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Saturday, 30 November 2013


Murphy's Spiral Lookout
I would not be surprised if most readers have never heard of “Stonehaven Pass”. I hadn’t, until I came across Jim Smith’s excellent article on the subject while searching the web for something else. You will find it here ;it will tell you all you would like to know about the Pass – the origin of the name, how it came be to be constructed, then neglected and now made accessible again. You will learn a lot about the Wentworth Falls Reserve Trust and the names given along this track to honour these men and those employed by them to construct and maintain the network of tracks and lookouts that make Wentworth Falls such a great place to visit today. * Unfortunately Jim Smith's article has been removed from the Web since this blog was written.

Photo from the State Library of Queensland
I doubt that Baron Stonehaven (Governor General of Australia 1925-1930) ever heard of this short walk now named after him. He certainly never came to Wentworth Falls as the Trustees hoped he would, nor did the pass become a popular walking track. In fact, it fairly quickly faded into obscurity (as did other tracks) as the years of the Depression and World War 11 rolled by and the changeover to management by, first of all the Blue Mountains City Council and then by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

I started the walk from the Princes Rock track, from which it branches to the right as you descend, a little below the old well on the left. There is presently no sign post, but there is a National Parks sign soon after entering. If you are coming from the Den Fenella track, the turnoff is on the left a minute or so after you start down the hill. There is an identical sign at this end of the track, but nothing at the actual turnoff.                                                                                  

See my video of the walk or study Jim Smith’s map (or both) to get an idea of the layout. The track is easy to follow, if a little wet in places (hanging swamps abound in this part of the National Park). The lookouts have the remains of the original fencing around their edges but they wouldn’t help you much if you slipped. It is definitely not a place for children unless they are closely supervised.

The men working on the Den Fenella track told me that they believed the Stonehaven Pass track was also going to be upgraded. Much as I enjoyed the walk the way it is, I guess that making it more accessible will allow more people to appreciate it. Meanwhile, thank you to those who did the work back in the 1920’s and those who reopened the track as it is today.

 My You Tube video of Stonehaven Pass may be found here .
The Wild Walks description of the Princes Rock – Den Fenella walk my be found here . My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here. I have three other playlists: on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.

Saturday, 23 November 2013


Family group about to commence the walk October 2004

On the track September 2013

The Fairfax Heritage Track was constructed in 1986/7 to provide an easily accessible pathway from the National Parks and Wildlife Heritage Centre to Govett’s Leap Lookout in Blackheath. It is identified as a wheelchair accessible route and this is indeed true, a rarity in Australian national parks. The only problem might be the return trip up the hill from the lookout, which is somewhat steeper and has a number of “humps” where drains pass underneath. It would be better for someone to walk back up and bring a vehicle down to the lookout.

Classic shelter shed July 2007
At George Phillips Lookout July 2009
The route is well signposted and passes through a variety of vegetation types, each clearly indicated. There are seats at regular intervals as well and this makes this simple walk a joy for any lover of the Australian bush.

Perhaps the highlight of the walk is George Phillips Lookout, where the path dramatically emerges from the bush onto one of the most spectacular views in the Blue Mountains. It’s only a few minutes walk from here to the Govett’s Leap Lookout car park where there always seems to be lots of visitors. I guess this spot is Blackheath’s equivalent to Echo Point at Katoomba, (without the parking fee). However I doubt if one in a hundred takes the track to George Phillips Lookout, which is great if you would like to just sit and enjoy the view in peace.

Photo courtesy of the Blue Mountains City Library
The original sign erected at George Phillips Lookout in 1946 had these words: “National Reserves. George Phillips Lookout. In appreciation of the able and energetic service of Ex-Alderman George Phillips, a pioneer of the district and active member & Secretary of the Blackheath Group of the Blue Mountains Sights Reserves from 1917-1939. Opened by the Blackheath Municipal Council 28-1-1946”. No doubt there are similar stories which could be told about all our Blue Mountains beauty spots but it is up to us to ensure they are recorded.

For the Wild Walks pages on the Fairfax Track click here .

For the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service click here . For my video of the walk, click here.

For my Blue Mountains You Tube playlist click here . I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


The Leura Cascades area is accessible from either Katoomba or Leura by the Cliff Drive. It came to prominence when the Katoomba swimming baths were constructed in 1913, but the area was already the focus for a number of popular walking tracks, notably those leading to the Federal Pass and the two Leura falls (commonly called the Bridal Veil (upper falls) and Leura Falls (lower). The legacy from those times is a great network of tracks providing lots of different routes commencing at the cascades picnic area (see the blog entry on this dated 5th October 2013).

Two significant events which have left their mark on the area were the decision to bring the Leura-Katoomba sewer pipes down into the Jamison Valley via this route and the floodlighting of the Cascades in 1932.

I have found it difficult to piece together the history of sewerage schemes in the upper Blue Mountains, but it would appear that Katoomba at least had a system operating by 1910. (Cast iron pipes alongside the Katoomba Falls valley walks are dated 1909.) A similar system probably operated via the Leura Falls Gap; both seem to have operated on a septic tank/filter bed system with the semi-purified effluent then being discharged into the creek. 

Newspaper reports show that the Leura Creek route was being considered for major augmentation in the following decade. The sewage treatment plant which eventuated was finally opened in 1935, only being replaced a few years ago by the deep drainage tunnel which takes sewage from the upper Blue Mountains by gravity down to the treatment works at Winmalee. See the “Sydney Morning Herald” (NSW: 1842 -
From the SMH November 18 1935
1954), Monday 18 November 1935, page 8 (via “Trove”).

The Leura/Katoomba floodlighting was part of the major improvements to tourist facilities carried out during the Great Depression, which was vital in keeping people employed in those difficult times. The complete article about the opening makes good
From the SMH December 5 1932
reading. See the “Sydney Morning Herald” (NSW: 1842 - 1954),  Monday 5 December 1932, page 9 (via “Trove”).

The floodlit Cascades August 1968
Just when the Leura Cascades lost its floodlights I don’t know, but the remains of posts and wires may still be seen beside the track. As you make your way from the picnic area down to the Bridal Veil Falls, you won’t notice these things because of the beauty of your surroundings. The removal of the sewer lines and the floodlights has brought the area closer to what it once must have been.
This Wild Walks link includes a good map of the area (here) .                                                           
For my video of the walk, click here . My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here. I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand.
See the 2013 photo of the same location at the top of this page

From an album of Harry Phillips photos presented to Frederick John Spellacy dated 12 April 1935.
As an Alderman on Katoomba Municipal Council and local bus operator, John Spellacy was instrumental in the floodlighting of the Three Sisters and Leura Cascades, officially opened December 3, 1932.

Photo and information from Blue Mountains Local Studies.

Friday, 8 November 2013


Barrow Lookout from Govett's Leap Lookout
Barrow Lookout is easily seen from Govett’s Leap Lookout, being just to the left of the waterfall and above it, on the cliff top track to Evans Lookout. It takes its name from the 19th century surveyor Isaac Le Pipre Barrow, who worked in the area.

Its location matches the place mentioned by Assistant Surveyor William Romaine Govett in his letter to Surveyor General Major Thomas Mitchell dated 1st July 1831. “The Creek near ‘Blackheath’ after running about two miles and a half falls abruptly after the manner of the cascade at the ‘Weatherboard’ into one of the Gullies of the Grose River; at a point near this fall of water you have a grand view of two cascades, and that break of rock which forms such a particular (feature) in this Survey. Indeed I have not as yet seen a view which shews (sic) so well the character of the mountain feature …”. (Quoted from “Blackheath Today from Yesterday” p 131, edited by Peter C Rickwood and David J West, 2005).                                                                             
Govett's Leap from Barrow Lookout

Horseshoe Falls from Barrow Lookout
No doubt Govett discovered the waterfall by following the creek we now know as Govett’s Leap Brook, rather than the ridge which ends with the present day Govett’s Leap Lookout. We need to take note at this point that the correct name for the waterfall is “Govett’s Leap” (not the Bridal Veil or Bridal Veil Falls), which name appears to have been given by Mitchell soon after Govett’s discovery. The monument at Govett’s Leap Lookout reads as follows: “This fall of water was named Govett’s Leap from the circumstance of William Romaine Govett Assistant Surveyor first having come upon the spot in June 1831”.

This concise statement of the facts is in stark contrast to the bizarre stories that abounded from the early 1870’s onwards, which had Govett as a bushranger, an escaped convict or convict overseer, a murderer and general vagabond. His “leap” was supposed to have been on horseback over a rocky gully (which he and his horse survived) or over the cliff (in which case they didn’t). Those responsible for promoting tourism in Blackheath could have easily contradicted these wild stories; however it seems that they used them to promote interest in the town and district. Even today poor Govett is seldom show the respect he deserves.
I don’t know when the name “Govett’s Leap” came into general use, but in the 1845 edition of Charles Darwin’sThe Voyage of the Beagle”, chapter 19 page 438 we read "Jan 18, 1836: Very early in the morning, I walked about three miles to see Govett's Leap: a view of a similar character with that near the Weatherboard, but perhaps even more stupendous.”
Not having seen Darwin’s original diary, I can’t say that he actually wrote this in 1836. Darwin corresponded with Major Thomas Mitchell and it is possible that he was given the name by him, inserting it into the text when he prepared his notes for publication. The name was certainly in common use when the railway opened to Mt Victoria on 1st May 1868. The first timetables suggest that the reason for trains stopping at Blackheath was so that visitors could go and see Govett’s Leap.
Readers might like to look up this reference in Trove: The World's News (Sydney, NSW: 1901 - 1955), Saturday 30 September 1922, page 20, 21.

Professor V. Gordon Childe
Now here is an intriguing story for readers of this blog to follow up. What happened to world renowned archaeologist, atheist and socialist Professor V. Gordon Childe at Barrow Lookout in 1957?

See the article by Dr Peter Rickwood in the “Blue Mountains History Journal”, Issue 3 October 2012 page 35. The issue may be downloaded here .

The Wild Walks information on this area may be found here .
For my video on the walk from Govett's Leap Lookout to Barrow Lookout, click here . My Blue Mountains You Tube  playlist is here . I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.

Friday, 1 November 2013


Tarpeian Rock is on the extreme right of the map
This short walk follows the Prince Henry Cliff Walk from the Leura Cascades picnic area to Tarpeian Rock Lookout and return, with a diversion to Bridal Veil View Lookout.

The area around the present day picnic area is part of a major development which took place in 1911-13 and included the baths (now filled in), the Chelmsford Bridge and what is now Cliff Drive. The Leura Falls Kiosk (now the Solitary Restaurant) also dates from around this time as no doubt do some of the area’s walking tracks.

See The Blue Mountain Echo (NSW: 1909 - 1928), Friday 19 May 1911, page 2 for an entertaining account of the beginnings of the project. (This can be found by searching the newspaper files at .

Lord Chelmsford (Frederic John Napier Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford (12 August 1868 – 1 April 1933) was a British statesman who served as Governor of Queensland (1905–1909) and Governor of New South Wales from 1909 to 1913 at the time of the work at Leura Cascades. He officiated at the opening of the new Katoomba Town Hall in January1912.                                                                                                                                            
Bridal Veil View is a romantic place

A one-time feature of the walk to Tarpeian Rock was the flying fox which took supplies down to the Katoomba-Leura sewage treatment works in the valley below Leura Falls. This seems to have been removed as part of the cleanup after the sewage works closed down a few years ago. There is no shortage of cleaning up to do down in the valley.

I wonder what this sign used to read!
The diversion to Bridal Veil View Lookout is well worth taking. It’s only a few minute’s walk to a point directly opposite the Bridal Veil (upper Leura Falls, reached by going down the Leura Cascades track). This lookout seems to have a problem with its name, as I have also seen it called Bridal Veil View Lookout or just Bridal Veil View.

Leura Tarpeian Rock
Rome Tarpeian Rock
So far as I know, there have been no criminals thrown off the  Tarpeian Rock at Leura, unlike the original in Rome which was used for that purpose for hundreds of years. There is some physical resemblance between the two rocks, I guess. You decide.

The Wild Walks information and map is useful. You will find it here .

My own video of the walk may be found here . My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand. Please comment and subscribe.
Chelmsford Bridge August 2009