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A TRIP TO THE ASHBURTON.
By a Traveller.
In the month of June, finding I had a little spare time at my disposal, it occurred to me to pay a short visit to the above named district about which so little is known, beyond the ken of the few really connected with it In dne course I arrived at the port now named the Ashburton Roads where there is a capital anchorage with 4 fathoms at low water, within a cable's length of the river bar. Entering the river at high water with about 10ft water (spring tides), the river is followed in a winding course south westerly for about three miles to the wool landing, which is indicated by the presence-of the schooner Pearl and the ketch Ashburton lying along side the river bank moored to the mangroves. Nature seems to have favored the harbor depart- ment in this respeot, as by the aid of two planks extended from the vessel's gangway to the shore, goods can be landed and shipped without difficulty. Starting from the landing, after a walk of one mile through heavy sand, the premises of Messrs. Jas. Clark & Co. are reached, the buildings at present consisting of a large warehouse substantially built of-jarrah and galvanized iron, and a slight looking structure intended for a dwelling house ; but, from its outward appearance, I think it pro- bable the first willy-willy will put in a claim for it. Messrs. Clark & Co. keep a general store, and also land and store cargo for the settlers. They have also applied for and obtained a publican's general license for the latter part of this year, and, in con- sequence, intend adding several rooms to their premises, when they will be in a position to afford travellers better accommodation than at pre- sent. The proprietors appear to be men of energy and deserving of success. One of their contrivances which commands attention is worthy of special notice as shewing the connection, between necessity and invention, namely a trolly built apon two stout hogsheads, which are strengthened at each end by timber, supporting stout gudgeons. The platform is supported by the gudgeons or spindles, one cask
following the other, bicycle fashion. Upon this contrivance one horse draws 15 cwt. of goods from the landing, whereas harnessed in the usual way he could only draw an empty cart, owing to the heavy sand. Leaving what will some day be the townsite the road up country leads in a southerly direction, over well grassed flats with undulating sand ridges, covered with soft spinifex and herbage, for tea miles, when the shearing shed of Messrs. Forrest Bart & Co. is reached. The old building which is about to be palled down is not an artistic looking edifice, but I dare say it served its purpose. The wool press in use here is one of Robinson & Co's. and gives satisfaction, turning out very heavy bales. For ten miles from the shearing shed, parrallel with the river, the road passes through well grassed plains lightly timbered with stinted gums and interspers-
ed with salt bush, when the Minderoo homestead of Messrs. Forrest, Burt & Co. is reached, and a glance is sufficient to indicate the realization of comfort and prosperity. The improvements consist of a comfortable substantial dwelling house with its at- tendant out-buildings,1 roomy stockyard, cow yards, &c. The managing partner, Mr. D. Forrest who is noted for his hospitality, was extremely kind in shewing me over his property, of which he has rea- son to be proud. The stock on this station consist of 16,000 sheep, 80 horses/ and about 800 cattle, all of which are in prime condition. Even the manager seems to have caught the infection, as he turns the scale at 200lbs. The sheep are chiefly a useful kind for the country but are capable of improvement by the infusion of new blood, and that the proprietors are aware of the importance of this step is evi- dent by their importation of about forty fine wooled rams from New South Wales last year. But I am doubtful whether they have attained the desired end, as the studs are too short in staple and too fine for this climate. The horse stock consist chiefly of well-bred mares, from the stud of Mr. Maitland Brown of Champion Bay, the lord of the harem being a recent importa- tion from Sydney, and, judging from his pedigree, he should be A 1. The cattle, of which I saw several, are descended from Hereford stock, and still shew unmistakable signs of that breed. But Mr. Forrest being anxious to obtain heavier weights is introducing the Durham blood, which no doubt will give the desired result.
Taking leave of Mr. Forrest the river is still followed over extensive and most luxurantly grassed plains, but bearing traces of flood marks three and four feet deep in places, for .about thirty miles, when the first stony' hills are reach- ed, and the road leaves the-immediate vicinity of the river, and for six miles passes through poor spinifex country when, the boundary dividing Messrs. Forrest, Burt & Co. and Messrs. McRae & Harper is reached, where grassy flats and open plains again prevail, until at about eight miles the homestead, of the latter is reached. This station is under the management of Mr. Geo W. McRae, by whom I was kindly entertained, was formed only three years since, and the marvellous strides made in stocking up and improvements since that time speak volumes for the quality of the country and the management, as well as for the energy of the proprietors. The wool shed is con- veniently arranged and well built, a Ferrier's press being used, which for ordinary pressure is said to be the most speedy and convenient. For scouring wool a Californian pump made on the premises is used, and although turned by hand labour it raises a steady stream of water. The wool from this station brought the highest price of any from this district last season. The stock consists of 14,000 sheep, which are being rapidly improved by periodical drafts of rams from Mr. C. Harper's Woodbridge stud. This class of sheep
seems to suit the climate better than the finer sorts from Victoria, as they carry a good length of staple, rather dense and with more yolk than is usually found up here. The proprietors have not paid mnch attention to cattle or horses, although they have a sufficient number of both for station requirements. Preparations were being made for shearing both here and at Forrest, Burt & Co.'s. Leaving Messrs. McRae &, Harper's some fairly grassed country is passed over for six miles, when a fine grassy plain is reached which continues for about ten, miles, till Messrs. Higham Bros. Narritarra station is reached. At the time of my visit the managing partner, Mr. H. Higham, was, unfortunately for me, away at Fremantle, where he has an important contract to fulfil. However, his employes afforded me all information in their power, from which I leam that about 9000 sheep will be shorn this year. The sheep that I saw were a useful sort, although like all others, cap-
able of improvement. There are a few rams on the station that have been imported from Victoria, but I could not ascertain the name of the stud from which they carne. The Messrs. Higham have also imported a good serviceable Clydesdale stallion, which I had the good fortune to see, and as they have a number of mares of the useful sort, should breed some serviceable animals. A few cattle are also kept for station requirements, bub those I did not see. The proprietors have just erected a well-built brick house, of three rooms, with verandah all round, and roofed with galvanized iron. The object in view seems to have been strength and durability combined with neatness, and that object I consider has been achieved, for the building seems to be as strong as wood, iron, and bricks and mortar can make it. Although the house stands within a short distauce of the river's bank it is quite out of reach of floods, being on a dry sandy plateau from which the scenery is varied and picturesque, Mt Murray with its attendant hills to the N.E , about 3 miles distant, and Mt. Alexander towering up to the South West. Leaving Messrs. Higham's the road passes through a nairow belt of spinifex country, bounded on the westward by the river and to the eastward by a grassy plain for about 13 miles, when some hilly country is passed through for about five miles, after which a richly grassed plain is again struck and followed for about eleven miles when some low stony hills and spinifex ridges intervene. This rich plain is also the property of Messrs. McRae & Harper, who hold both sides of the river, in which there are numerous permanent pools, but it is at present unlocked, as the proprietors have sufficient grass for their flocks near home. The country is, however, subject to severe inundation in willy willy seasons, marks of the last summer's flood being three feet above the level of the plain, and were it not that there are stony hills provi- dentially interspersed over the plain, sheep would run a great risk of death by drowning. Continuing the route upwards, a boggy creek is crossed, through which it is barely possible to ride, and where a slight attempt at roadmaking has been made, but much more will have to be done or another crossing found before wool can be carted over. The country
again improves, consisting of a wellgrassed saltbush plain for three miles when Duck Creek is crossed ; then again three miles owr very, heavily grassed coantry to Messrs. Hooley and New's home station (Mt. Hubert), where I was hospitably entertained by the proprietor, both of whom at present reside on the station. As this station was only formed last year, there are no permanent buildings yet erected, except the shearing shed, which is roomy and very conveni- ently arranged for twenty shearers, also a good strong stock yard aud crush for handling young horses. The shearing shed is built on a hard flat, which under water at flood time, but the stockyard and other buildings are on a high bank beside the river where there is a splendid pool of permanent water. The wool press in use is an ingenious contrivance built on the place and answers the purpose, A Californian pump driven by horse-power is used
for wool washing, und ia said to give a fine stream of water. Messrs. Hooley and New expect to shear 10,000 sheep this season, and, from what I saw, they should have a good clip. The ewes are the best woolled I have seen during the trip, and a flock of weaners seem well covered. The rams in use here, as at Messrs. McRae and Harpers, having a strong dash of Pitts blood. The principal number of sheep are kept at the Mt Mortimer station, about 60 miles up the river, and will be brought down here for shearing. A herd of about ninety hones are now kept, amongst them being about thirty well bred mares from the stud of Mr.
R. G. Burges, of York, and with those mares ' a thoroughbred stallion (imported) 'Dolphin ' is kept, and with such grass as this some valuable young stock should be the result. A small select herd of short-horns were also shewn to me. The originals, ten cows and a bull being from the herd of Messrs. Barges and Phillips. The cows as well as their progeny are really good animals. The bull unfortunately died last year, and some difficulty has been experienced in filling his place with a suitable animal. Leaving Mt. Hubert, after a ride of fifteen miles over well grassed country held by Messrs. Hooley and New, McRae and Harper, and A. Hicks &Co, the homestead of the latter is reached. The site is admirably chosen, being on the west bank of the river, amongst some low hills, which afford ample protection in stormy seasons. Mr. A. Hicks, the managing partner proved a most agreeable host, and although only located here about eight months he has not been idle, having erected a good substantial stockyard, shearing shed with good serviceable yards, stable and a comfort- able two roomed cottage. The latter is built with sun-dried bricks, and is not so, substantal as could be desired, considering that a tradesman was em- ployed to build it. The stock kept on this]station consists of about 5000 sheep, twenty head of cattle, and about thirty horses. Amongst the latter are some really good specimens of draught mares and a use- ful looking young stallion of the same class. From a hill close by I got a splendid view of the country. To the east and south east is an extensive grassy plain, whilst to the north east and south west the country is ragged and broken. There are two other stations, about forty miles further np the river, Messrs. Simpson and McKay's and Messrs. Hooley and New's Mt. Mortimer runs, which I regret not having had time to visit.
Although the whole of the country passed over
is looking so grand just now owing to the present magnificent season, I can easily imagine that after twelve or eighteen months continual drought a different tale could be told. However, as the coun- try at present is not nearly stocked up to its cap- abilities in ordinary seasons, no doubt it would stand a dry summer without canting much inconvenience. I must not omit to mention
one drawback attendant in good seasons like the present which came underlay notice, viz., the loss of occasional sheep from poison or something akin' to it Often it has happened when a flock is moved to a fresh camp two or three sheep may die the first night, after which the flock
may be all right for a month or two; at other times when a flock has been stationed for two or three weeks without loss a few sheep will die. Several plants are shewn which are the supposed cause of the mortality, but as I have seen sheep grazing through acres of the same herbage, I should rather
doubt the probability of any such causing death ,
unless from surfeit and becoming hoven. In ad- |
dition to the two stations referred to as not visited - there are several others lying off the river viz., Messrs. Cumming & Britnall, at Mt. Florry, Mr. A. Rouse, west of Mt. Alexander, Messrs Knight
& Cumming, west of Globe Hill, near whom Mr. John Stewart has just formed a station, and, a short distance south, another large statiion is being I formed by Messrs. Simpson and Cameron, so that I think my preliminary remarks re the importance of this district will he fully borne out by facts. The one element now wanting is ladies society, and that want some worthy young settlers are en- deavouring to supply. Mr. H. Higham I under-
stand intends bringing back a wife with him, and it is reported that another benighted young man has betaken himself southwards, upon matrimo- nial thoughts intent. Mrs. D. Forrest is also I hear soon to return, so that in a short time the Ashburton will be thoroughly civilized. Before closing I must refer to the native question which is a great deal discussed, and so little understood by people who have never visited the Nor' West. At the time of my visit the native divers had just
returned from the pearling grounds, and they all
seem in robust healthy condition and quite happy; and, although I interviewed several, I did not hear a single complaint of the treatment received from their employers. Indeed from what I can learn the Inspector of Fisheries (Capt. Mayne) is quite as equal to seeing justice done to the natives
afloat as the worthy R.M. is to doing his duty ashore On all the stations visited during my trip, the whole of the shepherding is done by, natives, and nearly all the shearing performed by
the same labor, and, although they occasionally leave their flocks without permission, they almost invariably find substitutes to take their places. In the foregoing report I have endeavored to give you a true statement of facts, as they have appeared to me, and I trust the information afforded may be of interest to your readers.