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Thursday, 26 February 2015


There is a beautiful gully near Blackheath, leading from what is known as the Mermaid's Cave - why so called only those who named it can know: one thinks of a sandy beach with white-crested waves, a cavern decked with glistening shells, and a lady with a long tail combing her hair. There is nothing of that sort to be seen, but after scrambling down a stony path and jumping over rocks, where a tail would be most inconvenient, one comes upon a shining pool, which, fed by a stream trickling through a cleft in the over-arching nook, in its turn feeds another stream, which gurgling over a rocky
path makes a deep gorge glorious with greenery. Here are ferns, from the majestic tree spreading protecting arms over the clear water to the tiny plant whose delicate fronds beautify every nook and corner and make all nature lovely. "Oh, if I could only take a little bit of the gully home," said one of us, "I shouldn't want a bush-house." "Just so, my dear madam, but this is a world of work, and nothing good can be got without effort." We appreciated this answer when the time came to go back, but hard work though it was we felt amply repaid by the memory of beauty, which once seen can never be forgotten.”
Charles Bayless photograph circa 1885

This poetic description comes from the Illustrated Sydney News, February 16, 1884 and is similar to several others of the time. Blackheath was in its infancy in those days, the first lots having been sold at a government auction in 1879. Development was slow at first and by the time of the Illustrated Sydney News report the population would have been only a few hundred. Nevertheless, Mermaid’s Cave appears to have been the first Blackheath attraction after Govett’s Leap and the Recreation Reserve surrounding it must have been declared in the 1880’s. It is now administered by the Blue Mountains City Council.
Naturally, the history of the place goes back into the Dream Time, and you might appreciate this video drawing attention to those times (here). Whether this is based on folk memory or not I cannot say, but it is a place which all visitors should enter with respect.
From the movie - source given on right
That this has not always been the case is apparent by comparing the scene today with old photographs, which reveal the amount of destruction of the rain forest which has taken place. I doubt that filming scenes from the movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” in 1985 did it much good either. For more information see here.
Other useful references are my You Tube video (here) and Jack Merriman’s photographs (here).
The place is easy to find. Cross the railway at the level crossing in Blackheath and immediately turn left into Station Street. Turn right along Shipley Road soon after, which you follow for about a kilometre to the Megalong Valley turnoff on the left. About another kilometre further on, the road goes through a deep cutting, at the end of which you will see the Mermaid’s Cave car park on the right. The track is signposted opposite the car park. Take care here – descending traffic cannot see you crossing the road! The walk takes 10-15 minutes and you can return by following the road back to the car park. All this is shown in the video. Fortunately traffic is light, except perhaps at weekends.
My Blue Mountains You Tube playlist may be found here. I have three other playlists - on gem hunting/mining, Glen Innes and New Zealand.

All New England and other Geology blogs and videos
Source: JEM Russell's Pictorial Guide to the Blue Mountains 1882-85.

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