20 July 2017

A day out in the region: the hidden valley of Wee Jasper

| Maryann Mussared
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This story has got everything in it I love! Beautiful Australian landscape, a Sunday drive in the country, old shearing sheds and farm buildings, a crossroad that demands a decision, and at the end of the road, a hidden valley, an old homestead, warm fireplaces, a really good home-cooked meal and a ‘rare’ wine.

From Canberra, we had journeyed through some lovely countryside; over Uriarra Crossing, along the Murrumbidgee Valley Corridor, into Mountain Creek, and up and down hills with fascinating rock formations. We were tempted by a shortcut on Sawyers Creek Road, which apparently cuts across the Murdoch property of ‘Cavan’. However, there was a sign, declaring the road unsuitable for caravans (which I read as a ‘normal car’) and this encouraged us to turn our attention back to the sealed road. Before long, we descended the steep road to our final destination of Wee Jasper. Reputedly called after the small pieces of the pretty green semi-precious stone jasper discovered by an early Scots settler, it is a pretty area to explore.

Briefly admiring the 1899 schoolhouse, we reached our fork in the road. To the left the popular Wee Jasper Reserves and camping grounds and on to Tumut. Our destination was the Duck’n’Fishes cafe housed in the historical Cooradigbee Homestead so we turned right, driving past the entrance to Careys Caves. Cooradigbee Homestead is set among mature trees with each room commanding a view of the surrounding lawns. The deep verandah provides comfortable seating and is adjacent to the well-stocked lounge bar. The Homestead also offers comfortable accommodation and the nearby shearers’ quarters are very popular for groups.

The Homestead has a number of working fireplaces. Our table was right up against this original fireplace, which glowed warmly the whole time we were there. I love the old polished cypress pine floorboards and cedar skirting boards and doors. Together with the eclectic decor of vintage wooden chairs and tables and an interesting collection of textiles, this is the sort of place you want to come and stay for a few days so you can take in and appreciate the natural beauty of the valley.

The chicken curry ($22.00) had been highly recommended by a local, although I was warned of the heat factor. It was perfect with just the right amount of fresh grated coconut and ginger, and lots of fresh coriander. Served simply with steamed rice and yogurt, it was accompanied with a glass of Cabernet Merlot ($7.00) from the Wee Jasper vineyard and made a perfect lunch. The wine was very pleasant with strong Merlot characteristics. I had a rainbow trout from Tumut, covered in lightly browned shaved almonds and served with monster chunky chips and salad ($28.00 )which I enjoyed with a glass of crisp South Australian Riesling ($7.00). The menu also offers a variety of pies, including “a very tasty stroganoff pie” which seemed to be popular with the regulars, and the blackboard special for the day was a mushroom pie with mushroom sauce and a salad.

There are a number of dining areas furnished with vintage mismatched wooden chairs and tables that fit right in with the early Federation feel.

There was a delicious selection of homemade cakes on the sideboard in the lounge bar. We were tempted by the sensation apple, walnut and raisin cake with a glass of Viognier for $16.00 but ended up sharing a delicious slice of pecan pie for $12.00.

After lunch we had a walk in the garden, enjoying discovering the views of Burrinjuck from up the hill and admired this random sculpture, a Holden FC ‘Special’, long parked on the lawn.

These impressive mature trees were probably planted about 1911, about the time the pise (pressed earth) homestead was built after the original homestead was covered by the flooding for the Burrinjuck Dam.

Wee Jasper is famed for its geological formations. There are limestone bands running all over the land in linear patterns parallel to the valley. The longitudinal patterns have resulted from the seabed being turned on its side to expose the layers of sediment, revealing rich coral reefs, algae, and fish remnants.

These formations can be seen at the entrance to Careys Caves and tours of the caves are a must for any budding geologists. As well as camping and bushwalking, Cheesemaking Wee Jasper offers regular full day cheesemaking workshops.

Wee Jasper is popular for all sorts of reasons. From its origins as a stopping place for miners on the way to the Kiandra goldfields, it is now popular for its bushwalking trails along the river which forms part of the Hume and Hovell Walking Track. The Track starts in Yass and goes on to Tumut and Albury. Heading back home, there was a chance to look down into the ravines, with beautiful glimpses of the valley below. Wee Jasper Road is paved; the dirt road you can see below is a minor access road!

We decided to return home via Yass via the Taemus Bridge. Towering over the mighty ‘Bidgee, this is also a picturesque route. I hadn’t realised the network of minor roads through the Brindabellas to places like Tumut. Next time I go, I will continue on to Tumut to have a look, but I think I will wait until the danger of winter snow passes!

Trip Notes:

Duck’n’Fishes Cafe is open Friday – Sunday and public holidays. Bookings are advisable.

Fill up with petrol before you leave Canberra.

Download all maps onto your smartphone as mobile coverage is always problematic outside Canberra and Yass!

Canberra to Wee Jasper via Mountain Creek Road is about 94 kilometres and could take anything from 1.5 hours to 2 hours.

Returning to Canberra via the Taemus Bridge and Yass is about 84 kilometres and is an easier drive, and also takes 1.5 hours.

More information about the region is available here.

All photos were provided by Maryann Mussared

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Maryann Mussared8:28 pm 23 Jul 17

Elias Hallaj said :

It’s a nice part of the world and very close to Canberra. The kids loved our trip to Carey’s Caves last year and we promised we’d take them again later this year. It’s a real hands-on underground experience!

I went to the caves years ago and want to go again. There is quite good and inexpensive family accommodation at both Cooradigbee and Wee Jasper Station in the old shearers’ quarters, as well as lots of camping opportunities at the Reserves on the road to Tumut. I loved the drive there – it seemed so far away from the hustle and bustle – and yes, for something so unspoiled and unique, it is close to Canberra!

Elias Hallaj1:27 pm 22 Jul 17

It’s a nice part of the world and very close to Canberra. The kids loved our trip to Carey’s Caves last year and we promised we’d take them again later this year. It’s a real hands-on underground experience!

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