Fossicking is a family tradition for Ross Langland. Mercury photographer Sylvia Liber accompanied him to the Kangaroo River, near where his father first showed him how to look for gold, in Kangaroo Valley.
Usually he and his relatives head west on their fossicking trips. And though they do not always find gold, they have found their share over the years.
‘‘The exercise is the thing, and the fresh air – the feeling of continuing on in the tradition,’’ said Mr Langland, 65.
‘‘It’s very important to us, because we’re very family-oriented people, us Langlands.
‘It grabs you like that, especially when you get results for the first time, and you’re hooked.’
‘‘My nephew has also included his three sons and his daughter is also interested.’’
Then there is the gold fever, which Mr Langland says has now infected his nephew Adam, turning the younger man into a keen fossicker too.
‘‘I’m afraid he’s got the gold fever,’’ Mr Langland said.
‘‘It grabs you like that, especially when you get results for the first time, and you’re hooked.’’
To add even more to the fun, the Langlands often take along a guitar and banjo, so the songs ring out over the river while they are sifting and panning. Shiny little ditties in the key of EUREKA!
It may not yet amount to a new gold rush, but the fossickers and prospectors of the state are mobilising.
Those who enjoy wading into the creeks and streams to sift, pan and fossick for gold are now trying to influence government policy to boost their pastime.
In their sights is better access to national parks and conservation areas, what they call a ‘‘fair go for fossickers’’.
They also want more resources for promoting fossicking tourism, saying it could boost visitor numbers to struggling small towns.
NSW and ACT Prospectors and Fossickers Association president Stephen Dangaard said prospecting was nothing like mining – it left very little impact.
‘‘It is an enjoyable, healthy, outdoor recreational activity that is practised by people of all ages. It gets people off the couch and into the great outdoors,’’ Mr Dangaard said.
‘‘We don’t use bulldozers and we don’t leave shafts and pits like the goldminers of the 1850s.’’
They have the support of the NSW parliamentary inquiry into tourism in local communities, released last month, which recommends increasing access to national parks and linking information.
Ross Langland, of Barrack Heights, has been a keen fossicker since his father first took him to the river at Kangaroo Valley and showed him how. He said it was part of his cultural heritage.
‘‘We don’t want access to every section of these protected places, [just] some, situated within what were previously fossicking areas,’’ he said.
While the Illawarra didn’t offer the best prospects – more often found in rivers that run to the west – it was possible to find gold almost anywhere.
‘‘Gold has been found here on Shellharbour Beach and it’s also been found on Killalea Beach,’’ he said. ‘‘The trouble with gold is there’s plenty of it there, but there’s a hell of a lot of dirt between it and you.’’
- BEN LANGFORD