Georges River National Park Walk

Boy, did I luck out today for my walk through the George River National Park – a brilliant sunny winter’s day. Although I have walked the Ridge Track section before (many years ago now) I learned of the latter part of today’s walk when I bumped into another walker on the Yeramba Loop Track a few weeks ago. With other activities are on the back-burner because of the Corona virus it was a good opportunity to go for it.

This walk is part of the longer 15.8 km route from East Hills railway station to Padstow railway station, allowing for recovery after the journey. A detailed description of the route plus maps and transport options is available on the internet.

I confined my shorter trek from the The Shop at Picnic Point to the Elatte Cafe at Padstow Heights making it possible to have a delicious coffee at either end.

The walk can be broken up into a number of different sections.

Yeramba Loop Track

Yeramba Lagoon

Wattle starting to bloom

From The Shop in Picnic Point Road I headed down the nearby Samoa Avenue into the Georges River National Park to pick up the eastern half of the Yeramba Loop Track down to Henry Lawson Drive. This is probably my favourite short walk which goes around the lagoon (see my post of 8 April 2020) and I was delighted to see one of the first wattles coming into bloom.

Ridge Track

Crossing the Drive I headed up to the top of the rocky climb to join the Ridge Track. The track generally follows the Georges River which is way below and peaking through some majestic eucalyptus trees. The track is well formed and appears well used but it can be somewhat difficult in parts getting around and over rocky outcrops and boulders.

Climbing up to the Ridge Track

The Ridge Track ends just inside the entrance to the NP at The River Road intersection. Having walked at a steady pace it had taken me an hour this far.

Henry Lawson Drive

Like some other sections of the longer East Hills-Padstow walk, this section is on road, and unfortunately it is Henry Lawson Drive without a footpath, so care needs to be taken. This section is about 500 metres long including a crossing of Little Salt Pan Creek before again heading into the Park to the river.

Mickeys Point Beach

This section starts with a service trail paralleling the Creek to reach the River at Mickeys Point and the start of the sandy beach which runs some 600 metres to the Alfords Point Bridge. Late on this sunny morning there were only three other sets of footprints along the sand – two human and one dog.

Mickeys Beach

Alfords point Bridge

Padstow Heights

Passing under the bridge a short section passes through the river flats to the track that climbs the fire ravaged Beauty Point Reserve to Playford Road, Dilke Road and the Elatte Cafe. Here I was enjoying my flat white less than two hours after setting out.

Thomas Dyball, Convict (1809-1905)

On the 30 July 1905 one of New South Wales’ longest lived transported convicts, Thomas Dyball, breathed his last at Port Macquarie having, it is believed, lived a full and healthy life of 96 years.

The Dyball name is most commonly associated with the Norfolk area of England. If his age at death is correct this Thomas Dyball was likely born on 30 January 1809 in the parish of Burgh St. Margaret (Yarmouth) in Norfolk to parents Robert Dyball and Ann Dyball (nee Copping). However, there were other Thomas Dyballs born in Norfolk around that time so we may never know the truth.

On 8 April 1829 the Bury and Norwich Post recorded the proceedings of the Norfolk Lent Assizes as follows:

… John Browne aged 17 and Thomas Dyball pleaded guilty to, and John Felmingham, aged 21, was charged with having feloniously broken into the dwelling-house of Thomas Willis, of Acle, shop-keeper, and stolen twenty yards of cotton cord, twelve pair of worstead stockings, and other articles, his property on the 21st of February last, and Thomas Benstead was charged with having received the same, knowing it to have been stolen. – Benstead was acquitted, and Felmingham found guilty, and judgment of Death recorded against him.

Thomas was sentenced to transportation for life in New South Wales. He arrived in Sydney on the “Sarah” on 6 December 1829 and was later transferred to the Port Macquarie convict establishment where he was granted a ticket of leave. There he met Catherine Calnan, another convict who had been sentenced to transportation for seven years for picking pockets. Catherine had arrived in Sydney of the “Elizabeth” on 17 December 1836.

Being convicts the couple had to seek permission to marry, and this was given by Rev. John Croos who married them on 18 July 1841. Catherine  received a certificate of freedom in 1845 and Thomas a conditional pardon two years later in early 1847, and at that time with three children and Catherine again pregnant the family decided to stay at Port Macquarie initially. The pardon coincided with the closure of the convict establishment at Port Macquarie as the free settler population in Hastings River grew.

In 1850 the Dyballs moved to the Manning River and became some of the earliest settlers in that area. Thomas took up a selection at Taree Estate and there the couple eventually had nine children before Catherine died at the age of 52 years on 22 November 1870.

Thomas lived on his property for more than fifty years. Only his last eighteen months were spent in ill health when he lived firstly with his sons at Taree and then with his daughter Prudence Grace (Dyball) Beattie on Rawdon island in the Hastings River a little upstream of Port Macquarie where he died. He was buried at the Wauchope Cross Roads Cemetery.

His obituary published in the Manning River Times and Advocate on Saturday 5 August 1905 stated how he could recount many interesting reminiscences of the early days of settlement in this district. It tells of his birth in Norfolk, England and his “immigration” to New South Wales in 1829, but neglects to mention his convict past.


What did you do during the 2020 Covid-19 lock down, Pa?

Well Dear, as you know many of us had more spare time during our isolation, so it gave us the opportunity to do more of our favourite things and try new activities. For me, I was able to spend time in the work shed and emerged with my first carved wooden spoon.

Starting with a piece of wood (probable white beech) I searched for spoon designs online and watched numerous YouTube demonstrations of carving tools and techniques. In the end I was winging it with a pencilled layout and available implements including a coping saw, an old bench chisel inherited from my carpenter father, an inexpensive carving gouge, a carving knife and various grades of sandpaper.

It proved to be an enjoyable learning experience, appreciating the need to properly sharpen the chisels to ensure clean cuts without tearing the wood, understanding the grain of the timber and exercising patience.

Achieving what appears to be a reasonable aesthetic shape and after removing most of my mistakes with the sandpaper, I am more than happy with my first spoon. Then, with a fine coating of food grade mineral oil, it is ready to use, although I may keep it for posterity.

I am sure this will not be my last spoon, maybe I am hooked already. I guess the next question could be “where is the fork”?