In 1822, while proceeding westward on one of his many botanising excursions, Allan Cunningham stayed again at the camping ground by Cox’s River. He descended Cox’s Pass on October 7 and journeyed through the rich but swampy Vale of Clwydd to the low rocky flats near the junction of the river and the rivulet. As the banks of the river seemed productive of curious plants and also afforded wholesome grass seed to his horses, Cunningham decided to remain here for some days. The two Grevilleae he had noticed in 1817 he now saw in full bloom, and as they were unpublished plants he described them. A species Hakea remarkable for its very small fruit and round stiff leaves was also frequent in these situations and “proved to be H. microcarpa originally discovered on the banks of Rivers in Van Diemen’s Island”. After the rising of the dense early morning mist on October 8 the day was fine and warm, and at eight o’clock the botanist set out by a native path along the right bank of Cox’s River, making in a south-westerly direction for a barren rocky hill seen from the high ground near the tents and which the soldiers of the depot assured him held a considerable variety of flowers. He noticed along the immediate verge of the river specimens of a fine shrubby croton bearing male and female flowers and remarked “the Swamp Oak )Casuarina paludora) of enormous size…”. At length he ascended a portion of the ridge whose entire absence of timber trees made it conspicuous on the abundantly wooded range. He observed there a most interesting assemblage of fine plants, of which he collected a number. “Nothing”, he wrote, “truly can exceed the Native beauty of the Hill and Dale, towards the Extremity of our Day’s Excursion; the lands are thinly wooded, the soil generally rich, abundant in good grasses and herbage for grazing Herds, and possessing all the ordinary requisites for the Establishment of the Farmer.”
Towards evening clouds began to gather in the west, and about eight o’clock there was a thunderstorm and a deluge of rain.
Allan Cunningham, botanist and explorer, spent many happy hours in the vicinity of Cox’s River. Judge Barron Field thought Cox’s River “worth going to spend a few days at, of itself”.
The following day Cunningham went upstream Crossing the river at a fall, he made in the direction of what he termed “Lawson’s Peak” – possibly Mount Blaxland – and mounted a portion of “this conspicuous Conical Hill”/ When he returned to camp the day was rapidly drawing to a close. After a clear frosty, starlit night, October 10 was sultry and oppressive. Proceeding up the banks of the River Lett, the botanist detected no previously unnoticed plants, and returned to camp early in the afternoon to prepare for the next day’s journey to the Fish River. The following morning, October 11, was cloudy with fine weather. Having remunerated the corporal at Cox’s River for his attention, and particularly for the regular supply of milk to his men, Cunningham set off about eight a.m.
On his return journey Cunningham arrived about noon on December 30 at the “old resting place at Cox’s River”. Having encamped here he rode eagerly off to the “Bald Ridge”. In the fullest hopes that its variety of curious plants would afford him some packets of ripe seeds. After making his collection he returned along the bank of the river to his camp. In the fair, cool morning of the following day he resumed his journey, and passed up the Vale of Clwydd to the foot of Cox’s Pass
“RICH IN THE BOTANICAL AND PICTURESQUE”
On the very day, October 7 1822, that Cunningham and his men were descending cox’s Pass with a young tree for a brake, Barron Field, Supreme court Judge, and “Distant Correspondent” of Charles Lamb’s essay, was assailing the eastern pass up Lapstone Hill, shifting baggage twice during the long, steep ascent. “Mount York”, declared Barron Field when he arrived there, “afforded the first view of the promised land of Australia, after the wilderness of the blue Mountains.”
It was on October 10 that he reached Cox’s River, which he thought was “worth going to spend a few days at, of itself. It is a pretty stream, and rich in the botanical and picturesque. Here the first granite is seen.” On his return from Bathurst he arrived at Cox’s River on October 22, and found the stream pretty full and rapid from recent rains. He mentioned that there was a corporal’s party of the 48th Regiment stationed there as well as at Springwood. That night was clear, with heavy dew, hoar-frosted in the beautiful morning. Barron Field rode to a waterfall “a mile up the river”, but there was no height, and the fresh was not as great as the hollowed rocks seemed to indicate it sometimes was.
HINTS OF NEW ROADS
In October, 1822, Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane visited Bathurst and presumably passed over the ground at Glenroy. He did not return this way, but along an intended line of road from Bathurst to Mount York.
While engaged on a traverse of the road from Emu Plains to Bathurst, Assistant Surveyor James McBrien went forward through the Vale of Clwydd on February 6, 1823, and followed the road on to a long ridge, at the end of which he crossed a stream of water – the River Lett – falling into Cox’s River. Travelling north-westerly nine chains beyond the crossing, McBrien ended his run for the day. His position was approximately that of the present memorial at Glenroy. On February 8 he continued his traverse in a west-south-west direction and at eight chains was in the centre of Cox’s River. From this position he noted the depot as situated about ten chains to the right up a hill ascending from the river.
In the autumn Allan Cunningham again set out for Bathurst, and on the moist, raw 3rd April, 1823, he and his men reached Cox’s River early in the afternoon. Here they camped for the night, resting their horses for the next day’s fatiguing journey. The following morning was very cloudy, and they left Cox’s River to face the thick rain falling in the hilly range between them and the Fish River.
There was talk of the projection of a shorter road, and the Sydney Gazette of October 9, 1823, was happy to announce that “Mr. Archibald Bell, junior, of Richmond Hill, has, after one unsuccessful attempt, at last effected a passage from that part of the country to Cox’s River (on the other side of the Blue Mountains)…”. Robert Hoddle was instructed by the Surveyor-General, Oxley, “to commence measuring the new road at the Ford over the Hawkesbury River near Richmond and continue along Mr. Bell’s track to the Ford over Cox’s River…”. In his report of this work, dated November 4, Hoddle wrote: “Our line run into the road near Collit’s Inn the bottom of Mount York distant 4 ½ miles from Cox’s River Ford.” At this time Collits’ Inn was newly established, and no doubt received many of the travellers who otherwise would have camped at Cox’s River. It was Pierce Collits then who struck the first blow at the popularity of the Cox’s River camping ground.
MORE FRENCHMEN AT COX’S RIVER
With a four-wheeled wagon and guides, Dumont d’Urville and Rene` Lesson, members of Duperrey’s expedition, left Sydney for Bathurst on January 29, 1824. On February 2 they drew near Mount York. This eminence Lesson called the “termination of the Blue Mountains”, for the reason that viewed from the west it appears to be isolated. He described it as terminating abruptly by a steep slope on the Vale of Clwydd, “a deep valley” separating the mountains on the east from those on the west. This vale, European in appearance, with familiar plants growing in a thick green carpet, ended six miles away at Cox’s River. A smiling valley, its surface “fresh and enamelled”, it was all the more charming in contrast with the harshness of the poorly timbered and very rocky mountains about it. The crossing of Cox’s River was made over granite rocks. Here the Frenchmen found both large and small flying phalangers. At the military post were six soldiers and a corporal. Lesson considered the situation delightful and the surroundings picturesque. He mentioned the numerous little rapids “or kinds of falls” in the river caused by the granite rocks that obstruct its course. They lunched with the corporal, whom they found very obliging, and who sold Lesson an opossum killed at Wellington Valley. After a two-hour halt they pushed on, being anxious to spend some time the next day catching platypi at the Fish river. On their return from Bathurst they lunched on February 88 at Cox’s River, halting there for three or four hours only before crossing the Vale of Clwydd to camp at the foot of Mount York.
GLENROY REVISITED BY CUNNINGHAM
Cunningham camped at Cox’s River again on December 26, 1824, on the way to Bathurst, and returning pitched his tent there on January 1, 1825. He fully occupied the whole of the next day “on the interesting Banks of that stream, as also on the summit of Bald Hill distant about 3 miles from our Tent”. Encamped at Cox’s River on the following October 14, he rested his horses there all the next day, as they had fared badly in respect to green feed on the mountains and there was an abundance of grass at Glenroy. Cunningham himself spent October 15 roaming over his favourite botanising ground. He found the beautiful Grevilleae of the rocky sides of the river abundantly in flower and extended his walk down the river to the bare rocky hill often previously visited. He returned to the camp just in time to escape a heavy hailstorm early in the afternoon. The threatening appearance of the weather induced him to remain quiet all day Sunday, October 16, and on the Monday he resumed his journey to country westward of Wellington Valley. He revisited this familiar camping spot so favourably situated for a botanist in 1826, 1829 and 1831.