Exeter is the most “English” of all the villages of the Highlands. It’s leafy streets and lanes, clipped hedges and grand rows of trees give the impression of an age old-village in the “old country”. When settler Charles Throsby opened up the area in the 1820s, many other settlers prevailed upon the governor of the day for grants in the ‘Sutton Forest’ area. Some of these were established landholders closer to Sydney looking for wider spaces to graze their herds. James Badgery, settled here in 1821. His farm here was called ‘Exeter’, after the town in England near where he grew up. This name was later to be given to the new village over half a century later. Today the population of Exeter and Bundanoon is around 4,000 residents. Exeter is still a magnet with it’s stylish country properties and rural holdings. There is not a lot here to do but soak up the tranquility and admire the country views or perhaps drop by one of the cellar doors or pop into the famed General Store that doubles as a Post Office. However long you spend in picturesque Exeter, you will not forget your visit to this very beautiful corner of the Highlands.
Located on the southern boundary of the Southern Highlands where the manicured paddocks, hedges and gardens give way to the rugged beauty of Morton National Park renowned for its deep gorges, gullies and wide array of flora and fauna. The area was known to the original aboriginal inhabitants as a ‘place of deep gullies’, and the interpretation of this word by the European settlers was Bundanoon. The village is only a few minutes from easily accessible lookouts where one can view the striking views along the spectacular sandstone escarpments.
Bundanoon could have been called South Lambton, Barren Grounds or even Jumping Rock, all local names from as early as 1838, but when the railway route to Goulburn was taken through ‘Jordan’s Crossing’ in 1868, the name stuck. Until then, the area had been mostly farms and orchards.
Development followed the construction of the railway line, as the area had supplies of coal, freestone and timber. Over the years there were two coal mines established in the Gullies and at least three timber mills sourcing timber from the Gullies also. The sandstone quarry between Bundanoon and Penrose supplied sandstone for many prominent buildings in NSW and is still operating.
After subdivision of some larger farming properties the resultant village was officially named Bundanoon in 1881 in honour of the original indigenous inhabitants. From the late 1880’s guesthouses sprung up in the village. The Victorian passion for picnics ,bushwalking and communing with nature in the natural scenic beauty of Bundanoon created a booming tourism industry.
These days, Bundanoon is a lovely and rapidly growing community that has managed not only to retain its village atmosphere, but improve upon it through the enthusiastic involvement of its residents. Several of the old guesthouses have been restored and welcome guests once more. The pleasures of the great outdoors continue to draw visitors, just as they did over a century ago.
Close your eyes and imagine bumping along the Old Argyle Road circa 1850. Cross the Wingecarribee River, past Christ Church Bong Bong to the left, up and over the hill and descent into the valley we know today as Moss Vale. White settlers first began farming here thirty years earlier. Fields of waiving wheat, barley and oats grew alongside cattle grazing peacefully in the surrounding paddocks. Within twenty years the scene would change with the genesis of the town that would for many years be the commercial heart of the Southern Highlands. The railway with it’s Victorian era station provided the impetus for growth of the township named after Jemmy Moss an ex -convict servant of Charles Throsby who settled the surrounding land to the east in 1819. Moss Vale today still retains the relaxed feel of a village and is home to almost 9,000 residents who enjoy the many gardens, walks, rural views and wineries that surround the township. Restaurants, cafes and bars now line Argyle Street alongside amazing homeware stores and boutique businesses. A township full of interesting history and community pride that offers a slower paced Southern Highlands lifestyle.