Mar 2019, Central Tilba, NSW
Leaving the vans we pile into two cars and head north to Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba. Through more forests of spotted gum, across the old wooden Wallaga Lake bridge near the lake mouth where swans abound, along with egrets, cormorants, water hens and a host of smaller birds that I can’t identify through lack of patience.
We leave the highway and climb through achingly pretty dairy farms studded with granite outcrops. A war memorial stands sentinel at the corner of Bate Street in Central Tilba, out front of the oddly shaped five-sided post office, which happens to be up for sale. Bate Street is deceptively steep, quaint and lovingly cared for. It is no surprise to learn that the district has been declared as a place of ‘historic and special aesthetic significance’, now that’s a mouthful (thanks tilba.com.au).
We visit the hall and buy a few jars of goodies from the farmers market, including a jar of particularly pungent jalapeño chillies, look longingly at the Dromedary Hotel which isn’t open for business this early in the morning and sample cheese at the famous ABC Cheese Factory. Along with the jams, shops and houses have been beautifully preserved and it takes all of my self control not to pick a few cuttings from the charming cottage gardens (I’m sure Nanna would have).
Now that name Bate rings a bell and aussietowns.com.au tells us that Henry Bate took up land here in 1864, Richard Bate setup the post office, Samuel Bate subdivided his land for Central Tilba and built a number of the town’s buildings including the cheese factory. More recently politician Jeff Bate (those Bates bred well didn’t they?) married Dame Zara Holt fashion icon and widow of Prime Minister Harold Holt (remember the PM we famously lost). So that’s why the name Bate rings a bell.
Footnote for those too young to remember: Prime Minister Harold Holt a keen scuba diver disappeared whilst diving one summer’s afternoon at Portsea in 1968. Some naysayers believe he was taken by a Russian submarine, though why the Russians would want a chubby little Aussie bloke in a wetsuit is another matter. Most Australians tend to think that it was rather amusing that we could actually lose the most important person in the country and I’m sure that there are a few folks in a couple of other countries these days who would like to know how we did it.