Blue Mountains Bushwalking Guides
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PLUS The Chert Bubble series of local history books.

Concrete made with chert

Concrete made with chert

Rock weight probably used with the electric fence?

Rock weight probably used with the electric fence?

The Test Quarry

The Test Quarry

The dam

The dam

Around Victoria Pass

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Yesterday I got back in the bush again! It has been a while since I set out to spend a day bushwalking. Now that I have retired from cave guiding I should make sure I get out regularly.

I have been writing the history of the Blue Mountains Shire Council's chert quarry which was situated above the lower part of Victoria Pass. The council used Sentinel steam waggons to carry the chert road metal to a siding near Mount Victoria Railway station.

Last week on my way to Mount Victoria Museum I spent a few minutes walking along the lower section of Berghofers Pass. I was looking for something that looks like a rectangle on the 1943 aerial photo (see the Six.maps website). It was right beside the Pass and immediately below the chert quarry crusher site. Eventually I spotted a concrete slab that had been pushed down the slope beside the Pass. Carefully scrambling down, light rain was falling, I found two bolts sticking out of the slab and more pieces of broken concrete. In the side of the concrete I could see pieces of chert! So it had a connection to the chert quarry. I believe it was the floor of the pump house for pumping water from the valley to the quarry. Documents say there was an electric pump which pumped the water 300ft from a shaft on the property of J. Harris up to the quarry.

Yesterday I returned to the concrete slab for a better look under a blue sky. It is about 1.4m by 3m and 30cm thick! There are seven pieces plus the slab. Definitely chert was used in its making.

Then I walked along the hill and angled down to the fence which I proceeded to follow. There were two interesting stone weights hanging on the fence. Some good views of the water-filled dam in the valley and three kangaroos. Two flat areas indicate human activity and I wonder if they were parts of the camp area for Mitchell's road construction in 1828-32. Not everybody would have fitted in the stockade further down in what is now the farm paddock.

As I started making my way back up to Berghofers Pass I came across a stainless steel Monitoring Well. I wonder what its purpose is? So I have emailed the company whose name and phone number are on the well head.

In the area below Mitchells Causeway (and still below Berghofers Pass) there are a number of shaped rocks with convict pick marks in them. They must have fallen from the Causeway.

Returning to the car, I drove up Victoria Pass and out to Mount York. I had a cup of tea from the thermos but decided not to look at old tracks here because the wind was ferociously cold! So I drove down the Pass to visit the chert quarry. 

At the quarry site I found another sleeper and a steel bar and a spike hammered into the ground - evidence of the rails for the skips. In particular I wanted to look at the area where the huts had been and the remains of a fireplace. I found a photo of that fireplace at the Mount Victoria Museum last week. This 2006 photo shows the fireplace intact but I knew it was just a heap of rubble now. Sometime between that photo in September 2006 and December 2013 (my first visit) a tree had fallen and knocked it down. The fireplace was not in one of the huts but was under the water tanks! It was part of a wall of stone and cement measuring about 4ft by 12ft. I use the old measurements because the tank stand held three ships tanks. The ships tanks - two are still there - are 4ft cubes! So 3 tanks required 4ft by 12ft.

So I have another mystery on my hands. I have been told a story which suggests the fireplace was in one of the huts. But the huts were to the south of the tank stand.

Leaving the quarry I followed the contour of the hill towards the south. At a gully I could see up to the my left there was blue sky between two "hills". So I zigzagged up to the saddle between the hills where i got a view down into the Kanimbla Valley. There are some fantastic wind-eroded caves in the rocks up here. Walking out to the end of the southern hill I got great views of the Little Hartley Valley. I then made my way down the slope, zigzagging again, until I found the chert outcrops I had been looking for.

In 1925 the Blue Mountains Shire Council had added a third area to their quarry leases, ML11. The others were ML3 and ML9. The idea was to eventually extend the quarry to here using rails to transport the chert in skips to the crusher. I took a GPS reading and it was 945m, the same as the quarry floor. A bit further on I found what I have called a test quarry. About 25m long and 5m wide with a face of 4m, this excavation was probably done to confirm the chert deposit. Sadly, the chert layer was only 30cm thick.

A day of good exercise, interesting discoveries, and more material to add to "The Chert Bubble, Volume 2 - The Shire" which I hope to release in September this year.

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