Pollie Pedal 2014 – Day 3, Tamworth

Riding between Ferris Creek and Gunnedah with Major Kelvin Alley of the Salvation Army
Riding between Ferris Creek and Gunnedah with Major Kelvin Alley of the Salvation Army

The sight of Tamworth, the home of country music, is a welcome respite.

It has been a long 153 kilometres in the saddle, crossing the ranges from Bingara where Pollie Pedal started on Monday morning.

We had pedalled 60 kilometres before stopping at Barraba, where Barnaby Joyce joined us on the ride.

It is then on to Manilla, the former home of rugby great, Dally Messenger, who for many years was the licensee of the Royal Hotel.

There is a large community welcome, including students from the local schools, which we spend some time talking to. After the formal welcome, the sizeable press pack line up for interviews about both local and national issues.

Arriving in Tamworth an hour and a half later, we were greeted by a posse of locals for a CWA afternoon tea.

Founded in NSW and Queensland in 1922, the Country Women’s Association has more than 40,000 members across Australia. For almost a century, it has been a powerful voice for rural women and families.

The members discuss some of their current projects, ranging from landcare to farm safety and disaster relief. It is an interesting discussion about a range of issues affecting rural communities.

Country music and horses are closely associated with Tamworth. Each January, thousands of people flock to the rural city for the annual country music festival.

Following the afternoon tea, and a meeting with some of Barnaby Joyce’s constituents, I ride past the statue of Slim Dusty and Joy McKean in the town’s main thoroughfare, Peel Street.

Named David Gordon Kilpatrick, he adopted the stage name Slim Dusty at the outset of his musical career in the 1940s. As a child, I recall listening to Slim’s first big hit, ‘When the rain tumbles down in July’ on an old 78 record player my parents owned.

He became a household name in 1957 with ‘The pub with no beer’ and recorded over 100 albums in a career spanning more than 40 years.

It is fitting that a statue of Slim and his musical partner and wife, Joy McKean, now stand in the Main Street of the town where he was awarded 36 Golden Guitars during an illustrious career.

That night we have dinner at a local reception centre, followed by karaoke. Despite some enthusiastic efforts, there is no chance that any of us will pick up a Golden Guitar.

Today’s ride takes us 117 km to Gunnedah, stopping at Werris Creek for morning tea along the route. It is a beautiful day riding through rich farm lands with the breeze at our back and the sun overhead.

Ellen and her team at Werries Creek put on a wonderful morning tea for the riders
Ellen and her team at Werris Creek put on a wonderful morning tea for the riders