Cunningham’s Trail May 22-24, 1827

August 9, 2016

In this extract from the log of explorer Allan Cunningham, his troop travel northward from their crossing of the Gwydir River at Bingara, to camp near Warialda on the night of May 23. The ridges of the Peel Fault are to their right and their Trail would have been close to that of the present Bingara-Warialda Road.

One little mystery is his reference to “a very lofty Ridge crown’d with Cypress lying nearly East and West, and from the back of it rose a very sharp Cone”. This is most likely to be Gragin Peak. The mystery is, can it be seen above the horizon of ridges from any point between W and S of Warialda? As you will read later, Cunningham made a sizable error in his log entry for May 23, so the location of his camp sites for May 22 and 23 are open to question.

His log reads:

22 & 23 May. Quitting the right or N. Eastern bank of the Peel River (Gwydir River), which had taken a bend to the Westward, we pursued our route to the N.N.W. immediately at the base of a continuation of the Eastern Range of the Hills, which again assumed a bold & rocky Character – – We travelled thro an uniformly barren tract of wooded Country, frequently broken and ridgy, and as the declivity of the several gullies were of considerable dip towards the Channel of the Peel, which extended along the Eastern base of a densely wooded Range, bearing west of us, we found the whole of the Day’s stage exceedingly badly water’d.

At the distance of about 14 Miles north from the ford of Peel’s River, the Country considerably improves, and by being less encumbered with useless Timber, & consequently more open to the Sun and Air, the Soil which had assumed a darker colour, was productive to a tolerable Clothing of Grass and excellent Vegetation. The elevated range lying North & South, a few miles to the West of our line of route, (near Ceramic Break Sculpture Park) at length terminates, and the Country beyond it, which appear’d, from the higher grounds on which we stood, to be rather heavily timber’d, had evidently a Considerable declension to the N.W.

At East, the rocky ridge of Hills, which had for many days entirely circumscribed our View at that bearing, also falling to the ordinary level, the Country assumes a picturesque appearance. Detach’d Hills of moderate height – diversify the surface which being thinly wooded with small Trees, furnishes evidently in Seasons less destructive to vegetation an abundance of Grass. To the North-East the Country rises to a considerable Elevation, and a very lofty Ridge crown’d with Cypress lying nearly East and West, and from the back of it rose a very sharp Cone – received the name of Masterton’s range. – The rocks of the adjacent Hills of which large masses had rolled down, and studded the lower grounds over which we travelled, were of sandstone, reposing upon a large body of Duddingstone, which included large pebbles of Quartz and Jasper.

About noon on the 23rd we reach’d the wide but shallow reedy channel of a River, proving simply at this Season a long chain of groves, and having observed the altitude of the Sun at the Meridian on its margin which gave for me Lat. 31o34.44*, we traced it about 4 Miles to the N.N.E , and then halted on its bank. Some strips of good pasturage appear’d on the edge of these ponds, especially where the Appletree was a prevalent Timber. The Marks of the Natives Hatchets were observable on the Trees, but the few Savages, that prowl thro’ these lonely Regions in quest of food, appear evidently to avoid us – the train of laden Horses, the numbers of my men and Dogs doubtless alarming those who may have seen us from the Hills so much, as to urge their flight, rather than induce them to seek a communication with us.

May 24. Upon crossing the Reedy Channel of the Chain of ponds on which we had encamped, we passed over a stony cypress ridge, and among the mass of vegetation characterising the Flora of Bathurst Country, I detected a few plants, which I had not previously met with of Genera however fully established. The rocks of this ridge are of the ferruginous sandstone of the Blue Mountains Ranges, and as large portions of the disintegrated parts of this formation had been washed by successive rains into the lower forest grounds in the immediate Vicinity, the surface, resting on an argillaceous substratum, was covered with a barren grit to a depth of four inches.

*The Latitude given here seems to be an error, of Cunningham. It clearly reads as such in the photocopy from his original log. Such a latitude would place his camp nearer to Quirindi and his earlier campsite of May 6.

The Reedy Channel, is probably Reedy Creek that flows through Warialda. It is thought that his camp of May 23, was in the vicinity of the present rest stop just east of the Bingara Road / Gwydir Highway junction.

Cunningham journeyed northwards to reach, and name, the Darling Downs early in June. After sighting and naming Spicer’s Gap, and concluding it to be a “gateway” to the penal colony at Moreton Bay (Brisbane), he turned south and west and re-entered the vicinity of Gwydir Shire on July 8.