The name ‘Forgotten Country’ is taken from the 1977 book by Isabel Wilkinson, about the goldfields of the Upper Clarence region of northern NSW. It is rough and unforgiving ground made up in parts by steep Granite hills and volcanic rainforest covered mountains- not your typical goldfield by any stretch!
Sadly much of this region was devastated by the bushfires of late 2019. By the time the fires had passed, we were then stuck at home by the nasty virus that has been going around…..
With the border restrictions between Qld and Nsw easing, we were given the opportunity to get on to a private property down there- an invitation not to be refused! We packed as quickly as possible, as the property owner was only going to be there for the long weekend. This is where things began to go wrong- on the trip down I realized I had left my jeans at home!
When we arrived, the owner was nowhere to be found and we had no phone reception! We waited several hours but alas he did not show up. He had mentioned that if we missed him, we could reach the spots on his property via some remote forestry trails- so that is what we did!
Driving in, the damage of the bushfires was very clear- but life is slowly returning! Upon reaching our first spot, we were delighted to see the undergrowth had not come back too thick and the diggings were highly visible.
It was getting late, so we did some very quick detecting along the diggings, having to use the Equinox 800 due to the amount of iron trash and total lack of old detecting activity! While no gold was detected, we managed to get a number of nice miners buttons, a belt buckle, old shovel head and then we found what we believe is an old miners grave- a cairn of stones neatly placed in the middle of the diggings, complete with worn-to-the-nub miners pick in front. (we left this completely alone in respect to the fallen digger)
We did a number of test pans in the creek running through the diggings and got some colour- but not enough to really get us excited. So next morning, we marked our points of interest for a return trip and headed back to the homestead to see if the owner was there. He was not……
So back into the rugged forestry trails to the plan B spot we went. We were about 6 months too late though- the dense rainforest undergrowth had come back with a vengeance after the fires, and our location was thick with high bracken fern and masses of stinging nettle- with no jeans, shorts were not a good idea here! So off to the plan C location.
Plan C was a well-known panning area, and at this point, my Daughter just wanted to find some colour in the pan. We hiked about 600m upstream from where everyone goes. The water was cool and fresh in the creek and we soon found some good boiler holes and crevices in the Granite bed rock to work. Again, no matter where we tested all we could scrounge up were micro specks.
I had one more ace up the sleeve- a spot I had found several ounces at detecting a few years ago. Due to the un expect amount of driving, we needed to fuel up before heading to the plan D spot. Calling in at the only ‘town’ in the area we found the petrol station closed! So, we found an near by free camp by the river and pulled up for the night.
We fuelled up early and headed off again. Now, I thought the fire damage we had seen earlier was bad- but the next place could only be described as utter carnage. The blaze was so intense that the majority of the large gum trees were completely obliterated with no signs of life returning to but a handful of lucky survivors.
The track to our location was reached only to find it immediately blocked by a huge fallen log. We navigated around it and found a small sapling stump about 2” to tall to get the vehicle over. Using my trusty old pick, I tried to lower it. It worked- but the head snapped off my pick! About 1/4 of the way down the steep track we were stopped by another huge fallen log, this time, there was no going around and sadly, I fear this spot will not be reached again until someone with a VERY large chainsaw comes along. We conceded defeat and headed home.
Although no yellow metal was found, we found our own ‘gold’ in seeing the incredible diggings, and masses of ground orchids in full bloom (another interest of ours!) and traversing some of the most difficult terrain I’ve encountered.
The moral of the story though, is prospecting sometimes leaves you empty handed, but you can tick places off the list, or add places of interest to return to later. Since returning home, it is looking like one of the places we marked on the gps may be a long-forgotten racecourse. Needless to say, we will be back there as soon as possible- before the wilderness reclaims it again!