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Where I live: Jan T's Hunter Valley

Updated on March 11, 2016
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Travelling around Australia for the last fifty plus years, Jan T Baillie can tell you of some of her favourite places to visit.

Where I live

at least at the moment — I am in the Lower Hunter Valley, close to Maitland, NSW. I have had more than thirty addresses as an adult.

My brother-in-law said when I came back to the Hunter in 1999, that perhaps I would stay put. My sister said, "She's such a gypsy, she'll move again." My friends reckon they have whole pages in their address books for me, instead of the usual few lines.

History of Monte Pio Girls Home
History of Monte Pio Girls Home

It's where I was born

The Hunter Valley

at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Waratah.

My family lived in Mayfield, which was called North Waratah previously.

We moved to Harriet Street, Waratah briefly, before I was sent with my little sister to Monte Pio, at that time an orphanage.

When my mother was granted a house, we moved to Toronto on beautiful Lake Macquarie. She still lives in that house, whereas I have lived in almost forty others since then.

We couldn't be more different! She's a stay-put — I'm a mover.

Photo of the playground at Monte Pio in the 1950s.

I skinned my shins on that razzle-dazzle many times. (Right of picture,)

There's a picture of me with said skinned shins in the lens below.

I wandered around for a while

after I left Toronto

Lived in Wickham, Wangi Wangi, North Wollongong, Primbee, Sydney, Paddington, Punchbowl, Ballina, Castle Hill, Tahmoor, Prospect, Seven Hills, Mount Druitt Village, Upper Castlereagh — all in NSW.

Moved to Bardon in Brisbane, moved to another street in Bardon, then Forest Lake.

Went back to Sydney — to Baulkham Hills, then Bella Vista.

East Maitland in 1999, back to Drummoyne in Sydney, returned to East Maitland, moved to Somerset Park, and finally Tenambit. (Around the corner from my dad!)

Back to my roots.

View of Newcastle, and Nobby's Head - Newcastle NSW: capital of the Hunter region

Newcastle is located at 32.56 South 151.46 East on the eastern seaboard of Australia at the mouth of the Hunter River.

Founded as a penal colony, coal deposits quickly led to Newcastle becoming a shipping and commercial centre by the 1860s. Industrialisation increased after iron and steel mills were built in 1915.

Newcastle today is a modern thriving centre and is Australia's sixth most populated city.

  • Population (in 2016) 288,733 — Area ( 213.52
  • Major coal exporting port capable of loading very large vessels - 50% of ships presently loaded exceed 100,000 t.
  • Second largest NSW estuarine mangrove area (15 km2), and third largest saltmarsh area (5 km2).
  • Important fish and crustacean producer - 35 boats currently fish the river for prawns ($1m/yr industry).
  • Photograph courtesy Newcastle City Tourism
  • Information courtesy Hunterlink, NSW Dept of Natural Resources


Nobbys Head

landmark of Newcastle, NSW

In 1770 Captain Cook described Nobbys as "a small clump of an island" .

An island?

Nobbys remained an island until work was completed on the breakwater in 1846. At that time the breakwater only extended as far as Nobbys and was known as Macquarie Pier.

Big River - Hunter River view

The Hunter River catchment is one of the largest in NSW and reaches further inland than any other catchment, covering an area of approximately 22,000 sq km.

Originating in the Mount Royal Range, the Hunter River is 300 km long and enters the sea at Newcastle.

Photograph and information courtesy NSW Dept of Natural Resources

History of Newcastle, NSW

Port city

The site of Newcastle was discovered on 9th September 1797 when Lieutenant John Shortland, whilst searching for escaped convicts, found the Hunter River and an abundance of coal.

Pictured: A commemorative plaque of believed landing spot of Lt. John Shortland in Newcastle, formerly known as Coal River. Located on the Longworth building, 131 Scott Street, Newcastle.

On the 10th June 1801 Govenor King sent Lieutenant Govenor Paterson in the Lady Nelson to examine the Hunter River and Paterson founded a settlement on the Hunter on 16th June however it was abandoned in 1802.

On 30th March 1804 Lieutenant Charles Menzies arrived at the Hunter River to re-establish the settlement which is named Newcastle.

Christ Church Cathedral - dominates the skyline of Newcastle.

Terrace houses - Streetscape in an inner city street, Newcastle NSW

Biggest coal port - used to be serviced by steam trains

I used to go to high school every day on a steam train.

Photograph courtesy Richmond Vale Railway Museum

Beautiful Hunter Region

City living or country charm

The Hunter is a dynamic, urbane region.

Newcastle offers the services and facilities of a city with the convenience and relaxed lifestyle of a regional centre. Some six hundred thousand people, Australia's largest regional population, enjoy a lifestyle of city, beach, lakeside or rural living.

The Hunter has it all.

A perfect balance of vibrant city life and relaxed regional living, the Hunter is the ideal place to work, rest and play. The climate is mild all year round with average temperatures of 15-24 degrees Celsius.

Many superb waterways, national parks and wildlife parks are there for the enjoyment of both residents and tourists.

Boasting pristine beaches, the largest saltwater lake in Australia (Lake Macquarie), the Hunter River and the beautiful bays of Port Stephens, outdoor activities abound. All kinds of water fun is available — sailing, waterskiing, surfing, fishing, swimming, white water rafting and even whale and dolphin watching.

Information courtesy Hunter Prospectus: Lifestyle

Hunter Wine Country: The beginnings

Photograph courtesy Maitland City Council
Photograph courtesy Maitland City Council

Rows and rows of vines laden with grapes


By 1823 around twenty acres of vineyards had already been planted on the northern banks of the Hunter River and what is now the Dalwood /Gresford area between Maitland and Singleton.

The early pioneers of the region's winemaking history were George Wyndham of Dalwood, William Kelman at Kirkton and James King of Irrawang.

The Hunter Valley's future was further assisted by the arrival of amateur viticulturalist James Busby—an opinionated gentleman who, returning from the second of two extensive study tours of the winegrowing regions of Europe, arrived back in the Colony of New South Wales with a collection of some 500 vine cuttings drawn from collections and private plantings in Europe and South Africa.


It was a replica set of more than 300 varieties and clones from these cuttings which established the Hunter Valley's claims to viticultural fame. In 1840 the Hunter Valley's registered vineyard area exceeded 500 acres.

From these beginnings, the Hunter Valley flourished, with several families establishing vineyards in the area. The Tyrrell, Wilkinson and Drayton families' history all started in the last part of the 1800s. So did the winemaking activities of Dr Henry Lindeman.

Information courtesy Hunter Valley Wine Country website

Hunter Wines Today

Famous across the world

White Wine Varieties

The three main varieties synonomous with the Hunter Valley are:

  • Hunter Valley Semillon
  • Hunter Valley Chardonnay
  • Hunter Valley Verdelho

Many other white wines are grown and produced in the region.

Red Wine Varieties

Hunter Valley Shiraz is undoubtedly the most important red variety grown in the Hunter Valley accounting for 70% of the red grapes grown.

Many other red varieties are grown and produced in the region.

Historic Maitland

New South Wales Australia

Maitland is a town steeped in history, from the original settlers about 40,000 years ago, the pioneering farmers and present day residents.

The city is in the Lower Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia and the seat of Maitland City Council, situated on the Hunter River approximately 166 kilometres (103 miles) by road north of Sydney and 35 km (22 miles) north-west of Newcastle. It is on the New England Highway about 17 km (11 miles) from its start at Hexham.

It has approximately 61,431 inhabitants, spread over an area of 396 square kilometres (153 sq mi), although the main built up area predominantly forms a strip between the suburbs of Rutherford and Metford respectively.

Walka Water Works, as well as being a popular picnic and recreation area in the Maitland district, is also steeped in history that gives it a special place in the Lower Hunter's heritage. (Pictured)

The complex features its pumphouse with striking chimney and ornate brickwork and is one of the largest and most intact 19th Century industrial complexes in the Hunter Valley.

Information courtesy Maitland City Council

Maitland: Historic Architecture

Photograph courtesy Maitland City Council
Photograph courtesy Maitland City Council

Brough House

A fine Victorian Regency townhouse built for prosperous business owner Samuel Owen and his family, in 1871, and located on Church Street, one of the prettiest streets in this pleasant Hunter Valley community, Brough House is the architectural mirror image of its neighbour, Grossmann House, once home to the Beckett family.

Grossmann House is now largely restored to its original form and may be visited by the public.

Information courtesy National Trust


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