Ariah Park - Broken Dam Heritage Trail
Country of the Wiradjuri People.
Exploring the smaller towns in the region often brings a relatively unknown, and sometimes, an unexpected walking gem. Whilst this is not an epic walking trail, it is a great journey through time and an insight into the early pioneering days of Ariah Park. Recommend this country town walk.
Walk Rating: Easy. The walk is about 3 kilometres in total and loops around back to where you started. Suitable for families and children, although watch the little ones near the creek and the old sheep dip hole.
Directions: Ariah Park is about 244 kilometres from Canberra. If travelling from Canberra, take the Barton Highway and continue past Yass on the Hume Highway. Once past Yass, travel for a further 12.5 kilometres and look for the intersection with Burley Griffin Way (on your right).
Turn right here and follow the road for 46 kilometres and you will reach the town of Harden Murrumburrah (you will also pass through Binalong). From here, continue on the same road. After 20 kilometres you will come to the tow Wallenbeen and continue through staying on Burley Griffin Way.
Travel for another 62 kilometres until you reach Temora (you will also pass through the town of Stockingbingal). Drive through the town and stay on Burley Griffin Way and continue for another 35 kilometres until you reach the intersection with Mary Gilmore Way. Take the right turn and you will reach Ariah Park Town after 1.55 kilometres.
To get to the start of the Broken Dam walking track, continue through the town and continue on Mary Gilmore Way for another 4.1 kilometres and you will see the signs for the start of the track (Image 1).
The Walk: The information signs at the start of the walk are extremely informative and well researched (Image 1). Whilst most of us will recognise the sketched image of Mary Gilmore as that which adorns our $10 note, many of us probably don't know much about her. I must profess that I was also in this category (Image 2).
I discovered that Mary Gilmore was an author, Journalist and a campaigner against injustice and deprivation. She was also a noted poet, and what makes her achievements all the more remarkable, was the fact that she achieved all of this whilst raising a number of children, something that she captured best in one of her poems, I wish I was Unwed Again. To give you an idea of what the poem was about, I wrote down the first paragraph, taken directly from the Ariah Park Information Board.
"I wish I was unwed again, I'm sick of married life;
I hate the look of cabbage greens, I hate the peelin 'knife:
I hate the sight of makin' beds, An pillows' in a row -
If I could be unwed, again, I'd never marry - No!"
She wanted more time to write and having a family, took this time away from her. Fair enough. Look out for the information boards that dot the track as some of her poems are real gems and made our group chuckle.
After reading the very informative information boards, we set off on the walk behind the information board, which took us on a dirt access road (to nearby farms) and towards the creek (Mirrool Creek). This section of the track can be a little confusing, but if you veer to the right after a few hundred metres and continue that way, you'll come across the first history information sign and it's easy from there (Image 3).
Image 1 - The information signs and start of the Broken Dame Walking Track.
Image 2 - The information board at the start of the walking track, which details the life and achievements of Mary Gilmore.
Image 3 - The first part of the walk. Veer to the right and continue that way until you come to an information board.
As you make your way along this section of the track, you will pass the site of 'The Watering Point', which was built in 1897 for travelling stock (and stock men). A little further along is the site of the 'original dam', which was built by a local station owner in 1860.
You will then come to the remains of the old Mirrool Creek Bridge (Image 4). This bridge was built in the 1880's and withstood several floods over the following years, but eventually succumbed to more flooding in 1917 and was replaced by a three-span timber bridge in 1933, which in turn, was replaced by the current day bridge in 2005.
We continued along the track, which takes you under the bridge (Image 5) and than to meanders alongside a farm fence on the right, and the Mirrool Creek on the left (Image 6).
We were in the middle of the crop growing cycle so were surrounded by the yellow colour of flowering canola plants (Image 7). It made for a spectacular backdrop against the surrounding bush.
After another 300 metres or so, you come across the remains of the Broken Dam Burial Ground, also known as the Ariah Park Cemetery. There's nothing left of the cemetery now and you wouldn't know that you were walking past it if not for the information sign (Image 8).
The cemetery was established in 1897 and replaced the previous approach, which was burying people where they died (at a homestead, in the bush etc). The cemetery contains the graves of nine people, but there could be others. Most of the nine were from nearby settlements. A reminder of the isolation (and probable loneliness) that many of the early settlers endured.
Image 4 (above) - The remains of the original Mirrool Creeks Bridge and Image 5 (below) - The modern day bridge, which the track passes under.
Image 6(right) - Looking back at the track after coming under the bridge. Image 7 (below left) - We were accompanied by the brilliant yellow of the Canola crop and Image 8 (below right) - The information sign indicating the location of the old cemetery.
We continued on for another 200 metres or so and the farm fence line on the right side comes to an end and the track takes a right hand bend. This is a really beautiful part of the walk as it passes through a wooded area, almost like a forest (Image 9).
There was lots of bird life and the shade was welcomed on what was a fairly warm day. Continue along this section of the track and take the time to take in the surrounds. After several hundred metres it get's a little unclear as to where you go from here. If you remember to just follow the farm fence line and turn back to your right (heading back to start of the walk now), you'll be right.
Okay, this is where the walk get's a little confusing. As you turn to the right, you are greeted by a gate and it is obvious that this is part of the nearby farm. You can see that the dirt road travels between two paddocks and comes out at another gate (a few hundred metres ahead), which is the main road where the walk commenced.
You can also see several information signs and what makes it a little more confusing, the information signs are actually in the farm paddock, which is also fenced and gated!
We figured that the farmer was happy for people to go into the paddock and look at the historical sites as there were no other signs around that said we would be trespassing if we did. After all, the various information signs formed part of the walking track description, which was displayed at the start point of the walk. Apologies to the farmer if I got this wrong!
Image 9- A really beautiful part of the walk, passes through a wooded area with the dry creek bed on the left.
Image 10 - The gate into one of the farm paddocks. You can see the information sign just to the left of the tree.
We went through the first gate (which was not locked) and walked a couple of hundred metres to the second gate (on your right - Image 10). This gate was also unlocked so we went into the paddock and over to each of the information signs.
The first contained details about the site of the Beehive Hotel. Built around 1872, it was designed to capture the passing stockmen as one of the main stock routes linking Young, Narrandera, Wagga Wagga and Condobolin past right by the hotel (Image 11).
The Hotel was twice destroyed by fire. On the second occasion, the Hotel was re-built next to the then recently constructed railway line in the main street of Ariah Park.
The second information board provided details about the old site of the Broken Dam Store. Designed to take advantage of the Beehive Hotel patronage, as well as the passing stock men. The store operated from around 1876 until its closure in 1907, due to the new store that had been constructed in the town of Ariah Park.
Also of interest is the marriage between a Scottish migrant and one of the early Chinese settlers in Australia (Image 12).
We had started the walk reasonably late in the day and after stopping to read all the information signs, it was now getting late into the afternoon (Image 13). We came back out through the gate and after another couple of hundred metres or so, we were back where the walk started.
We had arrived in Ariah Park the same weekend of the Mary Gilmore Festival and had booked tickets for the David Hudson concert. If you don't know of David's music, look him up on YouTube. He comes from northern Queensland and is a master of the didgeridoo. He also is a fantastic entertainer, playing all types of different music. He married a local girl and wanted to come back for a concert. I can report that the concert was thoroughly enjoyable.
The Mary Gilmore Festival is held each year in October and is a great time to visit Ariah Park. There are a lots of different activities on over the weekend and you can get more information by doing a web search using , 'Mary Gilmore Festival' as the search words.
Also worth noting that the main street of Ariah Park also has historical information boards and signs and you can walk around and read about the history of the town and each of the shopfronts.
If you do decide to go to the festival, make sure you book accommodation early as the local pub gets booked out pretty quickly. It's a great old style pub and it has retained many of the historical features of it's day.
Image 11 (above) - The information sign at the site of the old Beehive Hotel.
Image 12 (below) - The information sign at the site of the Broken Dam Store.
Image 14 - The sun starts to fall low into the sky as we head back to the start of the walking track