Tag Archives: Cumbria

The Fall of the Derwent

Early during my walk along Tasmania’s Derwent River from the mouth to the source, I was travelling near Repulse Dam on a reconnaissance trip when I came across two others.  It was a strange experience.  Previously I had become aware that two women planned, with assistance and support from others, and with the direct engagement of specific groups of people in some parts, to walk from the mouth to the source.  That day, as Andrew and I drove around for me to suss the landscape and the walking route options, when I saw two women seeming to do the same, we stopped them and I asked questions.  ‘Yes we are those women’, said Justy Phillips and Margaret Woodward.  I am sure they were as surprised as I was.

Since then, Justy and Margaret have made their way alongside various parts of Tasmania’s Derwent River and arrived at Lake St Clair where they were Facebooked taking a dip in those cold waters, seemingly delighted with their arrival.

Their project was very different from mine.  In my case, I wanted to walk around the whole of the Greater Hobart Area, and then to walk every metre of the way to the source at St Clair Lagoon dam.   By contrast, Justy and Margaret walked alongside parts of two Derwent Rivers; Tasmania’s Derwent River and the other in Cumbria England.  The experience of and learnings from their walks were used as part of the basis to write what they describe as a ‘fictionella’; written in the form of text artwork, similar in appearance to poetry.

That book is titled Fall of the Derwent. In this website you can see  range of photographs including two where Justy and Margaret are holding their black covered book.

Cover of book.jpg

The title of the book references a drawing by an early Tasmanian surveyor George Frankland which he named ‘Fall of the Derwent’.  Colonial artist Thomas Bock engraved the image and James Ross printed the picture in The Hobart Town Almanac in 1830. The picture was drawn at a site near unpassable rapids on the Derwent River upriver from New Norfolk.  When Justy and Margaret walked past what they believed was that place, they took a suite of black and white photographs;  half a dozen or so of these images are bound into their book.  Without returning to that area I seem to remember the spot.  After reviewing my photographs in that area, clearly I was looking for serenity and simplicity.  I was looking at colours and contrasts.  It seems I was focusing on one way of seeing that world of the Derwent River, and Justy and Margaret’s view is an alternative.20150917_094036.jpg

20150917_095352.jpgI did not focus on the twisted interlacing of stark and scrappy vegetation at the river edge like Justy and Margaret have done  The differences in our images is a reflection on the different nature of our projects. I wanted to entice others to be seduced by the beauty of the landscape and then to make their own journeys along the river edge (I now wonder why I didn’t see vegetation tangles as beautiful).  When I read their book it seemed they wanted to use their experiences as the basis for creative abstract thoughts; perhaps even a metaphysical approach involving questions such what is there in that world and what is it like at a more profound level.  My approach was literal and descriptive.

The Phillips/Woodward Fall of the Derwent publication presents poetry-styled ideas and comments in ‘chapters’ headed by the days of the week; the book proceeds over  44 days consecutive days – but the ideas associated with both rivers are intermixed.

“Let us begin with two rivers / And a Dad not long for living. / Two daughters …”

Despite the introductory lines, theirs is not a chronological story connecting the sequences of walking the two rivers; reference is made to other locations such as Cape Barren Island, Dover Point, and Brisbane. And the English father walked with Justy and Margaret when they traipsed near the Cumbrian Derwent. As an intertwined overlay in this book, mention is made of his declining health – Dad in pain, no longer able to feed himself, no longer speaking.  For this reason and for the manner of writing which removes easily identifiable meaning through much of the publication, this book has a limited audience and is obviously a set of personal ideas to be understood, remembered and perhaps loved by the authors. For their personal satisfaction. I was surprised that this book uses combinations of words that do not create, for most of the book,  visual images of either of the two rivers. Instead, the poetry reads as a meshing of many experiences which presumably helps Phillips/Woodward to reconstruct a feel of those experiences.

On occasion, where the meaning was clear because I could recognise specific locations, I enjoyed some of the lines. For example, “…rows of hops that string this neck of the river…” referred to the hop vines and their structural strings in the Bushy Park area.  These hop fields obviously made a significant impression on Justy and Margaret because there was a second comment on the same topic; “…the hops in single file march orderly disruption to the valley.”  Then, when they walked around the Wayatinah Power Station, “…the woodstave pipeline is a blistering gland … Draws the corset of her breathing”.  Like Justy and Margaret, I looked in awe at these two locations and their dramatic impact was described during my posts.  To remind you – here are photos of the hop fields and others of the wooden pipeline.   20150918_104145.jpg



DSC01655e.jpgJusty and Margaret learnt in Cumbria; “On the banks of the River Derwent, that the term ‘black market’ is born. Through the illegal trading of graphite.”  Then they found graphite was part of the geological structure at Wayatinah on Tasmania’s Derwent.  From these findings, grew the idea to play with ‘black’; the book’s cover is black, some copies are cloth bound and impregnated with carbon powder, the Fall of the Derwent and ‘black’ are interconnected within the text, and one section of the book presents a list of locations along Tasmania’s Derwent which include ‘black’ in the name; examples include Black Bob’s Rivulet and Blackmans Bay.

Phillips/Woodward’s book Fall of the Derwent was part of a public artwork presented in association with GASP (Glenorchy Art & Sculpture Park) in 2016. Further information can be accessed here. If you click on ‘Download Hydrographic Score’ you will be able to read the book online.

How did Hobart’s Derwent River get its name?

Dan Sprod’s information for the Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies was a great help in understanding that our Derwent’s (http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/R/River%20Derwent.htm) European discovery was made during the second (1793) visit to what is now the island of Tasmania, by French explorer Bruny d’Entrecasteaux. The given French name ‘Rivière du Nord’ never took hold. When Englishman Lieutenant John Hayes arrived in April 1793, he was unaware of d’Entrecasteaux’s visit two months earlier, and named the river after the Derwent River in England.

Great Britain’s Derwent River flows through Cumbria, a sparsely populated non-metropolitan county in the north west of England.

Cumbria contains the famously beautiful Lakes District, and presents as a combination of mountains, rugged seashore, parkland and rural landscape. In the early eighteenth century, the landscape and climate similarities between Cumbria and our island’s river backed by the stunning Mount Wellington make it easy to understand how our river came to be named.  In England, the name Derwent is derived from a Celtic word for “oak trees”.  Australia and Tasmania do not have native trees with the same leaf and character as English Oaks. However the heavy thick forests with large stands of trees either side of Tasmania’s Derwent River, would have made a strong impression on Lieutenant Hayes.

The Cumbrian Derwent flows westwards towards the Irish Sea; the city of Workington sits at the mouth. Google Earth includes photos of a mountain, powdered with snow, showing similarities with our Mount Wellington at cooler times.  I imagine Lieutenant Hayes would have been away from England for many months, if not years, and so his ability to make direct comparisons between his English and our river would be based on hazy memories.  Notwithstanding this, when I look at a current photo of the Derwent in Cumbria, the landscape has a character similar to our local environment. Of course, the landscape and its features at both locations will not be the same as when seen in the late 1700s. However and despite the passing of centuries, I can see how and why Lieutenant Hayes chose to name our river, the Derwent.

But what about the man; what was Lieutenant Hayes connection with Cumbria and the Derwent River?

The Australian Dictionary of Biography (MUP Volume 1 1996) notes that Sir John Hayes (1768-1831), naval officer and explorer, was baptized on 11 February 1768, the son of Fletcher Hayes of Tallentire on the River Derwent, England. On 7 December 1781, when 13, he joined the Bombay Marine as a midshipman on the Bombay. By December 1788 he was promoted to second lieutenant and his rise through the ranks continued over the years. Hayes is best remembered for a private voyage undertaken between February 1792 and December 1794. Glowing accounts of New Guinea’s economic potential fired Hayes to lead an expedition financed by some Calcutta merchants. On 6 February 1793 the Duke of Clarence (250 tons) and the Duchess of Bengal (100 tons) left Calcutta, India. Because of adverse winds Hayes could not sail direct to New Guinea, so at the young age of 27 years, he decided to voyage round New Holland (this was the original European name for Australia). He reached Van Diemen’s Land on 24 April and left on 9 June. During that time, he discovered and named the Derwent River, and other features of the terrain. Risdon Cove and Cornelian Basin still bear the names he gave them. According to the publication “British Heritage of Tasmania’, (http://members.iinet.net.au/~rwatson1/britishheritage/BRITISH%20HERITAGE%20OF%20TASMANIA.pdf

Hayes named Ralphs’ Bay (a beautiful bay which I have mentioned during both my first and second stage of walking along the eastern shore of Tasmania’s Derwent River) at Lauderdale, after William Ralph who was in charge of the Duchess of Bengal.

While I would like to think that the City of Clarence (the eastern shore city of the Greater Hobart Area and the one in which I live) must have been named specifically after the ship which Hayes’ commanded, this apparently isn’t true.  It seems that the City of Clarence was named after King William IV of the United Kingdom who as he ascended the throne was titled His Royal Highness, The Duke of Clarence and St Andrews. However, let’s look at this a little more closely. In 1843, Prince William (the future King William IV crowned in 1830) began a career in the Royal Navy by becoming a midshipman at 13 years. In 1789 he was made Duke of Clarence, and then retired from the Navy in 1790.  The elements are: the future king is a naval man who held the title of Duke of Clarence before Lieutenant John Hayes (who started his naval career as a midshipman) set out from India towards Australia. Travelling to Tasmania, Hayes just happens to be in command of a ship named the Duke of Clarence in 1793. How did his ship get the name?  Considering the timing, surely Hayes ship was named in honour of the new Duke of Clarence (the Sailor King or Silly Willy as the future king was known). I would prefer to believe that the name of today’s City of Clarence lying along the eastern edges of the Derwent River, is a reference to the ship of the man who named our River, and only indirectly refers back to the early title of King William IV.