Walking and Cycle Tours
The 42km section of the original road between Wisemans Ferry and Mt Manning is called the Old Great North Road and is closed to motorised traffic. Here you can explore and examine the fine convict relics on foot or mountain bike, with a variety of routes and destinations catering for all levels of interest, from people who enjoy a leisurely 1 hour stroll, to those who want the pleasure of full-day and overnight hikes.
REMEMBER to carry water.
Circuit Flat bridge
The road near Ten Mile Hollow (1-2 hours)
A few hundred metres north of the Mogo Creek camping area a track branches to the east of the St Albans/Mogo Creek Road. This becomes the original Great North Road. A leisurely level walk through relatively open sandy terrain, graced by grevillias, banksias and scribbly gums leads to another of the early Great North Road bridges.
Circa 1831-2. Projecting buttresses flank each corner, and the seven stone supports projecting from each abutment would have braced the timber deck which has now gone. The stone was quarried from a hill about 1 km to the north west.
Picked walling and road surface at Sampsons Pass
Continue past Circuit Flat bridge for another 3 km, to discover the walling, bridge, and other features of Sampsons Pass.
This beautifully curved wall can be seen between the buttresses and Hangmans Cave on Devines Hill (1 hr, gentle walk)
Start 500 metres west of the main ferry landing on the northern bank of the Hawkesbury River. Access is past a locked gate into Dharug National Park. A fifteen minute walk up a gentle gradient leads to spectacular stone walling, culverts, quarries, buttresses, chiselled and blasted rock faces and hand hewn drains. Hangmans Cave is found after a beautiful curved wall, just above the buttresses. A few hundred metres further up a track leads into the campsite where the convicts lived while building these elaborate structures.
Do not miss seeing these key features:-
• Thomas James bridge - On the sealed road beside the entrance to Devines Hill. This is the oldest bridge in use in continental Australia - stone foundations were constructed by the 25 th Road party in 1830 under convict overseer Thomas James.
• Massive buttresses, elaborate walls and culverts. Contains some of the finest engineering and convict workmanship on the Road
• Culverts - Drainage was an important feature of the 19th century road building revolution. 41 stone-lined culverts take water away from the road on Devines Hill.
• Buttresses -Five large buttresses supported the road against the face of the hill. The fourth buttress slipped down the hill after heavy rain in 1856.
• Hangmans Cave -A natural overhang with a hole in the roof. Legend says it was used to hang convicts, but more likely it was used to store gunpowder, or as an observation post for overseers.
• Stockade site -Up to 150 convicts camped here at any one time. Little physical evidence remains, but due to its high usage the area has never fully revegetated.
A view from Finchs Line across the Hawkesbury and Macdonald Rivers, and Wisemans Ferry (allow 3-4 hours to complete the circular walk)
Constructed in 1828 this is the original ascent on the northern side of the Hawkesbury River. Follow the road up Devines Hill to the top gate, and turn right for 1 km. Finchs line is signposted, and leads to the right. The next few kms follow the original road used by vehicles maintaining the northern telegraph line. The road emerges on the top of the escarpment, providing magnificent views over Wisemans Ferry, along the Hawkesbury River, and to the Blue Mountains in the distance. Bolts in the rocks here were used to secure wires to the large poles which held the telegraph lines once suspended across the river at this point.
The track then turns away from the river, but about 1km later re-emerges at another spectacular lookout. It then circles behind another hill, providing great views over Roses Run. The track then descends the hill in a series of sharp zig-zags, which leave one wondering how these corners would have been negotiated by a bullock team!
Finchs Line emerges on the main road about 2 km east of the present ferry crossing.
9 km from the main ferry landing, on the road to St Albans, a track branches to the right. Shepherds Gully road gradually ascends the hill and after about 15 minutes walking, the remains of a small bridge can be seen in the gully below the road. Here you have the choice of continuing along Shepherds Gully or taking the 1830s Sternbecks Gully Road which follows the other side of the gully. Although somewhat overgrown and eroded, it reveals examples of early stone walling, construction styles and colonial graffiti. Sternbecks Gully Road and Shepherds Gully Road merge again about 100 metres below the gate at the top of Devines Hill.
The Shepherds Gully and Sternbecks Gully roads make an ideal circular walk. They follow a cool rainforest gully, making them enjoyable on warmer days.
Ten Mile Hollow
The road near Ten Mile Hollow
Ten Mile Hollow is on the Old Great North Road 16 km from Wisemans Ferry. Turn right at the top of Devines Hill and continue along the road. A service road (the Western Commission Track) joins the old road after 10 km. Although closed to public vehicles, it may be used by cyclists and walkers who want to make a round trip. It emerges on the main road 4 km east of the ferry crossing.
Continue walking along the road, and after passing the pine plantation and buildings at the Wat Budda Darma retreat, the Ten Mile Hollow camping area is reached. This is an ideal place to camp overnight, to visit Clares bridge, 1 km further along the road, or to explore Simpsons Track.
The road near Ten Mile Hollow
Simpsons Track can be accessed from Ten Mile Hollow. It branches from the Old Great North Road at the camping area, and leads down into the Mangrove Creek Valley. This valley is part of the catchment for the Central Coast water supply and vehicular access is restricted, but walkers and cyclists are permitted.
On reaching the Mangrove Creek valley you can turn left and follow the track past the cemetery, across the bridge and up Dubbo Gully Road (past the locked gate) to Waratah Road, which meets the Wisemans Ferry Road near the general store on Mangrove Mountain. Alternatively you can turn right when you reach the valley floor and walk along another early road past the Mangrove weir, through another locked gate, and emerge on Oystershell Road which meets Wisemans Ferry Road near the Mangrove Creek bridge.
Old Great North Road
(3 day walk, 1-2 day cycle tour)
The 42 km Old Great North Road takes in most of the shorter walks listed above, providing an experience not to be missed, for walkers or cyclists. Allow three days to walk the Road from Mt Manning to Wisemans Ferry, so you have plenty of time to explore and examine the convict works and many natural features along the way. Good camping spots are at Hungry Flat and Ten Mile Hollow where in good weather creeks are normally flowing, but it is not safe to rely on them for water -always make sure you have plenty of water, as the Great North Road follows the ridgetops, and water is scarce. There is no permanent water.
Although most sections are suitable for mountain bikes, there are a number of places where the bicycle must be walked, either to conserve the road surface, or because it is badly eroded.
© 2014 the Convict Trail Project Inc