There’s a lot more to do when you visit Australia than just visit the big cities and the lovely beaches. There are many country towns Bell, Queensland spread across the landscape that have something to offer the visitor. Even if you’re just passing through, a quick stop for a drink, fuel or a meal will often offer the opportunity to have a chat to the locals and perhaps discover there’s more to see.
A recent visit to the Darling Downs in Queensland gave us the opportunity to make a trip out to the small town of Bell, about half an hour North East of Dalby on the northern edge of this fertile farming area. The small town is also easily accessible from popular holiday getaway The Bunya Mountains, to the East and Toowoomba to the South-East.
A good place to start, would be a stop. That is, a stop at the pips ‘n’ cherries cafe for a cup of tea or coffee, a milkshake or a light lunch. The cafe has some pieces of yesteryear on display as well, available for purchase and you can enjoy your linch outside under the trees, or sit around an old dining table reminiscent of those common in homes in the mid 20th century.
Check out the local sights
You come upon the town quite suddenly, there’s not a lot there, just a few streets, but they do have an old railway station, churches a post office and parks, including a Memorial park with a monument listing all those who went to war. These War Memorials are common in small towns, which may also have a Memorial Hall, which would have at one time been a major community centre. It’s a pretty little town and well kept with well tended roadsides and neat gardens.
Country towns usually have some very talented people who, once they meet up with similarly minded creative people, decide to pool their resources and set up a Community Centre where they can share ideas and welcome people to their town as well as providing an outlet for sale of their work. Sadly the Centre was closed when we visited on a Sunday afternoon.
Diagonally opposite the cafe you will see the traditionally styles Catholic church wooden, with a pitched ‘tin’ roof and raised on low stilts. The church itself is like many other similar buildings, but what is of interest is the Biblical Garden. Open to all, it’s a place for quiet reflection for the faithful, or if you prefer, just a welcome place to enjoy the variety of flora arranged along the paths. The artworks are varied and show a lot of creativity with different types of materials.
Or perhaps a visit to the Bottle Tree Park. Not only are there many different varieties of bottle tree, this small patch of vegetation is home to twenty-four recorded species of trees. You’ll probably be distracted by the raucous cries of a large group of pink and grey galahs in the trees over the road in the Showgrounds carpark area. They make a colourful display as they change trees . Black and white magpies may fight for territory with the Noisy Miners, as the Scaly breasted lorikeet, true to their name, blend in with their surroundings. Stop to read the story of the teamster’s wagon – the wooden cart housed in a shed by the side of the road. Seldom seen now, they were a common method of transporting produce, particularly wool, in the early farming days. The wagons used to be pulled by a team of bullocks guided by a ‘teamster’ but in later years, this one was still in use, pulled by a tractor.
The Bellview Hotel – the local ‘pub’, is over the road from the War Memorial Park conveniently located for arriving travellers through the now disused Bell Railway Station. The Station building has been refurbished and the large shed housing some of the old wagons is decorated on the railway side with a local mural featuring a long gone steam train.
And to round off the day…
If you set out in the morning from Dalby, on the way home, why not visit Jimbour House, a Heritage Listed stately home almost ‘in the middle of nowhere’. Or make it your destination after a stop-off at Bell if you’ve come from the East.
From Bell, heading off west towards Dalby on the Bunya Highway, turn right into the Macalister – Bell Road about a kilometer and a half outside town. After around 22km, turn left into Jimbour Station Road. The entrance is clearly signposted. Jimbour Station was the home of Thomas Bell and his family who came to Australia in in the early 1800s from Ireland. The family story can be found on plaques in the grounds and the town of Bell was named after Joshua Bell.
If you’re coming from Dalby, turn right to the Dalby-Jandowae road, off the Warrego Highway after crossing the railway line. Follow the road about 25km, passing through Jimbour town and a sign telling you the dingo fence is 7km further. Turn into the Macalister – Bell Road and watch for the sign to Jimbour Station on the right about a km along.
Jimbour House is a historical home which has seen both good and bad times and the story is well documented as you wander about the property. The house itself is not open to the public and there is an honesty box at the entrance from the carpark where you can put the suggested entrance donation. The garden is well distributed with mature trees, including a beautiful Moreton Bay Fig tree on your right as you enter the garden.
We’ve had the opportunity to visit this lovely old homestead many times over the years, seeing it in times of drought and plenty, different seasons of the year and it never fails to impress. The old hollow bottle tree that kids could hide in has gone, replaced by the kitchen garden. There are now buildings round the back of the house open to the public displaying artefacts of farm and family life telling of the ups and downs of the station and the people who lived and worked here over the past hundred years and more. Definitely worth a visit, but if you want to have a picnic, bring your own food as the cafe, formerly run by the ladies from pips ‘n’ cherries in Bell is no longer open.
If you’re wondering about the large concert stage in the front paddock, over the wall from the swimming pool – they have the support of the Dalby Regional Arts Council in presenting top class events including opera, jazz and theatre performances once or twice a year. There are a number of upcoming festivals in the region which a visitor could combine with a trip to Jimbour House.
“”Tip: If you’re driving towards Dalby on your way home and you have cooking facilities, drop in to the butcher shop as you pass through Jimbour township. We hear he makes some pretty decent sausages.
For more on visiting a country town in Australia, visit our story here.