In the first couple of decades of the 19th century, when increasingly the small Van Diemens Land colony demanded more roads and better river crossings, the first road from Hobart Town to New Norfolk was built by McCarty under contract to the government. By 1840, the road to New Norfolk had extended to Ouse and Marlborough (Nive River) to serve remote settlers. During the next forty years the road was further extended for tourist purposes to Lake St Clair (Refer http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/R/Roads.htm).
Wikipedia offers the information that the highway did not reach Queenstown until the 1930s and was not properly surfaced for some time after that. In post cards of the 1940s and 1950s it is called the West Coast Road. When Tasmania’s hydro-electric system was expanding and their works were under construction at Tarraleah in the mid-1940s, the highway was re-aligned to follow the Derwent River until it passed Tarraleah to provide better access to the area for construction vehicles.
A 2008 government report (http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/ctee/Joint/Reports/Lyell%20Hway.pdf), which recommended major changes be made to the road between Bridgewater Bridge and New Norfolk in order to create a safer highway, provided lots of information which added to my knowledge about this strip of road and its environment. I will be looking to see if the recommendations were acted upon when I walk (the temperature plummeted today, and wintry weather yet again made the walking of Stage 14 impossible).
The report explained ‘The Lyell Highway between Granton and New Norfolk is a two lane road with a sealed pavement width that varies in the range of 6.5m to 7.2m wide with unsealed shoulders. The highway follows the southern bank of the Derwent River. The highway is often located at the base of the hillside adjacent to the river flats and as a result has tight curves and sharp crests. The high, steep terrain on the southern side of the highway and deep soft silts on the northern side pose significant design challenges due to cost management and the environmental impact of the proposed works. The abutting land use is rural, dominated by rural residential with some horticulture (vineyards, tomatoes, cherries) and one private recreational facility, the Motor Yacht Club of Tasmania (MYCT). The Derwent River is a conservation area. On the southern side of the highway most of the land is hilly, mainly cleared with some trees along the roadside and a few scattered in the paddocks. There are some properties which remain untouched and vegetated by woodland. There are also rows of trees along the side of the road which form windbreaks and/or landscape features.’
According to the same report, the following three vegetation communities of conservation significance occur in the area:
- Phragmites australis grassland (generally referred to as a common reed): considered vulnerable and inadequately reserved at the state level.
- Acacia verticillata dry scrub (commonly known as Prickly Moses): of bioregional significance.
- Leptospermum lanigerum scrub (sometimes named the Woolly Tea Tree): of bioregional significance.
The trees of Potential Cultural Significance along that stretch of the Lyell highway include
- A stand of white gums between the roadside rest area and the Derwent River at Chain 7760 – 7860.
- Two weeping willows on the northern side of the highway at Chain 8215 – 8220.
- A row of old radiata pines on the southern side of the highway at Chain 10250 – 10350.
The following two significant flora species, listed on the Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, occur in the area:
- Austrostipa scabra (rough spear grass): southern side of the highway Chain 3300 – 3400, 6430 and 6610 – 6640; northern side of the highway at Chain 6940 – 7010.
- Vittadinia gracilis (woolly new holland daisy): southern side of the highway at Chain 3300 – 3400.
There are a number of additional features in the immediate area that are considered to have some cultural heritage significance. Project 3 Lime kiln, Chain 3250 – 3540, is located on the northern side of highway. This is currently listed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register (THR) (R701)(http://www.heritage.tas.gov.au/thr.html) and hence is subject to the provisions of the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995. There are a number of additional features in the immediate area that are considered to have some cultural heritage significance, such as the Marsh Farm and a redundant section of the old main road.