Only 1km up the road lookout for a well used track on the right, you are now proceeding onto Matilda Hill, which was mined from around 1880 till 1900. Parking at the top you can visually see the huge amount of workings that turned this hill up side down looking for gold. It is estimated that some 700 ton of quartz was crushed here for minimal gold- life was bloody tough. Looking at the mine map of Matilda hill it is possible to follow several groups that ran across the top of this hill. Caution though, as there are many open shafts here as well as several drives that are unstable due to the rock content. Retracing your steps back down to the power lines go straight on down to a wonderful little creek crossing.
This is the spot of Nana Village. Scattered throughout the bush here are remnants of some old mines, that include stone foundations, old timbers, boilers and thick heavy pieces of metal that were used in the gold period. This is a great place to stop for a cuppa and explore. It’s hard to imagine a town here that had huts, a warden’s office, stampers and a school.
Leaving here heading up the hill, this was once a main thoroughfare from Nana Glen to Dorrigo as there were several large mine groups along here that included the Bella Group.
These mines had several workings that included Lady Bella and Bella’s Daughters where some 19kg of gold was found. It is hard to imaging that these mines are located in the steep valleys around 1.5 km up the track. Slowly the vegetation is taking hold of what is left of this areas history. These mines are deep in the valley and along with high rainfall, bushfires and logging they will soon disappear. History states that some miners here only had barrows to wheel rock to local crushers some that were over a mile away.
Some fortunes were found but realistically it was hard work extracting any gold from the rock here. It has been reported also that in some cases, gold reefs were found by prospectors-so they raced to a nearby office to stake their claim (often had to travel to Grafton to lodge a claim), but returning back to the area, the same gully could never be found! Mining here was very harsh compared to other areas. The bagged rock sometimes had to be transported by bullock sleds to stampers that needed water to operate.
Some stories say that often bullock teams lost their loads due to the steep and unforgiving terrain of this area and the gold was never recovered. You just need to stop and look around at the surrounding hills to see just how rugged it is. The larger mining companies employed surveyors, road builders, log cutters, boiler loaders through to the miners- everyone had a role to play. Staying on the main road some 6km from Nana Creek village you will pass through a diverse range of vegetation, from heavily timbered valleys with lush rainforest pockets surrounding the waterways to patches of grasstrees that survive on a breath of dirt, there is plenty to see. Keep an eye out for lyre birds, the odd wallaby or even listen for the unmistaken call of the whipbird. Heading out approaching the tar, this is the Eastern Dorrigo Way.
Turning right you can visit several local villages that include Ulong and Lowanna. Turning left, it is casual 15 min drive back down to Coramba. This twisty, windy road will give you a fantastic view to the north where you entered the bush and show you just how rugged it can be. Just be wary of local traffic travelling down here as it is a main road through to the hinterland.
Travelling down here remember that you are on the Great Diving Range with a cool temperate climate, so here you will pass under some fantastic examples of tree ferns, stags and other cool climate flora. Rainfall can be high here, giving the pockets of rainforest a fighting chance against the huge gums that are straining towards the light.
You just need to get out there and look. NO map will tell you where these mines are, you just need to explore, explore and explore like I have.