also home to a thriving community of artists, artisans, poets and painters.”
I didn’t meet anyone from this community as I arrived at 3pm on Monday afternoon and left early Tuesday morning. However I did meet a fellow sketcher! This day was my first solo sketching day since Chris left, so it was super fun to meet Errol from QLD and sketch with him. He started sketching as a result of Mike Daikubara‘s book Sketch Now Think Later. Small world!
The next morning I got up early and guess who was already sketching at the spot I had decided on?
This cottage is a favourite to photograph due to its fence! When I got up after I finished my sketch what did I see behind me…
First kangaroo of the trip!
I did a quick drive around the town (and the afternoon before I had gone through the visitor centre) but I made the decision not to do too much in Hill End. I want to keep it for another visit!
Visiting these three gold rush towns was a lovely way to start the solo sketching part of my trip. At this stage already I’m thinking that I might tire soon of rusty roofs! Also, I’m more interested in streetscapes than individual buildings as many of the old buildings in NSW are very similar.
Oh! I feel so incredibly privileged to be able to go on this trip and I’m loving every minute of it!