Thursday, 25 April 2013

3 The Road as it Was

The Road Across the Mountains—What was it like?

The Specifications

People can walk the road today. It is signposted and reasonably cleared for all to see


The Governor was particular about the specifications for the road. It had to be at least 12 feet (about 4 metres—Ed) wide and wherever possible, 16 feet. Timber was to be cleared from the sides to a distance of 20 feet and where necessary culverts and bridges built. [1]

Part of Cox's Road as it appears today--4 metres wide with vegetation cleared and grubbed out--enough for a carriage to comfortably pass through

So, were these requirements met as the road passed through the area we now know as Warrimoo? It would seem from the comments made by both early explorers and subsequent travelers, that the landforms and vegetation of the territory between the “first depot” at Glenbrook Lagoon and the Woolpack Inn, held no great obstacles to the task of road-building at that time. The process, according to Mackaness, was as follows:

…An alignment was marked by blazing the trees along the route which presented the least difficulties. A track was cleared and grubbed along this route, the road was graded (by convict, bullock or horse teams—Ed), bridges and small culverts were made where necessary, but no attempt was made to metal it, and in rare cases only was it fenced…All obstacles were overcome; rocks were blown up by gunpowder; boulders were levered out, or removed by block and tackle from the alignment of the road… [2]

The section relating to Warrimoo was reasonably timbered, and apparently a certain species of ‘brush’ caused difficulty in being ‘grubbed out’, but otherwise the road was reasonably straight, marginally hilly, with a consistent sprinkling of what are referred to as “gums and stringybark” (Turpentines?—Ed). It is feasible, because of the degree of burning carried out by the Darug, that the “bushland” was considerably less dense than it generally is today. Such “denseness” did exist, but, it would seem, in various ‘patches’ along the Western Road rather than constantly.

This is a part that might approximate to the Blaxland-Spring Wood section, although the vegetation and tree density is probably greater than 1815

As any Mountains resident knows, dirt roads and tracks can simply become waterways after a serious downpour—no doubt this was a feature of some sections of the first road. Travellers were to complain of “sandy accumulations” and sections where rock and ledge “outcrops” had to be negotiated carefully. The section between Pilgrim Inn and Springwood would have been well worn and hardened into shape by use.

From the beginning, ‘Ironed-Gangs’ were stationed in camps and portable barracks across the Mountains to maintain and improve the “Western” or “Bathurst” Road. They were a common sight as one walked, rode, carriaged, or hitched a bullock-dray across the Blue Mountains in those early years before the Gold Rushes.

A rocky, but smooth section of Cox's Road--it was a great achievement, but would be subject to continuous maintenance and improvement in subsequent years

[2] MACKANESS, G., ed  Fourteen Journeys Over the Blue Mountains, 1813-1815,--PART 1- Number Three--Memoirs of William Cox, J.P., Review Publications, Dubbo, 1978 p.70 ‘Notes and Commentary

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