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Milton Rural Landcare Inc.

Milton Area History


From the earliest days of white settlement the explorers had found the Red Cedar, Toona ciliata, the Red Gold. Prized for its beautiful dark red timber for public buildings, houses, staircases and furniture, as it still is today, it was inevitable that it was harvested as quickly and completely as the primitive saws and axes of the time and the difficulties of bringing it out of the deep brush to the ships would permit.

Cedar trees grew in the deepest and dampest parts of the bush, on the richest soil, all along the NSW coast. Outside the rainforest it cannot grow well in clusters, as it is attacked by moth, but there was so much in the Shoalhaven that by 1820 the cedar cutter, 'the pioneer of pioneers' was well established. Usually contracted to a Sydney 'cedar merchant', from 1819 he required the Governer's permission to cut cedar and was granted a bounty. He had his own stands of timber and his own mark on the timber he sent away so that the buyer could calculate his earnings.

In the bush, he searched for the distinctive red tips of the mighty deciduous trees from the river or a high vantage point and then set up the first camp site of the white man - a rough cabin on the sunless floor of the forest. He lived a rugged and independant life, always in danger from accidents, leeches and snakes, as well as hostile aborigines. The cedar was felled and kept in a convenient location in the creeks with an improvised boom, then floated down to the sea and the waiting ships when there was a flood, or 'fresh'. A cedar log could lie in the river for a year or more without damage to the timber. If cut up with a pit saw, it yielded planks of 60-90 cm in width. In Kangaroo Valley it was taken up the face of the Fitzroy Falls, by a course of ladders, rock ledges and platforms, to the waiting drays at the top.

The Reverend Thomas Kendall, first settler of Milton-Ulladulla had trouble with cedar pirates on his land and petitioned the Governor about it. He had cut cedar from the time of his arrival in 1828 until his death in the loss of his sons's cedar cutter 'Brisbane' in Jervis Bay in 1832. The workable cedar was cut out and the trade no longer viable by 1850 but some survived then, as it does today, in inaccessible parts of the bush.

It was left to the grandson of the Reverend Thomas, Australia's first native born poet, Henry Kendall, born at Kirmington, a Kendall property at Milton, in 1839, to evoke the imageof the cedar forests as they were in our romantic past. In 'Bellbirds', he wrote


"Through breaks in the cedar and sycamore bowers

Struggles the light that is love to the flowers

And softer than slumber and sweeter than singing

The notes of the bellbirds are running and ringing."

the above history was donated by Mrs J. Ewin, author of several local history books.


The Present Situation:

* Narrawallee is our oldest settled area where the first land grants impacted and it is suitable that they now be examined in the light of new land use principles.

The Milton Intrusion had special rich soils produced by the underlying monzonite rock which would have supported a tall forest of Forest Red Gum and other Eucalypts with a grassy or tussock understorey as well as subtropical rainforest.

* Red Cedar cutting started the clearing process followed by dairying. Only small remnants remain.

* Subtropical rainforest at Yattah Falls Nature Reserve and a small remnant west of Milton.

* Some Regrowth is occurring in both previously logged rainforest and in the area generally.

Based on the definition of Urban Bushland by the National Trust of Australia (NSW), and State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 19, Bushland in Urban Areas as gazetted in December 1988 by the NSW Government.

Land degradation is first experienced by our producers. Many of the streambanks are well on the way to being degraded:

- with 9 weirs across Croobyar Creek which joins into Narrawallee,

- Europeanised with exotic species, like weeping willows beginning to choke creeklets,

- cows allowed free access to trample streambanks, riparian vegetation and saltmarshes.

- nutrient rich farm ditches and channels that drain the land grow too much azolla and feed directly into the creek,

- pumping out and burning off wetlands to promote fresh growth for grazing and remove pests also destroys nesting sites for birds. Any draining of land must consider acid soil problems which will kill fish etc.

- using sinks or tiny wetlands in hills without vitalising them.

- willow trees and kikuyu grassed banks have led to choking of streams already stressed by weir, pumps, redirections, drains and drought.

Urban areas such as Milton, Narrawallee, West Conjola and Lake Conjola towns are starting to show their impact upon our waterways. These waterways often have a public reserve surrounding them that should act as a vital filter for pollutants. Stormwater runoff from urban areas can impact severely upon our waterways and is often ignored, as the problems it causes are not always manifested near the obvious outlets but may, for example, occur downstream in the form of increased channel erosion due to increased flow levels.

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