27 October (Sydney)

AGREEABLE TRAVELLING.

October 27.

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.

October 28.

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.

JUGION CREEK.

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.

BRUNONIA ABUNDANT.

October 29.

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

latter.

YASS PLAINS.

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.

October 30.

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.

BREDALBANE PLAINS.

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.

LAKE GEORGE.

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

Wollondilly.

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.

THE WOLLONDILLY.

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.

Goulburn Plains consist of open downs affording excellent pasturage for

sheep and extending twenty miles southward from the township, their

breadth being about ten.

A GARDEN.

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.

October 31.

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.

PUBLIC WORKS.

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.)

SHOALHAVEN RIVER.

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

quartz.

UPPER SHOALHAVEN.

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.

CARWARY.

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

since explored.

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.

GOULBURN TOWNSHIP.

November 1.

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

exhausted.

GREAT ROAD.

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.

TOWRANG HILL.

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.

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.)

BERRIMA BRIDGE.

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.

BERRIMA.

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.

TRAP RANGE.

November 2.

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.

SANDSTONE COUNTRY.

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 ILLAWARRA.

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.

LUPTON’S INN.

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.

November 3.

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

enough.

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

undertaking.

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.