Byng is another village steeped in time just outside of Orange, and full of glorious history. It’s not that easy to find, but if you’re approaching Orange from Sydney there is a turn-off to the right before you come to the Millthorpe turnoff. And if you’re coming from Orange, when you’ve passed the Millthorpe turnoff you’ll need to do a sharp left as soon as you see a gorgeous bluestone church.
It’s definitely worth the small drama of finding it, because once you’ve turned the corner you’ve turned a page in history. Settled in the 1830s by a small group of Cornish settlers, by the 1850s this is the area where scores of miners descended to search for gold in the rivers and hills around Ophir. In fact, William Tom, a local Cornish man and the first discoverer of gold in Australia, is buried in the Byng churchyard cemetery.
Sadly, the chapel and graveyard are all there’s really left of the original Byng village, but the surrounding countryside is delightful. Taking a spin around the dirt track that circumnavigates the area really takes you back into a bygone era of horse drawn carts and walking to church on Sundays.
There are also several original homesteads such as Springfield and Bookannon, but the true delight is the Godolphin property (established in 1839) which has self-catering accommodation available in the homestead’s Old Dairy colonial cottage and the convict-built converted Stables (1859). If you want to experience living like a local in the pioneer days, this place is fabulous.
We picked up supplies from The Agrestic Grocer in north Orange before we headed out – think artisanal cheese from The Second Mouse Company, venison salami from Mandagery Creek, as well as locally produced pancetta and pork sausages that we flung on the bbq when we got there. But first, we stopped at Millthorpe on the way to pick up a few bottles of Angullong wines – the Italian swears by this vineyard, he is in heaven every time we visit this cellar door.
By the way, this is the best thing about this region. The concept of the cellar door and ‘trying before you buy’. It’s just so enormously civilised. Take a seat at the bar of the cellar door, sample the entire range, chat with the owner, purchase several bottles of your favourites and depart. Bottleshops are so last century.”
We also stopped in at The Old Mill Cafe to pick up delicious desserts, and we weren’t disappointed. We spent the whole evening on the verandah of the Old Dairy cottage, drinking + eating + chatting + listening to the crickets. We were lucky enough to get a tour of The Stables which sleeps 6, and next time we come out here we’re bringing a bunch of Sydney friends to experience the bush in the chillier months so we can get a fire roaring.
Byng’s a great place to stay if you want a weekend of exploring, and Millthorpe is only a five to ten minute drive away for antique shopping, fine dining and great coffee. Mayfield Vineyard is also only a short drive away along the Icely Road, and I’ve said it once I’ll say it again, this is one of my all-time favourite places to visit.