The Tarra Valley 88 Years Ago

Technology today has made it super-easy to dig up fascinating old newspaper articles like this one below from the Argus in 1925.  We would have to think that the author would be fairly astounded if they could step forward in time and visit the Tarra-Bulga today. What will it be like 88 years from now?? 

THE TARRA VALLEY.

When in 1840 Strzelecki led an expedition from New South Wales over Mount Kosciusko and through Gippsland to Corinella, on Westernport Bay one of the party was an Australian aborigine named Charley Tarra. The choice of this native was fortunate for in the latter part of the journey when food supplies were exhausted it was Charley Tarra’s prowess as a hunter that saved the party from starvation.

To such straits were they reduced to in the last 50 miles – and so wild and rough was the country that it took them 22 days to hew their way through the bush – that they lived almost wholly on the flesh of Koalas or native bears. A few months later when a party from Melbourne chartered a vessel  to carry them to the newly discovered province, they took with them Charley Tarra, and when they, or rather some of them were cutting their through the tangled way undergrowth back towards Westernport Tarra’s gun frequently provided the hungry travelers with bear flesh. Which if not tasty, at any rate had food value, It was therefore fitting that Tarra’s name should be preserved in the nomenclature of the streams of Gippsland and, on a river rising in the hills 10 0r 12 miles from where the town of Yarram has since been built, and flowing through a wilderness of bush and fern trees, was bestowed the name of Tarra. It is not an imposing stream, and along most of its course the beautiful surroundings have vanished.

Making a Hill Road (Source: Monash University Centre for Gippsland Studies)

Making a Hill Road (Source: Monash University Centre for Gippsland Studies)

As one wanders in South Gippsland with its hundreds of bare hills or if not bare then covered only with dead eucalypts, or through the lower lands that have nearly all been devastated by fire, it is difficult to picture what this great territory was like when it was first explored, or even to visualise it as it was half a century ago. But a page or two of “the universal and public manuscript” that at one time was expanded to the eye of all can still be seen in the upper part of the valley through which the Tarra River flows. They are not unsullied pages, for every here and there one comes on patches of dead trees looking like phantoms of the surrounding living giants, with their marble like boles. On the hills and in the valleys, the fern trees rise above a tangled wilderness of blanket-wood, hazel, and other scrubs peculiar to the virgin mountain forests of Victoria. Far down in the main valley and in the trackless ways of the Tarra’s gully tributaries are bowers of myrtles of various sizes and conditions, some lithe and fresh others old and hung with lichens. Along the road over the hill big hearted settlers, in spite of great difficulties and discouragement, have built homes and cultivated little clearings.

Hill farm in the Tarra Valley - (Source:  Monash Uni Gipps Studies)

Hill farm in the Tarra Valley – (Source: Monash Uni Gipps Studies)

In some cases, however, the odds have proved too tremendous, and scrub and bracken are almost hiding from view the abandoned homesteads. Near the top of the range where the Tarra River has its source is a timber mill, and though all the machinery is still there it seems a long while since the mill was in operation Scores of white logs mark an old timber trail now partly over grown with young scrub, and the bush is gradually creeping back around the mill and the timber-getters’ huts.

Car at Tarra Valley

Car at Tarra Valley – Source: Monash Gipps Studies.

Near its source the scenery of the Tarra River is not surpassed by the beauty of any other valley in the State, but it is not likely to attract tourists. For the greater part of the year the road through it is almost impossible for motors, and there is too much stale, flat, and unprofitable country to be gone through to make the trip suitable for a walking tour. The bit of wild bush that is left is but a scrap of a mighty forest that 50 years ago covered South Gippsland, and this probably must ere long be destroyed and the name of the Tarra Valley be recorded only in the catalogue of things that were and cannot be again.

The Road Through Tarra Valley (Source: State Library of Victoria)

The Road Through Tarra Valley (Source: State Library of Victoria)

 (Photographs were also sourced via Trove)

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