Final Day of Nanna’s Listening Tour

The last day of the Sydney Knitting Nannas’ Listening tour began at the quirky Feathers Café in Cassilis Street, on the eastern side of Coonabarabran’s main street. Here we met with members of Coonabarabran Residents Against Gas (CRAG), some of whom are also Knitting Nannas.

These long time campaigners against the Narrabri Gas Project are like many others – tired after ten years of protesting against a project which makes no sense. However, they hope the nearby Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) will be cancelled soon. As Santos can’t start construction until a pipeline is approved and can’t start gas production until a pipeline is commissioned, they are ready for action and determined to stop any pipeline route from Narrabri to the coast.

In the meantime, members of CRAG are researching coal seam gas’ methane emissions and are creating greater awareness of its effects, particularly on climate change.

After morning coffee with CRAG members, the Nanna’s split up to see and do as they pleased. There are many options in Coonabarabran but unfortunately we discovered the area’s most famous attraction, Siding Springs Observatory, has been closed to the public since the first Covid outbreak, except for group tour bookings, which we had not made.

In the evening most of us met up for an early dinner at the Black Kockatoo Restaurant and a catch up on our day’s activities.

Some Nannas had driven to the start of the paved pathway which leads to the spectacular Whitegum Lookout to take pictures of the Warrumbungle Mountains with a distant view out to the plains.

From here some continued on to the spectacular Warrumbungle Discovery Centre while others went on a bush walk nearby. A few Nannas returned to Sculptures in the Scrub to complete the full walk and enjoyed a peaceful and rewarding visit with less people around.

Back in Coonabarabran some Nannas visited Crystal Kingdom, and found it full of surprises. A two storey building with an unassuming facade hides an extraordinary private collection of fossils and natural crystals, all found within the local district. Many of these types of crystal are unique to this area. Nannas declared it a must visit for fossil tragics.

Entry is free to the museum, which was created by Wolfgang and Nola Bredereck in 1974. But its future may be in jeopardy as the dedicated owners want to retire. Nola said it’s hard to find buyers who want to keep the collection in Coonabarabran and these unique fossils and crystals may be lost to private collections here and overseas.

Meanwhile if you get there before it sells, make sure to ask about the stones for sale in the shop. The owners’ knowledge is very impressive and Nannas found themselves buying all sorts of things. It’s well worth a visit.

Nannas enthusiastically recalled their visit to the Australian Museum Diprotodon Exhibition at the Coonabarabran Visitor Centre. They marvelled at the size of the skeleton and skull of the Diprotodon found at nearby Tambar Springs. Often likened to a giant wombat, the Diprotodon, is the largest marsupial ever to have lived.

A tiny exhibit in the Visitors Centre is of hand-made, exquisite, delicate lace dresses for babies long ago.  They are extraordinary.

From the discussion it was clear there was much more to see in this area. Unfortunately we were leaving the next day but we had one more adventure on the agenda before heading home so Nannas headed out to the Milroy Observatory, braving the cold for a 6.30pm session under the stars with the Observatory’s popular director ‘Donna the Astronomer’..

Warrumbungle National Park was declared Australia’s first Dark Sky Park and the first in the southern hemisphere. But when we arrived at Milroy Observatory clouds covered much of the sky. However, Donna had plenty of things lined up for us to see in the current visibility conditions and miraculously the sky cleared to reveal most of the Milky Way. Through telescopes we saw the moon and its craters and many stars not visible to the naked eye. Donna, armed with a laser beam, pointed out the Southern Cross and pointers, all the visible Zodiac signs, the black emu in the sky, which is included in many Aboriginal stories, as well as other well-known stars and constellations.

A cold wind sprang up and drove us into the shed at the end of our viewing session where we saw a large telescope  which is unable to be used because … extraordinarily … mice have eaten through the electrical wiring of the mechanism that opens the roof.

When Donna had finished showing us the stars, a Nanna asked questions about the effects of light pollution on the dark sky of Coonabarabran, particularly from flares, from Narrabri’s gasfield. Some of the tourists stayed to listen.

Donna and her trainee are concerned about the project, but Donna was not willing to say much about it as her visitors’ opinions can be strong and divisive. However, she does not think light pollution from the Project will affect her business because Condition B65 Visual – Operating Conditions only allows flaring when the moon is at least 50% illuminated and there is too much light to see the stars then anyway.

We were told that residents and businesses in Coonabarabran have restrictions on how much light they can emit and caps over the top of all the town lights reduce light pollution. Donna said we all give out too much light pollution. If you are not using a light turn it off. Outside spotlights on buildings and camper vans should face downwards and have a cover so light does not go up into the sky.

For those interested in Stargazing at Milroy Observatory, individuals can book, or you can book private shows for 10 people or more. Donna also conducts guided day tours at Siding Springs Observatory and is available for private bookings at your location. Call Donna: 0428 288 244

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