27 May 2008 Orroral Valley and Environs Photos
Maps: Rendezvous Creek and Corin Dam 1:25000
Getting There

This walk was organised and led by me as an irregular CBC Tuesday walk:

Tuesday 27 May - Orroral Valley and environs - L/E-M,X. An exploration of European and other sites in the Orroral Valley. Some you will have seen before, others may be new. Trust me. Up to 29km and 400m total climb - we'll stop when we've had enough. Maps: Rendezvous Creek and Corin Dam. Leader: John Evans – jevans@pcug.org.au, (h) 6288 7235. Please contact me if you would like to co-lead. Transport: ~$10. Further details at http://jevans.pcug.org.au.

4 of us drove via Point Hut Crossing, Tharwa and the Boboyan Road to right turn into Orroral Road and stop at the Orroral Camping Ground.


Walk 1 - We set off from the Orroral Camping Ground along the Orroral Heritage Trail. A bit greener than my last visit on 9 Jun 03, soon after the Jan03 firestorm. We immediately found the pylon base and hawser anchor for the Flying Fox (OR24) and a hawser anchor on the other bank. Steve asked the obvious question - what was it for? Does anyone know?

Followed the trail through the damp scrub, across the bridge over the Orroral River and to the signage above the 'Pioneer Settlement'. It reads:

This is one of the earliest sites of European settlement in the region. Established in the 1830s by William Herbert it was an illegal settlement because it was outside the 'Limits of Location'. In 1838 there were 10 residents, a slab hut, 9 acres under cultivation, 37 horses and 700 cattle on the 12,800 acre property. The Orroral Run changed hands many times. Charles McKeahnie purchased the run in 1864. In the late 1860s he and his son Archibald constructed a newer homestead further up the valley. The ruins of the main building, two or more smaller ones, a cultivation paddock, a line of stones (presumable a fence line) and the original track route into the valley are all that remain of this pioneer settlement.

We followed the line of stones down to the leveled area which presumably was the site of the huts (OR3). The morning mist was clearing into a lovely sunny day and the forecast showers and thunderstorms (for Canberra) were not about down here. A few granite flagstones can be seen. This is Site of Significance in the ACT G6. There is also an ACT Heritage Register entry for the Old Orroral Homestead & Ploughlands.

Next stop was a Stockyard site (OR4), 150m at 265° from the huts site. We searched around, Karen applying the logic of looking for a reasonably level site. With the clue that it was bisected by the original track, we found small wooden pegs marking the perimeter of the site. A bag.

The next clue was for a 'Manuport' (OR5), a 15kgm block of quartzite in the paddock. No luck.

We turned back S down the valley and after around 500m again saw the original Orroral Track (OR8) and the gate posts at the southern end of it. Adjacent to this was another Stockyard site (OR2), with a few posts and bits of timber lying about.

A further 270m to the SE we found a site (OR1), readily identified via the picture in the reference material.

So that wasn't bad - 6 out of 7 bagged. I trotted back down the Orroral Road and picked up the car. We drove to the track leading down to the Orroral Homestead complex.

Walk 2 - We walked down towards the Woolshed and Orroral Homestead sites, first time I've approached from this angle and with sufficient time and reference material to really appreciate the area. The best guide is the diagram in the Orroral Woolshed Precinct. I visited and photographed:

1  Orroral Woolshed (OR6 6-10) (see pic 1)
2  Orroral Woolshed yards (OR6 6-10)
3  Site of former yards NNE of woolshed
4  'Horse works' gearing disc
5  Collapsed yards and former shed site
6  Gregory's Homestead ruin (OR6 1-10)
7  Gregory's orchard
8  Gregory's garden
9  Gregory's dam
10 Two fenced pine trees west of Gregory's
11 One fenced pine tree west of Gregory's
12 Former toilet
13 Collapsed pen and metal tank (OR6 4-10)
14 Quarry
15 Cattle yards (OR7 1-2)
16 Flagstone floor west of yards
17 Paddock NW of yards
18 Former post holes east of yards
19 Ploughed paddock east and north of yards (OR7 2-2).

Next, I walked across the boardwalk to the Orroral Homestead site (SoS in the ACT G5). There is also an ACT Heritage Register entry for the Orroral Valley Homestead and Ploughlands. Readily identifiable were Hut 1 (OR6 8-10), the Orroral Homestead itself; Hut 2 site (OR6 9-10) - the Kitchen with just the chimney and some flagstones remaining; Stone-lined well and cultivation paddock (OR6 7-10) - I've never noticed this before.

An excellent result, but it would be nice to return to try to sus out the remaining W-G sites. We walked back up to the car and drove to the Orroral Tracking Station car park.

Walk 3 - I had some stunning sites in mind for my companions prior to lunch, so we set off up to the beginning of the Granite Tops Walking Track, then a further couple of hundred metres further up it (not far enough to hit the old track marked on the 1st edn Rendezvous Creek map). We struck off to the left and found the tanks marked on the 1st edn map. Not terribly thrilling, but I'd seen them many times from the Orroral Ridge across the other side of the valley. Again, questions - where did the water come from, why were the tanks so high up the hill (just to get a pressure head?)?

Back down through the scrub to the Orroral Gate to the Loading pen and ramp (OR9). Two of my companions were kind enough to act as cattle on the ramp for a photo.

The next site was considered to be nearly the best for the day. We trotted SE to the signage on the Orroral Heritage Walking Trail announcing the Sewerage Treatment Works:

These ponds were used for sewage from the tracking station. The new toilets at the tracking station site are a composting system. The original European settlers in this valley would have used a simple pit toilet. These ponds are no longer used but provide habitat for frogs and insects.

Back up to the tracking station site, we took the opportunity to have a good look around at the 26 Metre Dish, the Operations Building and the Canteen sites.

Back to the car, we enjoyed lunch sitting at one of the massive tables and benches. I kept a weather eye on the weather, but the heavier clouds seemed to be mainly to the south.

Walk 4 - After lunch we set off up the valley, first heading to the Minitrack, Mirrors on the Moon and Space Cameras sites.

A slightly lower route up the valley took us to Rowleys Orroral Valley Hut site (OR11).

We took the track SW from here into the trees, looking for Stockyards (OR13), also marked on the 1st edn map. A bit of wandering around in the scrub, but no luck. Maybe return for another look.

Next back towards Rowleys Orroral Valley Hut site, looking for a Hut foundation (OR14). A possible location, based on the topography of the reference description, but worth another look sometime. So two misses in a row.

Next, down to the Orroral River to search for a Footbridge (OR12). With only a 6-figure grid reference from a 1:100,000 map and description "Re-used plywood on old battens; two tree trunks; the whole nailed and wired together then wired to neighbouring rocks"; "Poor condition, presumably built to enable sheep to graze both banks of Orroral River"; and a schematic showing 2 rocks, a tree and a rectangle - I thought it unlikely that we'd find this. We searched the river banks for a while and found the site (see pic 2). Not sure if the tree trunks were still there, but the were some lighter limbs washed a couple of metres downstream from the two rocks on the far bank. The limbs had long nails in them and the rocks were still wrapped with strands of wire. The tree was on our SW bank, now uprooted and dead, but still very obviously the tree. Maybe not exciting to all, but it just speaks to me of the signs of close European settlement still about the place, if one only knows where to look.

The plan was to head up the valley nearly as far as Sawpit Creek, but I reckoned we were nearing our use by date and the weather was looking more threatening (maybe I am a wimp). So we headed downstream. The Orroral River is not its usual reedy, broad self here - rocks, swift running and gurgling water, narrow, plenty of places to cross. We passed a medium sized boulder surrounded at ground level by old wire netting - obviously designed to stop wombats digging under (not effective now) - but why? We crossed - I've never been on this side of the river here. Very pleasant. Much activity concerning the feral pig project.

We headed across open grasslands and through a belt of scrub to come out at a boulder (OR10). A massive split boulder with low cave (see pic 3). It gets a * mention on the map.

With the southern sky a raging black and booming thunder, I suggested we return to the car, to fight another day. Across the bridge over the Orroral River and so back.

Stopped for refreshments at the Tharwa General Store.

Not a bad day of bagging - yes, I was, mercilessly. Not sure how these 'trust me' site bagging walks are being received by others, but I have to do them, so at least 3 more are planned on 24 Jun 08, 8 Jul 08 and 22 Jul 08. Plus I have to return to finish off this area. Thanks Karen, Steve and Susan for humoring me.

Distance: 18.4km  Climb: 150m.  Time: 8.10am - 3.15pm (call it 7hrs), with 45mins of stops.
Grading: M/E,X; M(8)

KMZ file for Google Earth/Maps: Orroral Valley and Environs

Click on a thumbnail below to see the full sized picture
1 Orroral Woolshed
2 Remains of sheep bridge over the Orroral River
3 Boulder