On a fine early Autumn day we set off from Richmond, heading north to Wiseman’s Ferry, an area with a rich convict and colonial heritage. It dates back to the very early days of European settlement in the Sydney area and is about 75 km from the city. The road wound along the top of a plateau then started to descend steeply. Here’s our first view of the Hawkesbury River – the ferry is just out of sight.
The Convict Trail – a series of convict-hewn stones – commemorates the early crossing, at one time the only means of access northwards to the Hunter Valley.
There are actually two ferries. We took the slightly more southerly one at the confluence with the Macdonald River. Houseboats are a familiar sight on the rivers.
About 16 km northwards of the ferry and alongside the Macdonald River was our lunchtime destination – the Settlers’ Arms Inn at St. Albans, built in 1836. Amazingly, the great flood of 1889 rose to the verandah eaves of the inn! It was once a stopover for Cobb & Co. coaches travelling between Newcastle and Sydney.
The food was awesome. Dave’s huge pie with mash and peas oozed gravy and huge chunks of meat. My lamb shank and beans soup with crusty bread may not have looked so attractive but the flavour was delicious. I’d go back for more any time.
Replete, we headed back towards the ferry but on the opposite side of the Macdonald River, along what was once the convict-built Old Great North Road. An old graveyard beckoned ….
Many of the graves had modern bronze plaques attached. There was also a garden seat with a moving message. Imagine discovering your family at age 91.
We continued along the narrow road to the ferry:
On the way back to Richmond we stopped off at Ebenezer to admire the oldest church in Australia, erected in 1809.
To my surprise one of the settler families was named Johnston (my maiden name). But they were not my family, alas. Nor Dave’s. We are both Johnstons but unrelated.
Convict-hewn stoneswere everywhere.
Note the shaped corner stone.
Nearby is an old schoolhouse. This little plaque shows the flood height in 1867. The river is far off down a steep bank.
Why was that pile of stones fenced off? We found out …
Next morning we nearly missed seeing a balloon take off from a nearby field.
We left Richmond, heading for Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands. A whole new area to explore, but one that was once very familiar to me in my childhood.