Cyclist has been getting to know New England High Country (NEHC) over the last few months, with a Big Ride in issue 65 and another coming up in issue 67.
In the interim, we chatted to local rider and allround NEHC guru, Jorja Creighton, about why the area should be at the centre of your radar
Interview JACK LYNCH
Cyclist: Hey Jorja. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you lived in the New England region, and for how long have you been cycling?
Jorja Creighton: Certainly! I came to New England three years ago around this time of year.
The extreme drought New England experienced was well and truly over and it was the wettest, sloppiest and most vibrant place I had cycled in for a long time and I was captivated by the stations, the tight communities and the plateau landscape.
There is a special quietness and friendliness in this part of Australia that makes for some of the most intimate cycling I have experienced.
I’ve been cycling with intensity for the last 15 years, using the bike to fulfil a chronic thirst for nature, adventure and solitude.
Long-distance touring is the subgroup of cycling I enjoy the most, but I’ll take anything from BMX to downhill and, if I must, road cycling!
Cyc: How does riding in New England High Country compare with other places you’ve ridden?
JC: For my personal taste of landscape, gentle wilderness and the micro townships speak to me.
I love the mess of hidden motorbike tracks, the stock routes that are rutted out from the flash rivers that carve it up.
It has a dramatic change of seasons and means you can pick your opponent; alpine heat, wet and unpredictable autumns, a deep freeze or the frosted fingertips of the spring mornings.
It’s too difficult to compare directly but I definitely like it for those reasons.
The wide skies, the captivating roads and tracks that you have to resist detouring down.
It is a plateau… so if you are climbing-averse it’s a good destination. I find Australia has intense back country where to get into the depths it’s hard to avoid the character building but frustrating hiking your bike.
It’s a bumpy, lumpy place. Not New England. There are spots of intensity but a lot of it is extremely rideable.
Cyc: What are some of your favourite rides in the region, and what makes them so special?
JC: The rides I enjoy the most are the ones that run along, intersect or cross over any of the rivers in the region.
There are a number of beautiful rides in Walcha that interact with the McDonald River. You can see them on the Walcha Tourism cycling page.
It is brimming with curves and willow trees running through the farming landscape.
It is a peaceful river. The McDonald River builds itself up by the time it reaches Bendemeer and you can follow a wider version of it up on your way to Kingstown on the quiet Watsons Creek Road and Retreat Road.
Another beautiful road and river pair is the Pyes Creek Road. It takes you from Stannum to Tenterfield along a single lane sandy track that invites you to want to picnic at every turn.
The plush grassy river side and shady trees makes it hard to get into the pace on the bike.
The road has an extremely fast descent, a stretch of fun flat and then a heated climb.
The climb takes you through the granite gardens that makes Tenterfield unique, up the charismatic Gunyah Road, the slow climb will let you take in the views that come with gaining elevation.
The whole region has such beautiful patches, it is what inspired the creation of the large, circumnavigating route that turned into the published NEHC 1000.
Cyc: Can you tell us about some of the best cycling events that take place in New England High Country?
JC: There’s plenty… I organise an event called the Super Jambo Grom Pre, the next one being in March.
It is a mass ride of the newest long-form bike touring route in the area, the New England High Country 1000. A 1,000km route that takes in a lot of what I love about the New England region.
If you want to find out more you should follow my personal Instagram page (@jambi_jambi).
The website and rego for the next event is due to go live in November.
There are a number of other excellent events in the area including Gravel and Granite in Tenterfield and the Goodness Gravel in Glen Innes.
There is also the Tour De Rocks, which is a three-day Charity MTB ride through the central coast of NSW and the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.
Cyc: What are some of your must-sees and must-dos for time spent off the bike?
JC: The natural wonders of the region are extensive. Something I find particularly beautiful is the network of ravines that are in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
There are a few nooks you can find to get into the gorges (like Riverside Campground 4WD track).
But otherwise you find yourself walking along the steep edges with a near bird’s-eye view of the wild rapids and knife-sharp looking rocks… wishing you had the wings to be able to take yourself into the depths of the split earth.
In particular I love the Tia Falls Campground walks and the Apsley Falls outside of Walcha. Some quicker stops are the local breweries within the region.
The Welder’s Dog, Deepwater Brewing, Great Hops and New England Brewing are some of my favourites. There are also plenty of vibe-securing small bars in the towns along the New England Highway.
There is honestly an endless amount of off-the-bike tips – I don’t know where to end.
I want to tell you about the captivating river networks, the farmstays, the granite walks in the northern section, but I don’t want to overload you.
It’s an expansive wonderland.
Cyc: Any locals’ tips that you’d share with riders visiting the region for the first time?
JC: If you can, give yourself a lot of time to take the rides at an easier pace and stop and discover the towns and places along the way.
You will hurt me personally if you put your head down and clock up the kays each day as your goal.
Cyc: A lot of Cyclist readers are already thinking about planning their next riding adventure in Australia. In summary, why should they choose New England High Country?
JC: Well, if I haven’t sold you already… just know that this is the largest highlands in Australia and if you are like me, you love a land mass of significance.
If you have the time to do the 1,000km route you can go home knowing you have eaten the whole cake in a clean and fulfilling way.
There are micro and maximal adventures waiting for you here. Plus, the people are super nice.
To find out more about the region visit