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Grab a bargain




This awesome foursome of Amy Parry, Joy Desreaux, Danielle Earnshaw and Kathy Wood feel sorry for their wardrobes.

They were stuffed full of clothes so they decided to offload ‘some’ of them.

They admit to being shopaholics and while working in clothing retail, they say they often spent more than they earned.

So, they have decided to open a pop-up shop, open each weekday from 10am to 4pm where the former Susans Store was located in Singleton Centre (corner of William and John Streets).

There is a mass of clothing sized 10 to 16, shoes, bags and accessories, and many still have their tags on them.

This one-off opportunity finishes on Friday, October 23.


Garden brings joy to generations





Many of us struggled to find something to do during the periods of isolation, but not Beryl and Jim Hartin of Muswellbrook.

Their love of gardening has had the opportunity to bloom since they moved into the home they built themselves 58 years ago.

From the vegetable patch that has fed many neighbours and friends, to the flowers that entice birds and bees there is always something to do according to Beryl and Jim.

Beryl and Jim Hartin love nothing more than sharing their garden with family, including great granddaughters Addison (3) and Isla (1) Hartin.

“It’s keeping us healthy, especially this year when we haven’t been able to go anywhere,” Beryl said.

“We just love it.”

For a time there was a pool in the yard but it has since been removed and replaced with a fernery, and the playroom used by the couples four children is now a sewing room with a picturesque outlook.

They have planted large trees to give birds somewhere to nest and they enjoy spending afternoons sitting amongst them listening and watching the wildlife.

On any given evening Beryl and Jim can be found pottering around in the yard where they are often joined by their great granddaughters who live next door.

There is no other way to describe their yard than as a labour of love, but they would not have it any other way.

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Unearthing adventure in our backyard





More and more of us are getting out and about and exploring our ‘back yard’… but what about exploring under our back yard?

The Timor Kast, roughly 45 minutes from Scone, is made up of more than 80 caves which are home to micro bats, a range of cave adapted flora and fauna, fossils and of course stunning limestone decorations which have taken many lifetimes to form.

Unlike the popular tourist caves, you won’t find creature comforts like paths, stairs, hand-rails, lighting, coffee shops or even signage or toilets at The Timor Caves Reserve.

Timor Caves is off the beaten track on private land. Please respect the area.

Located along a dirt section of Isaac’s Creek road, flanked by abundant native grass trees enjoying the limestone slopes, the caves themselves are tucked away in the bush with nothing more than beaten down kangaroo tracks leading to their entrances, but the pay off when you get into the caves is worth all the effort!

Singleton local Tim Gratwick got his first taste of caving when he was just 10 years old at Wee Jasper as part of the Cub Scouts.

Thirty-five years on, he looks forward to packing up the ute and heading off with friends from his caving club to discover and explore new caves all over the countryside whenever the chance presents itself.

For Tim the enjoyment comes from conquering the physical challenges of caving, the exhilaration of abseiling down steep drops – particularly in the dark with only a headtorch for guidance, the appreciation of the natural beauty under the earth’s surface, and also the social aspect of weekends away spent in the great outdoors.  Although not for everyone, Tim is particularly fond of the micro bats that call Timor caves home, with nine species they are a vital part of the fauna in the Timor Cave system, and Tim advises visitors to ‘leave them alone’.  He warns not to touch or disturb the bat colonies or to make too much noise as it can stress them out.

The main attraction of the caves though, are beautiful limestone rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites, columns, translucent spiders, rockpools complete with inhabitants and crystals which look amazing reflecting the light of your head torch in the otherwise pitch darkness.

And then there’s the wonder of things like underground rockfall formations resultant from earthquakes many thousands of years ago that get the mind wondering about their significance in shaping the world as we currently know it and how different it might be in the future.

While a day out exploring may sound like innocent fun, there can be inherent dangers and care should be taken.  Tim and most other cavers recommend joining a caving group and benefitting from their knowledge, experience and connections.  Garry Smith, President of Newcastle and Hunter Valley Speleological Society says the absolute first thing you should do if you’d like to try caving is join a club.  Otherwise you may get lost or have an accident even trying to find the cave, and as most are in remote locations with no phone reception, you may not even be found until it’s too late.

Some of the great things about being part of a caving club is that you can access some amazing pristine, little known of caves on private property that the general public can’t.  You’re also covered by insurance in case anything does go wrong, you get use of the club gear, and you can benefit from member experience and training on ropes skills, abseiling, canyoning and so many other fun adventurous activities.  Although Garry strongly advises against exploring without an experienced group, if you do go, ensure you have a helmet, old clothes, a first aid kit, three sources of light and don’t touch the beautiful decorations in the caves – the oils from your skin can damage them and prevent further growth.  Most importantly, as with any bush adventure, tell people where you’re going and when you expect to return.

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Production of film comes to an end near Denman





Another chapter of Australian cinema was added near Denman this week.

The historic Pickering Homestead would set the scene for the Jenny Hicks’ short film ‘The Stranger’ featuring Harry Greenwood (Hacksaw Ridge, The Nightingale), Fiona Press (Waiting) and Steve Bisley (Mad Max).

Hicks, who is now studying a two-year master’s degree in directing, was an editor in films such as Twin Peaks for David Lynch, all three of The Matrix films for the Wachowskis, The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond for Ed Zwick and The Thin Red Line for Terrence Malick.

She is now well into her directorial debut after concluding her five days of filming at the Homestead late this afternoon.

“As part of my degree I have to make a film so I wrote the story and wanted to set it in a rural place because that’s where my heart lies,” Hicks told The Hunter River Times.

“I actually have a little house up in Bunnan so I’m kind of a local.”

IN DISCUSSION: Film director Jenny Hicks.

The short film is a psychological noir thriller centred around a stranger that arrives at an isolated farmhouse in the middle of the night who seeks to confront prejudices and stigma against people living with mental illness.

Yet the film needed the ideal setting.

So, Hicks put the message out to 1500 homes via Australia Post.

She then came across Donna and Gary Cooper who are the long term custodians of the Pickering Homestead (near Denman) for Mangoola.

“I wanted people to be isolated in the story and I just happened to find the most glamourous isolated farmhouse in the whole Hunter Valley,” Hicks explained.

“As soon as I arrived, I thought ‘yes, this is it’ and also because Donna has such great largess and a warm personality; it has been an enjoyable experience.”

The crew were also greatly assisted by sponsors Coates Muswellbrook, Two Rivers Winery and Royal Hotel throughout the week.

“We also want to thank ‘Dutchy’ at Minemate for delivering the cherrypicker,” she concluded.

A screening of the film will take place at the Denman Town Hall in December (shortly after the film’s completion).

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