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Why Araluen is the perfect post-Easter road trip destination

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This just in – there’s a new reason to explore the 2024 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival and it involves a short road trip to a beautiful village.

It’s the ultimate celebration of Canberra’s and the surrounding region’s historical, Indigenous, and natural heritage and with the addition of the new history trail, this year you can discover the hidden history of a beloved small town: Araluen.

And while it might be noted for its picturesque scenery and tranquil rural atmosphere (it’s also been called the Valley of Peace, and Happy Valley), did you know Araluen used to be one of the most famous gold mining towns in New South Wales?

Opening as part of the 2024 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival (which will be running from Saturday 13 until Sunday 28 April), the Araluen History Trail will be one of the most exciting additions to the overflowing program. Digging a little deeper into the history of a fascinating village, it promises to be the perfect excuse to hit the road post-Easter for an educational country escape.

For example, did you know about the Arralyin people who first called the valley home, the slides the new settlers used to get goods down to the valley before the roads were made, or the valley’s rich agricultural history?

“Araluen is full of history, and historians! Two local women started cycling around the village a couple of times a week and came up with the idea to link the key locations in the valley, bringing the history of the area to the forefront and making the bike ride more fun. That really was the start of it and from there, the idea of a history trail arose that links important sites,” explains Laurann Yen of the Araluen Progress Association.

“Araluen is a very small farming village now, but in the 1850s and 1860s, the valley had four villages, and a population of thousands – all seeking gold. Many descendants of these people from all over Australia come back looking for family connections. We wanted to find a way to conserve and promote the history of the area before the physical evidence of what had happened faded.”

“Both the trail and the website that provides a wealth of information and QR links to the signs will be officially launched at 10.30 on Saturday 13 April at Araluen Federal Hall. We’ll start with damper and cocky’s joy for morning tea with great coffee and provide a light lunch of colonial fare and a celebration cake.”

Laurann Yen of the Araluen Progress Association.

According to Laurann, those keen to explore the Araluen History Trail will be transported back in time to what the village would have been like in its heyday – or as close to it as you can get. Worried about getting lost? There’s no need to panic, there will be buses available to take visitors around the village.

And with much of the physical evidence of history disappearing, visiting the breathtaking valley to explore the trail is about much more than a fun road trip.

“As time goes by, stories are not passed on widely. More recent history is kept alive by families and local people, though much is ephemeral – who will remember the railway track and the machine shops?” says Laurann.

“These are such a part of Australia’s industrial and rural heritage that we think it’s really important to make it visible and discoverable.”

Created to forge an unbreakable link between people and place, the launch of the Araluen History Trail also ties in perfectly with the 2024 Canberra and Region Heritage Festival theme: Connections.

Providing the community with access to events and exhibitions (while gathering stories and telling them) according to Linda Ovelgonne of Araluen Federal Hall, the hope is for visitors to realise that Araluen is more than a small country town located 1.5 hours from Canberra – it’s a place to connect, through history, people, place, and community.

“Our community to this day still carries the history through long-standing family connections and connections to land through produce, farming, and general appreciation for the nature and environment that surrounds this spectacular valley,” she says.

“Araluen is welcoming to all that visit and decide to make Araluen their home – I speak from personal experience – and the community will proudly make you feel like you are part of the valley and have a place to connect to others.”

“We feel very connected to the Arralyin people and our First Nations history, but sad that we know so little about them and their life,” adds Laurann.

“We also feel connected to the people from all over the world who have made this their home, and to the landscape in which we live. There are so many connections made, and yet to make.”

Linda Ovelgonne of Araluen Federal Hall.

Ideal for history enthusiasts (or anyone looking to learn something new), along with exploring the fascinating Araluen History Trail there’s plenty to do when you visit the valley.

From popping into the local pub to panning for gold in the creek, attending yoga or bread-making workshops in the historic Federal Hall, exploring the Made in Araluen Markets and more, all we can say is this April it’s time to dig a little deeper into Araluen – you never know what you’ll discover.

Explore the Araluen History Trail at queanbeyanpalerang.com.au/explore/araluen-history-trail

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