Jenolan Caves

Tiny Sleeping Village Awakens

November 11, 2015

Hartley Courthouse has a fascinating self-guided tour.

Range of Aboriginal artwork is available to view or purchase at the Kew-Y-Ahn Gallery.

About 40 minutes north of Jenolan Caves sits the historic village of Hartley, one of the finest collections of historic buildings in Australia.  In 1869, after the town was bypassed by the railway, Hartley sank into a deep slumber. But now, thanks to state government funding, the beautiful little town is undergoing a reawakening, with delightful surprises for the curious.

A few years ago, there was no access to the tantalising old buildings, no information and no where to even get a coffee.  But now, the place has come to life!  The historic post office is now a cosy cafe, where you can sit inside or on the low slung verandah, and sample the extensive menu, including Devonshire Tea - delicious.

Down the street, walk up the deeply worn sandstone steps into what used to be the Farmers Inn.  These days, the Kew–Y–Ahn Aboriginal Gallery project is a partnership between Arts OutWest, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage. This small but unique gallery sells the work of Aboriginal painters, weavers, designers, jewellers and photographers from all parts of the central west of NSW. A gallery of contemporary, traditional and non-traditional work, it is worth seeing. 

In the same historic inn, purchase tickets to the self guided tour of the Hartley Courthouse, built in 1837.  You can’t miss it.  The stately Greek Revival style building stands out. Inside, a gossipy hologram tells you the secrets of Hartley’s early days.

View and purchase amazing metal art at Talisman Gallery at Hartley Historic Village.

Walk into the old lock-up, read prisoner names carved into the walls and listen to disembodied convict voices share their tales of woe. The motion activated audio draws you right into those bustling days when Hartley was an important judicial centre, dealing with a constant stream of criminals.

Walk a little further down the road and up the driveway to the old wool shed, recently transformed into the Talisman Gallery.  Ron Fitzpatrick is busy at his blacksmith forge, creating unique metal sculptures.  Ron’s love of ancient symbols has inspired many of his designs - wall mirrors, clocks, candle holders, medieval torches and much more. 

Roam through his rustic gallery, and then follow his trail of sculptures down the hill, along The Granite Tor walking path - a magnet for children, painters and photographers.

Stroll to St Bernards Catholic Church, built in 1846. The lovely sandstone church is still in perfect condition and used for weddings and occasional services.  

St Bernards Church at Hartley Historic Village.

Next to it, restoration work on the Presbytery (circa 1850) is nearly completed and will soon provide self-contained upscale accommodation for romantic getaways, along with the Old Trahlee Inn (1840) also currently under renovation.  

Further up the hill sits the Anglican Church, St John the Evangelist, built in 1859.  This beautiful church is also still in use for services and weddings.

This year, the NSW Government committed $2.2 million for revitalisation work.  Steven Ring, Manager Hartley Historic Site, is responsible for conservation, tourism and coordination of the government’s revitalisation plan.  He is proud to share his creative visions, including turning the old Corneys Garage, built in 1945, into a unique function centre. 

Before heading off for Jenolan Caves, travellers should remember to visit the public toilet.  When asked about them, Steve waved towards the cafe and said, “It’s up the back. It won an award 2 years in a row from the National Trust!” 

It’s true.  The toilet block is the reconstruction of a ruined timber slab out-building – so impressive that in 2014 it won first place in the Adaptive Reuse category at the National Trust Heritage Awards. Yes, it’s all happening in Hartley.  

Visit the Old Post Office Cafe at Hartley Historic Village.

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4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

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