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Blue Mountains Tourist : Summer 2010-2011
IMAGES Top: Blue Gum Forest -- Copyright Henry Gold, Colong Foundation for Wilderness Hon. photographer; Bottom: Alan Rigby -- Copyright and courtesy Alan Rigby Collection The Blue Gum Forest -- a very special place by Paul Innes www.bluemountainstouristnewspaper.com.au summer 2010-11 28 Just over 80 years ago, a remarkable event took place in a pocket of bushland deep within the Grose Valley. The event was the saving of a forest -- not just any old piece of scrub, with a few ferns and trees, but a whole forest -- a whole Blue Gum Forest, in fact. Why was the saving of the Blue Gum Forest so significant? In the first couple of decades of the 20th Century, small numbers of people began to take an enormous interest in bushwalking in the Blue Mountains. These people were not just casual tourist visitors, or local residents, who strolled along a well marked bush track to a lookout. Instead these people were men and women who ventured off the tourist tracks into the wilderness. Their domain was the mountain tops, the ridges, the valleys, chasms and rivers of the mountains. Furthermore, they walked with the philosophy that the bush they were travelling through was worth preserving, to allow others the chance to enjoy the wilderness as much as they did. Thus, in Easter 1931, a group of such bushwalkers was tracking through an area of the Grose Valley, below the Blackheath escarpment, through a particular area known for its stand of tall and magnificent Blue Gums. Imagine the bushwalkers' horror when they came across a farmer who told them he was going to cut down the Blue Gums so that he could plant a walnut grove! After all, he told them, he did have a lease on the land, and he needed to earn a living -- from the felled trees, and eventually from the walnuts. Realising this Blue Gum forest was likely facing destruction, the bushwalkers immediately resolved to acquire the land, promising the farmer they would raise the 150 pounds (around $300) he required for the lease; and promising he would have the money by December that year -- his other stipulation. Quickly forming a Blue Gum Committee, the bushwalkers aimed to raise the required capital through fund raising dances, socials, and donations. By November 1931 the bushwalkers had enough money to convince the farmer to transfer the lease, and in return, the farmer dropped the lease price to 130 pounds (about $260). In December 1931 the lease was duly transferred; and in September 1932, the Blue Gum Forest became a public reserve. This event was an early step in the formation of the Blue Mountains National Park. Many say we owe a great deal of gratitude to those 1931 bush walkers -- and to the willingness of a farmer to sell his land. More information about the Blue Gum Forest can be found in 'Pictorial Memories - The Blue Mountains' (pp 96-97) by John Low; and in 'Back from the brink. Blue Gum Forest and the Grose Wilderness' by Andy McQueen. I highly recommend both publications. If you are planning to walk into the Blue Gum Forest, it is important to contact the Blue Mountains National Parks Office at Blackheath, on 4787-8877, before you go down into the Grose Valley. They will provide you with appropriate maps, as well as letting you know what equipment you will need, and what current conditions are like in the forest.