(header photographs by Harry Waite 1912-2011)

The Myth of the Sacred Brumby







by Jean Austen.

from The Sydney Bush Walker 1934

The name "Barrington Tops" seems to suggest being high on top and looking down. But, though they form a saucer-shaped plateau 5,000 feet high, it is seldom you have the feeling of being on high and looking down. In fact, their charm for me lies not upon the tops, but in the surrounding pastoral lands, the approaches through sub-tropical jungle, and, perhaps most important of all, the people who live there and with whom I have made friends. Nevertheless I feel sure it would be a delightful trip to follow the Barrington River from its source in the wide, swampy country of the tops to the lower coastal lands, and fish in the many pools on its course downwards.

I have traversed four of the five approaches to the Plateau, and to my mind the Allyn River route is the loveliest, for there is a marvellous charm in the soft green of its narrow valley hemmed in as it is by low rolling hills. The jungle, or "brush," to use the local term, begins quite suddenly. One leaves the cow-paddocks, and steps into the dense growth of trees, vines, ferns, and mosses too numerous to take in except as a glorious whole. The sunlight makes a valiant, but vain, attempt to pierce that canopy of leaves, birdsnest ferns, and orchids growing overhead on the trees.

At the second river-crossing, about three miles on, the track turns suddenly at right angles from the river and climbs steeply up the Williams Range. At once there is a change of .scene—beautiful tree-ferns, lovely, huge gums, stinging trees, and trees covered with the tentacle-like growth of the ficus. A little further, and one passes through a forest of native beech trees. These in no way resemble the European tree of that name, but they are very beautiful and utterly different from the :gum and wattle forest usually met with on our trips. About half way up there is a glorious view from "Scouts' Alley" looking south-eastward over Williams Valley, and just beyond is a convenient spring which keeps itself all hidden, a secret behind a tree-fern.

For 5,100 feet the track winds upward till it reaches the tufty snow grass, twisted snow-gums and grotesque, lichen-covered trees where one looks for gnomes in grottoes and wicked fairies.

A final series of gentle slopes brings one out at last on Cary's Peak, an outlying buttress of the Plateau, and I am always surprised to come out on top and find the Allyn Valley down and away in the distance. I think this is because there are few views on the way up.

From the "Peak" the track continues upwards to the "Hut." The view is gone again and the country is broad, flat and open with low ridges, but care must be taken to keep to the track, for the flat-looking country is really swamp. In fact the tops are a succession of swamps interspersed with narrow, swiftly-flowing branches of the Barrington River.

The "hut" which has an amazing variety of furniture, including cane chairs and bedsteads, and at one time a six-valve wireless set—out of order of course—is built on a narrow, low ridge dividing two swamps. Beyond it the track swings round, crosses the next arm of the Barrington and meets the motor-road from Scone. But my favourite route goes over towards Mount Barrington, with its trig sign overlooking a lovely view of mountains and valleys in all directions except the east. From there the track descends suddenly to Stewart's Brook and its pretty village. To complete the perfect route one should then follow up the south arm of the brook, and go along the stock route over the Mount Royal Range to the Boonabilla Creek, which is clothed in brush even more wonderful than that encountered on the Allyn River, till one comes out on lovely, green, glossy flats.

There are two or three farms here, and the people who live in them are descendants of Oliver Jolliffe, who pioneered

this country. They are at a dead end of things, and are consequently quite unspoiled by civilisation, and always delighted to see newi faces. It is their kindness and hospitality that has made this lonely spot very dear to several Bush Walkers.