Writing in the New England High Country

Why would anyone from sub tropical Coffs Harbour make a decision to visit the New England Region during winter?

Well, I ventured into minus degrees territory with a writer travel buddy Yvonne, who had researched the writers groups in the areas we planned to visit.

We headed off from Coffs Harbour around 8am on the 27th July bound for first overnight stay at Armidale. The road trip was all about investigating the writing community in New England Region. Both of us belong to writers groups, Yvonne is a member of Nambucca Valley Writers’ Group and I am a member of Coffs Harbour Writers’ Group Inc and a board member of the soon to be launched Mid North Coast Writers’ Centre Inc.

Our arrival at Armidale we were greeted with not only freezing weather but also rain and wind. Thankfully we were both prepared with beanies, gloves etc.

After checking into our motel we headed off for our first appointment with the New England Writer’s Centre. The meeting was a combined face-to-face and mobile contact due to the weather and of course COVID-19 concerns.

It was encouraging to know how participative and supportive, including well resourced the centre is with supporter/partner groups, including University of New England. We exchanged mutual information about our group’s achievements and information about the newly established Mid North Coast Writer’s Centre and how the centre will be an adjunct for all writers’ groups.

At conclusion of the meeting our host Lyn invited us to visit two independent bookstores Reader’s Companion and Boobooks. It was obvious, both being very different bookstores to one another, these bookstores cater to the needs of the community and they were so inviting. Boobooks had a coffee shop and the most amazing 1839 London Times book of newspaper clippings, some of the articles are still relevant in today’s news although a little over the top.

At the end of bookstore visits I enquired about places for our evening meals. We were given two hotel recommendations for the night’s dinner and White Bull Tavern was our chosen location. Good decision, nice warm fireplace, where we managed to warm up our behinds before enjoying a splendid meal, which was top class. It was a Monday night and the place was packed, thankfully I had rung ahead and booked our table.

Our next two days and nights stay was at equally freezing Inverell. Unfortunately the Inverell Writers’ Group was closed due to the fires that ravaged the area. We chose to visit the Tourist Information Centre to find out what else we could see and one of the options was the art gallery where took in the local artists works, which were delightful. I couldn’t leave Sapphire City without investigating sapphires; unfortunately due to the cold weather fossicking was not available. However the Tourist Information Centre had a wonderful gems section and my desires were met in a pair of sapphire earrings.

It was pleasing to see progress happening in Inverell a town with a population of 12,000. Their library facilities were outstanding in comparison to what we have in Coffs Harbour. You can’t visit Inverell without a good heritage walk amongst the buildings that were built around 1877, improvements occurred in the early 1900s.

Yvonne had lived in Inverell as a teenager and she couldn’t resist in going back over old homesteads and locations she remembered.

Over the past few days we had survived rain, wind and freezing weather, our last day and night was in Glen Innes with a minus degree temperature.

To help with warming ourselves early in the morning we found a heritage building that had been beautifully restored with tin pressed ceilings and an incredible array of churros and hot chocolate. We settle on the hot chocolate with marshmallows. Although we were offered gelato ice cream infused into the marshmallows, which we sadly declined.

Our fist meeting of the day was with Mike from The Highland Writers’ in his English cottage garden where we exchanged information about our writing centres. He gave us some copies of their anthology books and his book of poems. We will of course forward to him copies of our relevant writers groups anthology books.

Our last meeting for the day in Glen Innes was with Richard from The Maker Shed. He had an amazing display of copper and silver jewellery, pottery, artworks and author’s books. Great to know that he and is partner, who is the artist in the family had relocated from Sydney to Glen Innes and have settled beautifully into the community, including performing in local creative events.

We couldn’t leave Glen Innes without a visit to the local Art Gallery to see the exhibition of all animals big and small and submit our nominations for who we felt was the winner.
The drive home to Coffs Harbour via Guyra Road gave us time to reflect on what an interesting and informative road trip adventure we had during the four days and nights visiting some examples of active writers’ groups and of course The Makers Shed in the Highlands of New England Region.

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