A weekend escape to The Town That Built Sydney
The Dubbo XPT chugged into station after a carefree hurtle over the mountains and my travelling companion remarked “Oh, it’s cold.” to which a passer-by replied, “Welcome to Lithgow.” We braced ourselves against the mid-summer chill for a brief wait before switching to a Mudgee-bound bus which delivered us out the front of the Railway Hotel, Kandos (population 1306). The bus was necessitated by the fact that the Gwabegar railway line hasn’t run through Kandos since 2007.
We had arrived in The Town That Built Sydney – home to NSW’s most productive cement works until it was abruptly shut down in 2011, never to be reopened. The local abundance of lime deposits in the Capertee Valley inspired the opening of the works in 1913. The town’s original name – Candos – was an acronym based upon the names of the six directors of the company and in their time, the works were the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Just west of the Great Dividing Range, Kandos is 3 hours from Sydney, the town features imaginative structures built in the ‘Spanish mission’ architectural style popular in California and whimsical Federation-era construction curiosities. Visiting for the inaugral Cementa 13 art festival, we discovered that the orderly company village facade (40 wide streets, all scrubbed and freshly painted, not a skerrick of litter in the gutters) does not do justice to the quirky township’s personality.
On the back of a Twitter tip-off, we tried our luck with the delightful hospitality of Marie and Barry Trounson of Kandos’s Fairways Motel (est. 1975 with the first guests through the door being the directors of the cement works) and found that there was room at the inn.
Marie, was born in Kandos and destined to be the town’s hostess with the mostess. Her determined work ethic, vivaciousness and generosity are all part of a personal philosophy to, ‘Do everything you can for whoever you can’ We were her good deed for the day when she arranged for us to catch an earlier bus home and with her husband driving like only a country man can, ensured we got to our connection in Ilford with time to spare. If only the dour barmaids at The Railway Hotel had been apprenticed in hospitality by the charming Marie!
She remembers the shock of the Cement Works closing, “It was like losing a member of the family.” Although she notes that it hasn’t affected business at the motel which overlooks a tranquil 18-hole golf course and is on the fringe of the town (only a short walk to Angus Street). Marie’s sense of community is strong and it’ no wonder;Barry has been strongly involved in local business for many years, serving on the council and working with his son in the younger’s an award-winning winery (now closed, however the beautiful property is for sale if this article convinces you to take up a tree-change. Contact Richard Traunson, manager of the mixed grocery and fuel business in Capertee.)
The museum is a carefully curated trove, and one must make a stop to meet the exuberant proprietress of Shady Lady Hats who with a few expert adjustments (and side-cracks to boot) will have you be-hatted in style. For snacks, cheeky sips of lovely Mudgee wine or hearty breakfasts, you will be cared for graciously at the Clock Stop Cafe by the defunct train tracks. A coverted train station, the deco is so authentic you might feel like you’re about to be ushered aboard an Agatha Christie mystery.
Or, if it’s Mother Nature you yearn for, take a trip out to Dunns Swamp. Manmade in the 1920’s to provide water for the Kandos Cement Works, it forms part of the beautiful Wollemi National Park and is a picturesque camping, fishing or picnic spot (don’t forget to pop into the Kandos bakery and stock up for the picnic on their delicious treats).
Dinner may warrant a drive to neighbouring village, Rylestone, where a culinary surprise exists in the form of the funky 29 Nine 99 restaurant which knocks visitors socks off every day of the week. Outstanding yum cha, with dumplings to die for on offer served up by couple Na Lan and Reg Buckland. But if it’s simple fare that you seek, step into the Hotel Kandos for classic pub grub at its country best.
Enclosed on one side by an enigmatic escarpment, the finest hour is sunset in Kandos. With a drink in hand on the balcony of the Railway Hotel, tourists and locals watch the sky softly burn to an orange glow that illuminates the cliff face to a fierce blush. Glossy cockatoos shriek from the boughs as the shadows of the gums lengthen to streak across neatly mowed town parkland. Maybe it’s a little rose-tinted, but the world sure looks lovely from here.
Cnr Ilford Rd & Henbury Ave
Kandos NSW 2848
Telephone: (02) 6379 4406
WINE BAR & CAFE
Clock Stop Cafe
37 Angus Ave
Kandos NSW 2848
Telephone: (02) 6379 4180
By Estelle Pigot