Tag Archives: Ouse

Recapping the walk along the Derwent River

 

I lived the walk along the Derwent with a vital obsession but, after so many months intensely engaged on other projects, now some of the details are vague. To re-immerse myself into the experience, I am writing this post.

In addition, I suspect it will be a great help to people who have become followers of my blog during the past 6 months.  Despite my inactivity, it surprises me how many visitors and views the blog gets daily, how many different posts are read, and how many different countries around the world are represented.

In August 2014, from an impulsive unplanned idea, I took a bus to a spot near the mouth of the Derwent River on the eastern shore, walked to the sea then retraced my steps and began the walk towards the source of this great river approximately 214kms inland.  On day trips, and around other life commitments, I walked in stages along the eastern shore until I reached the Bridgewater Bridge which crosses the Derwent approximately 43 kms upstream.

Instead of continuing inland, I crossed the bridge and headed back on the western shore towards the southernmost  mouth of the River.  Most of the walks along the eastern and western shores between the sea and the Bridgewater Bridge were along designated pathways, although some informal track walking, road walking and beach walking was required during my trips.

Then I returned to the Bridgewater Bridge and began the journey inland expecting only to walk on the side of the river that made passage easiest.  I had no intention to walk both sides from this point onwards in anticipation the landscape would be inaccessible for a number of reasons or particularly wild with dense and difficult forests. I walked to New Norfolk on the western/southern side of the Derwent but from then on, I switched from side to side. Using maps I determined where I must take up each new stage of a walk while switching from side to side, so that I could say I had traipsed the entire length of the Derwent River.

The farthest inland stages of my walk are easily defined.  I walked from near the township of Tarraleah besides Canal 1 (along which is transported Derwent River water) above the actual River bed, past Clark Dam, and around majestic Lake King William to the township of Derwent Bridge.  From there I followed the river to its source at St Clair Lagoon dam.  In case some people believe the source of the Derwent is further inland, I walked onwards to the weir where the Derwent Basin empties into the St Clair Lagoon via passing the southern end of Lake St Clair.

Between New Norfolk and the area near  Tarraleah, my walk beside the River was in country near  townships (some of which were located at a great distance from the River) such as Bushy Park, Gretna, Hamilton, Ouse, and Wayatinah.  This necessitated additional travel to or from the highway and roads, on which these towns exist, to reach the river or to return home from a walk along the river.

Inland, the water of the Derwent River is controlled by dams constructed to create hydro-electricity for Tasmania: I walked past them all. From the end of the river closest to the mouth, these are the Meadowbank, Cluny, Repulse, Catagunya, Wayatinah, Clark and St Clair Lagoon dams.  Each of these has a bank of water behind them:  Meadowbank Lake, Cluny Lagoon, Lake Repulse, Lake Catagunya, Wayatinah Lagoon, Lake King William and St Clair Lagoon.  Most of these dams and bodies of water has a power station: Meadowbank Power Station, Cluny Power Station, Repulse Power Station, Catagunya Power Station, Wayatinah Power Station and Butlers Gorge Power Station.  I was privileged to be shown around one of these power stations during one walk.

Water from the Derwent passes through two other power stations:  Nieterana mini hydro and the Liapootah Power Station.  I did not follow the trail of these Derwent River managed flows.  The water from other locations inland passes through the Lake Echo Power station and Tungatinah Power Station then flows into the Derwent after power generation, thereby increasing the volume of water flowing downstream.  I did not walk along these feeder rivers.

The few stages of the walks which have not been recorded in this blog, are in all the zone between Gretna and the area near Tarraleah – a stretch of perhaps  120 km.  I have written up and posted most of the walks in this zone, and now it’s time to add the missing sections.

Meadowbank Lake is a gem

 

Meadowbank Lake is the closest to Hobart of the six large dammed water masses along the Derwent River. It is also the easiest to access via a bitumen road (Dawson’s Road) that exits from the Lyell Highway between the towns of Hamilton and Ouse.  I have now passed this area many times and strongly recommend it for a picnic or a flying visit.

The views from the eastern/northern side

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The views from the middle of the bridge/causeway

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The views from the western/southern side

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lake Repulse Dam

Lake Repulse Map

Looking inland, Michelle’s photo shows the Lake Repulse Dam wall backed by Lake Repulse, with Cluny Lagoon in the foreground.

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Looking towards Hobart, my aerial photo below shows Lake Repulse, the Repulse Dam and then Cluny Lagoon in the distance.

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Chantale’s photo provides an excellent overhead view of the Lake Repulse Dam. The photo also gives walkers an indication of the challenges which the landscape offers beside Lake Repulse.

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For vehicle drivers, the Dam is reached by heading westward past the Ouse township, turning off the Lyell Highway and travelling down Lake Repulse Road. Aerial views show the roads at the Dam site clearly.

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The road continues across the Derwent River below Repulse Dam giving you an excellent opportunity for a close look at the structure.

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The western end of Cluny Lagoon, located a little downstream from the Repulse Dam, is stunning.

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To walk further inland around the Dam wall and then along the edge of Lake Repulse, the following photograph gives an indication of the landscape to be encountered.

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Michelle’s photo below shows part of the 8 km long Lake Repulse is a handsome water storage area.

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Historical information can be read, although I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information.  Hydro Tasmania provides details and adds a technical fact sheet.

Dunrobin Bridge over Meadowbank Lake

 

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Meadowbank Lake, a large spread of dammed water through which the Derwent River runs,  is located west of New Norfolk: an expanse of water which measures at least 15 kms in length.  Like many other dams and lakes on the Derwent, Meadowbank has been designed for electricity generation purposes.  The Meadowbank Power Station was commissioned in 1967. In a document The Power of Nature, Hydro Tasmania provides information about Meadowbank and the other electricity-generating lakes and stations across Tasmania.

The Dunrobin Bridge carries Dawson Road; a road which extends from the Lyell Highway, crosses Meadowbank Lake then continues on the western shore until it reaches Lake Repulse Dam.

The first Dunrobin Bridge over the Derwent River was built in the early 1850s. The National Library of Australia’s Trove repository of historic documents provides information from a 1910 copy of The Mercury newspaper: ‘Dunrobin Bridge was built over the Derwent, between the Ouse and Hamilton during the regime of Governor Denison. Governor Denison’s rule in Tasmania lasted from 1847 to 1855. It is a fine stone structure, and the cost is stated in the Legislative Council Journals of 1856 to have been £13,875. Its construction seems to have occupied six years, from 1850 to 1856. Dawson’s Road, which was named after the man who superintended its construction, went from Dunrobin Bridge…’ westwards.

In 1900, according to the blog Tasmanian Gothic , the bridge looked like:

Dunrobin Bridge

Dunrobin Bridge

The bridge was damaged during flooding in 1952 according to Linc Tasmania.

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This site shows the remains of the bridge in 1963.

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Once the Meadowbank Dam was built, the gorge behind gradually filled with water. The remnants of the old Dunrobin Bridge apparently remain beneath the current Meadowbank Lake.  I cannot find when the new Dunrobin Bridge was built.  Anybody know the date?

The photos of Chantale, Michelle and I show the current bridge across the northern section of Meadowbank Lake.

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At ground level, the Dunrobin Bridge curves across the Lake in a stunning simple arc.

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As I walked in the vicinity, time and again I was almost overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscape.

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Where is the source of the Derwent River?

This question was on the minds of the new settlers to Van Diemens Land in the early 1800s.

In 1835 George Frankland, Surveyor General to the government of the time, organised a ‘search’ party to locate the source. After the expedition he wrote a report for despatch to the ‘mother country’, England.  The brief text has been published as The Narrative of an Expedition to the Head of the Derwent and to the Countries bordering the Huon in 1835.  The small book was reprinted by Nags Head Press for the publisher Sullivan’s Cove in 1983.

No description exists of how Frankland and his party travelled inland until they reached a property or area then known then as Marlborough (now known as Bronte) in the Lake country, located west of Lake Echo and directly east of Lake St Clair by over 30 kilometres. Marlborough was a probation station for North American prisoners in the 1830s/40s.

Map of probation stations including Marlborough

The map above can be seen in the story: ‘They left Jefferson County forever…’

The Marlborough district was discovered by Surveyor Sharland who also found Lake St Clair, in 1832, only three years before Frankland felt compelled to find the source of the Derwent.  It seems Sharland did not realise it was the Derwent River that flowed from the southern end of Lake St Clair. Further information can be read in G. H. Stancombe’s paper Notes on the History of The Central Plateau.

The Lyell Highway, according to the Highland Lakes Settlement Strategy has been known as the Marlborough Road where it runs westwards of Ouse and towards the area around Bronte.

Information, which is totally irrelevant to my writings about the Derwent but nevertheless interesting, concerns an earthquake near Marlborough that was recorded in The Courier, a Hobart newspaper on 25 April 1854. Thomas Bellinger reported ‘I beg to inform you of a very strange occurrence on the evening of the 24th of March last. A shock like that of an earthquake was felt in almost every part of the Marlborough District. Two shepherds were gathering sheep the other day and discovered the cause of it.  I went to the place yesterday: there has been some fearful volcanic eruption, rocks of enormous size have been driven about, the face of the earth appears to have been hoisted in the air and pitched surface downwards. I cannot describe to you the appearance, but if you will come up I am sure you will be highly gratified – the distance is about ten miles from this.’  I have no information about where Thomas Bellinger was writing from but I am curious to hunt out the location of this upheaval.

After that information detour, let’s go back to the expedition to find the source of the Derwent River.

Following a ‘difficult journey from the settled Districts’, all members of George Frankland’s party assembled at Marlborough on the 7 February 1835.  The record shows that George Frankland did not follow the edges of the Derwent, rather he crossed the Nive River (which empties into the Derwent River much further south), then travelled north-westwards. Initially densely forested hills stymied progress with horses, and then the boggy plains ahead slowed him down.  He continued generally in a westward direction and after almost five days, found Lake St Clair; ‘we suddenly found ourselves on the edge of a beautiful Lake in the heart of Scenery of the most picturesque Character’.  After further walking around parts of the lake, Frankland reports ‘It was a fine summers day and the Air was so serene that the surface of the Water was scarcely ruffled but the sandy beaches bore evidence of the Lake being at times as rough as the Sea. I will not here dilate on the extreme beauty of this scenery as it might be considered out of place in an official report, but … I feel it difficult to avoid expressing the impressions of delight which were inspired by first discovering of such a romantic Country…’

On the 14th February, Frankland despatched two of his party to return to the source of the Derwent and follow it downstream on the left bank while he set out to explore the country on the right bank.  Both parties walked across open plains where Lake King William now fills the area.  They reunited the next day.  One of the party, a Mister Calder was despatched to continue along the edge of the river until he met the entrance of the Nive, which he successfully achieved (although details are absent).  Meanwhile Frankland tried to continue following after Calder but was only able to proceed for 3 miles. ‘At that point we plainly perceived that the Country had … become such a thick forest that to take the horses any further was out of the question.’  The result was that Frankland split the party further with the horses taking an easier route to Marlborough.

On their first day trying to walk the edge of the Derwent, Frankland recorded ‘This day was consumed by a laborious march of two miles through a most obstinate scrub – and we bivouacked on the steep edge of the Derwent after wading for a considerable distance through the torrent, up to the middle, as the easiest mode of travelling.’  The forest is as dense in 2015 as it was then, so regular blog followers can appreciate why walking some sections of the rest of the way to Lake St Clair concerns me.

At this point Frankland was for giving up. ‘On the 18th February I determined on leaving the Derwent and accordingly struck away to the N.E. The forests continued depressingly thick – but by dint of labour we accomplished about four miles this day’.  Only four miles in a day for strong men!  What chance do I have of walking this part quickly or easily?

A couple of days later Frankland reached Marlborough and from there he set off to cross the Derwent River and explore the Huon River area further south.

Thank you Andrew for alerting me to this report and for the loan of the book.