Tag Archives: Van Diemen’s Land

Lake King William

Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania)’s mother country England was governed by 3 King Williams preceding settlement of Australia (Tasmania received its first European settlers in 1803).  William IV of the United Kingdom reigned from 1830 and lived until 1837. Indirectly our Lake King William which dams the Derwent River was named after the Fourth.

Watching over Lake King William is Mount King William and the King William Range. Wikipedia  reports that Mount King William was named during Sir John Franklin’s journey into western Tasmania in 1842.  Hydro Tasmania created the Lake in 1950 and referred to the nearby geographical features which had been named by European explorers in the 19th century, for its current name.

20151029_125012

The photo above with snow topping the Range was taken in October 2015. The photo below was taken in January 2016.

20160102_165048.jpg

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.

20151028_114436.jpg

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.

IMG_3904

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.

20151031_140708.jpg

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.

The sheen on Shene

No.  The historic Shene property is not reflected in the Derwent River. Nevertheless it shines bright in my memory for the number of stunningly well restored and conserved 19th century sandstone buildings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Shene Estate, located just north of Pontville, covers many acres only a few kilometres inland from Bridgewater which sits on the Derwent River.  A few months ago a brilliant photographer, one of my blog followers, presented a set of images that stopped me in my tracks (pun not intended) – have a look.

When I visited last Friday, one of the owners, Anne Kernke enthralled me with the history of the property. Long term blog readers know that I get excited by many things and where possible I try and make a connection with the Derwent River, simply because I want to write a record.  I was on high alert the moment Anne mentioned the Derwent.  When she said that one of the key family members died near Pearson’s Point which is the location where I suggest the mouth of the river is located on the western shore, I knew I had reason to create a post.

Edward Paine/Payne emigrated to Van Diemens Land in 1820 and his eldest daughter married Gamaliel Butler who established the Shene estate. Unfortunately Edward drowned when travelling in a small boat with others because a boatman went “to the mast-head, which a small boat would not bear”. The boat capsized and it seems Edward could not swim. Anne Kernke has provided the following information: “an ill-fated boat trip to North West Bay, where Paine was looking for land to purchase.[1] The Hobart Town Gazette gave a very detailed account of the day’s tragic events:

It falls to our painful lot to record one of the most distressing and melancholy accidents which has ever occurred in this Settlement. On Saturday afternoon last, Mr. Edward Payne (who arrived recently in the ‘Deveron’), Mr Wickham Whitchurch, Mr James Kay, and Mr George Read, Superintendent of Government carpenters, left the port in a boat with three men to go to North-west Bay. On their way, they put into Tinder-box Bay, about 10 o’clock at night; but not finding the landing good, they determined to go on to the Government huts at North West Bay. When the boat had got about 300 yards, from the shore, the halyards being jammed in the mast-head, one of the boatmen went up to clear them, and in an instant the boat overset. With difficulty, and by the assistance of a Government boat which was in the bay, all were saved but Mr. Payne and Mr. Read. There was scarcely any wind or swell at the time; and this unhappy accident was caused solely by the man going to the mast-head, which a small boat would not bear. Mr. Whitchurch is an expert swimmer, and knowing that Mr. Kay could not swim, laid hold of him, and conveyed him within 50 yards of the shore, but from extreme weakness, was compelled to leave him for his own preservation. Mr Kay, although he never swam before, struggled through a thick bed of sea-kelp in deep water, and made the shore. Mr W. in the meantime floated on his back to recover his strength, until the Government boat came to their help.

Late on Sunday evening, accounts of the melancholy event reached Hobart Town; and upon its general circulation on Monday morning, it occasioned a sensation of feeling and regret proportioned to the estimation in which the unfortunate sufferers were held, and the loss inflicted by their sudden and premature fate. The body of Mr. Payne was found on Sunday, near the place where the boat overset. A Coroner’s Inquest on Tuesday gave a verdict of Drowned by Accident.’[2]

1]Journal of Peter Harrison, 1822, Royal Society of Tasmania, p.40 (typed copy)

[2] Hobart Town Gazette, 13 July 1822, p.2

On the following day, the distraught Mrs Paine was visited by the Reverend Robert Knopwood, who spent the evening trying to console her for her loss. Several days later, Knopwood conducted Paine’s burial service at the Hobart Town Cemetery (now St. David’s Park) on the 6th July 1822. The headstone was removed when the old cemetery was converted to the present day park.”  St David’s Park is in the Salamanca precinct which sits by the Derwent River at the edge of Hobart’s CBD.

Currently, to help support the expensive and meticulous restoration work across the Shene property, the owners provide guided tours by appointment, keep polo horses and will soon have competitions (the Hobart Polo Club now call Shene home and they use the 1851 stables as their clubhouse), they operate a distillery making a filtered and an unfiltered smooth tasting Gin, and much much more. More information can be read on the Shene website.

Blue skies and sheep glorious sheep

20150918_131448 20150918_131545

20150918_131612 20150918_131750

It seems so long ago that the Chinese New Year was launched back on the 19th February 2015 and announced as the Year of the Sheep according to the Chinese zodiac.  The ‘year’ continues until 7 February 2016.

As I walked, my mind often wandered to sheep.  The paddocks were dotted with these woolly bundles. The first merinos were sent by Governor King to Hobart in 1805.  More varieties of sheep were brought into Van Diemens Land from the early 19th century as the colony established itself; firstly for meat consumption and then not long after for wool. The establishment of woollen mills followed. These days sheep farmers around Tasmania continue to supply our nation’s butchers and supermarkets, and the fashion industry via fine wool fabrics.

Friends and blog followers know that sheep figure in my list of loves (Refer to an earlier posting).  Therefore, it should not surprise you when this post concludes with photographs I took last year of a very large marble sculpture installed in Stockholm Cathedral, Sweden. Stunningly beautiful!

20140621_155022 20140621_155028

Wilderness – what is it?

The word ‘wilderness’ has different meanings depending on context. Dictionaries offer a range of similar meanings:

  • An uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region. Neglected or abandoned.  A large area of land that has never been developed or used for growing crops because it is difficult to live there. (Oxford)
  • An unsettled, uncultivated region, especially a large tract of land that has not been significantly affected by human activities. A barren or desolate area; a wasteland. Something characterised by bewildering vastness, perilousness, or unchecked profusion. (The Free Dictionary)
  • A wild, uncultivated region, usually where humans do not live. Any desolate tract or area. (WordReference.com)
  • A tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings. An area essentially undisturbed by human activity together with its naturally developed life community. An empty or pathless area or region. (Mirriam Webster dictionary)

From Old English used in the 13th century, the word ‘wilderness’ is derived from wild dēor ‘wild deer’, wilddēoren ‘wild beasts’, and from wildēornes, ‘land inhabited only by wild animals’. From Middle English, wildern is ‘wild’.

Reflecting on these varying definitions, I realise some of the meanings ring true particularly in relation to the land along the Derwent River between Lake Catagunya and Derwent Bridge (I anticipate this part of the River will take at least 8 days to walk, over three stages).

Lake Catagunya to Derwent Bridge

The sides of the River will be uncultivated and uninhabited. Its dense forest, littered with generations of massive tree falls, will make some sections relatively inhospitable.  The only markers of human kind will be parts where old growth logging has or is occurring, and where the infrastructure associated with dam construction across the Derwent River has occurred and is being maintained.  The area will not be barren, desolate (although I might feel desolate when penetrating some of the denser bush hour after hour), and it is not neglected, abandoned nor a wasteland.  This wilderness will be rich with flourishing flora and fauna, have profound connections with the original indigenous population pre-European settlement of Van Diemen’s Land, hold a social history with the settlers who moved inland in the 1800s and 1900s, and include an occasional contemporary history with photographers, tourists and fishermen.

The United States of America has proclaimed special legislation. ‘The Wilderness Act bans all kinds of motors, roads, and permanent structures from large tracts of American territory. It provides a legal definition of wilderness, as land that’s “untrammelled by man” with a “primeval character and influence”.’  You can read more at this site.  What is the Australian situation?

The Wilderness Society of Aus logo

The Wilderness Society of Australia summarises our state-based rather than national legislation in relation to the wilderness. ‘Dedicated wilderness legislation exists in NSW and SA, which allows the nomination, assessment, declaration and management of wilderness. In other States, such as Victoria, Queensland, WA and the ACT, management of wilderness is provided for under general nature conservation legislation, with varying degrees of usefulness in terms of actually ensuring identification and appropriate protection.’

In Tasmania we have a range of legislation including the most recent Tasmanian Forest Agreement Act that was negotiated to include the requirements of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) – that is, those parts of Tasmania which have been recognised with World Heritage listing for their natural and cultural heritage that is important to the world community.  Tasmania’s Nature Conservation Act talks about biological and geological diversity, and historic sites and provides regulation for our fauna (and strangely it also covers animals which do not live in Tasmania such as dingos and wolves) and flora. The word ‘wilderness’ does not appear.

stock-photo-64271807-walking-boot-and-bike-tread-marks-on-muddy-trail(Image is a free iStock photo)

The land on which I will walk has been walked for thousands of years originally by our indigenous ancestors and more recently by their descendants and European settlers. However, there will be parts on my trek which will not have had many footfalls because of the isolation and the forest density.  Unless there was a purpose such as surveying the Derwent River as part of planning to build dams, sensible people would travel from Lake St Clair towards the coast  via the region around the township of Ouse, or by more hospitable routes. With or without the word ‘wilderness’ being written into our state legislation, much of the inland edges of the Derwent River edge are undoubtedly genuine wilderness.

The weather in southern Tasmania

The early non-indigenous settlers in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), almost all of whom were formerly residents of the typically rainswept and cool British Isles or had lived in hot India, documented their thoughts on the weather.

Their descriptions of our weather were usually based on comparisons with the situation from which they had relocated. Generally the impression given is that the weather on this island is temperate, irritatingly variable, and considerably easier to live with compared to that experienced in the settlers’ original homelands. For example, in James Bischoff’s “Sketch of the History of Van Diemen’s Land” written in 1832, there are many references to the climate and its relationship to agriculture and animal husbandry. More generally he says: ‘To one accustomed to the moist climate and plentifully watered countries of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Van Diemen’s Land, at first sight, may present a dry and unproductive appearance; but upon a nearer acquaintance, it will put on a more inviting aspect.’  It was ‘the regularity and salubrity of its climate’ which Bischoff found attractive.  The author also claims that ‘A book was published at Calcutta, in 1830, giving an account of Van Diemen’s Land, principally intended for the use of persons residing in India, and shewing the advantages it holds out to them for their residence; the following is extracted from that work: Its climate seems so well adapted to the renovating of the constitution of those who have suffered from their residence in India, that it only requires to be pointed out, and the easiest manner of getting there made known, as also the cheapness and comfort of living, when there, to turn the tide of visitors to the Cape and the Isle of France, towards its shores.’

Godwins Guide to Emigrants to VDL

Godwin’s “Emigrants Guide to Van Diemen’s Land more properly called Tasmania held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria, written in 1823, offers the following: ‘This island has to boast of perhaps the most salubrious and congenial climate of any in the known world, for our European constitution: It has been ascertained by the thermometer to be similar to that of the south of France; the general temperature being about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the extremes from 43 to 80 degrees. The spring commences early in August, the summer in November, the autumn in March, and the winter in May. The winter, therefore, is not of more than three months’ duration, and the severest part only six weeks.’

Ros Haynes writes on a University of Tasmania site in 2006 ‘In most areas there was adequate rainfall, the climate was more conducive to growing the crops they were used to …. The temperature was also considered more invigorating than the heat and humidity that enervated settlers in the other Australian colonies. Van Diemen’s Land was soon marketing itself as the ‘Sanatorium of the South’, famous for its flowers, fruit and healthy inhabitants.’

Dixons cover

John Dixon, in his 1839 book (available as an E-book) “The Condition and Capabilities of Van Diemen’s Land, as a Place of Emigration: Being the Practical Experience of Nearly Ten Year’s Residence in the Colony“, explained, ‘Lingering illness is seldom heard of in Van Diemen’s Land: and, in consequence, the deaths always seem to be sudden.  These seeming sudden deaths may contribute to praise of the climate: for they may improve its salutary influence, by sustaining the body in health longer there, than in the climate of another country.

These days we would describe our climate as being cool temperate with four distinct seasons. However, across the island, our temperature and rainfall ratings vary according to topography, nearness to the coast and time of the year.  Despite Tasmania’s capital city Hobart being the Australian capital city located closest to South Pole, it is known as the nation’s driest capital city.  By contrast, parts of the west coast of Tasmania expects rain for more than 300 days each year – I lived in Queenstown once and it rained for three weeks straight leaving me feeling very sun deprived.

Helpful tip

When you visit Tasmania for the first time, you will find any and everyone will be happy to talk with you about the weather – for many minutes at a time.  Such conversations may help you to make new friends.  However, please avoid some pitfalls. If you normally live in a super cold climate it may not be appropriate to say our weather is so mild and lovely here, when powder snow tops our mountains in the distance and light drizzle saturates the ground – because we may not think highly of the weather under those circumstances.  Similarly if you come from a very hot climate it may not be appropriate to say the weather is so gorgeously moderate here when we have a 35 Celsius degree day, because it is likely we will consider that to be a hot day. I guess we all have our peculiarities.