Walking in convict footsteps

Once allowed out of our Local Government Area, Mr S and I headed off to a walk I’ve wanted to do for a while – the Old Northern Road built by convict chain gangs. The recalcitrants, the wrong ‘uns of the wrong ‘uns, were sent to clear a path through trees and bush, up a vertical cliffs, so the colony could reach the plains of the Hunter Valley.

The walk has plenty of information points so the steep climb is relatively easy. Some info plinths have recreations of artefacts, like the leg irons Mr S is wearing below.

Flannel flowers abounded. A clever sign of spring. I’d say there were fields of them except they were growing out of vertical rock faces.

The road was quite wide – two cars could pass easily, though it’s closed to traffic, only walkers and bikes allowed. Most amazing was the culverts, drains, buttresses and curved stone walls supporting the road. Imagine! All this carved from solid rock, by hand, on a diet of flour, tea and, often rancid, meat. Colonisation was brutal on the colonisers too.

The view across the Hawkesbury River was beautiful. Spoiled by the noise of the masses of motorbikes on one of the favourite weekend motorbike routes.

The plan was to do the gentle walk, up and down the same road. But we decided to do the loop and return via the narrow road that was the first attempt by the surveyor to create a road, until the governor, rightly, declared it too steep and the second attempt was made – the track we took up.

Before we hit the down hill (read down cliff), we walked along the ridge. An interesting walk with views west to a swamp and through bush, where we saw a goanna and a lyrebird, and masses of Gymea lilies.

Then we hit the downhill track. Oh my god. It was steep and more like a water channel for stormwater run off. A goat track maybe. It was hard going. Lots of unsteady footfalls with loose rocks and pebbles.

From the bottom of the track we had 2km to return to the ferry. Mr S volunteered to walk the extra distance to our car, so I waited for his return. I’d done nearly 10km. But it was the downhill goat track that did me in.

After crossing back to the Wiseman’s Ferry side of the river, we had a little picnic.

Oh it was lovely to be out and beyond our LGA. And amazing to know that this wild beauty is only 45 minutes drive from home.

5 thoughts on “Walking in convict footsteps

  1. Those flowers look almost like they have been made of paper. It must have been a tough life for the convicts – I wonder how many died in the process of building that road or how many wished they were dead at the time?

      • We have relatives in Australia but they went out there in the fifties not as convicts but there was an Australian cousin that DH’s aunty went out to marry so his family might well have originated from the convict line!

      • There must be many British and Irish who have convict connections – or the marine overlords. Mr S has origins from convict times. Both my parents were post-war migrants. Dad as a teen with his father an assisted settlement program for British WWII soldiers. My mum an assisted midges to program for Europeans in our “populate or perish” push.

      • I seem to think DH’s Uncle and Aunt that married the Australian cousin overv there went out on an assited program after the war – so all his dad’s side (brother and sister) are out there and he has many cousins and their children and grandchildren that we just don’t really know at all. They are mostly on the Perth side.

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