Cunningham’s Trail – July 12-13, 1827

August 9, 2016

Cunningham’s party have discovered and named Horton’s River, and its valley as Wilmott Vale. The “remarkable range” running north-south up the western side of the valley, he named Drummond’s Range. From their campsite of the 11th July, on the Horton River, about 12 miles upstream from the Elcombe Bridge, on the Bingara to Gravesend Road, they continue their journey south hoping to push further to the west.

Cunningham writes…

At our usually early hour of the morning, we continued our Course to the South up the Valley, but as some low ridges stretching laterally into the Vale, from Drummond’s Range, obliged me to pursue our Way more to the Eastward, than the line of Route I had wish’d to prosecute, in order to save the Horses, I was induced at our sixth mile, in the hope of meeting with better travelling, to push our way westerly into another Valley, at a remarkable break in the Hills, thro’ which a tributary stream to Horton’s River meander’d from a very broken mountainous Country at that bearing.

Without much difficulty, upon crossing several low stony Ridges, we succeeded in passing to the westward of Drummond’s Range, and upon proceeding about three miles in a S.Western direction over an indifferent tract of forest ground, broken by dry water Channels, we at length reach’d some good sound Pasture on a small Brook, which ran Easterly towards the Gap in the Hills we had passed, where doubtless it joins the branch of Horton’s River.

Having accomplished 12 Miles, I again stop’d, the afternoon being far advanced, and rain in light showers began to fall –   At this Encampment we found ourselves closely invested by ridges of stony Hills of very steep acclivity, and the Valley which appear’d before us narrow and confined, had seemingly no outlet to the South or West.

To the west, we perceived at a distance of not exceeding 10 miles the very lofty points of the Northern Extremes of Hardwicke’s Range peeping over the forest ridges, more immediately bounding the Valley. Nothing can be more picturesque & grand, than the aspect of this towering Range; its summit being composed of perpendicular rocks (doubtless of granitic structure) crown’d by rugged blocks of stone, & square chimney shaped masses, partially covered with Vegetation.

July 13.  A very sharp frosty Morning.  The therm at 30 ½ – Elevn. Above the Sea 1333 ft.  It was freezing hard, for an hour after Sunrise, and the surface of water placed in our Vessels at a short distance from our fires, had in a short space, a crust of Ice formed upon it.

Upon advancing 8 miles to the South through the Valley, the ridge drew nearer together, and immediately we perceived its contracted form, to incline to the East.   As the ranges were too Elevated, and their acclivities too abrupt to allow us to attempt our passage over them, in the prosecution of our Course to the Southwd., we were obliged to follow the valley in that direction it had taken, which evidently would lead us to the upper parts of Wilmott Vale.  However as our Odometer, which had ran throughout this long Journey, had become broken I was obliged to stop at our 10th mile, in order to effect that repair, this useful Instrument required.

Cunningham had taken the option of “the remarkable break in the Hills” to travel up Rocky Creek. His campsite that night would have been in the vicinity of the Rocky Creek – Back Creek Junction possibly near to the Anglican Church and Tennis Courts of today.

To the west he could see, “the very lofty points of the Northern Extremes of Hardwicke’s Range” the ramparts of the Nandewar Volcano, Mt Grattai, Bobby Waa and Mount Waa. They are not “granitic” as he supposed but made of much younger volcanic rocks of about 20 million years ago.

The next morning’s frosty wake-up was below zero degrees Celcius and their first really cold morning. The way ahead to the south up Back Creek looked daunting and to add to their woes, their Odometer or Perambulator broke requiring an early camp on the 13th in order to repair it.

Next week, some really tough country as they leave the Gwydir Shire region and from the last high ridge, view the Liverpool Plains and the Warrumbungles.