Epic foot journey continues

Malcolm Brown takes a breather as he passes through Orange on his way to Dubbo. Photo: CENTRAL WESTERN DAILY
Malcolm Brown takes a breather as he passes through Orange on his way to Dubbo. Photo: CENTRAL WESTERN DAILY

THE ROAD between Bathurst and Orange winds through some of the most peaceful and picturesque places on the western slopes, and one might be excused for thinking nothing horrible can happen.

Of course it does, and I have passed half-a-dozen roadside memorials to accident victims.

That is only a fraction of those who have died on this road.

I am told that in the 12 kilometres of winding road between Bathurst and Dunkeld, to the west, 13 people have died in 12 years.

Speeds on the road are around the 100-kilometre mark but there is little margin for error.

In 1823, a party led by Lieutenant Percy Simpson set out from Bathurst to build a road to Wellington Vale, as it was called then.

The guide refused to take the party because he said the only route was along the Macquarie River and it was too harsh to get a dray and provisions along it.

The party took a route south of the river, with an Aboriginal guide and one Constable Blackman.

They moved along Fredericks Valley and through the site of the future city of Orange, crossing what they called Blackman's Swamp Creek as they did so.

The party took another 10 days to get to Wellington but that path is basically what is followed today.

The first grant of land in the Orange district was at Lucknow and pastoralists quickly moved in.

In 1838, Thomas Mitchell passed through and commented on "the mountain mass of Conobalas".

Residents of Blackman's Swamp settlement then petitioned for a proclamation as a municipality, pointing to the settlement's strategic location for the overland routes, and the proclamation was made in 1846. Five years later came the discovery of gold but copper was also important.

I walked past the turnoff to Byng where Cornish miners once settled with their families, having walked the road across the mountains.

Two families descended from those miners and are still there.

There are delightful stories along the way including one of a forbidden love match between a landlord's daughter, Rosa Glasson, and William Wythes, son of a lessee farmer. The two eloped in a coach to Sydney; Rosa's father pursued the coach but found the couple were not on board.

He left, the coachman gave a whistle and out of the bush came the couple, who continued to Sydney, where they were married by the Reverend Dunmore Lang.

I'm now about 15 kilometres out of Orange, way ahead of schedule, my progress hastened by publicity and goodwill, including that of a couple who drove all the way to Lithgow and back to bring me a cup of takeaway coffee.

Malcolm Brown, who worked at the Daily Liberal as a journalist for 12 months, is expected to arrive in Dubbo on Wednesday.


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