Sunday, July 13, 2008

Newnes. Part Two

The beautiful valley from the top.

Last year I walked the Newnes railway track via the Coach road and Glow Worm Tunnel. Today I thought I would share the beautiful Wolgan Valley and the Newnes ruins with you from another direction.
I chose to ride my bike along the Wolgan River, which would take me from the remains of the Newnes industrial town, downstream along the Wolgan river. Distance I am unsure about, but a ride of about three hours return seemed right.

The Wogan Valley is a short drive about 35k from from Lithgow and the Wollemi National Park, of which Newnes is now a part. Take the Mudgee exit from Lithgow and follow the signs- its that simple.

Easy dirt road and stunning views

The valley itself is beautiful. Tall cliffs and escarpments on either side, gums, and farmlets only give you a taste of a by gone era. The road itself is tar from Lithgow until you reach the valley itself. It may well not be. Patched and poorly maintained by the Lithgow council, frankly it's a disgrace. However more on politics later, (and you will love it!).

Once you have descended the road becomes dirt, and easy. However don't be fooled inot a false sense of security. There are some pretty interesting bends ready to catch out the unwary. Kangaroos, Wedge Tailed Eagles and Nankeen Kestrels are just a some of the wildlife that you will find. After 30 odd km the road begins to narrow and if you look to your right,(south), you can see just where the Coach road, and Newnes railway (as well as tunnels) exist.

Not much remains of Newnes. The hotel, ( removed from the banks of the river as it was at risk of falling in), is in private hands, and a few railway carriages. After a small river crossing I encounter the old railway platform.

Easy crossing.
A drive of 2km leads me to the parking lot and I get ready for my ride. There is plenty of good quality camp sites, and the road follows the railway so it's an easy grade. In dry weather an average sedan would do it easy.

Troopie at the old Newnes railway platform
After a few minutes I am ready to ride. A slight climb up to the coking ovens is easy and I pause to reflect on the history of this place. At the turn of the 20th century, governments were looking for ways to produce oil,(sound familiar??), here the mines extracted shale oil, which was converted into paraffin, candles and oil.

David, on a previous trip, at a coking oven

Sadly (or fortunately, if you look at old photos), Newnes never really made a profit. The rail was built and was a true achievement, but crude oil ( the type we use today), was discovered, and the rest is history.
Some chimneys remain as well as retaining walls. Much of the structures were removed during the depression to build other towns. But if yuo look hard enough under the bush growth life and history can still be found. History shows that the government of the day considered damming the Wolgan River and to use it as a source for electricity. Some of the machines can be found that were used to measure the flow of the river.

The Cannondale resting against an old abandoned tractor
The ride itself is pleasant. Past old mine shafts, the track follows the river for hours. Farm shacks and old equipment can be found. Tall gums and the sounds of King Parrot, Bell minor, and Yellow Thornbill were very evident. Becoming almost "ho hum" a Lyre Bird made its way across the track.

Chimneys are just about all that remain.

Some sections were very steep and in one case, I had the bike locked up on both wheels and only just made it to the bottom.

Very steep section of track
After a few hours I returned to the troopie. A great ride in fresh air. The river looks clean and is flowing beautifully. It ultimately joins the Colo river and then the Hawkesbury. The Wollemi is just SO important and vital to the health of Sydney and NSW.

But I wonder- Driving back I noticed a huge sign. Arab Emirates are developing the valley. Placing a "resort" right in its middle. I know this might sound odd but- a number of years ago the Lithgow council suggested STRONGLY that an international airport be built in this beautiful place. It seemed a bizarre idea. Recently, there has been talk of a 6 lane freeway being built over the top of the Bells Line of Road to cut the one hour trip from Richmond by half. COINCIDENTALLY here we have one of the wealthiest airlines building in the middle of NO WHERE.

Is it me? Or does money talk more than the environment? Why do the Arabs want to build here? Why suddenly are we all being "force fed the idea that development is good?

These thoughts swirled through my head and, as I drove out of one of the most beautiful places I realised that the road improvements were not about the locals, just money. And boy does it talk. I reflected on what will happen to our future and what lies just beneath the surface of politics and our politicians....The Wolgan Survived the industrialization of the Newnes town. Perhaps it will do it again.


  1. Lucky you seeing a Lyre Bird make its way across the track! This is a fun post full of interesting information Simon! I've read all about the Arabs and what they plan to do there somewhere online... How are your leg muscles feeling? Hheehee

  2. yes The scenery is beautiful!

    It all seems SO strange. I went online and read about "conservation" Seesm that if yuo use that word in a sentence you can do anything...

    My legs are sore! I was told to ride more often and do less km... So I am off again tonight- in the dark!

  3. Why do the Arabs want that land? Is there oil there or something, proper oil I mean and not your Aussie shale oil!

  4. i'm glad so many years have been so good for you:) nice to hear from you!!

  5. Lorenzo- funny you should ask. If oil prices continue to rise, then shale oil becomes a viable source again!

    Dana:- You are making me feel old ! ahahahahaha!

  6. Heartbreaking, seeing such a beautiful earthen paradise going to be destroyed!

    Only last Saturday did I walk in a National Park here, at the Danube river wetlands, that was once slated for development: A large dam was going to be built there, and the "water woods" lost forever.

    Thank heaven, environmentally minded people occupied the area, and would not leave until those plans were abandoned, and the area decleared a National Park! Maybe there's still hope for Newnes?

    A magnificent post, Simon,
    even though it makes one sad to think about the consequences of developing.

  7. will give me wanderlust again and I am still suffering from jetlag!

  8. Simon,
    Beautiful pics. I like your thoughts here, quite interesting.

    It does seem all about the bottom line, or somehow "national interest." In all of that, I doubt that we're being good stewards of this earth, overall. Seems that both money and power speak and carry too much sway.

    The world would be better off to listen to the likes of you and Maalie when it comes to earth and stewardship of it, I think.

    Great pics, again. Sure is pretty there. I'll take your winters over ours (I like some white, but not as long as we have it, especially last year! That's pretty, too, though, I have to admit, especially if I wasn't as old, and actually older, than you!)