Tuesday, December 27

Galston Gorge

The road through Galston Gorge is one of the most unusual roadways in the Sydney region. It takes cars from the wide streets of Hornsby down a narrow winding road punctuated by numerous tight hairpin turns deep into a narrow bush-clad gorge. At the base of the gorge an old one-way wooden bridge takes you across Tunks Creek, a tributary of Berowra Creek to a second concrete-arch bridge that crosses Berowra Creek itself. On a good day a journey through the gorge takes about 20 minutes.

The road’s bends are so tight and steep that the traffic over 7.5 metres in length is banned. However, at least three vehicles annually become stuck. So far this year, two such incidents have been reported. On February 8 the Gorge road was closed for more than four hours after a trailer carrying five horses became trapped. A month later a coach, well over the length restriction, also had to be rescued. Despite these hazards an average of 5,000 vehicles traverse the road each day.

I’m fascinated why a road through the middle of nowhere was ever constructed. The original wooden bridges were built in 1891, with the bridge crossing Tunks Creek still in use today. The bridges were built before the road was completed, by hauling each wooden beam through the bush with horse teams. The road itself was finally opened in 1893.

A little research reveals that the road was the championed by Matthew Charlton, a stone-cutter and boat-builder who lived on the banks of Berowra Creek. He was seeking a timelier route to the Hornsby railway station for his goods, as were a growing number of orchardists and farmers in the nearby Dural region. Prior to the opening of the road, most produce was transported to Sydney via Berowra Creek.

Water transport often began its journey from a tidal bay along the creek called Berowra Waters. A pioneering man by the name of Jack Smith established a boat shed here in 1898. The shed still stands today. In 1900, another road of tight hairpin turns was built down to boatshed from Berowra railway station. A hand-operated punt would then take vehicles across the water to a second road winding its way up an opposing valley to Galston.

A century later, the area’s commercial heritage has been superseded by more recreational pursuits. It’s now a popular boat launching spot, offering picturesque picnic locations and a popular fish cafe. However, the ferry service remains in operation, plying the creek 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

No comments: