Reimagining our towns

To The Manning Community News:

Thank you for the breath of fresh air in this new publication. It is heartening to have read an honest and encouraging approach to improving the profile of our wonderful location. There are so many tourism assets, such breathtaking scenery, so many things to do and see. Alas, some of these joys are kept as secrets.

My partner and I moved permanently to the area in 2014, after seven years of preparation. We are thrilled with our change, however we are a little disappointed that the promotion of the Manning Valley, and Wingham particularly, seems lacking and doesn’t compare with other locations.

Unfortunately in comparison to other rural towns the appearance of the township is drab, and a little unwelcoming. There is no softening streetscape, no shade from trees in hot weather, no foliage colour, and nowhere visitors can learn how and when Wingham operates. Sadly, the park seems under utilised.

In my opinion, tourism signage is extremely poor when entering Wingham from any direction and presumes visitors have prior knowledge of the area. For example, many visitors see the sign for Wingham Brush, but do not realise what it is, and why it would be a shame to pass through and not visit it.

The Museum is another example. If a tourist drove into Isabella Street directly, they would not be aware how close they are to the incredible display prepared by so many keen locals.

Ellenborough Falls is advertised on signs, but no suggestion of mileage, or the easily accessible road conditions, or that a loop road will guide tourists past other worthwhile spots en route to the Falls, and beyond.

What about advertising the access to the Oxley Highway through Tapin Tops? Or the day trips along the Bucketts Way via Tinonee, or to Nowendoc, or using back roads through villages like Killabakh, amongst so many other places?

Wingham’s best asset is its people. Folks greet each other, whether long-time friend or unfamiliar face. Staff in shops go the extra mile to make customers feel they are the most important person in the world. New arrivals are invited to join in social functions, be part of activities and welfare groups, and are introduced to neighbours and made to feel part of the whole community. This is a rare treasure.

I would like to see the council administrators take a leaf from the hard working locals at some of local villages. Killabakh is just one good example. The welcoming picnic table, the information box including leaflets on local activities and get-togethers, the unassuming gardens near the proudly maintained hall, the enthusiasm of the people to make their neighbourhood work for them and for passersby.

We, the people of Wingham and surrounds, like your publication has suggested, need to retake the interests of our town and localities in hand, and make them shine. We need to tell the world, not just about Beef Week, our Scottish Festival, or Akoostik. We need well-positioned advertising, which is clear and inviting. We owe it to those before us who established Wingham.

Finally, how do we become involved in such promotion? I would welcome your suggestions, and would be thrilled to join in with others who feel passionate about our home.

Louise Veale

Dear Louise,

Thank you for writing to us. And welcome to the Manning, you are just the kind of enthusiastic and entrepreneurial thinking newcomers we need! Our area is indeed a too well kept secret. We need to spread the word. Which is not to denigrate those who are trying to promote the area, but it is quite surprising how little people know about the area if they know it at all. The new Team Manning Tourism is a good initiative. The Manning Naturally tourist magazine is excellent.

We need to reach far and wide to attract tourists and visitors who stay over, with suggestions and plans and ideas. There are people who google the area to see what’s here and those who just stumble upon us. They need to fall in love with the Manning!

Our natural beauty of the river and hills and rolling valleys speak for themselves. But we need more “set dressing” in some towns, and attractive places to sit, eat, drink and relax. Think of the tiny villages and towns in Europe and also Asia where there’s always a table and umbrella, good inexpensive food and attractive scenery. We need to run imaginative tours with a knowledgeable and entertaining guide.

Imagine Isabella Street with a lot more outdoor tables and chairs, hanging baskets of flowers, lampposts and attractive street lighting. You can’t beat fairy lights in trees! And trees are a must. The prettiest towns are those

with trees, especially in and around the main streets. Perhaps we could start a campaign like Centennial Park in Sydney where locals who have donated a tree have a discreet plaque with their name on it.

We need more events happening like Taree’s Night Bazaar. The sadly closed Taree swimming pool on the river… (that should have been restored as a wonderful community asset) what a non-event that space is, yet look at where it is! Could we not have old fashioned punts and paddle boats for hire along the river with a café and verandah up the top overlooking the river?

And what about a good old style bandstand in the park by the river with events and picnics with free music? And again, more food and eating spots along the riverfront, with a license to serve a glass of wine with lunch!

Why was the old goods shed at Wingham station removed? Nothing has replaced it. Think what a stunning art gallery and creative space it would be!

There is a magnificent old house unchanged since the current family member’s great grandmother lived there. It’s filled with all the original family belongings even down to the walk-in oven space, scalloped newspaper lining on the pantry shelves, an incredible garden, even an ancient 1930s car moldering away on bricks in the shed. It’s a treasure house that whisks you instantly back to the old days. It’s a living museum of one family’s life out on a farm in the valley. Tours by appointment would be stunning.

We have a great opal expert in the area with an amazing collection, not that he wants his whereabouts known. But an occasional special exhibition might be held somewhere. In fact there are probably all kinds of interesting local collections that would be of interest to visitors, especially those from overseas. We need our own Antiques Roadshow! There are probably pieces in sheds and cupboards and in old suitcases that are valuable as well as sentimental pieces. And if you find them and don’t know what to do with a family piece, remember our wonderful Wingham Museum.

Reader Mieke from Wingham wrote to us to say she still dreams of seeing Wingham as a celebrated historical town:

“Sadly the grand stables and coach house went, though I did my bit to try to help save it along with so many others. I saw its position at the entrance of town a place to show photos and memorabilia telling of the stories of our beginning in the mid 1800s when Scottish settlers came on foot overland from Morpeth. I also saw the deserted ex-Hawkins car dealership opposite as a combined bookstore/café with outdoor tables. I’d like to see framed photos of the early days from the museum archives hung in the shops and businesses in Wingham. What about perhaps a mob of wood carved resting kangaroos on the roundabout at the end of Isabella Street? We have some fantastic wood carvers in the area.

I come from the Netherlands. My grandfather used to take me on historical walks of The Hague that went back to 1230. When I came to Wingham I delighted in its history… it certainly needs preserving and promoting!”

What ideas do you have?

We realise such ideas cost money, but if we want them we need to fund-raise and lobby those who can help with funding. We can’t expect council to do everything. Or do things they might consider frivolous and unnecessary.

As you suggest, Louise, we need ideas and perhaps a committed group to start a campaign with enthusiasm and positive attitudes who think outside the square and who could be included or consulted by local authority groups. It’s depressing to hear the Doctor No’s – “It’s too hard. Too expensive. Too many restrictive rules and regulations.”

It’s surprising what a committed group can achieve. More and more it seems we have to take control of our lives and surrounds or we get steam-rolled by corporations, big business and government policies which never seem to suit our needs or benefit or beautify our community. People power can be effective. But first we need ideas and plans and motivation that we can make a difference. And then, let’s see what we can do and achieve!

Warm wishes,
The Manning Community News.


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