Steam train at Blackheath station NSW
We still have steam trains come through Blackheath station on special occasions.

When the Great Western Railway crossed the Blue Mountains of New South Wales in the 1860s  a reliable water source was required for the steam engines. In the village of Blackheath a catchment area to the north and east of Gardners Crescent and below Prince Edward Street was reserved for the purpose.  Two dams were built, one on the site of what is now the swimming pool complex and a second that  became the ornamental duck pond in 1935.


Several years later a request was made to Lithgow Council for some swans or ducks to stock the pond. Apparently none were forthcoming, so the city of  Bathurst was approached. This time they had  more success (no swans though).  Eight mallard ducks were delivered  and soon made themselves at home.  Unfortunately they  began to multiply far more rapidly than anticipated. It was decided that a reduction in numbers was required.

Blackheath Duck Pond
Descendant Ducks

From The Blue Mountains Advertiser, April 30 1943


Alderman Wadsen and Haworth on several occasions have brought under the Mayor’s notice the large number of ducks and drakes in the duck pond at Memorial Park. Several years ago Alderman Cripps imported four pair from Bathurst.

Like the guinea pig, these bred rapidly, so much so that they have become an expensive liability. The Town Clerk admits that they eat two bags of wheat every week.

To transfer the ducks from the debit to the credit side of Council’s ledger was a problem of the alderman on Tuesday night. The Town  Clerk said he had had an offer and could sell as many as Council wished.

The palatability of the birds was discussed at some length and the value assessed accordingly. Some of the aldermen were of the opinion that they would make tough eating, while others said there was nothing tastier than wild duck.

Finally it was agreed to ask local butchers and smallgoods shops to submit a price ‘on the hoof’. Three pair are to be offered to the Jenolan Caves House Manager to supplement his stock of fauna.

How many businesses in the village made a bid for the birds  is unknown, but presumably roast duck was on the menu for many Blackheath residents.

Those original mallard ducks are now almost outnumbered by Australian native wood ducks, which can only be a good thing.  There is certainly no necessity to supplement the birds’  diet with wheat, as in the early days.  Mind you, they do get wheat in the form of bread, fed to them by small children.  This is not encouraged, but………

Wood duck on Blackheath duck pond
Mother wood duck on golden pond

My Blackheath born friend Larraine Home tells me there were once  quite a few Muscovy ducks. However, nobody liked them and they were expelled.

Wood ducks  are unusual because they  nest in tree hollows, often in my garden, which is just around the corner.  The duckling are famous for fledging by dropping many metres to the ground.

The road is a constant hazard for the little ones, hence the warning sign.;

Duck pond at Blackheath
They will be cross if  the cars don’t stop.
Wood duck family
Careful now little ones! A wood duck brood crossing  in the care of mother.

A few weeks later…… they seem to have lost a  couple.

Wood ducks
Nearly grown up, but still in parental care.

The other long term resident is a little pied cormorant.

Pied Cormorant
Pied cormorant admiring the azalea reflections in spring
Cormorant t Blackheath duck pond,.
Drying off.

Autumn is a lovely time to visit the pond;

Blackheath duck pond
Crimson and gold
Blackheath duck pond.
Afternoon reflections.
Ducks on Blackheath pond
A floating carpet of leaves

In winter the pond  has been known to freeze over. Here is a YouTube video of the pond and some sliding ducks.

I can’t say I agree with the YouTube commentator about it being colder in  our little valley than up in the village, though. It’s freezing up there on the ridge, especially if there’s  a wind chill factor.

The pond is only a two minute walk from my house, so it is almost part of my garden. It’s a joy to watch it change through the year, and to see new families of ducks, both native and introduced.  I’ve never seen a baby cormorant though, or even  a  mate for our lone  bird come to that. I wonder whether Bathurst might have a spare one?

NOTE – I have been reminded by Mark McGrath that there is a family of Eastern Long-necked Turtles in the pond.   I have never spotted one in the water, but recently I came across  this one wandering  through the grass just across the road.

Long-necked turtles live in the pond.



  1. Lovely article Pauline,

    There are also turtles (eastern long-necked) that live in the pond. During winter they sit on the bottom of pond hibernating then in the warmer months they rise to the surface and feed on tadpoles, frogs and yabbies.

    On a summer’s day I’ve seen up to 6 of them floating just below the surface with the tip of their heads just poking up above the water.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Mark. How interesting. I’ve never spotted a turtle in the pond, I’ll have to look more carefully. However, a few weeks ago I photographed a large one on the other side of the road, and have had a couple in our nearby garden over the years.

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