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Abercrombie Caves (including Tuena and Grove Creek Falls)
This particularly attractive collection of limestone caves offer the usual array of stalagmites and stalactites. There is a river with a couple of particularly beautiful pools and the caves themselves have an array of columns and shawls with names like 'Hall of Terpischore', 'Angel's Harp', 'Plum Pudding' and 'Diamond Cascade'.
The caves, which are run by the NSW State government's Caves Reserve Trust, offer a number of attractive walks in the area, a series of guided caves inspections, and, for those not wanting to join an organised cave inspection, there is the Arch Cave, a self-conducted walk over a small hill and beside Grove Creek.
By the early 1830s some bushrangers known as 'The Ribbon Gang' were using the Arch (which the locals referred to as 'The Bridge') as a hideout. This little-known gang was led by a disgruntled convict, Ralph Entwistle. They terrorised the local area from September to October 1830 until they were captured. Although it is interesting to note that, after a particularly bloody battle, the gang retreated to Abercrombie Caves, were followed and cornered, but escaped through an 'exit hole'. They were caught the next day. Two members of the gang died from wounds. The remaining ten were hanged at Bathurst Prison on 2 November 1830.
Throughout the 1830s people from the surrounding properties would visit the main cave and by the 1840s it was a popular visiting place. A survey was carried out in 1842. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a visit to the caves in 1843 and the immensely gifted artist, Conrad Martens, arrived and made a number of sketches in May, 1843.
The discovery of gold in the area in the 1850s (Tuena - 1851, Mount Grey - 1854) resulted in a huge increase in visitors to the caves. In 1860 the miners at Mount Grey built the first stage in the Arch Cave. It was replaced in 1880 and is still used occasionally today.
The discovery of gold also meant a dramatic increase in bushranging in the district and, once again, the caves became a popular retreat when bushrangers were being chased. In his book 'The Abercrombie Caves', author Geoff Bates claims 'It is believed that Ben Hall and his gang (including Frank Gardiner and John O'Meally) spent considerable time at the caves in the years 1863 to 1865.'
By 1870 the caves were popular with visitors from Sydney and by 1888 a temporary keeper was employed to look after the caves which were suffering from graffiti and vandals. By 1895 more than 1000 people a year were visiting the caves.
They are truly the most accessible caves in New South Wales.
1. Archway Cave
At the southern end of the cave is the Gold digger's Stage - a large platform built by miners which was historically used for dances and concert performances which, presumably, were greatly enhanced by the cave's acoustics.
In The Abercrombie Caves, Geoff Bates provides a brief history of the Gold digger's Stage which 'was built by the goldminers living in the area about the year 1854.
'For relaxation, miners from the goldfields at Tuena, The Junction and Trunkey Creek would come to the caves on a Saturday evening, together with their loved ones, be it a wife or a girlfriend to drink and dance the night away. The cave would ring with the sound of popular bush music, played on their instruments, which included concertinas, flutes, harmonicas and fiddles.
'A drop of good ale always went down well at these functions and many an old bottle has been dug up from around the dance floor.
Bates goes on to explain that the platform was built of Baltic pine and was probably a packing case for mining equipment or ship's ballast. The ironbark beams came from around Hill End and were brought to the caves by bullock team.
The best way to ensure that you fully appreciate the cave is to obtain the Archway Cave: Self Guided Tour brochure which describes, in great detail, the 1.4 km round trip and draws the walker's attention to all the main points of interest. It also includes an easy to follow map.
2. King Solomon's Temple
3. Bushrangers Cave
4. Grove Cave
Grove Creek Falls
Another party to cash in on the area's pickings was that of bushranger Ben Hall. His gang were active in the area and bailed up an inn near Tuena in 1865.
Today the town is no more than a few historic buildings on the less than perfect dirt road about halfway between Bathurst and Goulburn.
A walking tour of the town's historic buildings is available from Parsons General Store (1860) which features old cedar counters and a museum display (it is closed on Sundays, except in school holidays). It takes in the Bookkeeper's Cottage (1861), a wattle-and-daub building which was used for tallying gold, The Goldfields Inn (1866) which is the oldest licensed wattle-and-daub hotel in the country, St Marks Anglican Church (1886), the Tuena Public School (1889), St Margaret's Presbyterian Church (1890), built of local stone, a suspension footbridge, police station (1900) and a number of other, less important, buildings.
Each Easter the village holds a Goldrush Festival which attracts more than 2 000 people to the town on Easter Saturday. Fossicking is still popular in the area with panning equipment available from the general store. The surrounding rivers and waterholes are popular spots for fishing, swimming, canoeing and fishing. Local arts and crafts are available in the Tuena Hall on weekends. Green's Bluff, adjacent the recreation ground, is a good swimming spot and free camping is available at Tuena Reserve
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