Coombadjha cattle farmer Jeff Archer droves his mob of cattle through the Clarence River at Copmanhurst.
Coombadjha cattle farmer Jeff Archer droves his mob of cattle through the Clarence River at Copmanhurst. GRA Contributed

The Stock Of Gibraltar

WHEN you stand on the Clarence Valley's coastline and face west, you can see the mountains in the distance are called the Gibraltar Range - a line of high country which forms the watershed between the Clarence and Timbarra rivers and boasts some of Australia's best grazing for beef and dairy cattle for the past 150 years.

It's here you'll find the rural communities of Coombadjha, Jackadgery, Copmanhurst, Cangai and Ramornie, to name a few.

Each spring when the trees start budding another subtle rhythm gathers momentum as the early planning for the local campdraft begins.

For more than 50 years the village of Copmanhurst, situated on the banks of the Clarence River, has hosted a campdraft where tens of thousands of dollars is raised annually for charity.

The Clarence River has a connection with the origins of campdrafting which began in 1885 at nearby Tenterfield. Boorook Station, a cattle property located on one of the Clarence River's tributaries was once owned by horseman Clarence Smith, the founder of the sport of campdrafting.

This year more than 900 competitors from around the North Coast have registered for the campdraft event in which riders skills are matched only by their courage and the horses they use for the job.

The competitors and campdraft committee both rely on one thing; there will be fresh cattle there for them to compete with over the three-day event.

While the campdraft may have started yesterday and will finish tomorrow evening, it was weeks ago nine local families and their stockmen began mustering their cattle ready for the long drove to Copmanhurst Showground.

The handpicked cattle selected for the campdraft are a brahman cross, a breed built to withstand Australian conditions.

Approximately 1100 head of cattle were donated for use at this year's event. A total of 300 were trucked in while a further 800 at a cost saving have been on foot in three mobs on the move since 5.30am last Monday.

The local families co-ordinated their own cattle runs in conjunction with their stockmen and neighbours. so that no-one overlapped while on the road. as everything needing to go to precision clockwork.

The three mobs of cattle came down from Coombadjha, Jackadgery and The Hermitage with the Coombadjha mob having the greatest distance to travel.

Six members of the Archer and Strong families drove the Coombadjha mob down smoke-hazed mountains, crossed the Mann River, then up through the winding roads of Cangai and Jackadgery. They then swam the mob across the Clarence River to the Copmanhurst Showground arriving Thursday afternoon.

The Chards and Thompsons brought the Jackadgery mob down along the Gwyder Hwy, crossing the Mann River Bridge on Wednesday where they met up with the Hermitage mob and the McDougall's on the Cangai Rd for the trip through to Lillydale and then onto to Copmanhurst also via the Clarence River on Friday.

Like the brahman cross cattle they work with, the drovers from the Clarence high country are a special breed of people. They like the line from Banjo Patterson's poem, "the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know" (Clancy of the Overflow), and are blessed to have the best office with sensational views in Australia.


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