15 September 2017

Going rural: Spring-time festivals and events in the Capital Region

| Maryann Mussared
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Geisha at Cowra Japanese Garden Matsuri Festival. Photo: Cowra Japanese Garden.

The Capital Region covers a huge area and there really is a lot on offer at this time of year. Coastal friends have tried to kid me that it is warm enough to swim, but from memory of my childhood in Sydney, the water really isn’t warm enough (for me at any rate) at least until November. So I have taken several excursions to the Hilltops and Yass Valley regions, to the capital’s north, and I have been struck by the number of regional rural events that are on in Spring 2017. I reckon it is time to get friends and family together and see which of these events appeal most and plan a day’s excursion. The towns mentioned are between 30 minutes and just over 2 hours from Canberra and suitable for a day excursion or overnight stay. Remember to book well ahead if you want to stay overnight as all these events are popular.

At this time of year, the countryside is buzzing with activity as the fields turn golden yellow with canola, pretty pink with cherry blossom, and the vines in the cool climate vineyards are bursting forth with new growth.

The region to our north is dotted with vast fields of bright yellow canola at this time of the year. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

Heading up the Barton Highway from Canberra, then northwest off the Hume Highway along Burley Griffin Way is the historical town of Harden. As well as interesting buildings and some good cafes, Harden will be hosting its annual Kite Festival on Saturday 14 October. The Festival is an affordable family-friendly event held in the beautiful Hilltops region of NSW. There will be kite-making workshops, big kite displays (spectacular!), market stalls, food and coffee and many other amusements.

Colourful fun for all the family at the Harden Kite Festival. Photo: Hilltops Tourism and Events.

Enter the kite flying competitions that are suitable for all ages and enjoy live music and free activities. To be held at the Harden Picnic Racecourse, entry will be by gold coin donation. Harden is 1 1/2 hours drive from Canberra.

Irish Woolfest, Boorowa. Photo Hilltops Tourism and Events

Further east, Boorowa is located on the Lachlan Valley Highway about an hour and 20 minutes from of Canberra. The Boorowa Irish Woolfest is a wonderful family day out and this year will be held on Sunday 1 October. The Woolfest includes the Running of the Sheep, one of the most amusing events in the region. The last time I watched this unique event clatter down Pudman Street, I observed a battered Mercedes pulling a trailer. The trailer was full of giggling children and the back seat of the car contained a couple of very large Merino sheep with their heads hanging out of the open windows.

Boorowa main street and the Boorowa Hotel. Photo: Hilltops Tourism and Events.

Boorowa is an authentic rural town with interesting buildings, including the unusual octagonal War Memorial. If you have even a vague fondness for Guinness and the colour green, then this is the chance to indulge your inner Irishman and celebrate all things Irish as part of the Woolfest. This free country festival is full of fun for the whole family.

Taiko Japanese Drummers. Photo: Cowra Japanese Garden.

Cowra (just over 2 hours north through Boorowa) is home to the beautiful Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre. Each year they hold the Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the birth of Spring. This year the Festival will be on Saturday 23 September. A full program of events for the day (including taiko drumming, karate, aikido, and sumo wrestling as well as traditional Japanese music and dance) is available here and entry fees apply.

Everyone loves something ‘big’. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

Many Canberrans are already regular visitors to the cherry capital of Young for the National Cherry Festival. Young is an easy 2-hour drive from Canberra through some very enjoyable countryside. To be held over the weekend of Friday 1 to Sunday 3 December, the Festival is a popular regional event. This year you can enjoy a range of cherry-related events, including cherry pie eating championships, cherry pip spitting competition, live music, drum, and pipes bands, Young and Region Farmers Market and much more. Many of the events are free.

Delicious cherry tart @ Young Cherry Festival. Photo: Hilltop Tourism and Events

Just north of Young is historic Clifton House and Gardens. Built in 1890 and beautifully restored, its 10 hectare garden is a delightful work in progress. Owners David and Rebecca McMillan have a real eye for detail and this garden already shows great promise for the planned early summer open day. On a recent visit, the garden beds were full of miniature daffodils, hellebores, and a large tree was covered in fragrant white blossom, just in time for spring weddings. The house and gardens enjoy expansive 360-degree views of the surrounding lush green countryside, dotted with interesting rocky outcrops.

Miniature daffodils in the pretty garden of Clifton House. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

The 2017 Clifton House Open Garden Day will be on the final day of the Young Cherry Festival – Sunday 3 December. Open from 10.30 am, entry charges of $10 for adults and $5 for under 12 will apply. Clifton House is located 6 km northwest of Young at Maimaru, with the entrance opposite the Young Airport.

Clifton House Open Garden on Sunday 3 December. Photo: Maryann Mussared.

Between Greenethorpe and Young is heritage-listed Iandra Castle. They hold open days throughout the year and will also open for groups of more than 30. The next open days will be Sunday 1st October and Sunday 8th October. Coffee is available on site, and visitors are invited to bring a picnic basket and relax in the gardens.

Iandra Castle, north of Young, has regular Open Days throughout the year. Photo: Iandra Castle.

Closer to Canberra on the Barton Highway is the fast-growing village of Murrumbateman. The annual Field Days are held over a weekend and are a tractor lover’s heaven. From small backyard city gardens to hobby farms and large acreages, the Field Days provide the ideal opportunity for both agricultural and other related businesses to display products and service. There is live entertainment and a Children’s Farmyard. There are also wineries you can visit dotted around the town or enjoy wine tastings at the Field Days The 2017 Murrumbateman Field Days will be held over the weekend of Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 October.

It seems we are spoilt for choice this Spring. Which is your favourite rural town and what do you particularly enjoy doing when you head out into the nearby countryside? Do you know of any events to add to our list? Please share in the comments section below.

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