A Trip to Fentonbury and the Russell Falls

[By The Pilgrim.]

Fentonbury is a small pioneer settlement about eight miles from Glenora, the present terminus of the Derwent Valley Railway. The road diverges from the Derwent Valley towards the Western Tiers, near Fenton Forest, and there being no regular conveyance, I made up my mind to tramp it. As I did not leave the Forest until late in the afternoon, I only just reached the settlement before nightfall, and received a very kind welcome from Mr and Mrs Langdridge, at the State School, whose hospitality to visitors is proverbial, and who spared no trouble in endeavoring to make my stay a most enjoyable one. On the following morning (Friday) I availed myself of the opportunity to visit the school under Mrs Langdridge's charge, and which has a reputation throughout the surrounding districts. Although I had been led to harbor great expectations, I could not help being : surprised at the splendid results obtained during the short time that, has elapsed since its formation ; these results being rendered the more striking from the fact that the majority of the scholars had grown up without the opportunity for receiving the most rudimentary instruction prior to that opening of the school. In addition to a more than ordinary proficiency in the essential branches of education (a gentleman states in the Visitors' Book that 'the average handwriting of the scholars would be a credit to many of our junior teachers;' an opinion which I can heartily endorse), the scholars have acquired a most courteous deportment and good manners, which, by the way, are not forgotten and put aside when beyond the school precincts. A most agreeable feature of the school method is the free interspersal of singing, and which is attended with the happiest results ; each day's work is begun and closed with appropriate verses, while apposite little motto songs and vocal marches are woven in between the various lessons and with the drill incidental to the daily task. The children seem so very bright and happy and outer into their work with such zest that I think it impossible for anyone to visit them without catching something of their enthusiasm and, in fact, becoming quite rejuvenated. I shall long remember the enjoyable morning I spent in Fentonbury School, and would heartily recommend any whe may bo passing that way, and who have an interest in the education and well-being of Young Tasmania to call and see what may be attained by earnest ness, thoroughness, and kindness. I have good reason to believe that the services of Mrs Langdridge and her able assistant, Miss Howell, are fully appreciated by the parents of the scholars and by the Local Board of Advice.

Next morning, accompanied and guided by my kind host and hostess, I started to the Russell Falls. The weather proved as fine as heart could wish, indeed 'twas quite a foretaste of spring, rendered the more highly enjoyable by contrast with the severe wintry weather which had prevailed during the past fortnight, reminiscences of which in the shape of patches of unmelted snow, lay in many of the shadier nooks and gullies. A walk of about three miles along an easily ascending pad track, running through a lightly timbered country, brought us to the crest of a spur from whence we could view the long deep valley or gorge through which the Russell River flows. Bounded on either side by steep and thickly wooded hills, and closed at its western extremity by stately snow capped mountains, in which the river has its source, and from which a keen breeze was blowing, the valley has an appearance of wild secluded grandeur. One would scarcely expect to find either, house or habitation in such a lonely spot, but on descending a few hundred yards we caught sight of the homestead and hop gardens of Mr Belcher, who, by the way, is an old pioneer, and has reared a large family of fine young men and women on his little selection near the banks of the river. On calling at the cottage we received a hearty welcome and invitation to partake of refreshments, of which we gladly availed ourselves. The Falls are not more than a mile from the homestead, but as the track has become almost obliterated during the past winter, weshouldlmvehud some difficulty in finding it if Miss Belcher had not kindly volunteered to accompany us.

Our path now lies along the right side of the gully, at some height above the river, winding through a dense undergrowth of beautiful shrubs , and ferns; whilst above us, almost hiding the blue sky, tower gigantic gum trees swaying their tops to the mountain breezes, though a lighted match, may be carried where we, poor pigmies, are pushing and scrambling in the lower and. stiller depths. Every few yards we stop, and with bated breath and strained ears, endeavor to locate the water fall. We at last, recognise its steady cadence rising clearer above the fitful rustlings of the trees, and the babble of the river, with each step we take towards it until we come out upon the steep side of a gully, running at right angles to the main watershed along which we have come. Down this a tributary of the Russell River flows, and it is here that the gully, after conducting the stream, from the plains above and near its confluence with the river, abruptly widens and deepens into a natural basin, or amphitheatre, into which the falls descend. We paused to admire the wild luxuriance and native beauty of the verdure that clothed its sides ; the beautiful plume-shaped man ferns growing so thickly as to hide the stream below ; above these rose graceful light woods, sassafras and myrtles ; and, towering over all the stately and solemn-looking gum trees carrying their heads above the quiet spray-ladened air of gully into the breezy and sunny upper regions.

A short way up the bed of the stream the sides of the gully converge, gradually increasing in steepness, until they terminate in an almost sheer precipice, about 150 feet in height, over which the stream dashes into a pool below. Its course, however, is arrested about midway by a ledge thus breaking it into two distinct falls. The bush is so dense that we are almost hidden from the distant observer, only revealing themselves, like snow-patches or cloudlets, between the tops of the trees that spring from the gully below. Descending through the dense undergrowth, damp from the continual spray of the falls, we emerge on the edge of a clear pool at the edge of the lower fall. Here we get the most comprehensive view obtainable of the combined bodies of water falling, apparently, from the sky above us; here translucent, and there shining with dazzling brightness according as they absorbed or reflected the shafts of light piercing through the trees from the afternoon sun. The lower ledge, in front of which we were standing, dips inward towards its base ; and in the recess behind the arch of the water we perceive the most beautiful and. delicate ferns grouped by nature's dexterous hand and backed by the dark green velvety moss-covering of the rock on which the spray-drops cling like diamonds, forming a real natural fernery of un-surpassable beauty.

Leaving the ladies to explore the recesses and shady groves of magnificent Old Man ferns, we climbed to the lodge below the upper fall, from where we had a good viewing point of the gully below. We would have liked to ascend to the top and follow the river for some distance ; but, as the afternoon was far advanced, we decided to postpone further exploration until another trip, when we hope' to have the opportunity of ascending to its source at Lake Fenton, near Mount Field, west, which I am informed is very beautiful. Rejoining the ladies, we retraced our steps homewards ; but the short: winter day closed before we got far on our way. However we made up for the loss of the 'kindly day-light' by extemporising torches of stringy bark. Trudging along the narrow track in single file and beguiling our way. with singing and fun, we were, indeed a merry party; and, no doubt, scared the mope, hawks, bandicoots, and other nocturnal creatures with the unusual glare and noise of our procession. We arrived home, just tired enough to enjoy a, rest, and with keen appetite to do justice to a good supper, after which we compared our impressions at the cheerful fireside, and decided that we had a day of exceptional and unalloyed enjoyment, and which would afford us a lasting store of pleasant recollections.

In conclusion I would strongly recommend all lovers of beautiful natural scenery to avail themselves of a trip to Russell Falls. I think there is no other locality in ' Picturesque Tasmania ' that will go repay the tourist for but a comparatively small outlay of time and trouble. Beside having all the charm of novelty it has the merits of an accessible and beautiful route, lying for the greater part through the valley of ' the Southern Rhino.' The Falls will, doubtless, prove a favorite resort with picknickers and tourists; a contingency which the Government has foreseen and provided for by reserving 300 acres in and around its locality. There is also good trout fishing in the Russell River. I am informed that arrangements are pending for a daily conveyance between Glenora and Fentonbury. In the meantime Mr. Marriott, of Glenora, will be glad to accommodate visitors with vehicles on receiving prior instruction of their wish to visit the Falls. 1

  • 1. 'THE TRAVELLER.' - The Colonist (Launceston, Tas. 1888 - 1891), 8 September, 1888, p. 4.