The Tracks We Walk On
The Shoalhaven Bushwalkers have always had a interest in and responsibility for the planning, care and maintenance of the many tracks they walk. Such matters as damage through over usage, vandalism, replacement of direction and distance markers and revegetation are frequently on the Club's agenda.
Sandra Kelley tells of an early walk near Nowra. - "The idea of a Bomaderry Creek Walk was first raised in 1974 by Ian Ross of the Bomaderry Rotary Club. But it wasn't until 1979 that this idea started to become a reality and a plan was put to Council and the Land's Department, who owned the land. In 1981 Rotary was given approval to commence work.
"The walk follows natural animal tracks along the edge of the creek. Early work included extensive clearance of weeds, and construction of the track, steps and bridges. All equipment and materials were carried in by hand. A dedicated group of Rotarians and their wives spent many working - bees on the track...The Bomaderry Creek Walk was officially opened in 1986. Many groups including Bushwalkers, Scouts, Forestry, Parks and Gardens, research and work experience schemes have all contributed in some way to the construction and maintenance of this interesting walk." In 1995, members of the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers joined other 'out-of- door' groups in celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of the Bomaderry Creek Walk.
In March 1988 Brian Kenny invited the bushwalkers to the opening of the Cave Creek Walking Track at Hilltop, near Mittagong. The official opening was by the Minister for Agriculture and Lands. In August 1989 Dawn and Russ Evans took part in a Trail marking exercise along Canowie Creek, and a year later, in August 1990, the Club passed a motion to send three members, Diana Wright, Brian Kenny and Ray Reid as a deputation to the Land's Department to discuss the physical and environmental aspects of a proposed crossing over Bomaderry Creek and the effect it would have on this walking track. The Club was to have an ongoing involvement with the maintenance of this frequently used track near Nowra. In September 1993 the Club sent a letter to Shoalhaven City Council with regard to the deteriorating condition of Ben's Walk. Council replied that this popular walking track along the Shoalhaven River and other scenic walks in the area would be upgraded under an Employment Creating Program. In October the Club assisted them in some maintenance on Ben's Walk. The Tenth Anniversary of opening of Ben's Walk was celebrated on 5 September 1992.
The magic of Ettrema attracted six people for a three day walk in June, led by Terry Barratt of the NPWS. "After leaving their vehicles at Quiera Clearing, the party descended into the gorge through Jingles Pass - an easy passage through impressive cliffs. Lunch was eaten by Myall Creek, just above its junction with the rock-strewn Ettrema Creek, before walking along the Ettrema to its junction with Jones Creek. This junction was to be the campsite for two coolish nights. This walk up Ettrema was quite magnificent. Tall river oaks, many showing battering and scarring on their upstream sides, acacia on the slopes, and patches of rainforest in more protected locations added to the wonder of walking on 430 million year old rocks.
"The second day took the party up Jones Creek to inspect the limestone caves and an old mining site. This creek is quite different from the Ettrema, having a narrower profile and more exposed bedrock. Rainforest covers much of its margins and its many fine pools would be irresistible in warmer weather.
"A cool, clear morning on the third day saw the party heading downstream for a 'very uphill' slog out of the gorge via Transportation Spur to emerge at Pardon Point. All in all, it was a great three days."
A walk to Mount Talaterang was described by Stuart Leslie later in the year. "Mount Talaterang has to be one of the best kept secrets of the Budawangs. On the weekend of October 17/18 I visited this mountain for the first time, along with three other Shoalhaven Bushwalkers.
"After setting out from the end of the road on Little Forest Plateau, the first section has been made simple by the recently completed Mount Bushwalker track. Veering south of Mount Bushwalker, it was then an easy tramp through low hakea and light scrub to Gadara Point, from where the full grandeur of Mount Talaterang can be appreciated.
"We then negotiated the pass down the point and followed the track along the ridge to Pallin Pass which took us up the first cliffline. A hot, steep and scrubby climb was amply rewarded by the spectacular views from the summit, with all the Budawang peaks spread out before us. Here we spent some time eating lunch, signing the visitors book and making a few important phone calls - two of our party had a mobile phone with them.
"Not many people progress past this point, so we were venturing into unknown territory. What should have been a simple descent from the summit became something of a nightmare when it took one hour to get through about 100 metres of 2-3 metre high swordgrass. We emerged onto the lower plateau of the mountain where there is a beautiful hanging valley strewn with wildflowers and reminiscent of Hidden Valley. After a foray into the claustrophobic jungle below the cliffline to the west, we decided to return to the plateau and found a beautiful campsite beside a creek.
"That night a severe thunderstorm struck, destroying one of our tents, but we all survived and the rain kindly stopped long enough for us to have a leisurely breakfast and admire the view of Pigeon House from the southern cliffline.
"As soon as we started walking it started to rain and didn't really stop all day, so we made good time, only pausing for lunch in the camping cave below Gadara Point. The last few kilometres on Little Forest Plateau were spooky because we were walking in the clouds with zero visibility. We were very happy to find the track which led us safely back to the cars."
In late 1992 Russ Evans informed the Club that the submission prepared in August on the Ettrema/Budawang Wilderness Area Extension had been sent to the relevant Department with additional comments on the Little Forest and Yarramunmun Trails. For many months the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers and a number of other regular users of the Morton National Park had been involved in an ongoing vigorous discussion with the National Parks and Wildlife Service over the extension of the Ettrema/Budawang Area. This included the controversial closure of the Newhaven Gap Road. The eleven kilometres of very rough track off the Nerriga Road near Sassafras had been the favoured access to the popular Budawang area. There would be a number of difficulties for walkers if this closure eventuated. The additional distance to be walked would make it impossible for most trips into the Northern Budawangs to be done in a day and extra use would be put on the already vulnerably Hidden Valley area and other camp sites. However the closure of the Newhaven Gap Road did come about in June, 1997 after the Confederation of Bushwalkers agreed to accept this move. Additional parking areas, camping site and gates were built at the Park boundary.
The Club had also prepared submissions on the management plans for the development of other local areas such as Yalwal and the Morton National Park.
The possibility of a planned walking track between the Shoalhaven and Clyde Rivers was introduced to the Club by Russ Evans in July 1993. The project was given the provisional name of the 'Two Rivers Track' and is similar in concept to the 'Great Northern Walk'.
At the March 1996 meeting Russ informed the Club that construction of the track had started with a work team from the local Aboriginal community gaining the contract. The track is 101 kilometres long and designed to be done in five roughly equal sections starting in the north at Coolendel then to Yalwal, the Yarramunmun and Boolijong valleys, across Tianjara and Little Forest plateaus and along the Wombat and Longfella ridges to Pigeon House to the Clyde River. Each day walk begins and finishes at an accessible track head. With good camping spots, a variety of scenery and terrain, and the possible sighting of wild-life, the 2RT has become popular with back - packers visiting the Shoalhaven. On 8 September 1996 a group of nine Club members went on the first official walk, an introduction to Section1, from Coolendel to Yalwal. Of special interest to the Club was the fact that Dawn and Russ Evans had been involved in both the original concept of the Two Rivers Track and in its detailed designing. After posing for a 'official photo' beside the first of a number of direction/distance signs erected along the way featuring the simple logo of the 2RT, the group walked on to Yalwal.
The Two Rivers Track was officially opened by Senator Robert Herron on 11th March 1997. The Club had done a number of hikes along sections of the Two Rivers Track but on 25 June 1999 a symbolic finish to the completion of this special walk (for the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers) was made when ten Club walkers watched Russ 'mix' the waters from the Shoalhaven River into the Clyde River at Yadboro.
In 1999 Diane Garrood, Regional Manager of NPWS requested assistance from the Club in maintaining the Two Rivers Track. The Coolendel to Boolijong Creek section of about 40kms. was nominated. Regeneration of the eroded track and replacement of vandalised signs has been carried out.
Following completion of the Two Rivers Track, Shoalhaven Council set up a walking tracks committee to develop policies for tracks throughout the City and the Club was invited to nominate a representative to serve on the committee. Russ Evans was asked to fulfil this function whilst Barbara Robertson represented the local state member of parliament.
The Club was also involved with the preparation of a management plan for the old gold mining village of Yalwal which was prepared by the Council with National Parks and the Lands Department in 1999/2000. Don Raffell represented the Club on the advisory committee.
The construction of new tracks and the extension of existing ones is of continuing interest to the Club. The Centenary Walking Trail sub-committee has discussed an extension of the Two Rivers Track to Canberra, possibly though Monga State Forest and Mongarlowe. There is also talk of continuing the Illawarra Escarpment Walking Track to the Shoalhaven and NPWS has proposed a Two Lighthouse Walk - a continuous track around Jervis Bay from the Point Perpendicular Lighthouse on the Beecroft Peninsula in the north, to the Ruined Lighthouse in the Booderee National Park in the south.
In 2001 the NPWS set up a working group to help the Service develop policies for walking and camping in the Budawangs. Members were drawn from the Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs and other organisations, including the Shoalhaven Bushwalkers. It was a very important issue as advice coming from the working group would have a major impact on how and where Club members - and other bushwalkers - may enjoy this magnificent stretch of walking country. The current President, Sandra Kelley, and Liaison Officer, Russ Evans, were nominated as the Club's representatives.