Tag Archives: forestry

Changes to the Florentine landscape

The tall straight native trees on the upside of Florentine Road were majestic and commanding.  In many ways these were ‘the finds’ of the day as I walked towards the bridge over the Derwent near the township of Wayatinah.

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But elsewhere on the upside of the road were the marks of degradation of the original native vegetation for forestry purposes.  Acres of land across so many hills have been cleared. It was not a pretty sight.

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Road signs alert motorists to expect great log trucks on this road – from experience they do not drive slowly and take up much of the road because they do not expect to see other vehicles. So caution and care is important.  Motorists also need to be watchful in case one of the remaining trees should fall across the road unexpectedly.  After drenching rains, the hold of the root systems of trees into the ground can be weakened. If windy weather follows, then trees may topple.

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The euphoria continues

Yesterday a friend An drove me up along the Derwent River where we stopped off at a few dams, power stations and lakes. I was studying the terrain at ground level (our most recent Service Tasmania maps are aged and Google Earth photos are not current either), seeing where forestry and hydro tracks existed and determining where I will need to make my way through bush ‘with walls’. I can see a line of fiction here – turning an almost impassable density of bush into a character (an evil character – even though the bush is sublimely beautiful and bountiful) that has to be overcome.  My strategy will be as always, one slow step at a time and then the bush won’t even know I have come and gone (although my muscles will).

I walked some small sections yesterday, but I won’t write them up until I have walked in the areas westwards from Gretna to those sections.  I know now that it is difficult for some local readers to understand where I have been and therefore, if I change the blog posts from being a chronological record, it may be even more unclear.  Besides, by writing the stories in order and finishing with the last walk to the source it will be clear I have walked the Derwent.

Yesterday explorations and walks were as uplifting as the previous day’s flight; it was as equally wonderful, just different.  I feel gushy with delight when I am in the bush on a blue sky day, with no wind, and with a temp that rises sufficiently but not so that I boil.  Once I am sitting on rocks in the river bed with my lunch, listening to the birds, and sensing the spirit of the place, my life feels so right.  This is the place for me.

Then, despite the day’s experiences already being a treat, life added a new wonderful surprise.  Recently one of my blog followers, Justy, alerted me to the fact she and her partner were engaged in creating a new work of art for GASP beside the Derwent River at Glenorchy, a city in the Greater Hobart Area.  As part of their project, they had already walked along the Derwent River in Cumbria, England and now were planning to walk from the sea to the source of the Derwent early next year.  I hadn’t met them and only communicated a few times by email.  But yesterday, as An drove me towards Cluny Dam, I saw two women step from their car.  I waved and smiled as you do on a country road. As we drove on, I said to An “I bet they’re the two women who are engaged in the GASP project, out conducting a reconnaissance trip”. There was no reason to believe this except I felt I knew it to be the truth (the bush works its miracles). Nevertheless we continued on and had parked near the northern end of Cluny Lagoon when the two women drove past us. Again we waved. On a later road we found ourselves coming towards each other from opposite directions, so An waved them to a stop. The women looked at us queryingly. “Are either of you Justy or Margaret? we asked.” “Yes”, they responded. Instantly I called out, “I’m Helen”.  Their nod of acknowledgement followed. And then we all poured out of our cars, and hugged and had a lively chat standing on a dusty road in strong Spring sunlight. It was a brilliant unexpected meeting and capped off what had been a day of immense discovery and pleasure.

Best wishes for your project Justy and Margaret!

Wild West with Ray Mears

Blog reader, Be, alerted me to the third in a BBC program series, ‘Wild West with Ray Mears’. This episode focused on mountains and followed Mears travelling through the Appalachians, the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada to evaluate the landscape and its effect on the early European settlers as they moved west in North America.  Be indicated there was river edge walking and this reminded her of my quest to walk along the Derwent River in Tasmania – so I was eager to watch the documentary.

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I found that Ray Mears did access various rivers and streams to emphasize parts of his story, but direct connections to my walking project were slight. However, I found his story to be important because it has prompted me to ask new questions about the Derwent River and its most recent European settler history.  Hopefully others have already conducted research and can supply me with some answers – any leads will be welcome.

  • After initial settlement in Van Diemen’s Land at Risdon on the Derwent River in 1803, what was the nature of the westward push along the Derwent River by European settlers? Do we have names of the people and families of those who moved west? What are the dates associated with these movements?  What are their stories?
  • Why did they move along the River? Did they stop and set up camp, house or agricultural property? Do those buildings or farming properties still exist?  Is the land now in private or organisational hands or is it Crown Land? Or were people only passing through?  If so, what was their intended destination? Did people moving inland along the Derwent find some parts of the wilderness edging the River made their further progress impossible so that they moved away from the River? What are the movement stories?
  • To what extent was the River used for transport between Lake St Clair and New Norfolk? Where and when? What was transported on the River? Can anyone name ships/boats that were used? Were there recognised ferries across the River above New Norfolk?  I know the Derwent River has a series of rapids further towards the source.  Did these inhibit river travel?
  • In the rivers of the United States’ Rockies mountains, the ‘mountain men’ trapped beavers for their fur. Their fur was used to create a strong felt which could be used for those increasingly tall hats that were fashionable in the 18th century. What was the nature of any trade in possum skins and those of other animals that might have persuaded hunters to walk the Derwent River?  What are their stories?
  • Massive removal and usage of natural resources supported the westward movement of European settlers across America. When did forestry operations and logging commence west of Hobart in the Derwent Valley and how was the Derwent River used to support those operations? What mining expeditions and investigations were made along the Derwent River? When and by whom?  What were the outcomes of these searches and trials and finds?

Ray Mears met with a muleteer who explained why he loved being in the wilderness: ‘I leave no trace as I pass and just move through like a shadow’.  I hope that is how I walk.