Keith Lancaster 

Home to Index  

Note: The reports have been scanned in as written. I have included the height and distance indications, e.g.:
(1000'- 12m.- 4.45p.m.)
which read as follows: height in feet - miles for the day - time.

On Easter Saturday, 1933, at 1.45 p.m., I left Newstead on the first lone trip of any importance connected with mountaineering. The object of this trip was firstly to ascertain the possibility of utilising the Liena to Middlesex Plains track as a short-cut bicycle route on our projected Cradle Mt. expedition. If this track could be negotiated with a minimum of walking and at a fair rate of progress it would be most advantageous to our plans as we would cut off many miles from the alternative route via Sheffield and Wilmot.

At 3.20 p.m. I pulled up for a quarter of an hour on the little hill just before entering Hagley to take a snap of the Western Tiers. The long range of the Tiers is seen to great advantage from here particularly Dry's Bluff immediately to the south. Brady's Lookout, Cathcart’s Bluff and Projection Bluff were also very conspicuous points on the range while farther west Quamby Bluff and Mt. Roland were impressive. Looking back to the east another wonderful panorama of mountains is seen including Mts. Arthur, Barrow and Ben Lomond.

I passed Westbury at 4.7 p.m. and Deloraine at 5.p.m.. To the south of Deloraine, Quamby Bluff presents an imposing and picturesque sight. The stiff westerly breeze had made the journey very slow and I was very tired long before Deloraine was sighted. However, time was no great factor in this day's ride as it made little difference what time I reached Mole Creek that night as long as I could secure a bed. Dusk had fallen ere I reached Chudleigh and it was quite dark when I entered Mole Creek at 7.15 p.m. after my forty-five miles journey. I spent the night at Miss Lee's comfortable boarding establishment, retiring at 8.45 p.m., rising early and bidding farewell to the town at 6.4.5 a.m. next morning.

The time was 9.14 a.m. when I passed through Liena, eleven miles from Mole Creek. The road surface was fair between these two points of the route but the road passed over some very hilly country. The road is generally on the ascent from Mole Creek until within about a mile and a half of Liena at the side track to the King Solomon Caves where it plunged down a very steep hill to the Mersey River at Liena. The Mersey is a considerable stream hare and is very wide. I had wasted a half hour through taking a wrong road (to Marakoopa Caves) instead of the road via King Solomon Caves and another forty minutes had expired while I breakfasted.

Passing the small village of Liena the road remains level for a short distance and then the climb that leads over Gad's Hill commences. About a mile from Liena a branch road goes up hill to the right. Down the hill on the left, a small stream, Ramon Tree Creek, [Ration Tree Creek?] goes careering down on its way to the Mersey. Upon looking up several road maps before I had started I found that the distance between Liena and Lorinna was reckoned at 7-8 miles. As a sample of the outback man's knowledge of distances I might quote the following incidents. About two miles from Liena I inquired my distance from Lorinna and was told it lay about seven miles away and when nearly another mile along I was emphatically informed that I had yet nine miles to go. It was not very encouraging to know that, hard though I laboured up hill wheeling the bike along at my side, I was not even holding my ground with the village ahead.

Nearly three miles from Liena the metal road ends and the track generally grows worse. About half a mile below the top of the hill a track leads off on the left crossing a small creek. On the top of Gad’s Hill is a stock drover's house (the last house before Lorinna) and this I reached at 10.40 a.m. and was fortunate in finding the occupier at home. This man, in pursuance of his stock droving occupation, had traversed the whole track from Liena to Waratah on numerous occasions and knew the route intimately. Indeed, he would be the best authority on the subject available and he informed me that his house lies four miles from Liena and three and a half from Lorinna, a statement with which I can readily agree. The track is solely a stock trail, more particularly for cattle, and is not often used by men on horseback. I was the first cyclist he could ever remember attempting the track and I certainly have no desire to repeat the experience for the cycle proved to be an unwanted encumbrance over nearly all the track as I was only able to ride it for about three quarters of a mile.

After receiving a very helpful description of the track ahead, I continued my way at 10.50 a.m..Half a mile along a little-used track crosses the main trail just before reaching a clearing with a log fence. Keeping the fence on my right, I soon left the clearing behind and about a mile from the drover's house I passed through the remains of an old gateway. A quarter of a mile farther on the track goes down hill and here the track becomes rather difficult. A creek bed in winter and a slippery boulder-strewn trail in summer - the truck made the task of wheeling the bicycle along extremely awkward and at times I had to carry it. After a mile's downhill journey, I passed through a gate at 11.47 a.m.. The route gradually improved and was all downhill, steep in places, until the tiny village of Lorinna is reached. At Lorinna a road turns off on the right going up hill.

It would be difficult to imagine a more wilder spot for any village to be built than at Lorinna, lying on, the right of the Forth River. Great thickly-wooded hills leap up in all directions and there is not a clear or level tract in the whole landscape. At 12.20 p.m. I reached the metal road at Lorinna and was able to make some beneficial use of the bicycle at last. The route from here to Sheffield is via the new road which keeps much higher up the side of the Roland Range and at a much better grade than the old road below. There is a gradual uphill grade for about seven miles and then the road begins to descend all the way to Sheffield. There are a few tiny waterfalls, rapids, tree fern glades and other delightful scenes to charm the eye along the newly-constructed road. At 2.10 p.m. I passed the Staverton turn-off, six and a half miles from Lorinna and later took one of the little branch roads leading in to Mt. Roland about eleven miles from Lorinna.

I made the acquaintance of one of Mrs. McNiel's sons here and he told me he knew the way to Mt. Roland's highest peak. Enlisting his services as a guide for a slight monetary consideration I set out with him for the mountain at 2.45 p.m.. I have never felt so extremely dead-beat as on this climb, and it cost me a great effort to struggle on with my companion. After frequent spells I managed to gain the plateau with him at 4.15 p.m.. The grade up the mountainside was comparatively easy for a mountain and the track, although not often used, was passable. However, when we had travelled a little distance across the plateau, I again asked my guide if the peak to which we were heading was the highest one on the plateau and he again replied in the affirm¬ative but added that there was a higher one a couple of miles away but this was the highest one in our vicinity.

I was deeply disappointed at this for I could see I had wasted my time and energy on a fruitless effort to reach the top-most pinnacle of Mt. Roland. When I asked him if he could take me to the highest point, he said he did not know the way very well and in any case there would be no chance of returning before dark so I had to make the best of things and return with him. The two miles of track which lie between the plateau and McNiel's lead up a defile between Mt. Roland and Vandyke. Mt. Claude lies to the south of Mt. Vandyke.

I was too tired to take much interest in the view from the plateau but it was not very extensive. Three minutes prior to 6 p.m. we were again back at McNiel’s and my companion offered me the use of the barn for the night, a favour for which I was duly grateful. I was later treated to some hot coffee and later the McNiel boys came down for a chat. Fine fellows they were, though a little dull and backward in general knowledge owing to little schooling, hard work and isolation from town life (only one had ever been as far as Devonport). But the good-heartedness, honesty and hospitality of these fellows was wonderful, leaving me with a still greater admiration for all country dwellers. I slept on top of the hay in the barn and, despite the uncompromising fact that I had an army of rats for companions, I enjoyed a sound sleep, probably owing to my fatigued state.

At 7.20 a.m. next morning I bade farewell to the McNiel's and half an hour later passed the true Mt. Roland turn-off. Immediately afterwards I passed a creek and at 7.58 a.m. I turned on to the Paradise road. Two miles along this road, another road to Sheffield turns off on the left and another two miles farther on I was obliged to walk down a steep, roughly-metalled hill. About a mile's ride then brought me to the Mole Creek track junction on the right. This was at 8.40 a.m. and I had then travelled about twelve miles for the day.

A mile farther on the Railton turn-off was passed on the left at 8.48 a.m.. Another three miles and I had gained the Minnow Creek settlement at 9.5 a.m., where another road branches northwards. Between the Mole Creek track and here I had passed through a thick gum forest. The route now became hilly and after riding for about a mile and a half on a white gravel road, the road surface becomes rather rough with loose stones scattered about. After descending a roughly metalled hill I arrived at Dynan's Bridge at 9.20 a.m. about four miles from Minnow Creek.

Dynan's Bridge is a broad wooden structure spanning the Mersey River which is a large stream here. I spent a little time sightseeing and resumed again at 9.55a.m.. Then commenced the climb of a long steep climb (nearly two miles) which occupied twenty-five minutes. Three miles farther and Dunorlan was passed at 10.45 a.m. after leaving McNiel's twenty-five miles behind. Another quarter of an hour and I had gained the main road and at 11.26 a.m. Deloraine was reached after a thirty-three miles journey. I was then troubled with saddle-soreness and I travelled the intervening thirty miles to Launceston under acute discomfiture. It was 3 p.m. when I reached home that afternoon.

The main object of this trip had been accomplished and I found the Mole Creek-Lorinna route quite impracticable for our Cradle Mt. journey. I had failed to gain the top of Mt. Roland but I had doubted that possibility when I left. We should have no trouble in making this mountain on some future escapade. The trip had been a severe one in both riding and walking and my daily performance were as under:

Saturday afternoon   45 miles riding.
Sunday 15 miles walking. 22 miles riding.
Monday 3 miles walking. 60 miles riding.
Total 18 miles walking. 127 miles riding.

The walking was generally over difficult country and generally uphill while a good portion of the riding was accomplished on badly-surfaced and hilly roads.





Home to Index  
If you would like more information on Keith Lancaster's diaries, please feel free to send me an email.