In Australia, its often suggested that Melbourne is the centre of all that is hipster. We now know this to be false and the movement was in fact launched in the New England area across the towns of Glenn Innes and Armidale way back in the mid 19th Century. How do we know this you may ask? Well, two of the original settlers in the area who assisted other squatters to lay title to land were John Duval and William Chandler. They weren’t referred to by their true names. No, because of the impressiveness of their beards they were simply referred to as The Beardies. This name lives on in the main drag of Armidale and the History Museum in Glen Innes dedicated to The Land of the beardies. Apparently, after founding Armidale, the first thing they did was to open a Barista coffee shop, another Australian first. (I may have made that last bit up but the rest is all true).
Although Duval and Chandler’s beards have gone down in history, I’m fairly sure that neither of them would have sported a man bun. During our travels I seem to be seeing more and more of these and have to admit that I’m not a fan. I know I’m follicly challenged and couldn’t grow one myself if I tried, but its honestly not envy that is fuelling this dislike. They look a lot to me like the new male pony tail and who wants to go back there?
Anyway, enough of male grooming, past and present, and back to our travels. We’d driven down from Stanthorpe and our Bundaberg blood was getting progressively colder. The scenery was beautiful on the drive though and made us think that New England is quite like Old England. We stopped at Glen Innes for lunch, a very tasty fried chicken sandwich at Cuisine café on Grey Street. We then had a bit of a wander around the impressive buildings and of course sought out the Land of the Beardies museum. We learnt that a lot of money came to Glen Innes through a tin mining boom in the late 19th Century hence the impressive architecture from around that period. It was interesting to see that some businesses such as The Commonwealth Bank still occupied their original buildings. Some of the influential early settlers were Scottish and there are still strong links to Scotland here with it being twinned to Pitlochry and holding an annual Celtic festival. It struck us as a bustling town with plenty of people shopping and going about their business in the CBD.
We carried on to Armidale and checked into our accommodation, The Dale, more of which later, as we decided to head out and find a pub. We were a ten minute walk from Beardy Street, the main shopping mall, so headed down there past some more impressive architecture. However, when we got to the CBD we couldn’t believe how quiet it was for 4 p.m. on a weekday. We were just about the only people walking up the street and shops were closing down or shut down altogether. Here in Armidale, it looked very much like the double whammy of an indoor shopping centre and pedestrianisation had pretty much killed the centre. We were surprised, as with it being a University town, we expected a bit more vibrancy. We also discovered all the things you weren’t allowed to do in Beardy Street mall, which fortunately didn’t include having a beard.
We stopped at the New England Hotel where a very friendly barman served us our drinks. Given the emptiness, we did wonder if he was grateful for someone to talk to. As we were beginning to feel the cold we decided to head back for a night in front of the fire. We had leftovers to eat from our vast BBQ hamper we obtained at our last stop in Stanthorpe, so no need to eat out. For an explanation read; ‘The day we thought we’d died and gone to heaven’.
The Dale is a studio apartment developed from a renovated outhouse on the owner Kim’s property. It had been beautifully restored and was very well equipped with a lovely open fire so we spent a contented evening eating our leftovers and drinking Granite Belt wine.