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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.

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