|The Primitive Bush Track|
he Sydney Morning Herald
FROM PENRITH TO BATHURST.
[FROM OUR SPECIAL REPORTER]
Even in its beat and smoothest condition the Great Western Road is by no means a pleasant thoroughfare to travel upon. The most primitive bush track would bear favour- able comparison with some portions of it . And though large sums of money have been expended upon it-literally thrown into the mud-the Great Western Road certainly exhibits some of the very worst specimens of macadamias tion that ever came under my notice. The road over Lapstone Hill is the only portion between Pen- rith and Bathurst that is easily passable. Elsewhere the track is more like the sinuous bed of a ravine torn up by furious mountain torrents. The metal used in the formation of this admirable highway is a soft kind of sandstone, which it soon pulverised by traffic, and which, therefore, tends to increase the evil that it is meant to
remedy. The hollows and deep ruts are filled with this rub- bish, which is soon crushed into dust, and then the first rain turns the holes so filled up into treacherous quagmires. Then, again, the constant succession of "ups and downs" which the adventurous traveller experiences while journeying along this fine "artery of com- merce ''-as some grandiloquent M.L.A. has called it-is both fatiguing to one's body and exacerbating to one's temper. The most softhearted philanthropist would have the milk of human kindness almost entirely churned out of him by a trip along that thoroughfare-and the most resigned and easy tempered of mortals would feel inclined to murmur at his unhappy lot were he placed in a similar position. Had I not seen the road-travelled upon it-got myself humped into a quaking mass of grum- bling humanity-I would not have believed that such a wretched apology for a main trunk line existed in tho colony. It is indescribably bad. It is so rough, and sloppy, and ill-made, and boggy, and water-worn, and neglected, that from personal observation of what it now is, one is at a loss to say what it may once have been. How teams can travel at all in wet weather is a mystery ; and I'm sure tbat 's coaches must be made of some magically strong mater¡al, or they never could stand the racketing that they do. The amiable reader, unacquainted with the locality, will probably imagine that I exaggerate the evil. No such thing. No description could exaggerate it ; and that so im- portant a thoroughfare should remain in such a deplorable condition is a disgrace to the colony. The cost of main- tenance would not be very great, and no doubt those who use road would be glad to pay additional tolls if they could only have it properly repaired. Of course, the railway will, when completed, absorb a good deal of the traffic, but still the public should not be inconvenienced while they are waiting for the railway to begin its work. The main roads will be much used even after the traim commences running, and they ought to be kept in at any rate, a mode- rately good state of pair. Moreover, the opening of the rail- way beyond Penrith seems likely to be delayed for somelittle time longer. The repairs to the line will take a few weeks- the officials say "a few days," but I may safely venture to extend the term, for it will take at least n fortnight to repair the Penrith bridge-and if the train begins to run to the Weatherboard within the next month, people may think themselves lucky.
No doubt the late heavy rains and floods have made bad worse in the case of the Great Western Road- though it seems to me that no amount of rain could have made it very much worse than it was. The makers of the road are more to blame than the floods, for the latter have only spoiled it in patches, while the former have bungle the whole from beginning to end.
The floods have so much injured the Western approach to the Penrith Bridge as to render it impassably, and the punts being swept away, the mails have to be carried over on foot, and placed in the mail coach on the other side. On the Emu Plains, near Lucas"s place, the road has been completely gutted, embank
ment and metal having been washed away for a distance of about 200 yards. At this point the coach has to leave the track and cross tbe plain, returning to the road again just before reaching the Post-office at Emu Plains From thence to Wascoe's Inn, at the top of Lapstone, there are no difficulties to encounter save tbe ascent of the hill which is not very trying, the way being firm and smooth. After leaving Wascoe' s, however, the traveller may bid adieu to anything like comfort. Large holes have been washed in the road and many of these are filled with soft yellow mud, into which the wheels sink to the axles. In many places the scouring of the water has swept away the earth, and left the large stones, used in forming the basis of the road, quite bare. The passage over these boulders may be better imagined than described, and indeed it would be very hard by mere words to convey anything like a true idea of the obstructions which impede the flow of traffic through this "artery of commerce." The railway embankements, which are for the most part to be seen from the road seem to be uninjured, although in some places heaps of loose soil have been swept down on to tho line where it runs through cuttings . Ellison's pinch is about the worst "bit" that vehicles have to get over between Penrith and Bues's, from whence to Russart's public house-three miles further on-the road is in rather a more passable condition From Bues's, the water of the Nepean may seen about twelve miles away, spreading out over the country below Penrith. They resemble a vast sheet of silver, and have a very pretty effect-more picturesque than agreeible, I fancy, to most of those who behold them.
From Russart's public house to Hartley the road is in a fearful state, full of holed and had culverts in many places destroyed. Between Little Hartley and the main township there are some very bad places, and in Hartley itself a culvert has been partially swept away, leaving barely room for the coach to pass on the portion which remains. Teams are not permitted to cross this dangerous spot, which a road party are busily engaged in repairing. The bridge across the Lett and Hartley is un- injured, although the flood completely covered it.
The remaining portion of the road as far as Bathurst, is in better order, although there are some dangerous pinches. The bridge at the Weatherboard seems to have stood the strain upon it well, for only a very light damage has been done to it, and that has been remedied already. The approaches to the bridge a the junction were swept away on the western side, but they were repaired by a party of men who remained on the spot to assist the mail coaches and light vehicles in crsssing. Teams were not permitted to go over the bridge, whick was very roughly mended, and which was deemed
too insecure for heavy traffic. The road over Mount Vic- toria has been almost impassable, but it is now in a much better condition owing to the active exertions of the road parties, who are hard at work in every direction making repairs.
Mr. S. De Lissa who left Bathurst on Friday last, about a quarter of an hour I before Denison Bridge gave way, and who encountered the full severity of the weather, informs me that the effects of the rain were frightful. At the time that he left Bathurst and heaviest rains had not fallen, but they set in soon afterwards, and speedily transformed every little gully and ravine into a foaming and dangerous torrent. It rained all Friday, so heavily and with such accompaniments of wind, that the horses would not face the weather. Tho down- pour however had no material effect upon tho road, up to the old tollbar at the Fryingpan, where the track was much guttered by tbe water ruinning over it Between that place and Durack's the difficulties of travelling were very groat. The water swept across the road in broad foaming sheets, in some places covering even the posts of the culvarts- which are about three feet six inches highi-and rendering traffic impossible. About a mile and a quarter on this side o f Durack's a culvert was swept away, so that people had to diverge from that track in order to cross the stream, which was not very deep. The road was in a dreadful state between Fern Grove and Solitary Creek-in fact, all but impassable. The little bridge at Solitary Creek stood the flood well, although the water completely covered the guide posts. The ascent from the creek was much cut up and washed into holes some of which were deep enough to contain n team of bullocks. The bridge over Cox'a River also remains in a passable state, although the flood swept over it for two days. On Sunday last the stream sub-- sided, and at the time Mr De Lissa crossed the water was six feet below the flooring. 'This bridge was much knocked about by the impetuosity of the flood and by tbe heavy timber, which lodged against it during Friday and Saturday. The Junction Bridge was also covered and more injured than any of the other similar works. , The first portion of the ascent from the Junction had sustained little damage, but a large landslip had occurred about the middle, leaving barely room to pass. Large masses of earth and stones had been washed down from the range above, and many large trees had fallen cross the track. Men were at work removing these obstructions, and now the road is almost clear. From Bowenfels to Hartley the road is good, having been more improved by the rain than otherwise.. The ascent of Mount Victoria was, as I am informed, an awful labour . The earth was washed away in masses, and large holes left. The mail coach got into one of these fissures on Friday night, and could not be got out until assistance was obtained. The vehicle had to be lifted out of the hole by main force. On Mount Victoria extensive land-slips have occurred, and the track was at one time almost blocked up by debris of all sorts. The hill was so cut-up and so covered with obstructions, that a vehicle might have gone down without the application of the break being reacquired to check it. A large gang of men are at work on this portion of the road, breaking the stones and filling in hollows. From this point to the Weatherboard the rain has done no damage, but from thence to Penrith the road has been scoured and cut up terribly.
As I said bofoee, the railway works have not suffered much. The injury to the Nepean Bridge is foremost in the list of casualties, and that injury will soon be remedied. The damage to tho western approach was caused by the washing away of tho river bank, the earth around the piles being thus removed. Three row s of piles have been carried away, and it is said that Mr. Whitton intends to dispense with them altogether, by throwing a single arch across from the stone pier to that portion of the approach which still remains sound. The authorities say that this work will be completed in a week, but as it has not yet been even begun, I am rather sceptical upon the point. The quantity of drift wood which accumulated against this western approach was immense. Tho workmen were busily engaged in clearing it away yesterday, and they removed tons upon tons of light stud and thick tim- ber. I believe that some little mischief was done about Lapstone Hill, but it was not of much consequence, and has already been put to rights . At Pulpit Hill, about twenty feet of the large railway embankment has been washed away. The rails are not laid so far yet, and the place where the embankment has given is just where it meets the rush of water down a gully in the side of the hill.
At Bathurst and in its vicinity the floods have done con- siderable damsge. Never was there such a flood known in the district. Before the fall of the bridge the water had surrounded and filled many dwellings on the low grounds, forcing the occupants to flee for their lives. The greatest amount of mischief was done on tho flats below the town, which were all overwhelmed. One brickemaker lost several kilns of bricks, in addition to all his household goods. Goods of every description were to be seen floating own superjecto aquore. On Thursday nigtht most of the people had been forced to quit the flat and seek the higher ground. During the night the approaches to the Vale Bridge were swept away, and the flood was then rising at the rate of six feet per hour. It continued to rise until the afternoon of Friday. The main bridge was carried away about noon, when the water had almost reached its greatest height. There were large numbers of people upon the bridge at the moment that it began to yield to tho mighty pressure of the water. Most of these imprudent people made their escape to the Kelso side, and were obliged to stay there. Mr. Rutherford (of and Co ) built a punt for convoying the mails across the river. In that they were enabled to return into Bathurst. The destruction of property around Bathurst has been very groat, but as yet it would be impossible to state its extent. One life was lost. A shepherd in the employ of Mr. Waltcr Rotten was drowned below Kelso, while endeavouring to save some of his master's sheep, 800 of which were destroyed.
The Fish River overflowed a large extent of country, but did little damage. Hartley also, being built on high ground, escaped almost scatheless. The skillion of one place-Stewart's public-house-was earned away entirely.
All the hotels between Hartley and Bathurst were filled with weather-bound travellers. In some cases, people who were separated from their homos by a gully or ravine were unable to get back, and were forced to wait until the flood subsidcd.
Penrith, as seen from Lapstone Hill, presents a singular appearance. The flood has subsided, leaving behind it vast accumulations of debris, heaps of mud, and pools of water in every direction. The flats and low lands wear a sombre tinge, as if the verdant fields had put on a mourning dress . The desolated huts cropping up here and there in the dreary waste are in- conceivably dismal looking. I have never seen so miserable a spectacle. The grief that is lying at so many hearts seems to have saddened oven the face of Nature, The very animals, what now have ? ? to be infected by it, and have a woebegone dissipated aspect. The river- broad, muddy, swift-glides on as if it had never been the instrument of desolating homes or blighting the hopes of mortals. The losses caused by this flood are fearful. It is impossible to estimate them. Hundreds are rendered penniless and homeless Many, from being well-to-do, are reduced to abject destitution, It is pitiable to witness so much misery. I hear that upwards of a thousand valuable horses have been drowned in tho neigh- bourhood of Windsor alone. Penrith has not suffered as much, but its woes are enough. I will not now relate the tales of wretchedness that have been told to me to-day They are such as one seldom read of- such, as one could not relate with calmness.
Large quantities of land on the banks of the Nepean have been swept away. Farms have by this means been entirely destroyed and their owners left landless as well as penni- less. A settler, named Gow , living about three miles above Penrith, lost the whole of a five- are paddock at one sweep. A person named Stone has also suffered a similar but more extensive loss about fourteen acres of his land being swept away. It was some of the richest land on the river. There has been a great deal of stock drowned, and below Penrith haystacks and other things may be seen lying on the banks of the river. Houses have been swept bodily away, and other have been torn to pices. The "hairbreadid escapes" are numerous. One woman was going to put her children to bed when the wall of the hut fell right across the bed in such a way as would inevitably have killed anyone lying in it. She fled from the place, and though she had to wade with her children, for a long distance, she at length reached a safe spot. A Mrs. euston was lying ill in her bed in a very feeble state, when the flood came down and half filled her dwelling. She has to wade up to he waist in water, with an infant in her arms, for nearly a mile to save her life. She reached dry land and was well cared for, bu her life is despaired of. A settler named Morgan, his wife and two children, were flooded out of their home, and took refuge on a day-stack. The waters rose around the, and the stack was just beginning to float away when a boat came and rescued them from certain death. Scores of such stories are told
The road to Castlereagh is utterly impassable, and the flood has been very high there. The water stood two feet six inches in the Wesleyan chapel, which is on high ground. Great numbers of cattle, horses, pigs and other animals have been swept away. The punt approaches on both sides of the river at Penrith have been utterly destroyed.
Many of the unfortunate people who have been flooded out, are wandering about in a miserable objectless way, trying to pick up such remnants of their household goods as they can. Some of the houses are full of mud which is level with the windows, and the former occupants are trying
to make them once more habitable.