It has been a long time since we have had such a wet winter. The days are short and the gravel roads in the Yass Valley are long! And it is not only the gravel roads, but water damage to sealed roads is also very noticeable. Looking back through records, it is obvious road maintenance has always been a major headache for Councils and ratepayers.

In the 1850s road, maintenance was allocated to individuals. On Thursday 1st August 1857, at noon, the Magistrates met in the Yass Court House to take into consideration the most beneficial plan for expending the money placed at their disposal for the repair of the roads. “From Yass to Pearse’s Hill, Messrs. Davidson and Blake; from the latter place to the Gap, Dr. Campbell and Mr. A. H. Hume; and from the Gap to Gunning, Messrs. Besnard and Davidson. The road from Yass to Bogolong was apportioned to Messrs. Laidlaw and Besnard.” 

 

Murrumbateman main road about 1905 images from YDHS Archives

By July 1906, roads were the Goodradigbee Shire Councillors’ problem. “No allusion to bad roads would be complete without a reference to the awful mess of that from Yass to Waroo. Away past the Douro race course, it is about as uncomfortable as can be, but the choice spot is at the open culvert in the gully further on, where the water makes a sort of dam on the road, with yards of pounded mud and slush on either side.”

In May 1934, the question of responsibility arose; should the Council maintain a crossing on Mr Lucas’s road? “Where one-man roads exist, the persons concerned should render considerable assistance. Cr. Merriman made the point it was pipeclay ground where the crossing was and it would bog a duck.”

In June 1952, Yass and the district experienced their worst flooding since 1925. Council decisions the following month sum up the mammoth task of keeping roads navigable and ratepayers happy. Here are some of the twenty issues raised 

T.W. Storey, “Werong,” Yass: Complained of the condition of The Gums Road and stated it was impassable by car four miles from Yass. Engineer to inspect The Gums Road and Long Rail Gully Road section, which leads on to Dog Trap Road, interview Mr. Storey if possible, and use his (the engineer) discretion as to which road should be attended to. 

  1. Wilson, Murrumbateman: Bogs and trees on Dick’s Creek Road. One creek impassable. Council’s intention to have road repaired, approximately September. 

Hardwicke Road, water diversion from natural watercourse onto the road and causing a bog: President to make inspection with engineer and take remedial measures.

Cr. G. Johnson: Mr Victor Hall, Laverstock road, wants bank taken away to prevent flooding of cultivation paddock. Referred to engineer. 

Cr. Ryan: When will more work be done on Bowning streets. Work was started but engineer had to pull men out for other work. 

Cr. Johnson: Mr. W. Richards cannot get car out owing to condition of his road. Engineer to inspect with view to having work done at earliest reasonable time. 

Cr. Glover: He had travelled the Bookham-Chidowla Road. The engineer said the man who previously covered the area was now working at Tangmangaroo with truck. The president (Cr. E. C. Archer) drew attention to timber and scrub on roads, and said steps should be taken “to call tenders for the removal of the timber”. 

Poor Engineer! Mr Thompson comments, “the rates are not elastic enough to allow for everything being done at once!”

Traversing three miles of dirt track as a child, from home to the main road involved lots of mud, a degree of back sliding as the hills were tackled and on occasion, the neighbour’s tractor to pull us out. Whilst lots of fun at the time, this led to an ongoing appreciation of road maintenance issues. 

An exasperated neighbour’s poetic attempt to sum up the situation at the fourth of the seven gates on that three-mile stretch went as follows:

Here lies the body of Harry O Pound

Lost in the mud and never more found

He could have been saved from this terrible fate

By three loads of gravel and raising the gate.

 

Judith Davidson for YDHS