What a privilege it is to be part of New South Wales History Week. It’s an opportunity to speak on subjects close to my heart, and this year a chance to see a part of the state I have never visited before; Singleton in the Upper Hunter.
From our home in the Blue Mountains my partner Rob and I travelled via the Putty Road. It began as an unmade cattle route some 150 year ago, as the only link between Sydney and the Hunter Valley. It fell into disuse when the Wiseman’s Ferry Road was operating and by the outbreak of WWII was un-navigable between Richmond and the village of Putty.
In 1939 it was decided to reconstruct the road, partly in the interests of national security. From the Singleton Argus;
‘In the event of an emergency the road would provide a rapid and more inland route, as well as a safer one, than the present routes for the movement of troops and equipment. The possibility of delays at ferries would be completely removed.’
It was difficult to recruit men during construction with so many serving in the army, but by 1941 it was open to traffic.
ON THE ROAD
Motorists need to take care, because there are some sharp bends. Below are verses from a poem written circa 1974 by John Moran.
Those tanks were a reminder that the area, like the whole of New South Wales, is currently in drought. Times are tough for man, beast and bird.
There is something about rows of idiosyncratic mail boxes that sums up the Aussie spirit. I loved the little roo on the far right.
The Putty Valley is surrounded by Wollemi and Yengo National Parks, and the trunks of gnarled gum trees are so beautiful. It’s dangerous to stop in many places, so I couldn’t capture those that really caught my eye. However, this one in a lay-by was lovely. I’m ashamed to say that I have no idea what species they are, even though I live at a property called The Gums.
It was a little more sobering to pass this vast, open cut coal mine with its high security fencing. Such a contentious industry, but a major employer and important to the region’s economy.
And so to Singleton, and the local library; location for my talk.
My subject was the troubled life of Charles Macquarie, nephew of Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Co-incidentally, Charles endured years of drought further east in the lower Hunter, during the early 1840s.
Returning home next day we stopped for lunch in the historic town of Windsor, one of the five original ‘Macquarie towns’. Very appropriately we parked opposite The Macquarie Arms Hotel.
The town of Richmond signals the end to the Putty Road, and from there we make our way back up to the Blue Mountains.