Tag Archives: Tarraleah

Did you know not all penstocks are constructed using steel?

This post provides a background on an extraordinary feature of the walk between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations along the Derwent River.   It is about one of the great surprises of this  ‘walking the Derwent’ project and, as such, reminds me that even the most ordinary of explorations can unearth new discoveries (for those not familiar with an industry – in this case, the industry involved with penstocks).

Okay okay okay I know some readers will have rolled their eyes wondering what a penstock is.  A penstock is a very large pipe that is laid downhill through which water falls at high speed to an electricity generating power station.  Refer to photos in some of my earlier posts such as: Derwent River water passes via the township of Tarraleah .

My typical experience of penstocks, as conduits for water gushing into electricity generating power stations, is of massive steel structures.  I suspect this would be the expectation for others who have seen Tasmania’s penstocks only from the vantage point of our highways.  For people like me, the wooden penstocks feeding Wayatinah Power Station are astounding and therefore I thought it would be of value to undertake some research and learn more. Andrew’s photo below shows the wooden penstocks emerging from an underground tunnel and sloping down towards the Wayatinah Power Station.

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The questions which come to mind include, are there any other wooden penstocks in Tasmania, what wood is used, when were they built, why weren’t they built with metal, who built them, how effective are they, and what is their life span. In my research a constant term was ‘stave’. A stave is a narrow length of wood with a slightly bevelled edge to form the sides of barrels, tanks and pipelines, originally handmade by coopers.

After a little research I now know that wooden penstocks are not unique to Tasmania and have been built in a number of countries including Britain, Canada and the USA. For example, wooden penstocks were built for hydroelectric facilities in Lincoln County, Wisconsin, USA as shown in this article.  This web site contains a great deal of construction and other information which I imagine is similar to that for Tasmanian wooden pipelines, and therefore worth reading. The photo below, from that website, shows redwood penstocks at the Thomson Hydroelectric Station in eastern Minnesota, Wisconsin.

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The website answered some of my questions: “Why wood? First and foremost, keep the wood thoroughly wet and it will not rot. If there is an issue, it has to do with the quality of the metal bands. Expansion joints are not required as the wood absorbs the water and expands. Steel restraining bands are used and the wood will expand against those. The metal bands are used only to provide strength. Even when they corrode and lose their strength, the wood will hold together and the bands can be easily replaced. The carrying capacity exceeds that of metal pipe, in large part because the interior walls remain smooth and do not form tubercles. The wood components are easily transported to the sites, which can be remote. No massive hoisting apparatus is needed. They do not require concrete foundations, but “float” on the gravel. The wood is easy to bend, so the contractors can follow a more natural contour; for example, bending around curves. There is no need to cover them. The wood has natural insulation. They can last for 40-50 years. Simple carpentry can be used for repairs. Assembly is easy.

Why do we see so any leaks? Leaks do occur at the end of a stave, at what is called the butt-joint, most often when combined with a breakdown or severing of a steel band at that point. In addition, steel plates are sometimes placed in the slots at each stave end, and these steel plates can corrode. Also, some erosion can occur at the end of a stave, and develop into a hole. In this instance, the steel band in that area might corrode and sever, and the pressure of the water inside might break off a section of the stave, however small. Metal corrosion also sets up a mild acidic condition. The acid can degrade the wood. There can be a breakdown in the staves when the water pressure inside varies a lot. You will seldom see wooden penstocks for example in positions where turbines can vary the water pressure output in large degrees. This creates what is known as the hammer effect which can beat up a wooden penstock quickly. It’s best to try to keep the inside water pressure as even as possible. This said, small leaks can self-repair as the wood expands. Even large breakdowns in the staves can be repaired. In most instances, the leaks are tracked closely and there is very little risk of a catastrophic failure. “

The hole in a penstock and the story of its repair speedily within one week for the Jackson Hydro Station in New England, USA can be seen here. Another rupture coverage, this time in Quebec, Canada is covered here.  I was surprised when this website included photos of other wooden penstocks around the world including a photo of one of Tasmania’s wooden penstocks.  It looks remarkably like Wayatinah’s penstock, and there are outbuildings in view and some dates as well.  Perhaps a blog reader can make a more accurate identification.

It seems there are only two Tasmanian power stations being supplied by water flowing down wooden penstocks: Lake Margaret Power Station (not on the Derwent River) and Wayatinah Power Station.   Wikipedia  explains the situation in relation to the Lake Margaret Power Station here. For more information refer to the fact sheet for Upper Lake Margaret Power Station, the fact sheet for the Lower Lake Margaret Power Station, and a  note regarding Innovation and heritage feature in Lower Lake Margaret redevelopment. Photos of the pipeline can be seen in Lake Margaret Power Scheme A Conservation Management Plan. I found the photos on pages 11 and 19 particularly helpful with pinpointing the location.

In relation to the wooden penstocks feeding the Wayatinah Power Station,  a You Tube video is worth watching. Page 25 of the booklet ‘The Power of Nature’ includes a photo of the woodstave penstocks at Wayatinah. Other informative photos of dams and power stations and penstocks associated with other parts of the Derwent River are also presented.  Most are glamour shots taken from excellent locations and, after the gritty often basic photos which I have taken, these make the extraordinary engineering feats look even more magnificent and significant. This website offers the following information:  “Wayatinah is the sixth station on the Nive/Derwent cascade and is downstream of Liapootah HPP. Water is supplied from a small storage lake called Wayatinah Lagoon and diverted into a 2 km tunnel to two 1.3 km low-pressure wood stave pipelines. Finally, water drops 56 m through three steel penstocks to the powerhouse.”

Now the scene is set for the story of the walk between Wayatinah and Catagunya Power Stations.

The finish is in sight – towards Wayatinah post 9 of 9

Once walking on the hard and consistent surface of the Lyell Highway, good speed was made walking for approximately 8 kilometres, until Andrew reached the turnoff to the township of Wayatinah, pausing only for the passage of multiple camper vans, hire cars and enthusiastic motorcyclists making their winding way between Hobart and the West Coast. This was an extremely unpleasant piece of road for pedestrians.  The road was designed in remote central Tasmania with never an expectation people would walk along its edge.  The result is that verges are narrow or almost non-existent, and guard rails often sit at the top of a dramatic drop. I know elsewhere I have needed to hop over such guard rails when vehicles approach and hold on for dear life so as not to fall down a massive incline.  But Andrew survived the walk with care.  Earlier plans to walk with pleasure listening to music through ear phones had to be abandoned in order to listen for traffic speeding around tight corners in the winding road.

After walking to the Wayatinah township Andrew continued downhill to the bridge over the Derwent River where his vehicle was parked. A moment of concern flashed through his mind as he approached.  When walking towards his ute Andrew could see a couple of guys including a burly chap wearing a high-vis vest hovering around the vehicle and peering in the windows. Oh Oh. Was this someone about to break into the vehicle and steal it? Had he arrived just in time to prevent such a loss? As Andrew approached, the chap called out, “Is this your bus?” “Yes!”, Andrew replied, somewhat relieved.  “Thank God you’re alive!” The fellow was a SALTAS salmon hatchery employee and, rather than having an intent to interfere with the vehicle, he had been deciding whether to call the police. He had seen the ute parked unattended for over 24 hours and feared that a fisherman had fallen into the river and disappeared!

Andrew explained that he was not a fisherman but a bushwalker and then proceeded to describe the project to walk the Derwent. The employee emphatically declared it was not possible to walk the full length between Wayatinah and where Andrew has started the walk the day before. “The river can’t be walked, the country’s too steep!”  He felt the project to walk the Derwent was “nuts”. “You can’t walk down there’.  It was useful to have confirmation supporting Andrew’s experience.

After dropping off his pack at the ute, Andrew then wandered upstream for a few hundred metres to the weir where SALTAS has a water intake.

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He then continued on a track for a further few hundred metres until he reached a bend in the river where there is a flying fox for what looks like Hydro Tasmania equipment. Beyond that point familiar-looking scrub fringed a river bank which steepened quickly and dramatically.  Further walking on the river edge was clearly impossible from then on, and the volume of water in the river made walking in the river impractical.

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With that, the Tarraleah to Wayatinah section was essentially complete – complete except for about 4-5 km of winding gorge which was undertaken higher up away from the river bed and its edge.

I am so very grateful for Andrew’s persistence with the walk, his notes and his wonderful graphic photos. From these I could ‘feel’ the journey.  I felt my heart soar when I saw the photos. I could feel the rush of the water, smell the freshness of the bush, and hear that clean ‘noisy’ atmosphere of the terrain. They took me out there.

As I had imagined, this was a walk compressed tightly into a narrow valley, over rocks and around water pools and flood debris for endless kms. With steep sided hills pressing in on both sides, there were no vistas or panoramas just the sight of the next corner ahead.  Never a chance to get a walking rhythm.  This was a walk which held both physical and mental challenges.  Other than where to put his feet next,  Andrew’s greatest ‘problem’ could well have been associated with ‘when will this relative sameness ever end’. While he saw snakes sunbaking on the river rocks, he was never in danger. He didn’t turn an ankle and he was able to walk out and live to tell the tale. Bushwalking always involves endless problem solving and I have always felt it is likely to be an activity that could stave off dementia.

One of my hopes was that there would be things to see or hear that are not normally seen – and that Andrew would experience completely new things which will thrill him.  Seeing the Counsel River gave him that excitement and he has planned to return, albeit getting there from the land on the other side of the Derwent River and not via the River.

This was a walk conducted safely.  Andrew used his maps and GPS constantly to be pinpoint his location and monitor progress. For example, walking through the plantation forests without this equipment could have been difficult because maps are out of date and endless new unsignposted roads and tracks exist which do not always follow contours. Getting lost would be easy.

That Andrew accepted having clothes ripped, and his body scratched and bruised in the quest to see if something was possible, is completely admirable. Even a week after the walk, one spectacular bruise on his shin (caused by slipping between two lumps of wood) was still working its way through the green and yellow stages of healing. This is not a walk which others should try; it was rough and the walk was mostly hard going. Regardless, the country was amazing and the rainforests sensationally beautiful – “there were heaps of interesting forests, and cascading waters from the hills”.  I still feel thrilled that he undertook the walk and that there has been a new story to tell and photographic evidence of the journey to walk along the Derwent.

Visualising each walk in advance – towards Wayatinah post 1 of 9

The further I travelled inland towards central Tasmania, the less guidance and direction was available. This meant that I needed to scrutinise every piece of available information more intensely because the challenges of the terrain increased and therefore the dangers of walking alone multiplied.  My friends and relatives feared the worst and hoped for the best and we have all been thankful that my walks and returns home have been safe. Apart from the occasional bruise and scratch or two, no physical harm has befallen me.

During my first walks along the Derwent River, I gradually increased the volume of research I conducted in advance, so that I could make the most of each opportunity.  As the project lengthened, I spent more time visualising the walks so that I could be sure my pack contained the appropriate provisions. In addition, I wanted to be sure that I could achieve my goal.

In particular, I invested a huge amount of time imagining a couple of the walks. These were walks about which I knew very little and which I anticipated would be the trickiest.  One was the walk along the river starting near the junction of the Lyell Highway and Butlers Gorge Road close to Tarraleah, and extending to the bridge over the river at Wayatinah.

Using knowledge from my walk along Tarraleah Canal No 1 and from walking beside the Derwent River near the Wayatinah bridge,  I had some understanding of the challenges. My intention was always to start at the Tarraleah end and work my way downstream along the River bed.

The first obstacle was the dense bush between the Canal and the river bed down an exceptionally steep incline. From what I could see at the top, the rainforest was a tightly packed mangle of massive tree ferns with their fronds at face level and above, amidst all manner of eucalypts, myrtles,  celery-top-pines, sassafras trees and laurels.  If I was very unlucky intermingled with these wonderful but tightly packed specimens, I suspected the tree known as Horizontal (Anodopetalum biglandulous), the anathema to bushwalkers, could be a major impediment.

Photos near my imagined starting point show the beautiful but almost impenetrable bush facing the start of my walk along this section.

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I believed I had two options; one was to walk along the plush mossy flat Canal verge until I could spot a ‘gap’ and then plunge into the thicket.  The second option was to walk on the track beside the Canal until I reached the first Hydro Tasmania crossing located about a kilometre westwards along the track,  cross over, and hope there was some sort of clearing through the bush down to the bottom of the hill.  If not, then I would have to make my own way until I reached the Derwent River bed.   The first crossing, in the photo below, shows no sign of tracks extending further.

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From that crossing down to the river, I anticipated the distance would be approximately  one and a quarter kilometres on a slope that dropped around 210 metres.  Unless I was fortunate to find a clearing that Hydro Tasmania had made, something like the following example spotted closer to Clark Dam, I expected to be in for a hard time.

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I knew this was the side of the river that received minimal direct daily sunlight compared to the bush on the other side. I imagined a wet slippery bush environment, that would be dark amidst the undergrowth ( I am short and I realised much of the vegetation would be above me) with interspersed and unpredictable rocky outcrops that would require flexibility and care. If the day was overcast, my ability to see clearly through the dense bush might be limited, so the danger of slipping over a cliff had to be taken into account.

While Michelle’s photo below taken during a flight along the Derwent River shows the vegetation between the Canal and the River bed, the location is further along towards Clark Dam. Nevertheless it does show the density of the bush which needed to be penetrated and walked through.

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My aerial photo below gives a stronger sense of the gradient from the Canal to the river bed in some sections.

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The photo below, which I took during my Canal walk, looks back and clearly shows the steep gradient.

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I imagined slipping and sliding part way, with backpack occasionally getting ‘hooked’ to slow me down. Despite the short distance but considering the possible obstructions and the need to skirt around these,  I mentally allowed at least an hour for the descent.

On the River bed I hoped for a low water level in order to be able to rock hop for much of the 14-15 kilometres down to the Wayatinah bridge. If the water level was low, at best the river bed might look like the following photos as it did near the confluence of the Derwent with the Florentine  Rivers.

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Alternatively it might have limited water something like the following photos of the Derwent near Wayatinah.

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Of course, hoping for minimal water was likely to be a pipe dream and I realised it would not be realistic to expect this situation for the entire length of the walk. I knew from aerial shots, old maps and out of date Google Earth that large pools of water would present challenges and that clambering up any side of the River to avoid these would be part of the walk.

From maps I could see approximately  eleven small creeks and the Counsel River feed into the Derwent. I fervently hoped little rain had fallen in this area in the preceding weeks, that these creeks were low on water, and therefore that the spill into the Derwent River would be minimal. If much water ran down these creeks then the likelihood of more and larger water holes along the Derwent increased. If this was the case then I could imagine fighting my way through vegetation overhangs in order to clamber onto the bank and then negotiate the forest to bypass the water obstruction.  Anticipation of such exhausting activities did not thrill me.

Once on the River bed, rocks that roll were at the top of my list of fears; such as – would I turn an ankle, break a leg, smash my head into another rock, or get weighted down in a deeper pool with the pack on my back.  I could not see how developing any sort of walking rhythm would be possible. My usual opportunities to walk and look around me would be unlikely. I foresaw the absolute necessity to watch the ground/rocks/water and think about and make decisions where to put each footstep would become mentally exhausting over such a distance.  I doubted if it was possible to walk this stretch of the River and, even if it was, I thought the possibility of covering the length in a day even a long day, would be unlikely.  I allowed two days for this leg of the walk.

I always take my tablet for photos and carry this with me to point and click as a record. Typically on a one-day walk I might take 300-400 photos and then pick a selection for the blog posts.  But for this walk I realised that carrying the tablet would not be wise. I could see that having two free hands to clamber over rocks and debris and vegetation would be smart, and I also needed to allow for the unexpected underfoot changes and the need to grab or balance using my hands.  Clearly stopping to retrieve my tablet for photo ops would slow me down. Therefore, I knew that I would not be taking many photos so that the record of this walk would be less than normal.  But my safety had to be paramount.

From aerial reconnaissance and nearby on-the-ground checks and maps, I found it difficult to visualise where I would set up the tent overnight.  Both hill sides were steep but maps did indicate that near some major bends in the river there was sections beside the water bed that might be a little flatter than elsewhere.  On one bend, some larger islands were mapped mid-stream. I wondered whether I might be lucky to find them water free and accessible and not totally tight with vegetation.  Perhaps there I might find a sleeping spot.

Overall I visualised a most unusual journey. One where the only view would be of steep forested hillsides rising above a comparatively tiny water bed, and never a panoramic vista of distant hills or mountains. Rather I could expect to see only the next bend in the river. While that would provide me with curiosity about what might be around the corner, in advance, already I imagined seeing more of the same.  So this leg of the journey along the Derwent River was to be about physical endurance; surviving without becoming despondent about the relentlessness of watching my feet placement.  This was the ultimate chance for me to understand the limits of my capacity and capabilities.  I looked forward to  snatching and enjoying occasional moments when native birds flitted about, the sun sparkled on wet vegetation, and variations of mosses and lichens on rocks appeared in all their glories.

I envisaged this experience would introduce me to a continuous valley that is currently protected, untouched, unvisited, and not normally seen at close quarters.  Simply wonderful, however great the challenge to see it.

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.

Where did the name Tarraleah come from?

 

According to websites, site 1 and site 2, the name ‘tarraleah’ is the local Lairmairrener Aboriginal word for the Forester Kangaroo.  The Lairmairrener language was spoken by Teen Toomele Menennye (Big River) kinship groups who lived in central Tasmania and further afield.

There is nothing about the township of Tarraleah that has ever made me connect it with our Kangaroo – it has always been firmly imprinted on my mind as a town created only to support the expansion of hydroelectric power.  I wonder how prolific this Kangaroo was in central Tasmania at the time of naming the town; whether the word ‘tarraleah’ was used by white developers loosely without care for accuracy in location.

These days the area of central Tasmania near the Derwent River, where uncleared, often consists of very dense rain forests and I doubt this environment is one easily accessible for the large Forester Kangaroo. Their preference is for more open temperate forests.  Of course 10,000 years ago, the vegetation was different. The last Ice age generally caused much aridity across Australia so I assume the vegetation would have been comparatively open in the area where the township of Tarraleah now stands. Members of our aboriginal communities may possess stories passed down through the millennia about ‘tarraleah’ in this part of Teen Toomele Menennye country.

The National Museum of Australia notes  Bass Strait was not always a strait (of water). It used to be a plain populated by Indigenous peoples who moved back and forth between what we now call Victoria and Tasmania. The first humans arrived in Tasmania around 40,000 years ago. About 30,000 years ago an ice age began, which caused sea levels to drop about 120 metres and created a continuous land mass that stretched between Papua New Guinea and Tasmania. When the ice melted – a process estimated to have taken 6000 years – Bass Strait formed and became an almost impassable barrier by about 12,000 years ago.”

The Australian government explains the Forester Kangaroo, “Macropus giganteus tasmaniensis is recognised as the Tasmanian subspecies of the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Macropus giganteus, which is widespread throughout the eastern Australian mainland. The subspecies status of the Forester Kangaroo is based on differences in its skull and coat from the mainland population and its isolation in Tasmania for at least the last 10 000 to 15 000 years. Studies indicate that there is less than 1% difference in the mitochondrial DNA between the mainland Eastern Grey Kangaroo and the Forester Kangaroo.”

Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service explains the Forester Kangaroo “is the largest marsupial in Tasmania and the second largest in the world – males can reach over 60 kg and, when literally on tippy toes, stand 2 m tall! Colour varies from light brownish grey to grey. In Tasmania during the 1950s and 60s, the population of Forester kangaroos was reduced to 15% of its previous level.”  Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment  reports “By the early 1900s, as a result of unsustainable levels of hunting (by European settlers in Tasmania) and to a lesser extent land clearance, the species was in serious decline. By 1970, Forester Kangaroos were to be found in only two areas; parts of the Midlands and the far north-east of Tasmania. This was less than 10% of its range at the time of European settlementSince then a number of measures have been implemented to reverse this trend.”

Derwent River water passes via the township of Tarraleah

 

Earlier this year the entire town of Tarraleah was on the market for sale.  Refer article 1, article 2 , and article 3.

If you were to follow Derwent River water by walking from the western end of Lake Catagunya at the Wayatinah Power Station inland past the Wayatinah Lagoon to the Liapootah Power Station then follow the Nive River to the bridge next to the Tarraleah Power Station (with the Tungatinah Power Station on the other side of the bridge), you could look up the hill to see massive penstock pipes descending the hill from the township of Tarraleah above.

The water falling down these pipes is Derwent River water which has travelled via Tarraleah Canal 1 and Tarraleah Canal 2 after processing through Butlers Gorge Power Station at the foot of Clark Dam that holds back the waters of Lake King William.

I chose not to walk the route via the penstocks and Tarraleah township when walking from the mouth to the source of the Derwent River,  rather to follow the original river bed albeit a scatter of stones and limited water during the summer, between Wayatinah and Butlers Gorge Power Station.

However, knowing that Derwent River water flowed along the Canals and through the massive pipes, I did visit the township of Tarraleah during the period when it was advertised for sale. I was curious to see what the township of Tarraleah looked like (it had been many years since I last visited). Despite being centred within lush dense rainforest, thankfully no rain fell at Tarraleah and the sky was blue and the day sunny when I visited. I approached the town from the highway and followed the slightly snaking pipes.

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At the point where the pipes arrive at the top of the hill and are about to drop down the hill, I browsed public information boards and plaques.

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The views from the township were dramatic. I am forever in awe at the engineering achievements of the past.

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These days Tarraleah is a place that acknowledges its social history from the early days of Hydro Tasmania. I was amazed to see the row of freshly renovated houses each with their own array of pastel coloured paint finishes. Perfect location for a science fiction movie.  I felt there was something strange about its lollipop colours and perfection.

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Afterwards I travelled out of Tarraleah and down to the bridge over the Nive River. The Tarraleah Power Station was partly hidden in shadow from the afternoon sun. My eyes followed the pipes up the hill knowing the township was there on top.

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The Nive River accepts the Derwent River water after processing for electricity generation through the Tarraleah Power Station.  The water passes through a series of further management processes, and ultimately empties into Lake Catagunya and then continues its long journey towards the sea.

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I have heard rumours the Tarraleah township sold but I cannot find records supporting this.  I haven’t one idea how a buyer could get a return on an investment of $11 million at Tarraleah, so I will be very interested to hear what will happen to this piece of Tasmania’s history.

Growing up as a Hydro boy

Thanks to blog follower Mary, I have discovered a series of online stories about past Hydro workers some of whom helped build the Tarraleah Canal No 1 and others who lived near other electricity generating power stations along the Derwent River. These short stories make interesting reading and include photographs of the people and places.

I recommend you look at Hydro Tasmania’s site where the son of Jack Warren records his history.  The photo below from that site shows Jack at Canal No 1 in 1935.

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Simon Stansbie’s record of growing up at Wayatinah can be read on the Hydro Tasmania’s website. Ian Berry tells us what it was like to grow up at Butlers Gorge (where the Clark Dam was built to hold back the waters of Lake King William).  You can read this and see photos at Hydro Tasmania’s site.

Collectively these stories give a little insight into the human reality of living and working in remote central Tasmania to create the extraordinary electricity generating infrastructure last century which used the waters of the Derwent River.

Heather Felton published a book, which tells these and other stories of the people of ‘The Hydro’.  Read more about the book: The Ticklebelly Tales.

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Information about the book launch can be read in issues of the Cultural Heritage Program Newsletter ; and at a second site.

I am not sure what the word ‘Tickleberry’ refers to.  Do I have any blog followers with this knowledge?  According to Wikipedia part of Tarraleah, the area for the married quarters of the original community, was known as Tickleberry Flat. In addition, during my walks I know that I have passed an area mapped as Tickleberry Flat which is south east of Curringa Farm, and almost south of the town of Hamilton mid-way along Meadowbank Lake – a long way from Tarraleah.  In New Norfolk Tickleberry Farm grows raspberries.  The name Tickleberry comes up in many internet searches.  The Brighton, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley and Southern Midlands Councils Joint Land Use Planning Initiative – Stage 2 Heritage Management Plan tells us “Hydro-electric power schemes which commenced in the early 1910s saw the development of construction villages across the highlands at Waddamana (from 1911), Shannon (1925), Tarraleah (1934), Tickleberry Flats (1935), Butlers Gorge (1938), Bronte Park (1948) and Wayatinah (1952). As these small communities grew, schools, shops, community halls, medical facilities and offices were established.”

After all of this, I still wonder what the original meaning of Tickleberry is: maybe someone’s name or a common name for a plant.