A COASTAL COFFEE PLAN-
By mileage Bicton, the estate of the Messrs Cutten Bros., a mile and a-half up the coast from Clump Point—is but little further from Townsville than Charters Towers, and yet if one under takes the journey thither, how much more remote and distant it seems! In reality, Bicton is but a, few hours' steam from Townsville; but our steamers—useful though they be—do not yet travel at express train rate, and consequently the time occupied by the trip seems long compared with the rush to the great goldfleld. But
there is compensation in it as in all things else—the excursion is infinitely preferable from a scenic, as well as from the point of view of one who enjoys recreation and glories in the sea—''the ally of thought, the simpli- fic of rough ways, the awakener of romance the eternal wizard.' Far better than the crude, jerky jumble of the express as it frolics along an iron- bound track, ever through the self- same vistas, is the life-giving motion of the steamer as she emerges from the shelter of Magnetic Island, and glides gaily along past Bay Rock, Her- ald Island, Cordelia Rocks, Acheron, Havannah; past the Palms with at- tendant islets, and on to Lucinda Point which—broad and stolid—opposes sand and mangroves to the tumbling bil-
lows of ceaseless south-easters. Then, after a pause, through the famed Hinchinbrook Channel, with the soft, graceful curves of delusive mangroves on the one hand,_ and the ragged heights of the mountain chain "with verdure-clad" to the water's edge on the other. Nearly 20 miles of this lake-like scenery, and the - steamer slows down opposite Cardwell—a place with a past, therefore entertaining. Another series of islands is in view-- Garden (the play ground of Cardwell), Gould, Brooke, the eleven members of the Family Group, and then Dunk Is- land with its satellites ; and beyond again are the South and North Barn- ards. Opposite Dunk Island is Tam O'Shanter Point, where the ill-fated Kennedy landed on his adventurous ex- ploration up the Cape York Peninsula; and five or six miles ahead is Clump Point.
Here, by sudden grades, the hills in the background—dark with almost im- penetrable jungle—descend ; a tongue of land is thrust half a mile into the sea—an eternal mock and everlasting jeer ; a strip, half a mile wide, is torn in the mantle of jungle, leaving a graceful clump of foliage at the tip of the tongue to assert the obviousness of the title. A mile and a half up the coast and Bicton is reached, roughly speaking, 90 or 95 miles from Towns-
From the sea the estate presents a unique and picturesque appearance. Clump Mountain (1338ft.), forms the dominating feature of the immediate background; but there are also numer- ous precipitous hills, some isolated, some connected by steep ridges and razor-backs, and to the North the coun- try is broken into many ranges and peaks. The estate occupies, a valley, not smooth and green and flower deck- ed, like the "long, low valley of Bag- dad;" but a valley blocked, it would seem, by a steep conical-shaped hill, three miles off, and into which the el- bows of opposing hills obtrude. The debouchement of the valley forms the unique feature. Clump Mountain sends its eastern buttress out to the verge of the sea, and to the North— a little over a mile—there is the abrupt termination of a lesser height, plumper and softer of outline. A cliff 100ft high at its beginning on the south, forms the edge of a plateau which has an easy down grade to the north, on which the house and the older culti- vated part of the estate are situated.
This cliff is the conspicuous item, in
the landscape. The seaward aspect is covered with the rich greenness of couch and buffalo grass ; but the pink- ish red soil of the country shows up along the edge, which by a grade as even and consistent as if made by art,
descends parallel with the beach from its 100ft to nothing, ending half way across the opening of the valley in a curve or flourish that might have been designed by some ingenious landscape gardener. Below the cliff are cocoa- nut palms and native umbrageous trees, and up above show the roof of the hospitable home and the high- peaked, thatched covering of the fruit store and workshop, and byre, while up the steap hill sides extend the orchards and the pine plantation, and nearer at
hand a dense grove of mango trees, acres of oranges, and acres of cocoa- nut palms waving a welcome with fronds glistening in the sun.
At great expenditure of labor, Mes- srs Cutten Brothers (there are four of them), have built a stone jetty, held together with huge piles and girdles. Though incomplete, the structure re- presents an amount of intelligently ex- pended industry which seems hardly justifiable in a purely private under- taking. It forms, however, a fair in- troduction to the solid and permanent
methods which hare been employed in the development of the estate. An ob- lique track cut out of the face of the cliff—as seen from the sea, a red scar on the smooth green surface—gives ac- cess through sweet-scented oleanders to the top of the plateau, and here one receives a cordial greeting from the household. It is not meet to speak in detail of the hospitalities of the house, nor of the evidences of comfort and refinement on every hand—in the gay flower garden, the well-kept bush house, brilliant with varied shades of begonias (the favorite flower of the hostess), in the plentitude of books and periodicals, and curios collected during continental travels, upon the subject of which the hostess is a great authority, and the daughter of the house a great enthusiast. The present purpose is to say a few words upon the business aspect of the estate, which, in a few years, has been carved out of primeval jungle. But one can not move from the broad verandah without an exclamation of surprise at the commanding prospect it affords of the lustrous sea, upon the rim of which great ocean steamers pass up and down, while near at hand, just beyond the Barnards, lies the track of smaller coastal boats. Seldom is the view comprehended without some ves- sel being in sight.
Very few figures were obtained of the extent of the estate ; but it was understood to comprise 1280 acres of freehold. An idea of the area of the cleared parts may be obtained from the fact that here are about 700 mango trees in one grove—and such trees. Tall, dark masses of foliage, which "in the rich, ripe season gratifies the sense" with a pleasing variety of flav- ors. Of orange trees there are nearly
1200 ; and of pineapples there is no count—there they are in long regular rows up on the hill side, down steep
ravines, across ridges—everywhere and anywhere. Bananas occupy the lower
The chief coffee plantation is a cou- ple of miles away up the valley, whence can he seen the roof of the sugar shed at the Mourilyan Harbor wharf. Here there are 80 acres, representing 80,000 plants, with an additional 10 acres ready for planting. These 80,000 plants occupy the place of what, two years, ago was dense jungle. They are set out in straight rows; and in the blossoming time—limited to a compar- atively few hours—the whole area will be a mass of creamy white blooms of delicious, all-pervading fragrance. To keep the plantation supplied there are two nurseries, extensive places lightly thatched with palm fronds, and so situated as to command perennial sup- plies of water. The best part of the energy of the proprietors is how de- voted to the cultivation of coffee, and its preparation for the market. By the study of all available works, but better still by hard, practical experi- ence, the brothers have acquired envi- able knowledge on the subject; and with such a magnificent piece of coun- try, soil of unsurpassed fertility, met- eorological conditions said to be about perfect for the growth of the plant,
never-ceasing rivulets intersecting the estate, there can hardly be any doubt that they will enjoy success. At pre- sent they have machinery for treating the coffee on the water. The plant in- cludes a pulper and a huller, of Gor- don's make, the former being capable of treating four tons of cherry (the twin berries covered with sweetish
pulp) per day.
When the plant is in working order they will be able to supply storekeep- ers with the berry ready for roasting and grinding, at a price that must drive so-called coffee out of consump- tion. The pure, unsophisticated arti- cle sill be less costly than the mater- ial which is hardly recognisable be- cause of the admixture of adulterants. Coffee has the melancholy misfortune to be one of the most humble and self- less of substances. It permits itself to be ousted from our breakfast and sup- per tables by any of several vulgar in- truders without protest, save in that subtle convincing divine aroma which appeals to the higher stages of man's existence. It will not be long—if the Messrs Cutten's plans prevail—ere the
public of Townsville have the oppor- tunity of greeting the etherial vapor, "pure and undefiled." To one who does not comprehend all about coffee
it would seem absurd to pull down barns to build greater, while last year's crop is sill in the store; but the bro- thers evidently have a trump card, and
it will be the consumer, it may be safe to surmise, who will benefit by the
But the estate is not, by any means, given over to coffee, and pines and mangoes. In addition, all sorts of fruits are cultivated. If one omits the durian, the mangosteen, the lit- chee, the rambutan, all the other bet- ter known tropical fruits may be safe- ly mentioned as flourishing in this fer- tile valley ; while maize and sweet and English potatoes, and all manner of vegetables and herbs are grown for house consumption.
Labor is, of course, an important item in such an undertaking, and the brothers have, by kindness, fair treat- ment, the payment of regular wages for regular work, overcome the philo- sophic disinclination of the natives of the country to manual work; and have at command quite a strong contingent of erstwhile savages. The blacks are erratic, no doubt, but by conciliatory methods and discreet firmness men and women who were until recently a source of trouble and annoyance, not to say of danger, to the pioneers, are being converted into beings who know the value of money and who appreci- ate the things which money procures. They are, consequently, fast becoming trained and civilised—not civilised in the sense that we of Townsville are familiar with, but in accordance with principles harmless to themselves and fraught with good to the country gen-
From this hasty sketch of a coastal coffee plantation, it will perhaps be admitted that men who, like the Mes- srs Cutten, take up land and establish upon it profitable industries—such in- dustries as give bold advertisement to the manifold resources cf the country —and who at the same time improve the condition of an unspeakable extent of the primitive inhabitants, deserve well of us all. If they do not make rapid fortunes for themselves they at least may, if they feel so inclined, en- joy the luxury of the knowledge that they have done some good in their day and generation. The country wants more of such men. And as for their estate, well, if it were nearer Townsville it would be the favorite holiday and health resort of the com- munity. Its elevation, the ravines and gullies by which it is drained, its grand outlook over the ocean, and the
mountain masses at the back combine to bestow upon it an irresistible charm and to make it a vigorously whole- some place at which to live.