Bright

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Bright
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Bright

Bright (including Wandiligong and Porepunkah) Beautiful township, particularly in autumn and spring, on the edge of the Snowy Mountains. Situated 308 km north-east of Melbourne and 310 m above sea level, the township and shire of Bright is one of Victoria's most attractive tourist destinations. Nestled in the beautiful Ovens Valley and surrounded by the towering Australian Alps, Bright offers good quality off-the-mountain accommodation to those wishing to ski at the nearby resorts of Mt Buffalo, Mt Hotham and Falls Creek. In autumn the russet tones and the colourful blaze, against the backdrop of the pine-clad hills, adds to the appeal of this scenic district.

Things to Do

Range of holiday activities Bright offers its visitors a variety of activities, such as golf, mini-golf, bowls, croquet, tennis, squash, roller-skating, flying, gliding, hang-gliding, horse riding, panning for gold, scenic drives, skiing in winter, and bushwalking in the mountains and foothills, swimming, canoeing, boating and waterskiing the rest of the year. Good blackfish can be found in the Ovens River and trout are also plentiful in the general area and at the Stony Creek Trout Farm, Harrietville.

Historic Buildings

Bright has managed to retain its character and charm, thanks partly to its old-fashioned guest houses and historical buildings. There is an old timber house from the 1850s at 90 Gavan St, which now houses Gallery 90. The bricks of its rear section were brought to Australia by a sailing ship which used them as ballast. A.J. Lock¹s shop dates from the 1860s.

Park Street Court House and Lockup

The Park Street Court House, like the powder magazine, was built in 1861, when it became the Court of Petty Sessions for the Buckland District. With its sheltered verandah and the stepped frieze and large circular vent of the gable, it is considered a typical mid-nineteenth century court house. Adjacent to the court is a rough-hewn log lock-up, which was constructed in the 1870s and moved to its present site in 1975.

Churches

Part of the Anglican Church, in Church Street, was erected in 1870. The old Methodist building of Ireland Street, constructed in 1884, became the Uniting church's site of worship in 1977. The Presbyterian Church at 18 Park St (1880) has been tastefully restored and is now St Andrews Gallery.

Bright & District Historical Museum

The railway from Wangaratta was opened in 1890, but locals lobbied for an improved station which was duly built in 1900. Passenger services were terminated in 1952 and the station house is now used as a museum. Featuring artefacts and photographs of the town¹s past, it is open to visitors three days a week in holiday periods or by appointment (contact the Tourist Information Centre at the corner of Gavan and Anderson Streets).

Autumn and Spring

Bright is also noted for its impressive array of deciduous trees, which create a blaze of orange, red, gold and yellow in autumn. There are oaks, chestnuts, poplars, elms and Japanese maples, surrounded by the pines and eucalypts of the mountains. Delaney Avenue, with its alternating Himalayan cedars and scarlet oaks, is particularly impressive. Willows, wattles, plums and apple orchards can be seen to best advantage in the spring, when the mountains are carpeted with colourful wildflowers, the upper alpine peaks still have snow and the mountain streams are flowing with melting ice.

The town hosts the Autumn Festival in late April-early May to celebrate the beauty of the seasonal change. It attracts thousands of visitors and advance bookings for accommodation are advisable. There are street stalls, a gala day, a float parade, live entertainment, dances, community concerts, slide evenings and the Bright Art Exhibition which attracts entries from around the country. In addition the Winter Wonderland Festival, with its window displays, fairy lights, competitions and family fun is held in June-July and the Alpine Spring Festival in October.

Clearspot Lookout

A visit to Bright is not complete without an exploration of its neighbouring towns, the charming countryside and Mt Buffalo National Park. If you take Bakers Gully Road out of town and then follow the signs along the forest roads to the top of the pine plantation, you will arrive at Clearspot, which affords a panoramic view of Bright and the mountain ranges.

Wandiligong

6 km to the south lies the beautiful historic village of Wandiligong - the subject of a song by noted folk singer, Eric Bogle. The large brick schoolhouse on the hillside is a reminder that this was once a flourishing goldmining and agricultural centre. A considerable effort has been made by the local Preservation Society to maintain the older buildings and the general character of the past. The whole Wandiligong Valley has been registered with the National Trust. The Church of England and Manchester Unity building are worth a visit.

To the south of the town you can see the noted Wandi Poplars, at their best in the autumn, and one of the largest apple orchards in the Southern hemisphere. Tobacco and nuts are grown in this rural setting and you can even try panning for a little gold.

Porepunkah

6 km north-west of Bright, along the Ovens Highway, past the fields of hops and tobacco, lies Porepunkah, which provides the access point to 31 000-ha Mt Buffalo National Park. The Hindu derivation of the township's name reflects its origins as the property of William Walker and Co, vendors of Indian wares. Scenic flights over the nearby park are available from the airfield.

History

The natural beauty of the Ovens Valley, mountain resort town of Bright conceals one of the darkest pages in Victorian history. The seeds for violence were sown in 1853 when a prospector named Pardoe struck gold on the Buckland River.

Within six months the 3000 miners who had swarmed into the area had turned the diggings into a cesspit of disease and with one-third dead and the claims were abandoned. Abandonment led to an influx of Chinese to sift through the diggings. The Chinese built a temple and joss house and locals resented their cultural colonisation of the valley.

On July 4, 1857, the townsfolk voted to run the Chinese out of the valley at the point of a gun. Tragically, things got out of hand and by the time order was restored many Chinese were dead and the rest had fled.

Explored, like so much of Victoria, by Hume and Hovell in 1824, the first pastoral runs in the Bright area were taken up in the late 1830s - one of them by Hume's brother-in-law, Dr Mackay, whose difficulties with the local Aborigines caused him to move to another property. In 1845, Thomas Buckland established the area's first cattle run near the river which was later to bear his name.

The real development of the district began in 1853, when W.H. Pardoe discovered gold along the Buckland River. Despite his attempts to maintain secrecy, 3000 diggers swarmed into the valley within six months, turning the river into a filthy alluvial gold mine. 1000 died of disease and others fled until only 500 remained.

The Chinese arrived in large numbers to sift the abandoned claims. Their success provoked the jealousy of the Europeans. The construction of a Chinese temple in 1857 provided the justification for hostilities. On July 4, it was decided at a meeting to evict the Asian miners at gunpoint. Despite a calm start, matters soon got out of control. In a fit of violence, the Joss House, stores and dwellings of the Chinese were raided and destroyed; the Chinese were robbed of their property, viciously beaten and cast into the river; others were forced into trenches where they were shot and buried. Matters became so extreme that some of those who had originally supported the eviction helped the Chinese to escape. By the time the Beechworth police, under the command of Robert O'Hara Burke, had travelled 80 km to the area, 2000 Chinese had either been massacred or fled.

A police camp was established that same year and the first permanent buildings were erected. Alluvial mining slowly gave way to reef mining as the sedimentary gold disappeared. A rich quartz reef was also discovered in 1857 and was heavily mined for the rest of the century. Some of the original walking paths remain in use and and the old tailraces which returned tailings and waste water to the Ovens River can still be seen cut into the rocks.

The area was surveyed in 1859 and the sale of town allotments began the following year. At this stage the township was known as Morse's Creek, after F.H. Morse, formerly a shepherd on Dr Mackay's run. Morse had explored the Ovens River and the gold-bearing creek that bears his name.

In 1861, the town became the administrative centre for the swelling population of the Buckland Gold District. Shortly afterwards, its name was officially changed to honour John Bright, a British liberal politician and advocate of free trade.

With the reef mines running out of ore, dredging commenced along the Ovens and Buckland Rivers and Morse's Creek in 1899. At one stage there were 42 dredges in operation which devastated the banks, beds and flats of the waterways and the rich black loam around the farmlands.

Although the area's first sawmill was built in 1872, it was not until the decline of gold-digging that timber became a major economic resource for Bright. The first pine plantation was begun in 1916 and planting schemes provided valuable employment during the Depression.

Since World War II tourism has been Bright's principal source of income. The town's population swells by up to 1000 per cent during the holiday season.

Today Bright presents a charming streetscape enhanced by oaks, chestnuts, poplars, elms and maples which drape the town in a cloak of orange, red and gold in the autumn. The town provides ready access to the ski slopes of Mt Hotham, Mount Buffalo and Falls Creek and the area is excellent for horseriding and walks.

Bright is situated in the Ovens Valley and offers beautiful scenery and landscape. There are many ski resorts surround Bright, with Mt Buffalo National Park being the closest. This is obviously one attraction to the area, although Bright offers various activities all year around.

There are a whole host of walking trails around Bright which are great for bush walkers and cyclists. There are often fabulous lookouts alontg the way, giving spectacular views of the surrounding area. If you want to look at the area from a different view, then hold on tight to one of the popular hang gliders.

Around the town there is an interesting museum where you can learn about the history of the area, as well as a winery and the pretty Centenary Park.

Accommodation in Bright is plentiful, with a number of hostels, hotels and guesthouses. There are also some good restaurants.

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