The Settlers Track

What is now near the southern border of the Australian Capital Territory was once a very thriving rural community.

Nov 12, 2023

Around the turn of the nineteenth century and near what is now the very southern border of the Australian Capital Territory was once a very thriving rural community, first settled in the 1830s. It included several leases with homesteads, a school and even a racetrack for Sunday picnic races.

So, on a very wintery Spring day in 2020, three of us travelled seventy kilometres south of Canberra through the fire ravaged landscapes of Namadgi National Park to Brayshaw’s Homestead carpark and the start of the Settlers Track.

After the charred wasteland we had travelled through, it was a wonderful surprise to discover the southern section of the park was unscathed and had been reopened. Unfortunately, everything west of the Boboyan Road and north of the upper Naas Valley is still closed because of the damage the catastrophic fires had inflicted the previous summer.

We picked up a very informative pamphlet at the gate and proceeded across the paddock to the homestead. Brayshaws was built in 1903 by two brothers, Edward and David Brayshaw, and became David’s home for the next twenty-eight years. Unfortunately, David was killed when he fell from his horse on 31st August 1931. After David’s death, his nephew, Ted and his bride, Roma, purchased the building and their son, Tom, was born there in 1933. 

Pictured Top: Westermans homestead (red building). How many kangaroos can you see in the photo?

The altitude of this area of the park is around 1200 metres and the vegetation and the climate are sub-alpine, so there was a definite chill in the air.

We explored the two roomed building, then followed a lovely bush track for a couple of kilometres to Westermans Homestead or, as it was originally known, Lons Vale. A huge mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos warily watched our approach, but didn’t seem too perturbed by our presence. 

kangaroo

Westermans is a much grander homestead than Brayshaws and is surrounded by remnants of European trees. The current homestead is the third incarnation built in 1916 and has three bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen.

Thomas and Mary Westerman first took up the lease in 1882 and originally built a home of mud brick, then a larger wooden home they called Lons Vale. Thomas’s younger brother, Jim, had the adjoining lease with a slab hut, but he lived at Lons Vale.

Under the terms of the leases of the time it was compulsory to live on your lease so now and then Jim would wander back to his spartan hut, move a few things around, saw up some wood and scatter some tea leaves so the lease appeared occupied. Just up the hill from the homestead are two bush graves.

One is the resting place of one of Thomas and Mary’s infant sons who died in 1886 and the other of their daughter, Elizabeth, who died in 1922 of TB.

Right: The ruins of Boboyan Homestead

ruins of Boboyan Homestead
Waterhole Hut
Waterhole hut

Settlers Track Namadgi National Park

From Westermans, we followed the Grassy Creek Fire Trail four kilometres north-west to Waterhole Hut, which is one of eight stockmen’s huts in Namadgi National Park.

It was built in 1939 by Tom Oldfield and was never intended for permanent occupation, so is extremely basic, with rudimentary features such as nails on the walls to hang things on and a dirt floor.

The hut is surrounded by a ring of raised earth which was created to help save the hut from the fires early in the year but was thankfully never needed.

About 200 metres from the hut are the remains of a set of yards built using the slip rail method. This is done by putting a series of two parallel posts in to the ground then dropping the rails between them. A huge granite boulder was also incorporated in to the fencing. 

After a further kilometre along the fire trail, we stopped for a very refreshing morning tea of hot coffee and a very warming Galician stew made from potatoes and lentils then continued a further three kilometres through the alpine eucalypt forest to the junction with the Bulls Flat Fire trail.

We made our way down the valley constantly passing big mobs of kangaroos and eventually broke out in to the upper Naas Valley. A very icy breeze greeted us and looking back up the valley towards Mount Gudgenby, we could see snow falling on all the high peaks.

We were now on the Old Boboyan Road which was once the main route to Yaouk and the Kiandra Goldfields beyond so it was trudged by hundreds of prospectors hoping to make their fortune. 

Brayshaws Homestead
Brayshaws Homestead

In Search of Gold

The Kiandra gold rush was the shortest and coldest gold rush in Australia’s history.

Kiandra is at an elevation of 1400 metres.

The rush was sparked by the discovery of gold in a creek in 1859 and the township at one stage had fifteen hotels and thirty stores but by 1861 it was all but over and the population had dropped to 250.

A very easy one kilometre stroll east along the road brought us to the ruins of Boboyan Homestead. Boboyan was built in the 1890s and was one of the largest homesteads in the park. It was demolished in 1971 and all that is left of the complex is the huge chimney, some slab flooring and the long neglected orchard.

It was mostly a gentle five kilometres back to Brayshaws Homestead with one challenging hill.

Along the way we passed a small cairn of white quartz which was built by Mary Westerman and Jim Brayshaw marking the site where David Brayshaw’s body was found in 1931. 

A final cup of coffee and a short exploration of the site of Tin Dish School near Brayshaws completed a very enjoyable, if somewhat chilly, day’s adventure.

One final note is that all the huts in the Kosciuszko and Namadgi National Parks are restored and maintained by the Kosciuszko Huts Association. Information and the location of the huts can be found at https://khuts.org/   

by Peter Thomas

by Peter Thomas

Scouting Leader Trainer

A passionate outdoorsman, Peter is a Leader Trainer and Bushwalking Instructor on the National Training Team of Scouts Australia.

An avid walker and writer, Peter scribes a travel blog that includes many of his favourite walks in the Australian wilderness and his various adventures upon the Camino trails.

Keep an eye out for Peter when you come to Canberra for the Rotary Aussie Peace Walk. He'll be walking on the tracks with you.

You will find Peter’s blog at Lighten the Trip Fantastic.

'Leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photographs. Kill nothing but time.'

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