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Friday, 10 June 2016


If you haven’t visited Mt Wilson yet, this 1955 tourist booklet will make you want to! You can download it from Trove here. If you have trouble finding it, try a search in the “Books” category, using “The Story of Mt Wilson in the Blue Mountains” in the search box, then following the prompts. The link to Trove is here.
The map of Mt Wilson shown is taken from the current Mt Wilson Website (here). You will be able to make more sense of the 1955 book if you have the modern information and map to locate many of the places mentioned.
Mt Wilson is a very special place, being a fertile, elevated piece of land in the sandstone wilderness of Wollemi National Park. I have made several videos and blogs on Mt Wilson already and I am hoping to do more.
St Basil's Church Mt Wilson 1953
Here is a list:
The Waterfall Track here.
Wynne’s Rocks and Du Faur’s Rocks Lookouts here.
The Cathedral Reserve here.
Blog: The Geology of Mt Wilson here.
I’ve also made a slide show using the illustrations from The Story of Mt Wilson (here). NOT PUBLISHED YET.
At Wynne's Rocks Lookout 2014

Saturday, 4 June 2016


1909 Map of the Bonnie Doon track network
Both spellings have been used over the years, so I’ve used both in this Blog!
Located on the western side of Katoomba, Nelly’s Glen provides a way into the Megalong Valley from the plateau. It was no doubt used by indigenous people as one of their many routes up the barrier of sandstone which surrounds all the Blue Mountains valleys. When coal and kerosene shale mining became profitable enterprises (around 1870), the Glen provided one of the safest routes up to the railway and the western road. All this happened before the establishment of the township of Katoomba.
The expansion of mining under the leadership of John Britty North (1879/80) and the subsequent growth of Katoomba led to the Glen being visited by a growing number of visitors (tourists, we would say). The first reference in print to the name “Nellie’s Glen” that I have found is in a real estate advertisement for the sale of subdivided land owned by JB North, in the Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 25th August 1883. The Glen appears to have been named for one of North’s daughters.
The growth of tourist numbers to Jenolan Caves led to the construction of a bridle track linking it with Katoomba. These were the days when horses were indispensable in moving people around. The Tarana and Mt Victoria routes were the most commonly used and it was becoming clear that the Mt Victoria route via Hartley and the present Jenolan Caves road was superior and that this would lead to more and more tourists using Mt Victoria as a base.
Nelly's Glen from Cahill's Lookout
A glance at any map will show that, as the crow flies, Katoomba is the closest mountain town to the Caves. However, the valley of Cox’s River lies in between, making it unlikely that a road for wheeled vehicles could be built to the Caves that way.
The entrepreneurial leaders of the Katoomba community saw that a bridle track, descending into the valley via Nelly’s Glen, could provide a way of drawing visitors to Katoomba. This was the origin of today’s “Six Foot Track”, which is now used by pedestrian traffic only.
Nelly's Glen from North's Lookout

A report and rough survey was commissioned by the NSW government in 1884. We are fortunate that Mr WM Cooper (described as “Surveyor of Public Parks”) wrote a report in 1885 titled “Track from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves”. You can download a copy from Trove here. Cooper does not use the name Nelly’s Glen, referring only to “Megalong Cleft”, which I understand to mean the narrow gap in the cliffs where today’s steps lead down into the valley below. “Nelly’s Glen” includes the Cleft and the widening valley below it where Megalong Creek runs down to join Cox’s River, though where the Glen becomes Megalong Valley I can’t say.
From the Sydney Mail 4th October 1890
The track was quickly constructed and soon in use by those looking for an adventurous route to the Caves. The name “Six Foot Track” was given later because it was constructed wide enough for two horses to pass without requiring a rider to dismount. The illustrations shown here are of the section immediately below the cliff line, in the vicinity of Ethel Waterfall. Naturally most of the route was not constructed to this standard. The main descent down the Cleft was built as a zig zag to lessen the grade. Nearly all of this track was destroyed by the ravages of time and the misguided attempt by the Blue Mountains City Council to construct a fire road down the Glen in the 1960’s.
More recently, the entire Six Foot Track route was reconstructed and has become a very popular walking (and running) track. Where the zig zag track descended through Megalong Cleft there are now hundreds of well-made steps. If you are planning to visit the place, make sure it’s not at
Katoomba Leura Tourist Guide 1905
the same time as one of the running events which bring crowds of athletes pounding up and down the steps. To me, such activities are akin to staging a race through a public library or a cathedral. They have no place in what should be the peace and quiet of our National Parks and reserves.
More reading material: From Katoomba to Jenolan Caves The Six Foot Track, 1884-1984 by Jim Smith. You can try Megalong Books in Leura or Lamdha Books in Wentworth Falls for a copy.
Bush walking guides: WildWalks - Nelly's Glen Lookout (here), Nellies Glen and the Devil's Hole (here).
Tourist Sketch Map Showing Paths at Nelly’s Glen or Megalong Pass 1909 (here). If you look carefully you will see that there are 2 tracks shown into Megalong Cleft – the present route and another which appears to descend the cliffs from the Bonnie Doon track network (which has mostly been lost over the years).
My videos:Nelly's Glen Katoomba (here), Explorers Tree to Bonnie Doon (here), Bonnie Doon Track (here).

The top of the Megalong Cleft steps
Ethel Waterfall

Wednesday, 6 January 2016


This is a little book of 66 pages charged with the “spirit of the age” – the Great Depression was slowly lifting, private car ownership was growing apace and the tourist areas close to Sydney were all chasing the pounds, shillings and pence.
Katoomba was in the forefront of the chase. It was an era of house parties in the many guest houses (with more and more people arriving in motor cars) and the opening of some of the Blue Mountain’s greatest attractions, including the Scenic Railway, The Prince Henry Cliff Walk, floodlighting at Leura and Katoomba, the Giant Stairway and the Projecting Platform at Echo Point.
The NRMA (National Roads and Motorists Association) is still the most influential motoring organisation in Australia. It operated a camping ground at Katoomba Falls (still there today, but controlled by the Blue Mountains City Council). It produced a series of strip maps of highway routes for its members, some of which are contained in this booklet). These were still around when I was a boy and I learned a lot from them. I wonder how many children study maps today like I did then!
There are also maps produced by the firm of HEC Robinson Ltd which are full of interesting details. Another pleasure of mine when I was at University was to visit their shop in lower George St Sydney, not far from Circular Quay.
You will find my video which illustrates what’s to be found in the book here.
You can download it from Trove here. Select the download link at the bottom of this page.