Those of us who walk in the Shoalhaven appreciate its rugged scenery which is equal to or better than much of what can be seen in the rest of Australia. We are treading in the paths of many others including the local indigenous people. They may have walked over the country from necessity rather than pleasure but there would be few places where we would not be retracing their footsteps. Europeans seldom visited the deep bush of the south coast until relatively recent times. Alexander Berry climbed Pigeon House with companions Hamilton Hume and Thomas Davison in 1822 but it would take until 1948 for the Castle to yield the secret of its route to the top.
Jack Cole is regarded as Nowra's pre-eminent bushwalker (a term first coined in 1927) when in 1901, as a boy, he went from Milton to Pigeon House then down Longfella Pass to Yadboro farm following horse tracks. In the 1920s Jack explored the back country behind Nowra with Dr Rodway (Government Medical Officer) and Rueben King (Coroner). Jack Cole and Tom Owen attempted The Castle in 1938 walking in from Nerriga. The mountains Cole and Owen were named after them. In the 1960s a few of our Club members were privileged to walk with Jack. In 1963 Russ Evans made his first visit to the Bora Ground on Quilty's Mountain in a party led by Jack.
Early bushwalkers in the Shoalhaven area often had to use public transport (trains and bus with strict timetables) and the services of a friendly farmer if needed. Reliable maps were not available until well into the sixties and much equipment was home made. Bushwalkers, including Wilf Hilder of the Sydney Club, provided a great deal of detailed information to the map makers and firms specializing in the outdoors have mushroomed. Today we have reliable cars, good maps and excellent gear. In the "walking life" of several of our Club members, bushwalking has been transformed but is still enjoyable and highly satisfying. All the changes may not be to our liking. On the plus side, the Budawangs are no longer used for grazing or by the Army for Artillery practice. However, restrictions on access to some of the Club's favourite locations remains a problem for responsible walkers no matter how good the intentions of the authorities. It is ironic that many of the routes we followed were in use for many centuries - first by Aborigines then by white pioneers and their successors. Many old routes, now closed in the name of conservation, are in danger of becoming overgrown and lost.
We are now in our fifteenth year of walking with Shoalhaven Bushwalkers and have found great pleasure in the walking and the companionship. Others, including Alwyn Martin, Margaret Brown and Stuart Leslie have been continuous members and walkers for even longer. It is important that experiences and the precious memories of our members are preserved. The compilers and other contributors to this publication are to be congratulated for capturing these in such a readable manner.
Dawn & Russ Evans