Tag Archives: Cluny Dam

Seeking pastoral scenes walking along the Derwent River

Strictly defined, the word ‘pastoral’ is associated with land used to graze sheep or cattle, and therefore any land used in this way will offer a pastoral scene.  However, in my mind, the word ‘pastoral’ is overlaid with romantic images from artists during the 17th to the 20th centuries that idealised farming land.  Artists such as Claude Lorrain, Henry Milburne, and John McCartin are amongst thousands of artists who created and followed in this aesthetic tradition.

During my walk from the mouth to the source of the Derwent, occasionally I hoped to see pastoral scenes in which I could imagine an idealised lifestyle.  However this wasn’t possible in the area of the land between Gretna and Cluny Dam – severe drought continues to keep much of the land that was cleared for animal grazing, with little or no grass. On some farming lands I walked across sandy paddocks where the ‘soil’ was barely held together by the occasional weed.



This is not the first time I have mentioned the dryness of the farming land up and down the area between Gretna and Cluny Dam during my blog.  In the past I have included photographs of severe cracks in the ground.


Nevertheless every time I walked on a different property in that area and when I came across the vegetation-free ‘soils’, I was aghast at how bad things are for some farmers. There is no romance in these scenes.

Between the house and road gate

Nevertheless, on most farming properties, some paddocks have been irrigated by drawing water from the Derwent River giving rise to lush grass for grazing, or for fodder and other crops.


Flat area below vines before hatchery.jpg

Sheep on flat before hatchery below old Meadowbank house.jpg

On Cluny - yellow crop.jpg

Between these two extremes are paddocks with a moderate amount of grass cover, enabling stock to graze.


I admire our farmers who manage to survive despite the climatic ravages to their properties.  We need them to survive.  We need to eat.

I would have loved to show you photographs of the rolling hills in combination with the Derwent River and the adjacent landforms, whose shapes I simply adore.  However, to do so would be to identify the location of where I had walked, and therefore on whose property I was permitted to cross.  Blog followers who have discovered my site only recently can refer to Tackling the Derwent in the Meadowbank Lake region in order to understand that I promised not to tell which properties I had walked on – owners had various excellent reasons, and so I continue to honour my vow.  It does mean, of course, that where the owners did not mind others knowing that I walked on their land, I cannot declare these either because by deduction, readers would be able to determine those owners who want their privacy maintained.

But I will give you snippets of images which I hope don’t help others make identifications.  The images help me to see this part of our country has strong, albeit weathered, bones.  Very beautiful in their starkness.

Hills in the distance.jpg

Hills near Meadowbank dam.jpg

Hills on way back to Meadowbank Rd.jpg

Hills near Ski club.jpg


Walking across farmland – posting 1 of 2

From past as yet undescribed walks, I have a large backlog of information and photographs to write into posts and publish. It is my priority to grab snatches of time to write.

Tasmania has been marked by many plus 30 degree days over the past couple of months, and it was on one of those days that I walked next to the flow of the Derwent River across a couple of private farms in the area between Cluny Dam and Gretna. In earlier posts I have declared that my ideal walking temperature is between 15 and 20 degrees and while I dreaded walking in the searing dry heat, I feel compelled to walk when drivers offer their services to get me to the starting point and collect me at the end. Thanks Alex for being available and helping me achieve my goal.

As usual I will not identify the location of my walks between Gretna and Cluny Dam, so that I meet the commitment I make to the landowners to maintain their privacy.  As usual I have a couple of hundred glorious photos and unfortunately I cannot publish most because they will identify the properties on which I walked.  Nevertheless there are some stories to tell and they are not without colour and texture.  Despite the constraints, I will do my best.

On this particular day, the air was bright and clear and the forests beckoned.  When I start a walk, I always wear a smile on my face.

Starting the walk.jpg

The first gate was easily passable.


Later I found other gates less accommodating. One makes me smile as I remember, although the gate put me in a spot of difficulty at the time.  I recall the surrounding fences were not climbable and the gate was padlocked. Unfortunately the gate was high (and I have comparatively short legs) and the wire mesh offered no easy toe-hold.  Nevertheless I had no choice but to get over that gate. Somehow I managed to get astride the top, and with the gate moving on its hinges, I sat pressed on the upper iron bar in a most unstable and uncomfortable position.  Because of the movement of the gate I couldn’t get my balance to swing my leg over easily.  No-one around.  No-one expected.  Just me.  On the top of the gate.  Hot sun searing my brains.  I think a cartoonist could have made an amusing image of this circumstance.  Eventually I tried a sort of falling-off-the gate-manoeuvre, caught a strap of my gaiters in the wire mesh and nearly yanked a leg off, and then stepped onto the ground. Relieved. Glad to be on the other side. Obstacles can always be overcome! Of course, the best gates are those that I find open.

Open gate.jpg

Once through the forest, I walked across low level dry vegetation which cracked and crackled as my boots crossed the ground.

Dry vegetation starting out.jpg

Throughout this particular walk the Derwent River always flowed nearby. Once more I fell in love with its colours and movement.  Yet again, I fell in love with the trees and grasses that grow beside the River.

River excerpt.jpg






Cluny Dam

On an earlier reconnaissance trip I approached the Cluny Dam. The photos show both sides of the Dam.




On my ‘gap’ walk, I headed down the hill from the Hydro Tasmania locked gate, and enjoyed watching the Cluny Lagoon sweeping around a curved piece of land below.


I followed the road and vehicular tracks for a way and generally wandered around the Cluny Lagoon/Dam area.



Then I headed to the water upstream of Cluny Dam, ready to walk along the banks.



Starting out for the walk to Lake Repulse Dam

I chose to walk to Cluny Dam from a gated entrance road and then head back westwards all the while walking next to Cluny Lagoon towards my goal which was the Lake Repulse Dam.

To reach the start of the walk, and thanks to Megan, I was driven down the main gravel road from the Lyell Highway (you need to turn off left after the town of Ouse) until we came to a junction indicating the two dams.


Of course, we drove down the Cluny Dam road until it was time for me to start walking. The road to the Cluny Dam is blocked by a gate so if you wish to follow in my footsteps, you should obtain permission from Hydro Tasmania.



The day was marked with rain on the horizon and sometimes a few spots lightly dropped on me. The rain showers softened the distant relatively undisturbed bush landscape in stark contrast to the crisp dry yellow grasses on the cleared land around me.



The blue of Cluny Lagoon, through which the Derwent River runs, was ever present.  As usual the water uplifted my spirits.

Cluny Dam, Cluny Lagoon and Lake Repulse Dam

Walking between the two dams is an easy stroll offering dramatic vistas as the Derwent River twists and turns its way through Cluny Lagoon. You can expect to read a series of posts about this little walk – which filled one of the gaps in my trek from the mouth to the source of the Derwent River.

Chantale’s aerial photos below show Cluny Dam, Lake Repulse Dam and then some of the water rushing towards Cluny Lagoon.

IMG_3895Cluny dam.JPG

IMG_3893Repulse Dam.JPG


Michelle’s photo shows some of Cluny Lagoon snaking in a fat shape behind the Dam, and then closer to Lake Repulse Dam.

PA280086Cluny dam and lagoon.JPG



My photos below show Cluny Lagoon backed up onto Cluny Dam, and the Derwent River let run from Lake Repulse Dam and heading towards Cluny Lagoon.



Hamilton and Ouse in Tasmania

These two historic towns straddle the Lyell Highway and both are situated a distance from the Derwent River.  Private farms fill the distance. Direct access to the River can only be achieved by driving approximately 15 kms when leaving Hamilton, or when driving from Ouse, the River or Meadowbank Lake can be reached from two directions; one approximately 7 and the other approximately 10 kms away.

Hamilton is located approximately 4kms ‘as the crow flies’ to the east of Meadowbank Lake.  The Clyde River, which passes through Hamilton empties into Meadowbank Lake (and it once flowed directly into the Derwent River before the Meadowbank Dam was built in 1967).  Tasmania for Everyone claims ‘Hamilton had its origins at a time when early European settlement of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) had progressed from Hobart up the Derwent Valley. The first settlers arrived here shortly after New Norfolk was settled in 1807. A ford across the “Fat Doe River” probably led to the first settlement of the area then known as Sorell Plains, with the village first named Macquarie’s Town, and later, Lower Clyde.By 1828 there were a few weatherboard and sod cottages on the banks of the Clyde, whilst by the 1830s a visitor noted there were some thirty sly grog shops as one entered the town. The name Hamilton had already been suggested for the settlement sometime in 1825 when, during a visit, Lt. Governor Arthur asked if Bothwell would not be suitable, being a Scot himself and dining with the mainly Scottish settlers. The “Fat Doe River” was renamed the Clyde and Hamilton and Bothwell chosen as names for the new settlements, both names recalling towns on the lower and upper Clyde in Scotland.
Occupying a strategic location in the development of roads and agriculture, Hamilton became the focal point of the transport of produce into and out of the district.  By 1832 there were sixty persons living in the settlement and surrounding landholders successfully petitioned for a police establishment as protection from marauding bushrangers and a spate of robberies.
By 1835 the district population had zoomed to 779, including 309 convicts and by 1837 the Police establishment had eleven petty constables and a flagellator (for whipping punishment).  With cheap convict labour it was during this period that many of the town’s buildings (which still stand today) and bridges were constructed.
By 1844 Hamilton was a bustling town, with two breweries, six or seven Inns, a blacksmith, stone quarries, mills, three agricultural implement makers and a large convict probation station; it held its own Races and Hunts, indeed development was so promising that the town was marked out as a major country town, in the style of an English town at the time, with squares, an esplanade, a Circus and Municipal Reserve.
A drive up onto the Hamilton Plains shows the roads laid out, and the decaying, dry stone walls are a reminder of the failed attempt by the mainly Irish settlers to farm the rich volcanic but dry soils of the plains. Nevertheless, Hamilton remained a bustling country town throughout the remainder of the 19th century, with the population peaking at 400 in 1881 and developments like the Langloh Coal mine to the northwest of the town in the late 1930s ensured its importance as a major rural centre.
Increasing mechanisation and improved road transport effectively put an end to Hamilton’s growth. Whilst sadly these factors led to Hamilton’s decay and ultimate demolition of some notable buildings, many fine examples remain in the streetscape having an ambience redolent of our colonial history.’ 

Hamilton is located on the far side of the hill in the photo below. The water is part of Meadowbank Lake.


In Chantale’s photo below, the Clyde River is running into Meadowbank Lake. At the top centre of the photo you can see a few houses and these form part of the town of Hamilton.


Ouse (pronounced ooze) is located approximately 3 kms ‘as the crow flies’ to the east of the Derwent River between Cluny Dam and the north western end of Meadowbank Lake. Tasmania for Everyone claims Ouse is ‘a small rural Central Highlands town on the Lyell Highway, situated on the junction with the Victoria Valley Road and on the banks of the Ouse River. Ouse is the settlement where convicts James Goodwin and Thomas Connolly broke out of the South West Wilderness four weeks after their escape from Sarah Island. Ouse Post Office opened on 1 October 1835.’

In Michelle’s photo below you will need to imagine that Ouse is located over the low hills in the distance away from the Derwent River.

PA280084Top of Meadowbank Lane and then Derwent again.JPG

John Wadsley’s Brighton, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley and Southern Midlands Councils Joint Land Use Planning Initiative – Stage 2 Heritage Management Plan of July 2010 provides additional historical information concerning the building of bridges to enable expansion and ease transport, the significance of convict labour in settling the Valley, and the growth of farming, the development of industries, and the establishment of hydro power generating facilities.

Catherine Nicholson’s Highland Lakes Settlement Strategy of December 2009 offers further information about the history of settlement in the Derwent Valley.

What I notice, in all the histories of the Derwent Valley that I have read, is that attention is seldom given to the Derwent River rather it is focused on the rivers which fed into the Derwent, and also on the central highland lakes.  The search for fertile soil in which to grow wheat and other crops, and for land offering suitable pastures for sheep and cattle, was of paramount importance.

The photo below shows me in Hamilton. Behind me, the Clyde River (which flows into Meadowbank Lake) is located at the bottom of the hill and edges a delightful park which suits picnicking. I am sort of smiling but I was hot and bothered after a delightful day’s walk elsewhere.


Aboriginal history associated with Meadowbank Lake

Hydro Tasmania acknowledges aboriginal history was apparent in a cave that is now beneath the waters of Meadowbank Lake in central Tasmania.

In 1977, J Stockton wrote a paper A Tasmanian painting site which adds to the information provided by the Hydro.  The paper provides some background on the submerged cave and indicates that other caves exist with similar markings and ochre residues.

I do not know where these caves are and I wouldn’t want to visit and disturb them even if I knew their location.  Therefore, Chantale’s photo below, showing the north western end of Meadowbank Lake as it receives Derwent River water travelling downstream from Cluny Dam, is simply a picture of one part of the Derwent River system and it is not intended to relate to the location of the caves. I have included it simply to remind readers how part of Tasmania appears these days; that is, with all the signs of European settlement and land control.

IMG_3897Top of Meadowbank Lake.JPG