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Woolcott’s pigeon passion takes flight

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: Gary Woolcott has 70 pigeons in his flock but he has a special spot for Oakhampton Boy, after the now retired bird finished third in a 200km test of endurance and homing skills.A chance meeting with an old friend in Sydney three years ago reignited Gary Woolcott’s passion for pigeon racing.
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It had been more than 30 years since he was last involved in the sport but Woolcott jumped at the opportunity and turned a planned mower shed at his Oakhampton home into a pigeon loft.

Starting with two silver shadow pigeons, Woolcott was on the flight back to the racing circuit.

He now has 70 pigeons but last month one rose above the rest finishing third after making the 200 kilometre journey home from Breezor in a Newcastle and Coalfields Racing Pigeon Federation race.

This result gave the podium placing pigeon a privileged spot in Woolcott’s collection.

“Whenever I have a bird that finishes one, two or three I name them,” he said.

“I named him Oakhampton Boy.”

Woolcott was first introduced to the sport as a child through his East Maitland next door neighbour Billy Morris in the 1950s.

Eventually Woolcott stepped up from first hand assistant to operator and for 20 years raced his own pigeons.

The simple pleasures of the pursuit have not been lost on Woolcott despite his 36-year absence from the sport.

“The greatest joy is seeing a bird come down, from as high in the sky as you can possibly see, and drop down into the cage,” he said.

The Newcastle and Coalfields Racing Pigeon Federation have races scheduled for the rest of the year but Woolcott’s flock will have to wait.

Not only has Oakhampton Boy been retired from racing but a virus has been detected in pigeons on the east coast of Australia forcing the federation to suspend racing.

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An old slab cottage and a 200th anniversary

200th ANNIVERSARY : Artist Val Anderson with historian Shirley Threlfo. There’s not a lot known about the little slab cottage standing on the side of the road in the tiny hamlet of Woodville.
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But as the building falls victim to the passing years, artist Val Anderson has decided to capture its history as a reminder of a time gone by.

Mrs Anderson has sketched the building – known as Pioneer Cottage – as part of the 200th anniversary of the Woodville community. The sketch will be raffled off as part of the celebrations to be held later this year.

“The cottage is lovely, it really is, but it’s really falling down,” Mrs Anderson said.

Thought to have been built in the mid 1870s and situated between the Woodville School of Arts Hall and Iona Public School, the cottage is the original home of bootmaker Peter Pomfrett and his wife.

Mr Pomfrett was also a handyman and undertook jobs for the School of Arts hall.

“Pomfrett was later joined by a Mr Harden whose descendant, Tom ‘Poppa’ Harden, came to live in the cottage in 1903, aged 12 years, and was the last to live in the cottage,” Mrs Anderson wrote in her

history of the cottage.

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Look at the architecture

Central Maitland’s affordable housing project will put the precinct back on the real estate map.
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Tony Cant Real Estate general manager Peter Hogan said the market in central Maitland had never been huge and it was difficult to convince locals to make the move because of the old flood zoning since the 1955 flood.

But despite some locals ignoring the area, the precinct has attracted a wide price range. The cheapest rental properties start in the high $200s and increase quickly to about $400 a week.

Houses sell between the low $200,000 mark and $500,000 and $600,000.

Mr Hogan said people need to walk around the area and see the old-fashioned architecture of many of the homes in central Maitland.

“People don’t take the time to look around central Maitland,” he said.

“It’s not about looking at a shift in real estate, it’s about changing public perception. The hardest thing is to get the locals into the area; people have to start making the move.”

Mr Hogan said the 1300 affordable homes that would be built in the area would be a strong attraction.

The development will be kickstarted by road upgrades to be done with an $11.3 million federal government grant announced earlier this week.

“Central Maitland is beautiful with its old buildings and river, and this is going to reflect positively on the CBD and Maitland Heritage Mall,” he said.

“It’s an important step because the population is supposed to double by 2030, which isn’t a long time away – it’s only 18 years – and there’s a lot of infrastructure that’s needed in that time.”

Mr Hogan said the government’s investment would give potential developers the confidence to invest in the precinct.

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