January 23, 2009

Did you know that when explorer Allan Cunningham made his journey from the Hunter Valley to discover and name the Darling Downs in 1827, he crossed the Gwydir River (which he thought was the Peel), at Bingara?

Cunningham’s expedition is noted as the first by non-indigenous people into this region, but he was surprised, on two occasions, to discover “white man’s huts”. Thus, he discovered, that he was not the first “white man” to journey into this land.

The first “white man’s hut”, he described as, “located about three miles north east of our campsite at latitude 29° 58’31.20” S; longitude150°33’18.00”E, on May 21, 1827”. This would place the “hut” at a location about 400metres towards Bingara, from the Bora Road turn-off, along the Bingara-Barraba Road.

On his northward journey towards crossing the Gwydir, Cunningham named the valley Stoddart’s Valley. He noted in his log book “signs of cattle”, referred to “flint rock and serpentine” and to discovering some “unusual plants”.

His return journey took him through what is now Stonehenge National Park just east of Warialda. There on July 8, 1827, he noted, “The site of the encampment here is latitude 29°34’02” S.,longitude 150°35’50” E. In order to avoid a rocky part of the valley through which the channel of the reedy creek wound westerly, I pursued a course to the S.W. over stony boundary hills, and passed through a barren, scrubby wood, productive of many curious plants. In this sterile forest, which afforded me many specimens, we were not a little surprised to meet with a shed of most temporary erection, 24 feet long by about six feet broad, and formed by eight strong posts of young trees having their bases well secured in the earth, supporting a horizontal wattled roof, slightly thatched with gum-tree boughs, about ten feet from the ground. Upon examination, it was evident that it had been set up by white men who knew well the use and application of the axe, and from the appearance of the ends of the timbers we judged it to have stood so for four months. There were several small bark huts of natives in the neighbourhood. . . . I arrived at the conclusion that the persons who had erected this screen from the sun (for it formed no protection from rain or bad weather, being narrow and open on all sides), had been (convict) cedar-cutters, who, having escaped from Port Macquarie, distant E.S.E. 165 miles, had joined a tribe of natives and were wandering at large, through this distant interior.”

On February 19, 2009 starting at 7:00pm, a forum called “DISCOVER GWYDIR” will be held at The Roxy Theatre in Bingara. It’s purpose is to consider what Gwydir Shire has to offer the traveler, tourist and “explorer” of today.

An open invitation is extended to all people interested in knowing more, in offering information, and in helping to participate in the “DISCOVER GWYDIR” project, to come along.

Submitted by Rick Hutton
Bingara and District VISION 20/20
Ph:0428 255 380.