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The track that Black Harry blazed

Dear Beagle Editor,

I really enjoyed reading Issue 4 of Recollections and I want to express my admiration for the effort that went in to producing it.

The cover photograph taken on Brown Mountain sometime between 1892 and 1917 brings to mind peaceful scenes I cycle through when I traverse unsealed roads around Eurobodalla on my mountain bike.

Time appears to have stood still for over a hundred years when I travel quietly along our picturesque back roads. These roads, the scenery and the tranquility remain much the same as our WW1 soldiers would have remembered them.

My mind turns to thinking about why and when some of these roads were first upgraded from rough tracks, how the hard men from earlier generations used muscle, picks and shovels, horses and carts to clear the bush, overcome steep gradients, skirt the waterways and improve access between the farms, forests, dairies, churches, mines, towns and ports that sustained our pioneering forebears.

Araluen Road surely ranks, and deserves to be respected, as one of the nation's oldest. It was surely one of the most heavily trodden tracks in the colony of New South Wales around the 1860's, when thousands of dreamers, desperadoes and dancing girls bustled to seek their fortunes in the fabulous Araluen valley.

A wonderful painting by Norman Hardy "COACHING IN THE ARALUEN VALLEY" confirms the road to Araluen looked much the same in 1893 as it does today.

Many of the hopeful and hapless who walked or rode up the pretty track beside Deua river had voyaged to our colony from distant corners of the globe through terrifying seas in leaky boats. Crowded cemeteries near Araluen confirm, for many, travelling up Araluen road was a one-way journey.

It is now difficult to visualise Araluen with a population of around 35,000, roughly as many residents as today's Shire of Eurobodalla.

Of course our back roads have not always been as tranquil as they appear. Peter Smith, who lives on Araluen Road, in his excellent book about the Clarke Gang, chronicles many robberies, murders and police pursuits that caused great anxiety for earlier residents of our district.

Reedy Creek Road, between Eurobodalla Road and Morts Folly, also has an interesting past. Some of the sturdy stonework that supports this winding road provides an example of long lost skills. I am told this portion of road was once part of the main carriageway down the south coast. Among trees beside the road, possibly within the road easement, stands a solitary tombstone marking the graves of George Bottin who died in 1890 and his son Willie who died 18 years later. Perhaps others know whether there are more, unmarked, graves nearby?

Banjo Patterson also wondered about the history of our roads. He wrote, in the last verse of Black Harry's Team:-

On easy grade and rubber tyre

The tourist car goes through;

They halt a moment to admire

The far flung mountain view

The tourist folk would be amazed

If they could get to know

They take the track that Black Harry blazed

A hundred years ago.

Regards, Don Burns

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