Bellingen, New South Wales
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New South Wales
Sunrise at Bellingen
|Population||3,038 (2011 census)|
|Elevation||15 m (49 ft)|
|Location||547 km (340 mi) from Sydney|
Bellingen is a small town (pop 3,038) on Waterfall Way on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Australia. It is approximately halfway between the major Australian cities of Sydney and Brisbane. It is the seat of Bellingen Shire and has a mixture of valley, plateau and coastal environments.
The township lies on the Bellinger River. In 1841, Government surveyor, Clement Hodgkinson visited the area. When naming newly discovered places, he preferred to use existing native place names rather than foreign ones, so he used the Gumbaynggir name for river, "Billingen" as the name of the area. The name has also been reported as meaning "clean water", "winding river", "quoll" and "cheeky fellow". Originally, Bellingen was pronounced "Billingen", where the "ng" was pronounced as in "sing".
When it came time to write the word, the Aboriginal voice and the European ear combined to give a spelling of "Billingen", "Billengen", "Bellengen" or "Bellingen". European usage has altered the original pronunciation to the current "Bellin-jen".
To further confuse the issue, a draughtsman who was compiling the Colony map from original documents misread Hodgkinson's final handwritten "n" as an "r"; meaning that the Bellingen River officially became the "Bellinger", while the town retained the correct name of "Bellingen".
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The Bellinger Valley including Bellingen was first settled by Kooris – the Gumbaynggir people – long before European settlement. The first European into the Bellinger Valley was the stockman William Myles who arrived in 1840 looking for new valleys north of Kempsey and the Macleay River. The following year Myles, accompanied by Surveyor Clement Hodgkinson explored the valley and by 1842 there were cedar cutters at the mouth of the Bellinger River and sheep grazing in the valley. In July 1843 the first cargo of red cedar from the Bellinger valley was transported to Sydney. So determined were the local Aborigines to keep the cedar cutters and explorers off their land that they regularly attacked the cedar cutters camps and when Hodgkinson returned to the valley he was accompanied by members of the Yarrahappinni group who he hoped would explain his 'innocent' intentions to the locals. In 1845 it was estimated that there were 300 Aborigines living in the Bellinger Valley.
The growth of cedar cutting throughout the 1840s was dramatic with 20 pit sawers operating along the river by 1843 and, by 1849, the first timber vessel, the 'Minerva', being built by a shipwright named William Darbyshire. The cedar was hauled down to the river by teams of bullocks or horses. So rich was the area in cedar that it was estimated that over 2 million feet of cedar were being extracted each year.
In 1864 a site was set apart and reserved for the village of Bellingen. The town allotments were surveyed in 1869 and were sold by public auction at West Kempsey Court House on Sep 14 1870, the deeds in every case describing the land as in the village of Bellingen
In the 1890s, Bellingen was selected as the government centre of the valley, due to its location at the tidal limit of the Bellinger River and the availability of fresh water. A period of rapid growth ensued.
By the early 1900s, red cedar supplies were virtually depleted, except for those that survived in the inaccessible upper reaches of the Bellinger Valley. The cleared areas were turned into prime farming land and the valley became a dairying centre. The indigenous population had been decimated by disease and inability to move across the land to locate traditional food supplies, and many were killed in their bid to drive away the cedar getters and new settlers from traditional Gumbaynggir land. 'Black Jimmy' is reported to be the last full-blood member of the Bellinger Gumbaynggir People. Black Jimmy died in 1922 and is buried in Bellingen Cemetery. The Gumbaynggir People still live in the area of Bellingen.
The dairy industry crashed in the 1960s with the rise of the European Common Market, when export prices fell (with Britain no longer relying on Australian dairy products) and the margarine industry finally overcame laws restricting its production levels. Dairy farming still continues to a lesser extent.
Rainforest logging ceased altogether in 1975. Sclerophyll forest logging is still carried out, but to a much lesser extent than in the past.
In 1950, Bellingen came to national fame with the birth of the Sara Quads (Sara family quadruplets). From the 1970s until the present, alternative life-stylers purchased land in the area and built owner-built homes. Numerous intentional communities were established, many of which are still in existence. The rural lifestyle of Bellingen and surrounds has consequently diverged and is now a mix of traditional and non-traditional farming. Many of today's residents, such as artists, craftspeople, writers, musicians and horticulturalists, have established home-based activities.
Owing to high rainfall and its proximity to the valleys of the Bellinger and Kalang rivers, Bellingen is known for its frequent flooding. Tallowood Point near Bellingen often has the State's highest annual rainfall. the Bellingens Lavender Bridge also gets flooded often
|Climate data for Bellingen RSL|
|Record high °C (°F)||42.4
|Average high °C (°F)||29.8
|Average low °C (°F)||17.8
|Record low °C (°F)||11.1
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||183.5
|Source: Bureau of Meteorology|
Bellingen was one of the filming locations for the 2003 comedy film Danny Deckchair, written and directed by Jeff Balsmeyer. Bellingen was also the notional setting of the book Oscar and Lucinda written by Booker Prize winning author Peter Carey. The film version of the novel Eucalyptus was set to be filmed in Bellingen as well before it fell through.
Bellingen has a strong affinity with the arts and is home to numerous festivals: the popular Global Carnival (often known simply as " The Global"), the Bellingen Jazz and Blues Festival, Camp Creative, the Bellingen Music Festival (classical music) and the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival, held for the first time in 2011. The first and original festival, an annual event, was the Azalea Festival, which included a procession of floats, the local brass band and pipeband, and various community organisations marching down Hyde Street to the cheers and applause of the spectators.
Bellingen also hosts the twice yearly Plant Fairs as a fundraiser for the Bellingen Environment Centre. These fairs attract many thousand visitors to the town and the 70+ stall-holders provide information and sell bushland-friendly Australian native, food-bearing and landscape plants and heirloom seeds, garden equipment, furniture and supplies to provide local food, habitat for native birds and animals, and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape.
Tourism has been encouraged in recent years by the cafe, market, festival and motorcycling culture. More recently, there has been an annual meet for Harley Davidson enthusiasts riding from Queensland and regional NSW. This annual meet has been organised by a local motorcycling enthusiast which sees many riders converging at the Diggers Tavern for accommodation and then riding the many scenic roads in the region. 2012 sees riders from three states meet for the first time with accommodation needs overflowing to the Federal Hotel.
- Bellingen Public School
- St Mary's Primary School
- Chrysalis School for Rudolph Steiner Education
- Bellingen High School
- Gordon Parsons - country music singer-songwriter, best known as the composer of Slim Dusty's 1957 hit song A Pub With No Beer.
- Mike Cockerill – Australian Football journalist writing and presenting for Fairfax Newspapers and Fox Sports respectively
- Ben Cropp – ocean adventurer, shipwreck hound, marine conservationist, and filmmaker
- Keith Froome – Australian national Rugby League Test captain
- Adam Gilchrist – past Australian test cricket wicketkeeper/batsman
- David Helfgott –Australian concert pianist
- Matthew Locke – Sergeant of the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, and Medal for Gallantry recipient. He was slain while serving his country
- George Negus – Australian author, journalist, and television presenter, and host of Dateline
- Colin Thompson – author and illustrator
- John Warwick (actor) – actor and dramatist
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (31 October 2012). "Bellingen (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2011 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
- "Bellingen Post Office". Climate Averages for Australian Sites. Bureau of Meteorology. Archived from the original on 17 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-24.
- "The Bellingen and Urunga Museums". Bellinger Valley Historical Society. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- "Advertising.". The Sydney Morning Herald (National Library of Australia). 28 July 1843. p. 3. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- "Bellingen Shire Council – Management Plan 2005 – 08" (PDF). Bellingen Shire Council. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
- "Bellingen hit by floods yet again". ABC News – Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 7 November 2009.
- "Bellingen Post Office". Climate statistics for Australian locations. Bureau of Meteorology. March 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2014.