Look where I've been this past weekend...
Yes, Nundle Woollen Mill. I enjoyed my visit greatly. I hadn't planned to visit, and so I had no great expectations. I wasn't particularly impressed by the yarn - though I did buy some greyish-beige and greyish blue 8 ply very cheaply in probably vain anticipation of knitting a blanket for my newly re-covered sofa. But I loved the building and location and the carding and spinning machinery whirring away. It all felt part of a continuous tradition of wool production, processing and retailing.
You might wonder how, when it's located in such an out-of-the-way place, I could manage to visit Nundle Woollen Mill without planning to do so. It was a by-product of a most satisfying weekend spent with some old friends - two of whom have a house and small farm in the upper Hunter area.
I have a kind of mental classification of the friends I've made across my life as a series of strata. These friends are from the deepest bedrock stratum of my friends - two people with whom I went to school, so I've known them more than fifty years. Such old friendships have an ease than comes from knowing we all shared experiences many years ago, and regardless of what has happened since, there's a deep understanding of where we've come from.
One of these school friends and her husband (who's also now a very old friend) invited us for the weekend. Their small farm is in one of the lovely valleys accessible from the New England Highway by narrow winding roads. Theirs is the Rouchel valley that's been formed by the beautiful Rouchel Brook. It's strange to have an Australian waterway named as a 'brook', but in this case the clarity of the water and the grassy banks seem to justify the name.
On Saturday my friends took us for a drive through some of the Hunter Valley towns and by-ways. Such wonderful diversions. We had lunch at Murrurundi in a garden overlooking the Peals River and visited a superb gallery. And we visited Nundle (both the Mill and an excellent and unexpected kitchen shop) and drove back to Rouchel through some steep back roads with breath-taking views, grazing kangaroos and extensive stands of ancient Xanthorroea.
It was the perfect time of year for a country visit. Despite the farm being a second home, and despite droughts and scarcity of water, over the years my friends have cultivated a garden with lots of trees and shrubs and, just at the moment, flowering bulbs, blossoming fruit trees, and clumps of other spring flowers.
It was idyllic to sit on the verandah with the scent of mown grass, the perfume from masses of violets and blossom and, of course, some knitting.