Villages of the South Coast
by By Jane Sandilands
Mogo Zoo wildlife
By Jane Sandilands
The villages of Mogo, Bodalla and Central Tilba add much to the traveller's experience of the Eurobodalla Coast, going well beyond the experience of somewhere to go when it's not beach weather. They present the history of working towns which still have a reason for being, of a history of gold mining, of cheese making and above all, of welcoming the visitor to participate in their own particular brand of community. As well, they showcase the many talents of artists and craftspeople, of innovative and original thinkers and the kind of excellence for which the South Coast is becoming known.
Mogo: Roses and Snow Leopards
Alf Uptin is the keeper of roses at Mogo, the small village 10 kilometres south of Batemans Bay that was touched with the excitement of its own gold rush in the mid-nineteenth century where over 20,000 miners worked claims and which is recreated today in Old Mogo Town where visitors can experience the excitement and privations of the diggers.
Defying the conventional wisdom that roses shouldn't be grown south of the Blue Mountains especially on the coast, Alf Uptin has planted four acres next to the Princes Highway with 90 different varieties of perfumed hybrid tea roses which attracts rose growers from around Australia to stop, admire and talk to Alf about the secrets of roses.
And it's not only roses that attract visitors to look over Alf Uptin's fence. They're joined by jockeys and racegoers who stop to pay homage to Stanton, who won 16 races including the Goulburn and Wolumla Cups and prize money of $50,000. In 1994, jockey 'Chicka' Pearson left a note on Alf?s door 'please ring Chicka'. When Alf did, Chicka told him that a retired racehorse, Stanton needed a home or was destined for the knackery. Alf and Carol welcomed him and his life is spent with the ducks, geese and magpies that frequent the rose and vegetable garden and occasionally strolls to the fence when callers arrive.
Animals of a more exotic kind are at nearby Mogo Zoo, where Sally Padey presides over the only privately owned zoological park in Australia dedicated to the conservation of exotic endangered animals.
Under its banner 'Doing Good Things for Animals', this remarkable Zoo is committed to the survival of endangered species. It has links with zoos across the world and is recognized by the international studbook keepers of various species, who rate various animals according to their genetic value and their viability. In spacious enclosures surrounded by vegetation are snow leopards - the first bred in Australia in captivity in ten years - Nepalese red pandas, otters, jaguars, Syrian brown bears, Sumatran and Bengal Tigers and others equally rare and exotic. But for the many international tourists who expect to see a koala, Mogo Zoo no longer keeps them. However, Birdland at Batemans Bay has several healthy specimens along with wombats and many other Australian natives. Well-informed Mogo zoo keepers give regular talks to visitors at feeding times check their brochure and the Zoo has more recently expanded to an area of open plains savannah for giraffe, zebras, ostrich and rhinoceros.
Of the eight snow leopards in Australia, four are at the Mogo Zoo. The Zoo hosts work exchange students from England and Europe and attracts staff from all over the world. Half a million people visit the Zoo?s website each year and it attracts 90,000 visitors through its gates each year.
And exotic animals are not the only treasures to be found at Mogo. Alison Miers operated J & P Miers Jewellery for over twenty years, helping give Mogo its reputation for a place where rare and unusual treasures can be acquired. Two jewellers work full time, much of the furniture is made nearby, woollen throws are made by a local woman and work in mixed mediums such as wrought iron and leadlight is also custom made locally to tempt travellers from Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
The fascination of local crafts, rare and unusual plants at the heritage-listed Mogo Nursery, the delights of choosing a good place to eat and simply wandering, ice-cream in hand, in this picturesque historic town are one of the Eurobodalla Coast's great pleasures.