I have rabbited on in some recent blogs about how the drought in Australia is crippling farmers and their surrounding communities. Some regions have not had any useful rain (more than a couple of millimetres) in over two years. Needless to say, like the dams and paddocks, farming income has completely dried up.
Often the face of the drought is a devastated farmer standing brokenhearted in a completely barren landscape. What many people don’t consider is the flow-on impact on the rural towns and the many small businesses that make up the fabric of these communities. When farmers have no money to spend, the cash flow also dries up for rural supply businesses, hairdressers, supermarkets and gift stores etc.
In an effort to support rural business, a social media campaign has kicked off to buy from the bush (#buyfromthebush, @buyfromthebush), encouraging everyone to source their Christmas gifts from retailers and producers located in rural, regional and remote Australia.
On a recent visit to the small New South Wales (NSW) town of Walcha, I rolled up my sleeves and made a concerted effort to inject a little bit of cash into the local shops.
Walcha is a small, picturesque town set in the rolling landscape of the NSW Northern Tablelands. Normally in springtime the hills and paddocks are an even velvet green with fluffy white superfine merino sheep and glossy black Angus cattle grazing contentedly.
Not this trip. I was shocked to see a blanket beige stretching from horizon to horizon. Any grass was brown and nipped back to ground level and there was a complete lack of livestock. In a drought farmers and graziers simply have to downsize. With no water in the dams and no feed on the ground, selling off stock and tightening their belts is the only option.
I guess I am painting a very bleak picture and not a very happy travel story, but rural and regional NSW is still a beautiful place even in a drought, and I encourage everyone to get out of the cities and visit the bush (#stayinthebush) or simply get online and #buyfromthebush.
I am not a shopper normally, but with Christmas looming and some birthday gift-giving on the calendar, I rolled up my sleeves and focussed on the job of shopping.
Walcha is fabulously artistic community and this artistic bent has flowed into their main street. I will wax lyrical about their sculpture in a separate post and here I will describe a few of the quirky and beautiful stores you really need to check out.
- A wonderful selection of homewares, gifts, jewellery and clothing. I made two visits to this shop, knocking four people off my gift-giving list.
- A good mix of Australian-theme gifts, gifts for blokes and gorgeous jewellery to tempt the most reluctant shopper.
- Street Address: 16n Derby St, Walcha, 2354.
- Ph: 02 6777 2233
- E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: Paperdolls House or @janellearchdale.12
Walcha Handmade Community Cooperative Ltd:
- Much of the crafty talent of the region is assembled right here in this little shop. Lots of high quality handmade items for children, unusual jewellery, screen-printed fabrics and wall hangings. The diverse range of items for sale reinforces how Walcha has become an artistic hub. Perfect for unique, one-off gifts.
- They also have a light-filled studio at the rear of the shop for their own workshops or yours.
- Street Address: 6n Derby St, Walcha, 2354.
- Ph: not found
- E: email@example.com
- W: https://walchahandmade.wordpress.com/about-walcha-handmade/
- Instagram: #walchahandmade
- Facebook: @walchahandmade
Walcha Gallery of Art:
- This privately-owned gallery is a glorious white space, perfect for the brightly coloured abstract paintings of the current exhibition. They also have a selection of handmade silver jewellery and wooden sculptural pieces.
- I do not envy this business owner as it would be pretty challenging to sell $1 900 paintings in the middle of a drought. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you are reliant on the right set of eyeballs walking through the Gallery door. More power to the gallery owner.
- Street Address: 15n Derby St, Walcha, 2354.
- Ph: 0488 775 891
- E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- W: http://www.walchagallery.com.au
- Facebook: @WalchaGalleryOfArt
- OMG! I don’t think I have been in an antique store like it! Thousands upon thousands of items cover every inch of space, shelf, floor area, nook and cranny. I had to restrain myself from my usual ‘bull in china shop’ approach to shopping and carefully tuck my handbag under my arm, taking tiny, slow steps.
- Who knows how much stuff they have in this store and I doubt that they would even know. Stocktaking would be murder and it is obvious they gave up dusting years ago.
- One large shop has six separate rooms PLUS there are two other shops further down Derby St.
- Street Address: 54n Derby St, Walcha, 2354.
- Ph: 02 6777 2864
- E: email@example.com
- Facebook: @AntiqueJunqueWalcha
Walcha Creative Arts Coop:
- This arts coop is very different to the Walcha Handmade Coop. Its focus is very much on traditional craft including covered coat-hangers, knitted goods, handmade cards, and jams and relishes. Perhaps not as fashionable or groovy as the other coop, but made with the same level of love and care.
- Street Address: 42w Fitzroy St, Walcha, 2354.
- Ph: 02 6777 2802
- Facebook: Walcha Creative Arts
The New Birds Boutique:
- A very ‘girlie’ store, chockfull of women’s clothing and all mainly high-end brands. Personally I can’t see the sense of paying good money for a brand (and at this point all my girlfriends roll their eyes at me).
- After reading ‘To Die For – Is Fashion Wearing out the World’ I have become an even more reluctant shopper, especially when it comes to clothes.
- Having said that, this boutique will be perfect for fashionistas, has plenty of choice, all good quality and hopefully it appealed to all the women flocking to Walcha for the annual Rural Women’s Gathering.
- Street Address: 27w Fitzroy St, Walcha, 2354.
- Ph: 02 6777 2002
- E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Oh dear, the Antipodean Tynker was the greatest disappointment of my Walcha trip as the shop was closed.
- The front window was full of wild steampunk-themed items of both mysterious origins and purpose. I am not sure I ‘get’ steam punk, but it seems to be where fantasy, history and industry collide. Perhaps the love child of all three?
- The quirky contraptions remained safely behind glass and I will never know what they do. Perhaps that is half of the attraction and fun.
- Street Address: 32w Fitzroy St, Walcha, 2354.
- Ph: 0413 016 806
- E: email@example.com
- W: https://antipodeantynker.com/
- Instagram: #antipodean_tynker
- Facebook: @antipodeantynker
After all that shopping – both window and cash – I needed some restorative refreshment to help me get over my rare retail exertions. While Walcha has plenty of quality shopping options, it has a way to go on the food scene. I bought tasteless and overpriced coffee and a stale pastry to start the day before being directed to the best café in town who had the approach that “this is not a democracy and you had two food choices – take it or leave it”!
The upside was that everyone was very friendly and welcoming and appreciative of having new faces and new wallets in town.
If you feel the need to shop leading into the Festive Season, choose to support bush businesses and then everyone will have a Happy New Year. Alternatively, if anyone out there has any super-human influence and can make it rain, then bugger the shopping and bring on the deluge! That would be the best Christmas present ever!
#buyfromthebush and happy shopping.
What is the best shop you have found on your travels?
#ruralandregional #buyfromthebush #stayinthebush #christmasgifts #countrycousins #onedayclosertorain