27 October (Sydney)
Brightly shone the sun, the sky was dressed in blue and gold and “the
fields were full of star-like flowers, and overgrown with joy,”* on the
first day of my ride homeward along the green banks of the Murrumbidgee,
having crossed the river in a small canoe that morning. Seven months had
elapsed since I had seen either a road or a bridge although during that
time I had travelled over two thousand four hundred miles. Right glad was
I, like Gilpin’s horse, “at length to miss the lumber of the wheels,” the
boats, carts, specimens, and last but not least, Kater’s compasses. No
care had I now whether my single step was east or north-east, nor about
the length of my day’s journey, nor the hills or dales crossed, as to
their true situation, names, or number, or where I should encamp. To be
free from such cares seemed heaven itself, and I rode on without the
slightest thought about where I should pass the night, quite sure that
some friendly hut or house would receive me and afford snugger shelter
and better fare than I had seen for many a day.
(*Footnote. Remains of Peter Corcoran. Blackwood’s Magazine.)
APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY ON THE MURRUMBIDGEE.
We had arrived on the Murrumbidgee seventy-five miles below the point
where that river quitted the settled districts and ceased to form a
county boundary. I found the upper portion of this fine stream fully
occupied as cattle-stations, which indeed extended also, as I was
informed, much lower down the river; and such was the thoroughfare in
that direction that I found a tolerable cart road from one station to
another. I passed the night at the house of a stockman in charge of the
cattle of Mr. James Macarthur, and I was very comfortably lodged.
With the Murrumbidgee still occasionally in view we pursued the road
which led towards Sydney. Each meadow was already covered with the lowing
herds for which it seemed to have been prepared; and the traces of man’s
industry were now obvious in fences, and in a substantial wooden house
and smoking chimney, usually built in the most inviting part of each
cattle run. All the animals looked fat and sufficiently proved the value
of the pasturage along this river. Steep and rugged ridges occasionally
approached its banks and, in following the beaten track, I this day
crossed acclivities much more difficult for the passage of
wheel-carriages than any we had traversed throughout those uncultivated
wastes, where even the pastoral age had not commenced.
The scenery at various points of the river seen this day was very
beautiful; its chief features consisting of noble sheets of water,
umbrageous woods, flowery meadows, enlivened by those objects so
essential to the harmony of landscape, cattle of every hue.
The gigantic and luxuriant growth of the yarra eucalyptus everywhere
produced fine effects; and one tree in particular pleased me so much that
I was tempted to draw it, although the shades of evening would scarcely
permit; but while thus engaged I sent my servant forward to look for some
hut or station that I might remain the longer to complete my drawing.
I arrived long after dark at a cattle-station occupied by a
superintendent of Mr. Henry O’Brian, near Jugion Creek on the right bank
of the Murrumbidgee, and there passed the night. Two considerable rivers
join this creek from the mountainous but fine country to the southward,
one being named the Coodradigbee, the other the Doomot. The higher
country there is granitic although, on both rivers, limestone also
abounds in which the corals seem to belong to Mr. Murchison’s Silurian
system. Favosites, Stromatopora concentrica, Heliopora pyriformis, and
stems of crinoidea are found loosely about the surface. There is also a
large rock of haematite under Mount Jellula.
The road led us this day over some hilly country of a rather poor
description, but the beautiful flower Brunonia grew so abundantly that
the surface exhibited the unusual and delicate tint of ultramarine blue.
I was tempted once more to forsake the road in order to ascend a range
which it crossed in hopes of being able to see, from some lofty summit
thereof, points of the country I had left, and thus to connect them by
means of my pocket sextant with any visible points I might recognise of
my former trigonometrical survey. It was not however in my power to do
this satisfactorily, not having been able to distinguish any of the
Towards evening I drew near Yass Plains and was not a little struck with
their insignificance as compared with those of the south. A township had
been marked out here, and the comfortable establishments of various
wealthy colonists evinced, by their preference of these plains, that they
considered them the best part of a very extensive district.
THE GAP, AN INN.
Mr. Cornelius O’Brien had invited me to his house and afterwards
furnished me with a supply of provisions for my party; but I carried my
own despatches, and a much shorter route led to the left by which I could
divide the way better in continuing my ride to the Gap, a small inn where
I arrived at a very late hour, the road having been soft, uneven, and
wholly through a dreary wood.
The noise and bustle of the house was quite refreshing to one who had
dwelt so long in deserts, although it seemed to promise little
accommodation, for there had been races in the neighbourhood and horses
lay about the yard. Nevertheless the waiter and his wife cleared for my
accommodation a room which had been full of noisy people, and my horses
were soon lodged snugly in the stable. There indeed I perceived more room
than the house afforded, for while the guests were regaling within their
horses were allowed to lay about to starve outside, as if so many gypsies
had been about the place; no uncommon circumstance in Australia.
In the course of my ride this morning I recognised the poor scrubby land
about the southern boundary of the county of Argyle, which I had surveyed
in 1828. The wood on it is rather open, consisting of a stunted species
of eucalyptus, the grass, apparently a hard species of poa, affording but
little nourishment. Sandstone and quartz are the predominant rocks
although some of the most remarkable hills consist of trap.
Passing at length through a gap in a low ridge of granular quartz, we
entered upon Bredalbane plains, consisting of three open flats of grassy
land circumscribed by hills of little apparent height, and extending
about twelve miles in the direction of this road, their average width
being about two miles. Deringullen ponds arise in the most southern
plain, and are among the most eastern heads of the Lachlan. The plains
are situated on the high dividing ground or water shed between the
streams falling eastward and westward, and had probably once been lagoons
of the same character as those which still distinguish other portions of
this dividing ground.
The most remarkable of these is Lake George, about fourteen miles further
to the south, and which in 1828 was a sheet of water seventeen miles in
length and seven in breadth. There is no outlet for the waters of this
lake although it receives no less than four mountain streams from the
hills north of it, namely Turallo creek, whose highest source is fourteen
miles from the lake, Butmaro creek which arises in a mountain sixteen
miles from it, Taylor’s creek from the range on the east, six miles
distant, and Kenny’s creek from hills five miles distant. The southern
shore of this lake presents one continuous low ridge, separating its
waters from the head of the Yass river which would otherwise receive
them. The water was slightly brackish in 1828 but quite fit for use, and
the lake was then surrounded by dead trees of the eucalyptus measuring
about two feet in diameter, which also extended into it until wholly
covered by the water. In that wide expanse we could find no fish, and an
old native female said she remembered when the whole was a forest, a
statement supported pro tanto by the dead trees in its bed as well as by
the whole of the basin being in October 1836 a grassy meadow not unlike
the plains of Bredalbane.
It would be well worth the attention of a man of leisure to ascertain the
lowest part in the country around Lake George, at which its waters, on
reaching their maximum height, would overflow from its basin.
Several lagoons, apparently the remains of more extensive waters, occur
between Lake George and Bredalbane plains in the line of watershed as
already observed. These are named Tarrago, Mutmutbilly, and Wallagorong,
the latter being apparently a residuum of the lake which probably once
covered the three plains of Bredalbane.
SOIL AND ROCKS.
The quality of the soil now found in the patches of grassy land on the
margins of these lakes and lagoons depends on the nature of the high
ground nearest to them. The hills to the eastward of Lake George are
chiefly granitic. Ondyong point on its northern shore consists of
sandstone resembling that of the coal-measures; and the rock forming the
range above the western shores is of the same quality. The hills at the
source of Kenny’s creek consist of trap, of which rock there is also a
remarkable hill on the southern side of Bredalbane plains; and these
plains are bounded on the north by a ridge of syenite, which here forms
the actual division between the sources of the rivers Lachlan and
The water in the smaller lagoons westward of Lake George is perfectly
sweet, and the pasturage on the plains adjacent being in general very
good, the land is occupied by several extensive grazing establishments.
On entering the valley of the river Wollondilly which waters Goulburn
plains, I was surprised to see its waters extremely low and not even
flowing. The poor appearance of the woods also struck me, judging by
comparison with the land in the south; and although the scantiness of
grass, also observable, might be attributed to the great number of sheep
and cattle fed there, I was not the less sensible of the more parched
aspect of the country generally.
Goulburn Plains consist of open downs affording excellent pasturage for
sheep and extending twenty miles southward from the township, their
breadth being about ten.
I reached at twilight the house of a worthy friend, Captain Rossi, who
received me with great kindness and hospitality. The substantial
improvements which he had effected on his farm since my last visit to
that part of the colony evinced his skill and industry as a colonist;
while an extensive garden and many tasteful arrangements for domestic
comfort marked the residence of a gentleman. Under that hospitable roof I
exchanged the narrative of my wanderings for the accumulated news of
seven months which, with my friend’s good cheer, rendered his invitation
to rest my horses for one day quite irresistible.
A walk in the garden; a visit to the shearing shed; the news of colonial
affairs in general; fat pullets cooked a la gastronome and some good
wine; had each in its turn rare charms for me.
I had arrived in a country which I had myself surveyed; and the roads and
towns in progress were the first fruits of these labours. I had marked
out in 1830 the road now before me, which I then considered the most
important in New South Wales as leading to the more temperate south, and
I had now completed it as a line of communication between Sydney and the
southern coasts. This important public work on which I had bestowed the
greatest pains by surveying the whole country between the Wollondilly and
Shoalhaven rivers, had been nevertheless retarded nearly two years on the
representations of some of the settlers, so that the part most essential
to be opened continued still in a half finished state.*
(*Footnote. A petition had been got up in favour of another line said to
be more direct; and it is a remarkable fact that numerous signatures were
obtained even to such a petition, although it was found at last that the
line laid down after a careful survey was not only twelve chains shorter
than the other proposed but also avoided the steepest hills.)
The Shoalhaven river flows in a ravine about 1500 feet below the common
level of the country between it and the Wollondilly. Precipices
consisting at one part of granite and at another of limestone give a
peculiar grandeur to the scenery of the Shoalhaven river.
LIMESTONE CAVERNS THERE.
The limestone is of a dark grey colour and contains very imperfect
fragments of shells. We find among the features on these lofty riverbanks
many remarkable hollows not unaptly termed hoppers by the country people,
from the water sinking into them as grain subsides in the hopper of a
mill. As each of these hollows terminates in a crevice leading to a
cavern in the limestone below, I descended into one in 1828 and
penetrated without difficulty to a considerable depth over slimy rocks,
but was forced to return because our candles were nearly exhausted. A
current of air met us as we descended and it might have come from some
crevice probably near the bed of the river. That water sometimes flowed
into these caverns was evident from pieces of decayed trees which had
been carried downwards by it to a considerable depth. I looked in vain
there for fossil bones, but I found projecting from the side of the
cavern at the lowest part I reached a very perfect specimen of coral of
the genus favosites.
COUNTY OF ST. VINCENT.
The country to the eastward of the Shoalhaven river, that is to say
between it and the sea-coast, is very wild and mountainous. The higher
part including Currocbilly and the Pigeon house (summits) consists of
sandstone passing from a fine to a coarse grain, occasionally containing
pebbles of quartz, and in some of the varieties numerous specks of
decomposed felspar. The lower parts of the same country, according to the
rocks seen in Yalwal creek, consist of granite, basalt, and compact
felspar. Nearer the coast a friable whitish sandstone affords but a poor
soil, except where the partial occurrence of decomposed laminated felspar
and gneiss produced one somewhat better. This country comprises the
county of St. Vincent, bounded on one side by the Shoalhaven river and on
the other by the sea-coast. The southern portion of that county affords
the greatest quantity of soil available either for cultivation or
pasture; although around Bateman Bay, which is its limit on the south,
much good land cannot be expected as Snapper Island at the entrance
consists of grey compact quartz only, with white veins of crystalline
The country on the upper part of the Shoalhaven river comprises much good
land. The river flows there nearly on a level with the surface and
resembles an English stream. The temperature at the elevation of about
2000 feet above the sea is so low even in summer that potatoes and
gooseberries, for both of which the climate of Sydney is too hot, grow
luxuriantly. A rich field for geological research will probably be found
in that neighbourhood.
In a hasty ride which I took as far as Carwary in 1832, I was conducted
by my friend Mr. Ryrie to a remarkable cavern under white marble where I
found trap; a vein of ironstone of a fused appearance; a quartzose
ferruginous conglomerate; a calcareous tuff containing fragments of these
rocks; and specular iron ore in abundance near the same spot.
But still further southward and on the range separating the country at
the head of the Shoalhaven river from the ravines on the coast, I was
shown an antre vast which, for aught I know, may involve in its recesses
more of the wild and wonderful than any of the deserts idle which I have
VAST SUBSIDENCE ON A MOUNTAIN THERE.
A part of the surface of that elevated country had subsided, carrying
trees along with it to the depth of about 400 yards, and left a yawning
opening about 300 yards wide resembling a gigantic quarry, at the bottom
of which the sunken trees continued to grow. In the eastern side of the
bottom of this subsidence a large opening extended under the rock and
seemed to lead to a subterraneous cavity of great dimensions.
Taking leave of my kind host at an early hour, I continued my ride,
passing through the new township in which, although but few years had
elapsed since I had sketched its streets on paper, a number of houses had
already been built. The Mulwary Ponds scarcely afford sufficient water of
the supply of a large population there; but at the junction of this
channel with the Wollondilly there is a deep reach not likely to be ever
The road marked out between this township and Sydney led over a country
shut up, as already stated, between the Wollondilly and the Shoalhaven
rivers. These streams are distant from each other at the narrowest part
of the intervening surface about ten miles; and as each is bordered by
deep ravines the middle portion of the country between them is naturally
the most level, and this happens to be precisely in the direction most
desirable for a general line of communication between Sydney and the most
valuable parts of the colony to the southward.
At a few miles from Goulburn the road passes by the foot of Towrang, a
hill whose summit I had formerly cleared of timber, leaving only one
tree. I thus obtained an uninterrupted view of the distant horizon, and
found the hill very useful afterwards in extending our survey from
Jellore into the higher country around Lake George. This hill consists
chiefly of quartz rock. At its base the new line leaves the original cart
track which here crossed the Wollondilly twice. I now found an
intermediate road in use between the old track and my half-formed road
which was still inaccessible at this point for want of a small bridge
over Towrang Creek.
The Wollondilly pursues its course to the left, passing under the
southern extremity of Cockbundoon range, which extends about thirty miles
in a straight line from north to south, and consists of sandstone dipping
westward. Near the Wollondilly and a few miles from Towrang a quarry of
crystalline variegated marble has been recently wrought to a considerable
extent, and chimney-pieces, tables, etc. now ornament most good houses at
Sydney. This rock occurs in blocks over greenstone, and has hitherto been
found only in that spot.
WILD COUNTRY THROUGH WHICH IT FLOWS.
The channel of the Wollondilly continues open and accessible for a few
miles lower down than this, but after it is joined by the Uringalla near
Arthursleigh it sinks immediately into a deep ravine and is no longer
accessible as above, the country to the westward of it being exceedingly
wild and broken. The scene it presented when I stood on the pic of
Jellore in 1828 and commenced a general survey of this colony was of the
most discouraging description.* A flat horizon to a surface cracked and
hollowed out into the wildest ravines, deep and inaccessible; their
sides, consisting of perpendicular rocky cliffs, afforded but little
reason to suppose that it could be surveyed and divided as proposed into
counties, hundreds, and parishes; and still less was it likely ever to be
inhabited, even if such a work could be accomplished. Nevertheless it was
necessary in the performance of my duties that these rivers should be
traced, and where the surveyor pronounced them inaccessible to the chain,
I clambered over rocks and measured from cliff to cliff with the pocket
sextant. Thus had I wandered on foot by the murmuring Wollondilly,
sometimes passing the night in its deep dark bed with no other companions
than a robber and a savage. I could now look back with some satisfaction
on these labours in that barren field. I had encompassed those wild
recesses; the desired division of the rocky wastes they enclosed had
really been made; and if no other practical benefit was derived we had at
least been enabled to open ways across them to better regions beyond.
(*Footnote. My predecessor in office had declared the operation to be
impracticable in such a country; but to this general survey I was pledged
on accepting my appointment in London. Two other commissioners for the
division of the territory were each receiving a guinea a day, but yet
could do nothing until this survey was accomplished; and I therefore set
about the work with the resolution necessary for the performance of what
was deemed almost impossible. Universal wood, impassable ravines, a total
absence of artificial objects, and the consequent necessity for clearing
summits as stations for the theodolite were great impediments; but I made
the most of each station when it had once been cleared by taking an exact
panoramic view with the theodolite of the nameless features it commanded.
The accompanying facsimile of a page of my field book includes the view
between north and north-west, taken for the above purpose from the summit
of Jellore, and extends over the ravines of the Nattai to the crest of
the Blue Mountains. Plate 38.)
THE NATTAI. MOYENGULLY.
In the numerous ravines surrounding Jellore the little river Nattai has
its sources, and this wild region is the haunt and secure retreat of the
Nattai tribe whose chief, Moyengully, was one of my earliest aboriginal
friends. (See Plate 39.)
Marulan, the highest summit eastward of Jellore, consists of ferruginous
sandstone, but in the country to the northward we find syenite and
trap-rock. Of the latter, Nattary, a small hill north-east from Towrang
and distant about four miles from it, is perhaps the most remarkable. The
elevation of the country there is considerable (being about one thousand
five hundred feet above the sea on the level part) and, except near the
Shoalhaven and Wollondilly rivers, not much broken into ravines. It
contains not only fine pasture land but also much good wheat land,
especially towards the side of the Shoalhaven river.
ARRIVE AT THE LINE OF GREAT ROAD. CONVICT WORKMEN.
At fourteen miles from Goulburn I came upon that part of my new line of
great road where the works had not been impeded by those for whose
benefit the road was intended;* and here I found that the iron-gangs had
done some good service. I had now the satisfaction of travelling along a
road every turn of which I had studied previous to marking it out after a
most careful survey of the whole country.
(*Footnote. One of the most palpable consequences of the interruption my
plan experienced was that it interfered with the prospects of an
innkeeper whose inn had already been half built of brick in anticipation
of the opening of the new line.)
On Crawford’s creek I found that a bridge with stone buttresses had been
nearly completed. I had endeavoured to introduce permanent bridges of
stonework into this colony instead of those of wood, which were very
liable to be burnt and frequently required repair. We had among the
prisoners some tolerable stonecutters and setters but, until I had the
good fortune to find among the emigrants a person practically acquainted
with the construction of arches, their labours had never been productive
of much benefit to the public. The governor had readily complied with my
recommendation to appoint Mr. Lennox superintendent of such works; and on
entering the township of Berrima this evening I had the satisfaction at
length of crossing at least one bridge worthy of a British colony.
This town is situated on the little river Wingecarrabee, and was planned
by me some years before when marking out the general line of road. The
eligibility of the situation consists chiefly in the abundance and purity
of the water, and of materials for building with the vicinity of a small
agricultural population. I found here, on my return now, Mr. Lambie of
the road branch of my department, under whose immediate superintendence
the bridge had been erected. The walls of a gaol and courthouse were also
rising, and a site was ready for the church.
A remarkable range consisting chiefly of trap-rock traverses the whole
country between the Wollondilly and the sea in a south-east direction
extending from Bullio to Kiama. The highest part is known as the
Mittagong range and, in laying down the new line of road, it was an
object of importance to avoid this range. Bowral, the highest part,
consists of quartz or very hard sandstone.
On leaving Berrima the road traverses several low ridges of trap-rock and
then turns to the south-east in order to avoid the ravines of the Nattai;
for we again find here that ferruginous sandstone which desolates so
large a portion of New South Wales and, to all appearance, New Holland,
presenting in the interior desert plains of red sand, and on the eastern
side of the dividing range, a world of stone quarries and sterility. It
is only where trap or granite or limestone occur that the soil is worth
possessing, and to this extent every settler is under the necessity of
becoming a geologist; he must also be a geographer, that he may find
water and not lose himself in the bush; and it must indeed be admitted
that the intelligence of the native youth in all such matters is little
inferior to that of the aborigines.
The barren sandstone country is separated from the seashore by a lofty
range of trap-rock connected with that of Mittagong, and we accordingly
find an earthly paradise between that range and the seashore. The
Illawarra is a region in which the rich soil is buried under matted
creepers, tree-ferns and the luxuriant shade of a tropical vegetation
nourished both by streams from the lofty range and the moist breezes of
the sea. There a promising and extensive field for man’s industry lies
still uncultivated, but when the roads now partially in progress shall
have connected it with the rest of the colony it must become one of the
most certain sources of agricultural produce in New South Wales.
The sandstone on the interior side extends to the summit of the trap
range and its numerous ravines occasion the difficulties which have
hitherto excluded wheel-carriages from access to the Illawarra.
To cross a country so excavated is impossible except in certain
directions, but the best lines these fastnesses admit of have been
ascertained and marked out in connection with that for the great southern
road, which ought to leave the present line at Lupton’s Inn. I consider
this the most important public work still necessary to complete the
system of great roads planned by me in New South Wales; but I have not
had means at my disposal hitherto for carrying into effect this portion
of the general plan.
From Lupton’s Inn Sydney bore north-east, yet I was obliged to turn with
the present road towards the north-west and to travel eleven miles over
unfavourable ground in a direction to the westward of north.
Having been engaged this day in examining the bridges and the work done
along the whole line, Mr. Lambie accompanying me, I did not reach the
house of my friend Macalister at Clifton until it was rather late, but at
any hour I could be sure of a hearty welcome.
The Razorback range is a very remarkable feature in this part of the
country. It is isolated, extending about eight miles in a general
direction between west-north-west and east-south-east, being very level
on some parts of the summit, and so very narrow in others, while the
sides are also so steep, that the name it has obtained is descriptive
FORD OF THE NEPEAN. CAMPBELLTOWN.
Around this trap-range lies the fertile district of the Cowpastures,
watered by the Nepean river. On proceeding along the road towards
Campbelltown we cross this river by a ford which has been paved with a
causeway, and we thus enter the county of Cumberland. Here trap-rock
still predominates, and the soil is good and appears well cultivated, but
there is a saltness in the surface water which renders it at some seasons
unfit for use. The line of great road as planned by me would pass by this
township (now containing 400 inhabitants) and the town might then
probably increase by extending towards George’s river, a stream which
would afford a permanent supply of good water.
LIVERPOOL. LANSDOWNE BRIDGE.
Passing through Liverpool, which has a population of 600 inhabitants and
is situated on the left bank of George’s river, I arrived at three miles
beyond that town at Lansdowne bridge, where the largest arch hitherto
erected in Australia had been recently built by Mr. Lennox. The necessity
for a permanent bridge over Prospect Creek arose from the failure of
several wooden structures, to the great inconvenience of the public, this
being really a creek rising and falling with the tide. The obstacle, and
the steepness of the left bank, which was considerable, have been
triumphantly surmounted by a noble arch of 110 feet span which carries
the road at a very slight inclination to the level of the opposite bank.
The bridge is wholly the work of men in irons who must have been fed, and
must consequently have cost the public just as much if they had done
nothing all the while; and it may be held up as a fair specimen of the
great advantage of convict labour in such a country when applied to
public works. The creek is navigable to this point and, stone being
abundant and of good quality on the opposite side of George’s river, one
gang was advantageously employed in the quarry there while another was
building the bridge. Mr. Lennox ably seconded my views in carrying these
arrangements into effect. He contrived the cranes, superintended the
stone cutting, and even taught the workmen; planned and erected the
centres for the arches and finally completed the structure itself which
had been opened to the public on the 26th of January.
Before venturing on so large a work I had employed Mr. Lennox on a
smaller bridge in the new pass in the ascent to the Blue Mountains, and
the manner in which he completed that work was such as to justify the
confidence with which I suggested to the government this larger
ARRIVE AT SYDNEY.
At length I arrived at Sydney and had the happiness on terminating this
long journey to find that all the members of my family were well,
although they had been much alarmed by reports of my death and the
destruction of my party by the savage natives of the interior.