It’s interesting sometimes on a towns origin or the translation of the name from the Aboriginals, and Cootamundra is no different. Lost over the years it's got several meanings, “marsh, swamp, low lying or maybe turtle’’, is what the local Wiradjuri people named it.
Cootamundra, or Coota to the locals is a good 400km SW of Sydney off the new freeway and is an important railway town for goods running north, south and west to the Riverina. Settled back in 1830 as another pastoral area it was John Hurley who set up the first major station and it was in one of his paddocks that the new town was surveyed and set out. Like many outback towns, gold was found and a small rush was on within the district, and with gold in the area bushrangers soon saw an opportunity to make a quick fortune with holdups and attacks. Between 1862 and 1890 the town grew, a water supply was put in place, a major hospital, opened, a gaol and Cootamundra golf course opened - and to this day its the oldest course in NSW and then in 1952 the original name of Cootamundry was changed to what it is today - Cootamundra.
The railway in town was established in 1877 where timber sheds were built but it wasn’t until 1888 when more substantial workshops, railway station and other grand buildings were built. Laced with beautiful wrought iron scrolls, a central tower and bull nose roof’s the Cootamundra station is a classic example of the Victorian era when people took pride in their work. In the years leading up to 1945 additions took place but kept the original theme to the buildings. Today the complex has a station masters house, booking and parcel office, waiting rooms and is a major rail junction for the central west. Just next door in the railway barracks a heritage museum has been setup displaying the towns history with military, rail, aviation and local Aboriginal displays. Another rail feat just 15mins out of town is the Bethungra rail spiral where work was done to combat a steep hill where the line splits and the north line does a 360 spiral around the hill and the southern line passes through several deep tunnels. Even if you're not a rail fan this is a must see stop just for the engineering side when the rock was blasted and then loaded by a huge steam shovel onto dump trucks back in 1940 and is rail heritage listed.
Cootamundra is also a sporting town where cricket has a special place within. It was here in 1908 that a baby boy was born named Donald Bradman. Around town there are several places that give homage to this great man and his sporting achievements. Sir Don only lived in the town for three years before his parents moved to Bowral ( in the southern highlands ) but Coota still claims he is theirs. He was born at 89 Adams Street in Granny Scholz’s private hospital and today its been converted to a museum and shrine to Sir Don. You will be amazed at the amount of memorabilia that is here and you can actually stand in the room where he was born. Another cool place to check out is Jubilee park and the Captains walk where 42 bust’s have been placed in chronicle order of cricket captains that led Australia against the rest of the world. Below each bronzed bust there is a rundown on their amazing history and success. As a special tribute to Sir Don in 2008 a life size statue was put in the park, with Sir Don wearing his cricket attire lining up to a bowler.
The parks around Cootamundra are nothing short of stunning where they give a cool and relaxing relief from the dry pastoral land that surrounds the district. From rose gardens to magnificent Peppercorn and Oak trees that line the wide streets, it’s a beautiful town. As always the best place to get an over view of the town is at the local lookout and here at Gardiner’s Hill where 360’ degree views give stunning views across the vast landscape.
Around town there’s a great heritage walk that includes banks, churches, the original hospital, the court house built in 1901, the National Trust listed post office built in 1881 complete with tower and the grave of John Barnes who was the first local in Cootamundra shot by a bushranger in 1863. Today the Hume freeway bypasses the town but its an amazing piece of Australia’s history where plenty of poems have derived from where the Coota wattle grows thick and flowers hard. Cootamundra should not be missed, one day is just not enough.