A VISIT TO WOLLOMBI AND CUMNAROY.
The toll of the journey was now over. From barren rock and lofty unsheltered solitudes, the path here descends into a rich and grassy vale, adapted to all the wants and enjoy- ment of man. A white and shining lake points out the
source of the mountain stream Wollombi, which runs it serpentine course of nearly hundred miles, till it joins the Hunter at Cumnaroy. Near this lake, at the head of the valley, is the spot intended for an inn; and a more roman- tic situation could not be selected, nor one more suitable to the convenience of the traveller. 'Twill be the Collett's of the Northern road; and, if the management fall into the hands of the liberal proprietor of Wiseman's Ferry, or one of his sons, there is no doubt we shall have one of the best inns in the country. The government have very considerately (in one or two instances) lately remitted the payment of the li- cense to individuals establishing inns in remote situations, by way of encouragement to such undertakings. There is a prevailing want of inns throughout the settled districts of New South Wales; no doubt attributable to the difficulty and expense of obtaining licenses for the sale of spirituous liquors. Twenty-five pounds sterling every year, for the pri- vilege of keeping a public-house, is a large sum, even in the heart of a crowded sea port town like Sydney; but, a hun- dred and fifty, or two hundred miles in the interior, this sum becomes excessive, on account of the scanty population in those distant parts; I have often thought that some scale of duty might be devised, proportioned to the value of the house, and the distance from a market town; and in cases where new houses are built, for the reception of travellers, more than ten miles from any public-house, a free license might be given for three years, with great service to the pub- lic, and without any detriment to the Colonial Fund. The only house, if house it can be called, at the head of the Wollombi, is a miserable hut, partly formed of leaves, of bark, and part of logs, but exposed to every wind from heaven. The night I arrived there, it was piercingly cold; and although there was a fire in it, large enough to roast a sheep, the wind rattled through the sides of the frail tene- ment, as if it had been a hen-coop, and in the middle of the night I discovered that ' The very dogs, instinctively, had left it.' For laying down in the canvas tent, in preference to the thing of bark, I found myself surrounded by about fourteen or fifteen large kangaroo dogs, which had been starved out of the hut, and one by one taken shelter in the tent. Twas a wretched
night, and but for the fortunate visitation of these warm bed fellows, I must have, been almost a mummy by the morn- ing. With nothing but my saddle for my pillow, and a single blanket for covering, worn thread-bare enough for a fishing net, I shall long remember this as the coldest night I have felt in New South Wales. But joy cometh in the morn- ing ; and the welcome sun, which was, however, a long while rising from behind these lofty hills, soon dispelled the frosty whiteness on the grass, and then all was brightness, life, and verdure. The happy parrots were hopping from bough to bough sporting their green and ruby plumage in the sun, while the swift and gentle kangaroo was leaping down the mountain side to take his morning, drink in the fresh stream below.
Those who are fond of travelling in the bush, of New South Wales, 'Ignotis errare locis, ignota videre Flumina," would be delighted with the romantic vale of Wollombi; and, in a few years more, when the present wildness of un- cultivated nature is exchanged for the cheerful pursuits of rural industry, this little district will be one of the most pleasing in the colony. 'Tis unfortunate that the valley is so narrow; in some places the mountains recede to the distance of a mile on either side of the stream; while in others they almost come down to the margin of the water. Several sec- tions have been already taken, and there is still room for many more, but grants in this limited country should not ex- ceed a square mile, or 640 acres at the most, otherwise they would include too much of the mountain side. About twelve miles down the valley, there is a fine opening on the right, which leads through a beautiful country in the direc- tion of Newcastle where Mr. Crawford and several other gentlemen have taken land. Our road lay straight forward, and by two or three hours' riding the valley became grad- ually broader; and, thirty miles from the foot of the ridge, I had the gratifying sight of a four-rail fence, and in a few minutes more was inside one of the most picturesque and comfortable cottages in that country. The sun had sunk out
of sight behind these Alpine hills, and, as I had been nearly ten hours riding thirty miles, you may suppose there are some difficult places in the road. A number of small tribu- tary streams fall down the hills, and join the Wollombi, and the stranger who travels this road, for the first time, has some difficulty to find out the proper crossing places. As soon as I had seen my horse disposed of in his welcome stall, my host proposed a walk through his cultivated ground, while there was yet a few minutes left of twilight, and I was equally surprised and pleased that a youth, hardly eighteen years of age, should have displayed so much of perseverance, taste, and judgment, in the laborious undertaking of a first settlement in the bush. It has had its reward; and him of whom I used to think, "Wisdom and truth were all he had," I found possessed of houses and lands, horses, sheep, and
cattle, besides a knowledge and sagacity in rural affairs, that would do credit to maturer years. We returned to the cottage and a blazing fire; and the preparations for supper, con- vinced me that my young host, to, his other good qualities, added that of knowing how to make his friends comfortable. "Oh Hesperus! thou bringest all good things, Home to the weary, to the hungry cheer." We had an excellent supper, and though the wind rushed through these lofty hills, at the opening of the Wollombi, with something of its accustomed violence, we were in a tight little cottage, and enjoyed our glass of punch, and a few games at backgammon, till it was past midnight. The morning tints displayed this little Switzerland to great ad- vantage; hill above hill rose close around us, and the open- ing of the valley to the north shewed us the fertile flats of St. Patrick's Plains, about ten miles distant. What a dif- ference of country produced by three days' journey from Sydney; viz. From Sydney to Wiseman's , ---------- -------------- 49 miles From Wiseman's to the head of the Wollombi --------40 From the head of the Wollombi to St. Pat. Plains----- 36 ; 125 From the barren sands, iron-stone and pipeclay, around Port Jackson, to the rich,and grassy margins of the Wol- lombi, and the still richer alluvions on the banks of the Hunter! X. Y. Z. (To be continued.)