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Cranky Rock Nature Reserve, Warialda


A geological wonderland with a unique namesake.

Cranky Rock suspension bridge

For a place supposedly so ‘cranky’, this nature reserve sure is peaceful. An easy drive through bushland 3km off the Gwydir Highway just east of Warialda delivers you to a leafy picnic area with barbecues, a playground, a campground and a kiosk, but the real magic happens when you set out on one of several walking tracks.

After traversing the quaint suspension bridge, you’ll happen upon a jumble of giant boulders heaped into interesting positions by a past volcanic upheaval. Enormous boulders teeter precariously, high above the sandy edges of the trickling creek far below. It’s really quite beautiful.

Cranky Rock picnic area

So where does the ‘cranky’ factor come in? Legend has it a ‘cranky’ Chinese man murdered a Warialda woman and was subsequently chased by police and, to evade capture, leapt to his death from the highest rock. The Maitland Mercury 9 January 1875 carried an article from a Warialda correspondent:

I am sorry to have to report a most diabolical murder perpetuated in our midst on Thursday 24th of December. A poor woman living in the town named Mrs. Golthorpe arose early as usual and was making her fire when a Chinaman named Charlie, who has for a considerable time been cooking at Mannix’s Race Horse Inn, rushed into the house and stabbed her severely on the head, neck and chest.

She managed to rush down to Mr John Crane’s where she was immediately attended to and Dr Redhead sent for. He entertained no hope from the first, as the wounds which were inflicted with a butcher’s knife were of such a nature as to prevent all possibility of recovery. The poor creature lingered till Tuesday night, when she died.

A local story claims that Mrs Golthorpe quarreled with the Chinese man Charlie Young after she warned her son not to play cards with him.

Cranky Rock Nature Reserve

The death certificate of Elizabeth Golthorpe shows that she dies on 29th December 1874 and was buried the next day. The Maitland Mercury correspondent wrote:

Immediately on committing the deed, the Chinaman made for the bush, a tracker was at once procured and set out, but on some rocky, bare ridges all tracks were lost. Almost every male in Warialda turned out and scoured the bush all round, but as yet no tidings have been heard of the monster.

Had he been taken by any of the search parties, it is doubtful whether he would have ever seen a court of justice, as a very general opinion of Lynch law existed amongst them. The search was a short one.

The Police Gazette of 13rd January 1875: Charlie Young, (Chinaman), charged with the murder of Eliza Golthorpe, has been found dead near Gragin Station, 30 miles from Warialda. How he came to be there, there is no evidence to show.

Cranky Rock suspension bridge

Cranky Rock Nature Reserve is also an excellent bird watching location, with Warialda known as the location where the habitats of coastal birds from the east and desert birds from the west overlap.

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