Jim Low - singer/songwriter

ROOTREAT AND THE REDEX TRIAL

I have just returned from a very relaxing weekend with close friends on a remote 900 acre property called Flatlands near Rylstone in New South Wales. Tucked away in a beautiful, hidden valley skirted by impressive mountains, this somewhat misnamed property secludes a gracious, old, stone cottage now run as a bed and breakfast. The cottage was built in the 1830s. Our hosts Jolieske and John warmly welcomed us into this unique wonderland and helped make our stay most memorable.

These days the property is also known as Rootreat because of the many kangaroos that make the surrounding bush and pastures their home. Flatlands was first settled by James Vincent and his son-in-law John Nevell. With the successful crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813 and a road across them constructed in 1815, settlers began heading west. Besides naming Flatlands Vincent also named the mountains to the southern and eastern ends of their property after himself and Nevell respectively. Their land holdings were officially registered in 1839, despite their having settled earlier in the decade. Vincent was a free settler and had arrived in the colony in 1801. Nevell came in 1810 as a convict, receiving his emancipation from Governor Macquarie for his work on the first road which crossed the Blue Mountains and continued to Bathurst.

To take advantage of Rootreat’s distinctive landscape there are a number of walking tracks to tempt the visitor to explore the property. While walking the ‘loop’ track which ascends through bushland before meandering into the valley, dozens of kangaroos appeared in the paddock below. They looked picture postcard in the late afternoon glare of sunlight. Just as suddenly as they had appeared they bounced away across the grassland, effortlessly jumping any fencing that got in their way. Now that was a Rootreat experience to remember. Early next morning I wandered down to the property’s dam. There I listened to the birds as they contributed to the morning’s musical offerings from all directions. Rootreat also has a number of interesting outbuildings. I walked down to take some photographs of the old shearing shed which is now no longer operational. Then it was back to the cottage for a delicious breakfast.        

Rootreat

During my stay at Rootreat childhood memories were rekindled by the sight of an old Commonwealth Savings Bank Redex Trial children’s game. My brother and I had one of these and I fondly remember playing the game. The Redex Round Australia Trial was an annual car reliability and endurance race sponsored by a motor lubricant. It also tested the driving and navigational skills of the competitors.

My father, who had a love of mechanical things like cars, encouraged our enthusiasm for the Redex Trial. It was probably my dad who got this game for us. The one I saw at Rootreat was in an old, wooden book shelf opposite the open fire place in the lounge room. It promoted the third and last trial which was held in 1955. Over 16,800 kilometres were driven around the continent during a three week period by 183 drivers. Because all cars had to be fitted with standard parts this further added to the interest generated by the trial as these were cars that the average Australian drove. While the trial was in progress it made front page news around Australia.

redex game

With paper cars and counter, the winner of the board game was the first one to travel around the line map of Australia which plotted the route of the trial. Penalties were often given at different places where your car landed. You could miss a turn if you broke an axle, got bogged or lost, experienced engine trouble, hit a kangaroo and so on.

In the corner of the back yard of our childhood home there was an area under a large, shady tree where no grass grew. It was always known as “the dirt”. It was there we levelled roads for our dinky toy cars to travel. I still have my Holden dinky toy car that I used. After school we ran many an afternoon Redex Trial in the dirt. We would cut out and stick advertisements to our model cars, just like the advertisements that graced the real trial cars.  

All these memories returned to me as I held this childhood object at Rootreat. When she later learnt of its significance to me, Jolieske very kindly let me take the game with me.

© Jim Low