Tracks Close to Sydney - Dunn’s Swamp

Wednesday, Apr 11, 2012 at 18:44

Navigator 1 (NSW)

Monday 26th March to 29th March 2012

Close to Sydney are many interesting places to explore. Once over the Blue Mountains we stopped at Lithgow nestled in a picturesque valley on the western slopes.

A little history ....
Not long after the first crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813 and the building of the road by William Cox in 1815 the lands around Lithgow were being settled and villages established. As early as 1840’s coal was being extracted and this mining sustained Lithgow throughout two world wars and together with electricity generation, it is still the backbone of Lithgow’s economy. The arrival of the railway over the mountains saw the building of the Zig Zag Railway in 1869, an engineering masterpiece. Iron works, a copper smelter, the first meat freezing works in NSW, the first modern blast furnace and steel production all happened in Lithgow.

Today you can step back in time and take a ride on the Zig Zag railway daily at 11am, 1pm or 3pm; Visit the Eskbank House Museum and get an insight into Lithgow’s social and industrial history; Wonder around the State Mine Heritage Park and get a feel for working life in early coal mines; Visit Blast Furnace Park where you will see the towering remains of Australia’s first modern blast furnace; Visit the Small Arms Factory Museum which houses the largest collection of small arms in Australia. The government built the factory to produce weapons. It is not well known that the Small Arms Factory was also responsible for making metal components for many household items. It also produced the very first Pinnock Sewing Machine. (You have to be old to know this one!)

The area is an absolute treasure! Not many regions can claim to have six National Parks in their area: Wollemi National Parkhome to the Wollemi Pine, Gardens of Stone National Park, Blue Mountains National Park, Turon National Park, Capertee National Park and Marrangaroo National Park. Also close by is the Wolgan gap Lookout and the spectacular Wolgan valley which leads to theNewnes Historic Site, one of the largest self-contained shale oil production schemes which operated between 1906 and 1937; the Glow Worm Tunnels provided access for the railway to Newnes; Capertee Valley including Glen Davis, another shale oil works that produced gasoline.

After a failed attempt to visit the Lost City we returned to Lithgow and went to Hassan’s Walls, one of two lookouts right in town. (The track to the Lost City was in a shocking state with pot holes everywhere, the final section being just one big bog hole. It was time to turn around).

At the lookout we had a magnificent view of the valley looking towards Little Hartley (yet another historical town to visit). It was late in the afternoon so we decided to cook and eat dinner with this wonderful back drop. Before we had time to wash up, thick black clouds swept in bringing with it heavy rain, thunder and lightning. By the time the storm had passed it was dark so we decided to stay put for the evening.

The morning brought the most spectacular scene! The entire valley was filled with fog, right to the top of the sheer escarpment on which we were standing. A few towns folk, who drove up the mountain to take photos, said the town was a complete ‘white out’. Here we were above the mist like flying above clouds in an aeroplane.

On our way north
to Wollemi National Park we first called into MacDonalds for coffee. This store is an icon, the meeting place for all travellers and 4WDrivers to the area. We then made a detour to Portland. Here the heritage listed buildings of the old cement works can be viewed from Willawa Street. We travelled around the boundary fence to the north to view two bottle kilns that were built in the early 1890’s – the first cement making kilns west of the Blue Mountains. Today, a community supported project, called ‘Sign of Yesteryear’, has seen the painting of many murals to enhance the town. The Arnott’s biscuit tin is a winner!

At Rylstone, 101km from Lithgow, we turned east and headed to Dunn’s Swamp on Cudgegong River in the Wollemi National Park. For a further 6km we drove through lovely farm lands to our destination. The name ‘Dunn’s Swamp’ certainly does not make you think of a place of beauty, but you will be surprised. A swamp it once was but, back in 1920 a dam wall was built so water could be supplied to the nearby Kandos cement works, 25km west. Now it is a peaceful haven for campers, birds, bush walkers and canoeists. Parks have put a lot of work into the picnic area with tables, fire rings and planting of native trees and bushes. The camping area is about 100m back from the water and a self registration system is in place with fees of $5 pp/pn, $3 per child 5-15 years of age. There are eight composting toilets – no drinking water is provided.

Walks at Dunn's Swamp:
• Platypus Point - 800m return – easy level walk Waterside Walk/River Gauging Weir Circuit –
5.5km - Easy, almost level ground.
• Waterside Walk/River Gauging Weir Circuit – 5.5km - Easy, almost level ground.
• Weir Walk/Long Cave Circuit - 4.5km return – Moderate grade with steep steps in places
• Pagoda Lookout – 1.8km return00m return - Only two difficult rock scrambles.
*Campsite Rocks – 500m – Easy, almost level ground.

The ‘pagodas’ are a local name for distinctive sandstone formations in the north-western Blue Mountains region of NSW, west of Sydney. These rocky cones are found in parts of three reserves of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area; the northern parts of the Blue Mountains NP, along the western edge of Wollemi NP, and in the Gardens of Stone NP. However much of the pagoda heartland is still found outside of reserves, principally on Newnes Plateau, Genowlan and Airly mesas in the Capertee Valley, and in Ben Bullen State Forest. The main concentration of the pagoda country covers around 600 km2. Pagodas are conical rock formations formed by differential weathering and erosion of the local sandstones. They come in two forms. Smooth pagodas have relatively regular conical-shapes (without terraces), while platy pagodas are stepped and terraced cones that resemble Asian pagodas, zigguratsor step-pyramids. On platy pagodas, erosion resistant ironstone bands from 1 to several cm thick project from the surface and form the hard surfaces of the terraces. These bands can project laterally from the underlying sandstone for tens of centimetres,and display detailed 3-dimensional forms that can resemble chairs and tables, pipes and pulpits. Pagoda complexes are part of wonderfully intricate, ruin like, landforms that resemble lost cities and temples, and are also often associated with slot canyons and weathering caves. Their significance only started to be appreciated in the 1980s.

From: The Geoheritage and Geomorphology of the Sandstone Pagodas of the North-western Blue Mountains Region (NSW)
By Haydn G Washington and Robert A. L. Wrang

We did all but the Waterside Walk having done this one on a previous visit.
The Weir Walk took us along the water to the Pagoda Lookout turn off. On top of the rocks we had a wonderful view back to the picnic/camp area and up the waterway. We watched a group of students from the Lithgow Tafe make their way along the tranquil waters in their canoes. Back on the track we made our way to the Weir/Dam wall and then on to Long Cave. This was quite special but I would call it, ‘Long Overhang’.

We spent two wonderful nights at Dunn’s Swamp.

After breakfast at the picnic area we headed back to Lithgow through the Spectacular Capertee Valley, reported to be the widest, enclosed valley in the world . It featured glorious exposed cliff escarpments, a volcanic plug and buttes rising from lush rolling grazing land.Capertee Valley is within the traditional country of the Wiradjuri people. We stopped off at the Glen Davis picnic/camping area for lunch but we were disappointed to learn that the ruins of the oil shale processing plant were on private land with tours operating only on Saturdays. One day we may find out if they are as impressive as the ruins at The Newnes.

We joined the Lithgow/Mudgee Highway at Capertee and after a visit to the impressive old railway station we headed south. The station building is for rent if you want to set up a Cafe!

Tomorrow, after one more night in Lithgow, we will travel south to Oberon where we will meet friends and head for Abercrombie River National Park.
The outback calls
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