Eight of us enjoyed a perfect Autumn morning last Sunday on our paddle up Herons Creek. Queens Lake was calm & serene & there was just a light breeze, not like the Antarctic chill that has blasted up the river the last few days.
Herons Creek never disappoints. This wide creek which runs off the lake is wide and meanders gracefully, bordered by beautiful stands of tall timber and farming land. There were some lovely reflections and sea eagles & osprey were engaged in fishing expeditions. Needless to say, everything is very green & lush after all the rain. The water is very discoloured at present but that did not detract from the surroundings & the atmosphere.
On our way home we deviated into Herons Creek village for a look around & found some very interesting information about the area’s early European history.
The area was home to the Turpentine Tramway and a very informative historical information board and sculpture tells the story.
In the late 1800’s & early 1900’s timber from the turpentine tree was highly sought after for wharf & jetty piles because it resisted marine borers better than other timbers. It was also largely termite resistant and difficult to ignite & therefore a valuable commodity. Large stands of this timber were known to exist around the headwaters of Cedar Creek and they became the target of what became known as the ‘Turpentine Tramway’. In 1895 one Justin McSweeney established the Federal Timber Company & built a sawmill at Homedale (near Kew). In order to avoid the delays caused when bullock teams were unable to work after heavy rain, he had built a 6km tramway in the heart of the turpentine country. The rails were hardwood spiked onto locally split wooden sleepers; logs were loaded onto small rail wagons & hauled to the mill by a horse team. In 1897 the Australasian Timber Company bought the Kew mill but both it & the tramway were short lived as the company went into liquidation in 1898. The mill was sold & relocated to the Concord mill at Laurieton. The tramway ceased operation in the early 1900’s. This tramway was not without incident and on March 2 1899 a tragedy occurred when a 14 year old youth, who had been employed as a horse driver for only a week, was killed on the job. Rain had apparently made the rails slippery, and his trolley became unmanageable ( it was a practice that the horses were unharnessed & walked behind the trolleys on steep down hill sections & re harnessed on the flats). Instead of ‘abandoning ship’ as advised, he tried desperately to apply the trolley brakes harder but fell off and tragically was dragged under one of the wheels. He died from his injuries & is buried at Kendall cemetery.
Thanks, Peter, for leading this trip and to those members who came along for the paddle.