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The state of the roads

The special commissioner reported that the state of the roads to the diggings was of key concern and immediate action needed to be taken if they were to ensure the safety of travellers.

16 March 1852
Published Source
Australian National Dictionary Centre, The Gold Rushes and Australian English: a resource for researchers, teachers and students, Australian National University, 2005, http://www.anu.edu.au/andc/res/aus_words/gold/index.php. Details
This material is provided by the Australian National Dictionary Centre, a joint project of the Australian National University and Oxford University Press Australia.


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We are now in receipt of [the special commissioner’s] first communication, which is as follows:— In connection with the diggings, the subject that demands the first consideration is the state of the roads. The brief rains of last week, though confined to the country between Melbourne and Kyneton [and] not reaching the latter place, have given us a foretaste of what the diggings may expect during the approaching winter. Between Keilor and Kyneton at least three hundred drays were camped unable to make the ordinary day’s journey, while very many of the two horse conveyances were compelled to take three days to perform that which they have hitherto been accustomed to do in two. This has at last opened the eyes of the diggers to the very precarious nature of the communication which they have with Melbourne, and to the little chance that exists of the necessary quantity of provisions being supplied during the winter. Even the Government have at length discovered the absolute necessity of doing something, but I rather fear that they are beginning at the wrong end: their exertions being confined to the roads on the diggings only, and not to the main line of traffic by which the requisite supplies must be brought. Something, however, is to be done, as I am informed, even here[;] at all events it is talked about, and we have only to hope that it may not be vox et præterea nihil; for after the visit of Captain Lonsdale, during which all the requirements of the road must have been made manifest to him, if he do but possess the most ordinary powers of observation, no further excuse can be made for delaying the work. It is not to be expected that anything can be done to the roads themselves by way of levelling, filling up the holes, &c; but what is required is but a mere trifle, that good crossing places should be made over such gullies and water courses as may require them. This is asking by no means a great deal, and from conversation I have had with parties on the line of road, I know that this will satisfy the majority of the travellers. For instance, on the Keilor plains, the second deep gully or watercourse that drays have to pass after leaving the Keilor Inn is bad enough at the present time, but during the rainy season the bed becomes a complete slough, whilst the slippery soil of the steep ridges on either side prevents the efforts of the bullocks from being available. Again, at Aitken’s Gap, the woody ridge over which the drays pass on leaving the Keilor Plains, there is another deep black water course with a steep descent on both sides into it, rendering it all but impassable in winter. Passing on to the newly-formed township of Gisborne[,] we have just at its entrance{,} a similar gully to the above, down which there is a terrific rush of water, wearing away a gap in some places ten and twelve feet deep. At the other end of the township a crossing also requires to be made over the bed of the creek, which is now only made passable by some large stones thrown in to prevent the wheels of vehicles from sinking in the mud. From this to Carlshue [Carlsruhe] we have a line that may be got over with care, and some little use of the whip; but after leaving there, there is again a black-soiled water course, the bed of which is composed of heavy springy soil, making a perfect bog in winter. There is also a similar spot between Kyneton and Coliban, with the difference only that it is ten times worse than the former one, and is the dread of every bullock driver on the road. Of the Coliban and Kyneton bridges I shall say nothing, as I believe it to be the intention of Government to have them repaired forthwith, and they have already received an official visit of inspection from Mr Lennox. From the Coliban to the Diggings a new line has been laid out by the Government Surveyors, a greater portion of which has already been marked out[;] it is therefore needless to point out what further repairs are required for the old line. This new line is to pass to the left of the old road, branching off after crossing the Coliban, and is said to be shorter by some miles, less hilly and more sound. Argus, 16 March 1852