Saturday, June 23, 2007

Gwydir River - Kentucky Creek

Photo: Kentucky Creek at the point where the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt (Fred Ward) is reported to have been shot and killed by Constable Walker. And here.

As I write I am eating a piece of toast with some rather nice Gwydir River honey, gazing at a map of the Gwydir catchment area.

As I said in my introductory post on the Gwydir, it is one of New England's major west flowing rivers.

The Gwydir River catchment, covering 25,900 sq kms (10,000 square miles), is one of the major northern tributaries of the Barwon-Darling River. The river flows north-west from Uralla and Guyra in the east to Collarenebri in the west. Major tributaries drain from the New England Plateau in the east, the Mastermans Range in the north and the Nandewars in the south.

Most major tributaries join the main river above Moree. Downstream of Moree the river has the characteristics of an inland delta with important wetlands. In floods, water can flow to and from the adjoining river valleys. Another important feature is the Gwydir Raft, an immense accumulation of timber, debris and sediment which has been deposited in the former channel, forming a 30 km long blockage. It is assumed this formed during early European settlement due to tree clearance and subsequent erosion.

Rainfall decreases across the catchment from an annual average of over 1,100 mm (43.3 inches) in the east to 500 mm (19.7) in the west. Rainfall patterns are significantly affected by the mountain ranges surrounding the catchment. Summer rainfall dominates the rainfall pattern, and much of this rain can occur in heavy storms of short duration.

Kentucky Creek lies in the far south-east corner of the Gwydir catchment south of Uralla (and here). This is traditional central New England Tablelands' country, with the creek flowing north-west through open grazing country including Kentucky Station, one of New England's original squatting properties.

Most people drive past Kentucky Creek along the New England Highway without even noticing it other, perhaps, than a brief glance at the attractive valley as they top the hill on either side.

I think that it's always been the case that the major north-south highways linking Brisbane and Sydney create a north-south orientation. That's a pity, because the east-west transverse contains some of the most interesting history and country.

In the case of Kentucky Creek, this is Thunderbolt Country. Now the bushranger Fred Ward, aka Captain Thunderbolt, roamed widely across New England from the Hunter in the south into the Queensland portion of the New England Tablelands, so many places can and do claim a connection. But he was shot and killed in Kentucky Creek, just north you can find Thunderbolt's Rock where he used to watch for the gold coaches, while Uralla cemetery is his final resting place.

As children, this was an area that we knew well because Aunt Kay and Uncle Ron had a property at Kentucky, the mixed orchard and grazing area to the east of the highway.

Driving down to Glenroy from Armidale we often played on the rock - it seemed very big to us kids - then south past the Kentucky Station drive, down the hill before swinging left onto the Kentucky road. Here the country changed as we went over the divide to the east, entering small farming country, then through the little village and on to the property. Memories.

Introductory post. Next post.

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