During the last school holidays I travelled through south eastern NSW, across into the Gippsland region of Victoria and then slowly made my way down to Melbourne, via the La Trobe valley.
There were times when I was quite surprised by the beauty of this part of Australia. It was one of the areas that I’d never visited. By reason and by repute, I thought it was likely to be most impressive. It was, both in terms of the special beauty of particular places, stark contrasts and environmental challenges.
Several places stand out. The first of these was the Fred Piper lookout, named after the man who drove a regular bus route from Bega through Bemboka and then up and over Brown Mountain to Cooma. Fred died in the winter of 1951, as he shovelled snow off the Snowy Mountains Way.
The lookout commands excellent view of the upper Bega valley out towards the town of Bemboka. The town “was established to serve the needs of the local dairy farmers and the travellers on the Brown Mountain Route. Brown Mountain (1241 m) lies about 25 km west of . . . . It was first crossed in 1816 when a bridle path was established. In 1822 a mail service from Cooma to the coast began traversing the route which became known as the ‘Postman’s Track’.” SMH December 8, 2008.
Quite apart from the view, along the escarpment are some beautiful remnants of wet sclerophyll forest, merging with temperate rain forests.
Down in the Bega valley, earlier clearing has transformed the landscape into one of verdant rolling hills with minimal tree cover. I reflected on just how abundant this area must have been before the settlers came when the Yuin people were the only people in this land. When I returned to Sydney, I looked through the Powerhouse Museum Flicker stream and came across this image that shows just what a chaotic impact unrestrained clearing had on such land.
I suspect that this image is more likely to have come from the north coast of NSW, but it illustrates the way much of eastern Australia was ‘developed’.
Travelling on further to Bega i was impressed by the obvious wealth of the area and the commercial success of the dairying industry. Just beyond Bega, in the heat of the day, the cattle seemed as though they might be resting in a slightly over heated version of the south of England.
Year ago, when I worked as a consultant with the Country Areas Program I flew into Merimbula before heading up the coast to Central Tilba for a school visit. Remembering the colour of the ocean along this stretch on the NSW south coast, the Saphire Coast, I was keen to head back to Merimbula. I wasn’t disappointed, but being the summer holiday period I soon headed inland again to escape the teaming caravan parks and look for a quieter camping spot. This wasn’t before I had the most curious architectural encounter. Sitting on a hillside in Merimbula is this extraordinary row of terrace houses.
My rational side tells me that it’s unlikely that there was ever terrace housing built here in the late 19th century. On close examination, the terrace has a very high standard of finish with little evident wear or weathering. The detail is excellent but the overall loom is of a much more recent building, particularly the brick work. If any readers have information about this remarkable terrace I’d love to learn more about it.
The Merimbula-Imlay Historical Society Inc., does say this on its website:
“After white settlement, the land now known as Merimbula was first owned by the Twofold Bay Pastoral Association. This association opened a port in Merimbula during 1855. In 1857 the first postmaster, Henry Jefferson Bate, was appointed. Sale of land commenced in 1860.”
Twofold Bay is one place I’d always wanted to visit. My images of this rea have been shaped by its history of whaling, but I was also aware that it’s a place of great natural beauty.
Twofold Bay is still a site of controversy. Just across the bay I noticed this huge stack of wood chips in the distance.
More to come.