Thursday, 28 April 2011

TOCAL FIELD DAYS 2011 - Information, Education, Entertainemnt

From Friday April 29 to Sunday May 1, the Tocal Agricultural Centre will come alive for Tocal Field Days. Every year, on the first weekend of May, the three day event plays host to a range of activities aimed at farmers, farming enthusiasts, and people looking for a great day out.

Tocal is in N.S.W. Australia, 180 km North of Sydney via the F3 Freeway. It is 103 km from Muswellbrook (about one and a half hours drive), and is 14 km North of Maitland on the Paterson/Dungog road. The nearest large railway station is Maitland. The Newcastle Airport is at Williamtown, 50 minutes from Tocal.

Working Dog Dsiplay
This year’s line up of activities and events include the best deals on farm machinery and equipment, an extensive entertainment program, talks and lectures on everything from chooks and veggie gardens to regional solutions for a sustainable future, craft demonstrations, piglet races, food and wine tastings, cattle dog trials, extended animal nursery and much more.
Participants will also be able to take part in a variety of hands on demonstrations including fencing and a new feature for this year, dry stone wall building. This ancient craft, which is currently experiencing resurgence, will be demonstrated through the building of a wall throughout the weekend using stone gathered from the Tocal site.

Event Manager, Wendy Franklin said that the demonstrations and talks were an integral part of Tocal Field Days and had set it apart from other events.

‘It is a great opportunity for people to hear the latest innovations and advancements in agriculture from the industry experts, and also from passionate farmers such as the Hunter Biodynamic group who are keen to share their knowledge. ‘I believe the ‘Home Grown’ feature will be very popular this year as growing produce at home brings out the farmer in all of us – visitors will see it can be achieved in any backyard’

The “Tocal Ute Muster” will also return for a second year this time over two days, and will feature utes of all shapes, sizes and vintages.

With an overarching theme of ‘Paddock to Plate’, the three day event will showcase everything farming from how to grow great produce to preparing and serving a delicious meal. The Bake or Burn competition will be the highlight of the Good Food and Wine area. In conjunction with Hunter Valley Slow Food Movement, this competition will give both cooking enthusiasts and budding chefs the opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

Ms Franklin said that farming and agriculture would always be the mainstay of the event, but by offering an extensive program that includes activities for kids, foodies, students and craft enthusiasts, Tocal Field Days has become so much more; “Tocal Field Days prides itself on offering patrons a variety of exhibitors and also caters to those who just want to enjoy a taste of country life. By offering a range of experiences including cooking competitions and demonstrations on how to build your own garden, people from all walks of life will enjoy this great three day event.”

For the first time children coming in with a paying adult can enter the event free of charge. They will also be given a code to try and win one of three Treasure Chests. The new Children’s Park area will be a hive activity with a range of new features on a larger site.

The 2011 Tocal Field Days offers the latest innovations for the rural sector as well as country hospitality and entertainment. Entry is $12 for seniors and $17 for adults, kids under 16 accompanied by a paying adult can enter for free.

For further information see the website-

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Nundle Go For Gold Chinese Festival 2011

Nundle "Go For Gold Chinese Festival 2011" will be held on Easter Saturday 23 & Sunday 24 April 2011 from: 8:30am – 4:00pm each day, with free admission. The small country village of Nundle is in N.S.W. Australia.

Nundle comes alive during the "Go For Gold Chinese Easter Festival" which celebrates the village’s rich gold mining history and the many Chinese who were drawn there to seek their fortune. The Easter festival is a “must do" experience and features:-
  • panning for gold to find some genuine Nundle gold
  • the world-class Chinese dance troupe
  • a variety of Chinese and Australian cuisine
  • Children’s entertainment (Chinese Puzzle Treasure Hunt, Magician, Gold Panning and Jumping Castle)
  • large and varied range of market stalls
  • a variety of live music, including traditional music played on ancient Chinese instruments
  • traditional Chinese dragon and lion dances
  • antique toy display
  • world class Mineral & Gem Display
  • visit Nundle’s many attractions, cafes, antique shops and local stores

Where is Nundle?
Nundle is 145 km from Muswellbrook (about 2 hours drive) along the New England Highway and Wallabadah-Nundle Road, or 67km south east of Tamworth – turn off the New England Highway at Nemingha and take a scenic drive via Chaffey Dam.

Chinese Dragon and Lions
The 2011 Festival will feature a 15 person Dragon and 2 two-person Lions performing their energetic and colourful dances. These dances are usually performed by martial artists who have the strength and skill to make the various moves and express the a range of moods of the dragon and the lions. The Sydney based Australian Yau Mun Chinese Martial Arts Association Inc. will be performing the dances at this years festival.

Nundle’s Chinese Heritage
From the 1850’s to the 1880’s thousands of people came to what was then called the Peel River Diggings which incorporated Nundle, Happy Valley, Hanging Rock, and Bowling Alley Point. Among the rush of people were numerous Chinese; most looking for gold, plus a few came to set up stores and gardens to supply the diggers. Illness or accidents took the lives of many searching the hills, and the Bowling Alley Point and Nundle Cemeteries became their final resting-places while the majority left when gold petered out or new fields beckoned. Some stayed on and became a permanent part of Nundle and district history.

The Government Officials on the Gold Fields of the 1860’s to 1880’s were ‘Englishmen’ and had some difficulty with the Chinese language. The names of Chinese miners were simply written down as they sounded; the result was that what was recorded may not have born close resemblance to the actual names! The word ‘Ah’, a term of respect, was often prefixed to the Chinese names when they were recorded in the official documents of the day.

For further information about the "Nundle Go For Gold Festival 2011" contact the Event Manager, Roger Sydenham, Email: phone: (02) 6769 3665, Fax: (02) 6769 3665

Monday, 18 April 2011

Royal Easter Show Promotion in China

Dan Shipman had never seen anything quite like it – a world dominated by skyscrapers, a place completely different from his surroundings growing up in the Clarence Valley in NSW Australia.

For Shipman, aged 22, who grew up on a property at Glenreagh, the experience he had on the international stage in China is one he is unlikely to forget. The champion woodchopper and Grafton footballer left the comfort of his home for a whirlwind tour of China and Hong Kong, where he was one of four entertainers/competitors selected to represent Australia at the International Easter Show launch.

Shipman was joined on the trip by fellow woodchopper Brett Monaghan (Lithgow), Australian whip-cracking champion Daniel Wicks (Gunnedah) and Psycho Sideshow performer Shep Huntly (Melbourne).

Shipman said that during his 10 days in China he took part in a series of woodchopping demonstrations in a host of locations including shopping malls, cafes and hotels in Gunagzhou, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. “It was amazing performing in front of thousands of people, it was like nothing I had ever seen or felt before,” he said. “We had a really good response from people, hopping across towns in taxis, trying several different ways to explain where you wanted to go, eating Chinese food that was different to what I am used to.”

“I didn’t think woodchopping would take me this far, over to China, it was such a whirlwind experience to go to another country. “I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to be able to show people what I enjoy doing and it felt great to represent Australia.”

Shipman will compete in Sydney at the Royal Easter Show from April 14-27. He will be one of about 90 competitors vying for top honours. “I am not nervous, if anything I am looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “I enjoy sport, playing rugby league helps keep me fit for woodchopping.”

Royal Agricultural Society chief executive Peter King said the experience of chopping extra-hard Chinese wood was sure to be great training for Shipman ahead of the upcoming Easter Show.

A series of performances during Shipman’s tour were staged at the Tseung Kwan O’s East Point City shopping centre, with more than 10,000 families and shoppers getting a taste of what the Royal Show is all about.

King said that recent research indicated that Asian tourists would travel to Sydney to see a large variety of unique Australian content in one place so close to Sydney. “They love the fact that the show is an Australian tradition and they are able to get hands on with some of the best livestock and produce in the land,” King said. “Asia has no such show and they are looking for experiential attractions where they can immerse themselves in Australian culture with ease.”

King said the great attraction of the Sydney Royal Easter Show to the international market was the ability to engage directly with what is unique about Australia – they see it, touch it, smell it and even step in it.” “The Royal Easter Show is the ‘real deal’,” he said. “It is the best event in Australia to experience the depth and sincerity of the Australian way of life.”

Last year more than 13,000 international visitors came to the Show, injecting more than $22 million into the NSW Economy. International tourists visiting the Show spend more than $200 each day. It is hoped to attract even more visitors to the Show from Asia in the coming years, especially from China, as they are the largest and fastest growing markets for inbound tourism in Australia

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Magnificant Malaysia

Malaysia has a well earned international reputation as one of the most desirable holiday destinations in Asia. This will come as little surprise to those who know the country well, after all, Malaysia truly is an enticing place to visit. Immersed in warm tropical sun; blessed with various fascinating historical cities; beautiful hill resorts; and an eclectic cultural mix. There are stunning, sprawling rainforests, and Malaysia's rainforests are amongst the oldest in the world at around 130 million years! Malaysia provides a delightful blend of attractions to suit all visitors, and it continues to pull in a broad range of different (but equally curious!) travellers. It could well be the perfect place for your next holiday.

From Langkawi's golden shores washed by the Straits of Malacca all the way to Mount Kinabalu's soaring peak, Malaysia has many places worthy of visiting. Malaysia is a country steeped in tradition - in everything from food to religion, and dress to architecture. It also boasts stupendous natural beauty. There are sprawling green forests filled with wildlife; pristine golden beaches; soaring jagged mountains; pure rivers; and beautifully preserved national parks.

For the adventurers Malaysia offers a stunning scuba diving experience; world class golfing; thrilling white water rafting; breath taking cave exploration; paragliding; and bird watching, as well as various other pursuits. The nation has long been regarded a home-from-home for thrill seekers. Little wonder it is the tourism capital for the inquisitive traveller!

It shouldn't be forgotten, however, that a stay in Malaysia can also be about genuine relaxation against the backdrop of Malaysia's truly unique landscape. Malaysia caters for all tastes and preferences, as well as for travellers of all ages and experience!

As far as accommodation is concerned, Malaysia offers a wide range of everything from resorts and hotels, to national park camping and chalets!

Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur has several museums and art galleries, which offer a vivid picture of the country's strong art and cultural history. Malaysia isn't all about adventures, history and culture, however, in fact it also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Asia with golden sands and blue sky in amongst some of the world's most amazing flora and fauna. If that sounds like your ideal getaway then consider a trip to Langkawi, Penang or perhaps Terengganu.

I haven't been to Malaysia as yet, but I hope to be able to travel there somehow this year to experience all the wonders of Malaysia first hand. For more information about Malaysia see the website:-

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Chinese Visit Australian Eucalypt Plantation

A forestry trial in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW Australia has attracted international attention with a Chinese delegation visiting a eucalypt plantation in March 2011.Coal & Allied Environmental Specialist for Rehabilitation Bill Baxter said officers from the State Forestry Administration inspected the plantation of around 80,000 eucalypts near the Hunter Valley Operations mine last week.
Pictured: Coal & Allied's Bill Baxter and Deputy Director General Ningxia Forestry Department Mr Wang Hongjie.
"We were very happy to share the promising results we've had from this trial so far, which highlight the potential for our mines to contribute to the establishment of a forestry industry in the Upper Hunter Valley," said Mr Baxter. "This plantation is specifically aimed at determining whether a commercial size forest is viable in the Hunter Valley, where low rainfall of 600 to 700 millimetres a year and relatively poor soils mean tree growth rates are less than those on the coast and coastal range."

"We planted the first trees in 2007, so the plantation is now well established and we'll continue to monitor growth in coming years." "Besides any commercial benefits, the plantation is providing ecosystem diversity on what was previously grazing land""This Chinese delegation was also particularly interested in the carbon offset potential for this plantation, which is expected to sequester around 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide."

Deputy Director General in the State Forestry Administration Mr Su Ming said the group's visit to Australia was aimed at promoting the development of forest carbon sequestration in China. "This Upper Hunter Valley plantation was very interesting as an example of an environmental planting in a lower rainfall area," said Mr Su. "We hope our visit will allow us to improve the development of forestry measures to address climate change, and promote ongoing co-operation in this area between our countries."

The inspection was organised by the Australian Government, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) which is hosting the official visit under the Australia-China Agriculture Cooperation Agreement (ACACA).
Pictured: left to right, Ms Wang Chunneng, Mr Yau Jianlin, Mr Su Ming, Coal & Allied Environmental Specialist Bill Baxter, Mr Wang Hongjie, Federal Department of Fisheries and Forestry Policy Officer Ms Wendy Whitby, and Mr Guo Yufu.

Friday, 15 April 2011

“King of the Ranges”

TheKing of the Ranges” will be held on the weekend of Friday 29th April to Sunday 1st May and will have an action packed program for horse lovers. Murrurundi is located in NSW, Australia, and is 66 km away from Muswellbrook up the New England Highway. It takes about an hour to drive to Murrurundi from Muswellbrook.

For more information about the weekend see the website

There will be six preliminary events:-

1) STOCK HANDLING: On foot competitor to move 3 unmarked beasts into the camp and then mounted to cut out one beast in Campdraft format. Then the competitor, with his or her dog, in a controlled manner and within 4 minutes, is to move the 3 beasts around a course through set obstacles.
2) BUNGS BUSHMAN’S PACKHORSE: Using their competition riding horse to pack, competitors must ensure that the bags are evenly packed and balanced, then, within a set time, lead the packhorse through a set course with a number of different obstacles and finish by unpacking and unsaddling the packhorse. (Time limit 16 minutes)
3) THREE MAC’S WHIPCRACK: Competitors will attempt to cleanly cut targets with a stock whip and negotiate within a set time limit, a Skill at Arms obstacle course. After finishing the course, competitors are to complete a freestyle section on horseback, with the horse standing still.
3) BAREBACK OBSTACLE COURSE: Riding bareback and using their own choice of headgear, competitors are to complete in a set time, a course designed to demonstrate maximum skill, control and manoeuvrability of their horse. Then competitors are to perform a compulsory freestyle for 30 seconds.
5) HORSESHOEING: Open & Lady competitors are to competently and neatly shoe one hind hoof, and one front hoof in a set time of 30 minutes. Junior competitors, within 30 minutes are to prepare one hoof for shoeing, and shape a given shoe from ideal front shape to ideal hind shape.
6) CROSS COUNTRY COURSE : Riding with the same stock saddle used throughout the competition, competitors are to complete a course approximately 2kms long, with 20 jumps, as close as possible to a given optimum time. A vet check will be conducted on each competitor’s horse ten minutes after they have completed the course.

The FINAL EVENTS will be:-

*JUNIOR (TOP 3)   
Obstacle Race - Finalists are to correctly complete a given obstacle course in the fastest possible time.
Obstacle Race - Finalists are to correctly complete a given obstacle course in the fastest possible time.
Wild Horse Catch - Finalists are to attempt to rope and catch in an arena, a previously unhandled horse. (Time Limit is 4 minutes)
*OPEN (TOP 10)
Wild Horse Catch - Finalists are to attempt to rope and catch in an arena, a previously unhandled horse. (Time Limit is 4 minutes)
Stock Saddle Buckjump - Using the same stock saddle and gear used throughout the event, finalists are to attempt to retain their seat, for 8 seconds, on a bucking horse whilst cracking their stockwhip.

Join in all the fun of the "Bush Festival" with:-

·  Maiden Campdraft
·  Food, Bar & Entertainment
·  Heavy Horse Display

·  Sulky Driving  
   Demonstrations &  
·  Australian Dog High Jump  
   Market & Trade Stalls

·  Bush Skills
·  State of Origin Barrel   
   Sam Easey Memorial
   Poley Saddle Buckjump

Thursday, 14 April 2011

More China Tourists Visit Australia

Australia has received more Chinese tourists than from any other country so far this year (2011). Chinese travellers accounted for the largest group of visitors to Australia for the first time in February.

Latest Bureau of Statistics figures show 77,700 Chinese visitors arrived in Australia in February -- up 6.1 percent from the same month last year, beating New Zealand, Britain and the United States for the first time.

Combining January and February, arrivals from China rose 25.3 percent or 27,900 visitors, due to the Chinese New Year and international student arrivals. There had been almost 30,000 extra visitors this January and February due to growing international student numbers and more Chinese getting away for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive, John Lee, said, China had "incredible potential" for Australia, with a rising and increasingly wealthy middle class. "To meet the needs of growing numbers of Chinese visitors, we must ensure that tourism operators are prepared, with cultural awareness, language skills, cuisine and activities tailored to their needs."

Singapore and Malaysia also rallied strongly -- both up more than 10 percent -- while Japan, traditionally one of Australia's best markets, slipped to fifth place with a 12.5 percent drop to 33,500 visitors.

Total arrivals stood at 498,400, 3.6 percent higher than a year earlier.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

A Great Day Out - Hunter Valley Steamfest 2011

Restored Rail Motor
The Hunter Valley Steamfest 2011 was a great success this year. I was one of the estimated near record crowd of 70,000 people who enjoyed the festival. On Sunday 10 April 2011 I caught the early morning Cityrail train from Muswellbrook to Maitland and returned home on the evening train. At Steamfest I saw many old restored steam trains come and go from the Maitland Station as they took people on sightseeing trips to nearby towns. I also saw the end of the Great Race between two steam trains pulling carriages of passengers, and a tiger moth plane. It was a close finish, with one of the steam trains winning. 
Steam engine number 3625
Steam engine 3642
The Steam Rally Ground had many static and moving steam engines, tractors, trucks and other vehicles that had been restored by enthusiasts over many years. The highlight was the Grand Parade of vehicles around the Rally Ground. The Powerhouse Museum had on display in its marquee several Hornby train models. There were also Clydesdale horses and donkeys on display.   

Steam engine at Steamfest Rally Ground

Steam Roller at Steamfest Rally Ground
Traction Engine at Steam Fest Rally Ground
The Show N Shine vehicle display had over 700 cars of various types proudly displayed by their owners in Maitland Park.They ranged from older vintage cars to more recent hot rods, trucks and motor cycles.
Restored vehicles at the Show N Shine
Stanly Steamer Car at the Show N Shine
Many Bazaar stalls occupied the length of Church Street, and amusement rides were available for the children. There were at least 3 venues displaying model vehicles which I didn't see, and Guided Railway Station Precinct Walks. Grossmann House, a National Trust Property, which has been restored to its Victorian grandeur, was open for display.. It was  great day out and an event I'll look forward to attend again next year, when it will be held on the weekend of 21 and 22 April 2012.
Grossmann House, Maitland

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Hunter Valley Steamfest 2011

The  Hunter Valley Steamfest is Australia’s premier festival of steam and will be held on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 April. It is held in the Maitland Railway Station precinct, in Maitland, NSW, Australia. Steamfest 2011 will feature all of the previous years favourite activities with a few new surprises.

Steam engines 3642, 3265 & 3526 will be making a return in 2011, offering steam train rides as in the days gone by.. An expanded Steanfest Rally Ground near Maitland Station on the New England Highway will feature traction and static engine displays, Mini train rides, vintage machinery and Interpretive Tours. Rally ground entry is Adults $2.00 and Children (under 16) are Free.

The Powerhouse Museum marquee will feature a Hornby Model display, Cogs the Robot and a speakers program. Kids Adventureland will be the spot for face painting, coal shoveling and a range of children’s activities.

Around the town there will be a host of attractions to see. The Our Town Model Display will feature models and displays from many different fields such as railways, ships & tugs, cars, military vehicles, aircraft, houses and much more. There will also be the Steamfest Show 'n' Shine car display,  Richmond Vale Railway Museum exhibitions and rides, guided walking tours, Morpeth Fiery Food Festival, and the Outdoor Cinema.

The Steamfest markets featuring over 120 stalls, will sell everything from arts and crafts to fresh local produce and everything in-between. There’s no need to bring lunch as the food court will cater for all tastes.

In 1983 the last coal operating steam haulage freight service was closed on the South Maitland Railway Line, effectively ending a century old institution.  In response to this closure, in 1986 the first Hunter Valley Steamfest was held.

Steam had played an integral part in the development of the Hunter Valley, and it was felt that the tradition of steam should be kept alive for future generations through this event.  The first Steamfest was organised by a dedicated group of community volunteers whose vision was that Steamfest would become an annual fixture in the City’s calendar. 25 years later I think they can safely say their vision was realised.

For more information see the website:

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

China Transportation

During the last few years, China has modernized its domestic air, train, and highway systems to meet the influx and demands of foreign travelers. There has been a vast improvement in ease of travel throughout the country. Virtually all of China is linked by one of the new domestic airlines since the de-regulation of the national carrier system, and the creation of these new regional carriers has greatly improved domestic airline service. Modernization of the airlines and airport facilities is a boon for travelers, creating a more efficient and competitive airline system. New Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Airbus aircraft are used on almost all routes within the country.

Passengers flying from Australia to China via China Southern, Air China, and China Eastern Airlines, (or other international carriers) may book flights within China as part of the ticket. If you need to make domestic flight reservations during your trip, they can be easily arranged through the hotel travel desk or at one of the many new travel agency services that have opened in China (a passport is required to make reservations). Some routes are heavily trafficked, so it is wise to book as far in advance as possible. All flights are nonsmoking.

Travel by rail is an enjoyable, relaxing, and inexpensive way to see China's countryside. New or modernized equipment has replaced the old train systems in most areas. Travelers who lack the time to cover vast distances by train can still get a delightful taste of rail travel by journeying on popular short distance routes from Shanghai to the nearby cities of Suzhou, Wuxi, Nanjing, or Hangzhou; or from Beijing to Tianjin. Amenities have been added to first-class train travel (known as "soft seat"), including comfortable waiting lounges at some train stations. Travelers should note that the trains are consistently punctual.

 New freeway systems have been built (and many more are under construction), making it easy to travel around and explore the metropolitan areas of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong quickly and inexpensively. Traffic is quite light on some highways. Metered taxis are readily available at all hotels and shopping districts, and are permitted to stop at your signal. Travelers may find it convenient to hire a taxi for a whole or half day, but be sure to agree on a price first. Some taxi drivers speak English, but most don't. Always take along written directions and a map to point to the location of your destination. 

Beijing and Shanghai have modern subways for fast travel around the cities. If you're in a hurry, this is the way to go. Signs and schedules are in English, and transfers between lines are free. If you prefer a slower pace, bicycles are available to rent everywhere in China. Bicycling is an excellent way to see the countryside and get the maximum smiles per mile.
Photos - 1) Elevated Highway in Shanghai
              2) China Southern Airlines
              3) Maglev Train Shanghai
              4) Taxi in Shanghai
              5) Subway in Shanghai
              6) Bicycles in Shanghai

Friday, 1 April 2011

Upper Hunter Regional Show 2011

This years Show will be held on the 8th and 9th April in Muswellbrook, NSW, Australia. The Upper Hunter Regional Show has been operating since the early 1870's, and in it's current location at Maitland Street since 1954. This makes The Upper Hunter Regional Show one of the longest running regional shows in Australia.
Features will include the 'Bursting with Energy Expo', the 'Bushwhacker Spectacular', pavilion displays, rodeo, demolition derby, horse jumping, cattle and poultry displays, and amusement rides.

For more informations see the website: