The country between Bathurst and Orange north of the Mitchell Highway is very pretty but rugged. On the map there is a place named Byng about half way, which looked like it was just a "locality", no facilities. Our touring group (LBUG Tourers) planned to ride from Newbridge to Orange
, via Blayney and Byng and the Icely Road on the Saturday of the Anzac weekend and return via Milthorpe on Monday, with a day ride from Orange on Sunday.
We left our cars at the small village of Newbridge, hoping they would be alright parked in a quiet side street. It was very cool with isolated showers in the area, but great for cycling. We climbed up over a hill out of Newbridge to a nice cruise down to Blayney (14 km from Newbridge), where we had a coffee in the Rainforest Cafe. The Anzac march was just disappearing up the main street as we set off north on the Guyong Road towards the Mitchell Highway. Lunch was in a sheltered grassy ditch outside the entrance to a property, before the highway. We left Bruce to repair a flat tyre and catch us up later, being a pretty strong cyclist. Grant and Libby stayed behind too. The Byng Road started not far along the highway and turned into a white gravel road after a few kilometres, disappearing off north into the distant hills.
The gravel was good, apart from some buzzy corrugated sections, but we lost a fair bit of height we knew we would have to regain later. Where the map said Byng was, there was nothing, although we passed an old stone church. We should have stopped for a closer look, and if we had known, there were a couple of very old homesteads down Bookannon Lane, the last remnants of Byng. For, as we found out in the Information Centre in Orange, there used to be 600 people living in Byng in the 1880's. Many were from Cornwall and were miners, attracted to the gold discovered in the area. The earliest settlers were farmers who got land grants in the 1830's, moving west from Bathurst. George Hawke was one such farmer, and his life story is in a charming letter to a nephew, in a booklet "the Road to Byng" published by a local historian in Orange.
From Byng we climbed steeply up to a ridge road which joined the Icely Rd. The road was sealed and Icely ran "nicely" along to the west, not too hilly, until just before Orange where there are three steep hills one after the other- character and endurance testing at the end of the ride. We bowled into Orange about 4 pm, admiring the autumn leaves, and headed for the Royal Hotel in the main street, our accommodation for the weekend. So ended the first day, with everyone getting in together, and in one piece, except Bruce, who had another puncture and who took a short cut down the highway, missing out on the Byng hills.
On Sunday, one group set off for Molong for a day ride, another went back to Newbridge via Milthorpe (they had to get back for work on Monday), and two of us decided to stay local and find a few wineries to visit. It was cold and windy after a front during the night, with showers moving quickly through. The Molong group had to turn back before reaching their destination, as it was too cold and wet. The Newbridge group missed the showers and had a fast run back with a tailwind. Mike and I had a very enjoyable ride out to Lake Canobolas and a visit to Borrodells, a swish vineyard and cellar door up a very steep drive on Mt Canobolas. The view and coffee plus a few tastings made it worth while, plus a free apple from the orchard. On the way back we found another tasting, of Rolling and Climbing wines, at "Duntry", an old mansion at the golf course. Rolling feature a woman on a bike on their labels, with Oranges in her basket. The two blokes doing the tasting were happy to chat and we had a hilarious hour or two there.
Next day it was even colder, probably about 7 or 8 degrees, but dry, and we rode back to Newbridge via Milthorpe, which is a village about 23 km from Orange, with art galleries and restaurants, and some well kept old buildings. We made good time, even after a detour to Brown's Creek, with a tailwind, and were back in Newbridge by about 1 pm, and in Sydney right on 5 pm.
I am glad I found out about Byng.