ORARA SCHOOL TRIP TO BEACON MINE

Term 4 at school usually means winding down for the year, but not for the kids at Orara valley school. Last week they devulged in local history by having ''gold fever'' at school. From year 3 to year 6 these kids set up camp on their oval complete with tents, sand pits with claims,an overnight stay and bush tucker. The idea with the claims was to earn a few dollars by completeing tasks around their 'goldtown'. Orara is in the middle of the local gold fields that scattered the area in the late 1880's, so it was fitting that this was done with a field trip to the largest mine that was operating in the area. 

This mine only operated for 5 years but they found 340 kg of gold- doesnt sound much but when you consider that all the gold found here was specks and dust, is was an amazing feat.Beacon mine was situated on the southern side of Mt Coramba, and actually had more people living here than in Coffs Harbour, from 1895 through to 1901. School princable Mr Cheers along with the help of several parents and local BCF members Ray Kinross and Kev Smith ( who are at the moment documenting the mines in the coffs area ),transported the eager students to the old town of Beacon, just 15 mins away. 

Upon ariving the students were given a hand drawn map, and with a little imagination had to figure out where the town icons were situated. Now Beacon was the centre of the area for over 100km, it had a tennis court,cricket fields,a band hall,eating houses and a school with near 65 children. It also had its own power plant, several boilers and battery. After a safety talk we showed the kids where the huge tower sat above the original Taylors Reward Mine, now been filled in, we then walked the old tramway where the miners pushed carts along to the stamper to crush the quartz in search of gold. 

Along this track is several mines that link underground including Hardacres and Perservernce mines. Entry in to these two mines wasnt recommended as being a clay mine they are very unsafe with factors like moisture and the heat. But the kids all took turns in peering down here with torches seeing down into the darkness and spotting the endangered eastern bentwing bat. Further along here we visited some the sight of the main working area. Here we found remains of the old boiler,the pots that the gold was melted in, pieces of the huge water tanks that feed the boilers and a number of rusty pieces that is slowly decaying into the ground. Here we chattered on how life would of been, with the noise and other activies. Continuing along we looked at numerous pits, shafts and other drives that are filling up with leaf litter and being taken over with lantana. 

Not much is left around here due to our weather ( lots of rain ), termites, the odd souviner hunter and the fact that a lot of stuff was just moved on the next mining site. A walking path took us further along a pristine gully where the forest is taking over more of the land, but here we saw another great mine that was still open, but being clay based we again took turns with the torches to peer into the darkness and ponder just why and how they did it. With a another talk here we headed back up onto the top levels where we peered down a huge shaft that linked up to the 1.5km underground mine system. 

From here we wandered back down to Taylors creek ( named after the Taylor boys that originally found the first gold here), for morning tea and another history leason. The kids were eager to do some real panning so found an ideal spot to look for the real thing. Unfortunatly nothing was found, the area has been turned over several times and even today prospectors pan around these local creeks. 

After the kids enjoyed but unsuccessfully looked for those gold specks, it was time to head back to the real world and go back to school. It was great to share this local knowledge and show the kids how much history there is at there doorstep, in fact if it wasnt for the Beacon mine their school might not even exist. Thanks to every one for a great morning out, from the kids,the parents and Mr Cheers for expanding the knowledge of some local history that is slowly sinking into the ground just 10 mins west of Coffs Harbour.








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