A TRIP THROUGH THE COUNTRY BETWEEN
MUDGEE AND MUSWELLBROOK.
[BY OUR SPECIAL REPORTER.]
HAVING spent a few days wandering along the banks of the Cudgegong and Goulburn Rivers, I am in a position to furnish a few random jottings taken during my progress through a portion of that valuable pas- toral and agricultural country which lies between our Western and Northern railway lines, commencing at Rylstone, a pretty little township on the Cudge- gong, thirty miles S.E. of Mudgee, and about fifty miles from Wallerawang, which lies to the west of it, and is reached by a very fair road branching on to the main Mudgee mail line. Rylstone is the principal town of the Rylstone district, which lies centred between the districts of Mudgee, Hartley, Sofala, and Windsor ; in extent from east to west about fifty miles, north and south close on to seventy miles ; declared a police district in 1854. The town was laid out in 1846 by Mr. Davidson, but was poorly peopled until about eight years since, when business places commenced to put in an appearance, and selectors to reside around it. As to appearance, although small, there does not exist a more substantial looking town- ship in the colony, or one more praiseworthy in respect to the style and permanent nature of its improvements.
Nearly all its business places are of sandstone, of excellent quality and colour, procured with little quarrying from the neighbouring hills. Among the best of these buildings may be noticed the Church of England, Public school, court-house, and stores of Messrs. Hardwick and Matthews, all substantial clean-looking structures. There are also two large convenient well kept hotels, centrally situated in the town. The court-house is one of the most complete I have seen in all my travels; well built and most tastefully, furnished, in style well worthy of imita- tion. This building was completed a few months back, its exterior is plain, of rubble and cut stone ; it contains two rooms -- the court 30 feet by 22 feet, and the magistrates' room 12 by 22 feet. The latter is carpeted, fitted with tables and neat fixtures of polished cedar. The court-room has been fitted with bench, cabinets, book-cases, tables, witness stand ; all of which articles of furniture, even to the dock, are of cedar, French polished, forming a court-room that would put our dingy Metropolitan courts in the shade, not excepting even the Central Police Office.
The entire cost of Rylstone court-house, interior and exterior, with a buggy shed and other conveniences, did not exceed £1050. I most unhesitatingly award it the palm for being the cheapest piece of Government work I have met with throughout the colony. Mr. W. W. Armstrong holds the offices of Clerk of Petty Sessions and acting Police Magistrate. The land revenue of last year was £8000, this year (1873) it is estimated to amount to about £8000. In he district there are 307 free-selectors. The Public school is in charge of Mr. G. D. Pike ; the average attendance is about 50. Close to the school the Church of England stands, a roomy building of stone, ather faulty in point of architecture, but still a very creditable structure. A few days before the time of my visit the foundation stone was laid of a Roman Catholic chapel, and as I was informed, the sum of £81 collected after the ceremony. A Wesleyan chapel completes the list of places of worship. The Rev. J. H. Mullens is the Church of England incumbent, and I believe the only resident minister. As one of the sights of the town I might mention the excellent garden and grounds of Mr. Hardwick, where may be seen a fine collection of English trees and fruits and
flowers in abundance.
From Rylstone I had a ride to the head station of Mr. E. K. Cox's valuable run Rawdon, and having made the acquaintance of Mr. R. W. Cox, the manager, I made a brief stay to converse about, and have a peep at what may be fairly estimated as good practical sheep farming. Rawdon is a magnificent block of country, a part of which (15,000 acres) is purchased land, watered by the Cudgegong River, which courses along one ot its boundaries for twenty two miles, and also by Cox's Creek, a stream which takes its rise in the Nullah Mountain. On this pro- perty at the present time there is of fencing, prin- cipally wire, sixty miles, enclosing nine paddocks. This fencing, completed now three years, cost at that time but £26 per mile ; the advance in iron at the present time would make a wonderful difference in price. The posts are three feet out of ground, two feet below ; top wire, No. 9 ; the five lower ones No. 12, strengthened by four wire braces ; distance between the posts ordinarily, thirty feet. About thirty-eight years ago the late Mr. E. Cox purchased from Mr. Riley, of Rabey, an importation from Spain of about 160 pure-bred merinoes, and they were placed at Rawdon. For eighteen years the increase was small, for after that time the sheep numbered but 1400. From that time they improved, and, spite of constant cullings and yearly sales, at the present time they number about 21,000. Rawdon is a favourite spot for buyers to resort to and invest. Last year's in- crease of rams, numbering 1060, went to Messrs. Jennings and Shanahan, of Liverpool Plains. At the Mudgee Show of last year, the clip of Rawdon took five prizes ; and as no wool reaches the London market in a better state, it is not to be wondered at that it generally reaches first figures.
Mr. R. W. Cox has now had on Rawdon three
years' experience of fencing. Instead of twenty-five shepherds and half that number of hut-keepers (the number required on Rawdon ere the wire boundaries were formed), now five or six boundary riders are found quite able for the work ; and this year the sheep are positively in a better condition than ever known before. Some difficulty at first was expe- rienced in lambing, particularly with the old ewes accustomed to the old system, they having displayed a tendency to leave their lambs, the custom of shepherding having impressed them with the instinct of keeping with the flock ; but the younger sheep have taken kindly, and the per-centage (85) is fully equal to the shepherding times, although the first year's lambing in the paddocks fell to 80.
A few days before my visit the shearing and washing had ceased. I had a look at the shed, which is a stone building, by some thought rather small, yet, in the manager's opinion, quite suitable for the business of the run. The wash-pens, &c., are on the river below the homestead and woolshed, about 1½ mile, four paddocks intervene, splendidly grassed, and quite free from a chance of dust. Through these paddocks the sheep, after washing, are driven, the first day occupying No. 1, the second No. 2, and so on, until on the fourth, quite dry, they reach the shearer. At the washing a 10 horse-power portable engine does good service, pumping by a Californian pump to the spouts, of which there are four, and from the boiler heating the soak, a cemented stone tank. Below the spouts eight men stand in tubs ; when washing two men attend the soak. Prizes are given for the best washed sheep. The plan pursued is to take the number washed into consideration, and give a certain number of marks, so many being deducted for each animal rejected at the shed. This induces the men to work not only hard, but carefully. The wages paid the men, with rations, this season was at the rate of 25s. per week, for work in water ; 20s. for driving and dry work. Between 700 and 800 sheep were passed through each day.
Not far from the homestead in the drafting yard a large boiler is placed for cooking an excellent mixture in which the lambs are yearly dipped after shearing to guard against ticks. In about 600 gallons of water, the number the boiler holds, 80 lbs. of sulphur and 80 lbs. of lime are boiled, and to this mixture 600 gallons of pure water is added, as used in the dip tank. This
amount of liquor is found sufficient for about 1300 lambs, being at the rate of 1 oz. each of sulphur and lime to each animal dipped. Until lately a dip of sulphur and tobacco was used as a preventive for ticks ; the lime proves, however, Mr. Cox informed me, an excellent substitute for the latter. For foot- rot treatment a trough stands in the yard, which, when required, is partly filled with a strong mixture of arsenic and bluestone ; through it the sheep are run. For bad cases carbolic acid and kerosene are used, 1 of the former to 5 of the latter ; this is applied twice a week, three dressings generally prove suffi-
Nine miles south of Rawdon at Brymare, on the Capertee River, Mr. R. W. Cox has at present a run for 20,000 sheep in course of fencing -- not a bad proof of his satisfaction with his fencing experience on
I believe I am correct, although not positive, in the statement that Rawdon was the first run where fencing was adopted in the Mudgee district. When first started, several of the sheep farmers around thought it rather a dangerous experiment ; but gradually even its strongest opponents have come round, and in a short time, it is supposed, throughout the district, that fencing will be universal. Mr. Cox declares that the management of the run to him now is a pleasure when compared with the trouble and anxiety of the shepherding times, when he almost dreaded the approach of a messenger -- bad news of lost sheep, or a grumble from a shepherd, being then expected events, but none the less vexing for all that. One of the principal drawbacks of the fencing is to be found in countries where the native dogs are troublesome ; around and on Rawdon there are a few, but a plenti- ful sprinkling of poison generally manages to thin, and has, during the last few years, materially reduced the number of these pests. Of course poison, too, has its troubles, for it often happens that useful dogs fall in with the bait, and, as a natural consequence,
commit involuntary self-destruction, much to the
annoyance of their owners.
It is, therefore, quite a common sight to find the dogs of a station wire-muzzled, or on the chain for weeks together, while tempting morsels for the dingo bestrew the run. There is another difficulty, too, the owner of a fenced run has to contend against — one that often is a cause of anxiety — that is when neighbours have a predilection for cheap mutton and a total dis- regard for the seventh commandment. Around Rawdon, however, there is naught to complain of in that respect. From Rawdon I had a ride of 30 miles to the north, across the range which divides the western from the eastern waters, descending through a pass, known as the Gulf, a piece of as rugged sand- stone country as any traveller could wish for. The change in the atmosphere felt in the valley (distant about fifteen miles from Rawdon) is great. The day of my passage I know that I never felt much warmer ; and while riding along the flats by the creek which leads down to Bylong, without exaggeration I might add that I often fancied either my horse or myself would drop from sheer exhaustion. The country around the Goulburn at the present season is in splendid order for stock. Never has feed been more plentiful. At Bylong, Mr. John Lee's station, I made a brief stay — that noted spot for thoroughbred horned and horse stock. To add to the latter Mr. Lee has at present on the run "Barbarian" and " Kingston," both rough, but in very fair condition.
Around Bylong there are several fine run proper- ties, held by the Messrs.Tindall and S. McDonald. I extended my travels on the Mudgee Road as far as Woolar Creek, where a small village is springing up around the hotel of Mr. Willoughby. That gentle- man, to keep pace with the increase of population and traffic, has an excellent hostelrie in course of erection,
upon which no expense is being spared to render it
comfortable for travellers on the road. From Woolar roads diverge for Mudgee, Rylstone, Denman, Coolah, and Cassilis. The nearest post town or village is Barigen, seven miles distant. It is intended to peti- tion for a post-office at Woolar ; the establishment of one would be a boon to many of the selectors in the vicinity. Travelling down the Goulburn I passed through "Crabby," the homestead of Mr. John McDonald, and made the station of Mr. Thomas Hungerford, which is situated two miles to the right of the river on James's or Baerami Creek, named " Baerami," one of the finest properties on the Goulburn; a place well worthy of attention from the
Mr. Hungerford has proved himself to be one of the busiest of busy bees in the colony, his mind being con- tinually bent on improving the land in his possession, and by experiment and example benefiting his neigh-
bours. Over a score of years ago, when he entered into possession of Baerami, the country on the Goul-
burn was considered the poorest of the poor, fit only, for horse stock; no one at that time ever dreamt of even in the best seasons, fattening horned stock. In 1857 Mr. Hungerford commenced ring barking ; to him is due the credit of being the originator of that style of land improvement which of late years has proved so highly successful on pastoral holdings all
over the colony. People around, when they found how beneficial the action of the axe had been at Baerami, were not slow to follow the plan of its pro- prietor, and parts of the Goulburn that were thought not fit to graze a goat upon in a few years became converted into a fattening country. Furthermore, the water supply of the creeks was increased, and creeks that were known to be dry for over nine months in the year in bygone years now flow through the dryest seasons. Mr. Hungerford of late years has added to his run by the purchase of Mount Dangar
and Yarooa runs adjoining Baerami ; of purchased land the estate contains over 12,000 acres.
On this country last year, over 2000 head of horned
stock were fattened and sent to the market. At present the run is considered understocked with 3300 head upon it, irrespective of horses. This last few years many hundred acres have been cleared along the
banks of the Baerami Creek, opening out some splended alluvial flats. This clearing has cost from 20s. to 40s. per acre, stumps taken out to a depth of 15 inches. At present, close to Baerami, 100 acres are under lucerne ; from 70 acres mown by machine
last season, 8 tons of seed were taken, the thrashing and cleaning being performed by steam power. The improvements on the station are rather too numerous to particularise. Foremost amongst them is a saw- mill, where work is done by circular and vertical saws driven by a very neat portable engine, from the shop of Mr Ewing, of East Maitland. The same establishment is now engaged in manufacturing a 20 h.p. traction, Mr. Hungerford's intention being to plough his newly-cleared flats by steam, and put them all under clover ; that crop he finds the most profitable to a grazier. To carry out this steam ploughing the owner of Baerami is bent upon feeling convinced that by a little perseverance the difficulties he is bound to experience at the outset will be over-
At Baerami there are two other items contained in
my notes well worthy of attention— the garden and the stock. In the former, which is placed on a fine alluvial flat close to the homestead, may be found some of the choicest tropical fruits alongside of apple, pear, walnut, plum, and other trees, all in the healthiest condition, bearing fruit in abundance. Among tile varieties of grapes is one from the Darling Nursery, introduced some short time back, named the Golden Drop. A cutting of this was tried as an experiment by Mr. Hungerford at the suggestion of Mr. Shepherd, and so far as taken most kindly to the soil ; this season it gives promise of being the best bearer in the garden, its grape is reported as being of the most delicious quality.
The cattle on the run are in splendid order. Among them figures conspicuously the short-horns bred principally from the stock of Mr. Lee. Many of them ere long will figure on the show ground, where I feel, if a strong sporting term may be used, they are bound to get, or run into a situation.