30th September 1845

THE COUNTRY IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA.

IT has long been a matter of reproach to the newspapers of the colony, that while they report the scenes and events of public life in town, they unduly neglect to report the still more interesting scene and circumstances in the country districts.

We admit that there is truth in the charge: and having recently visited and travelled over a considerable extent of the settled portion of the colony, we are enabled, and have determined to endeavour to take away the reproach against the press, so far as it relates to ourselves.

Some of our remarks may be trite to many of our readers, but they will prove, we trust, fresh and acceptable to numbers of others who either have not the happiness to be denizens, or whose travels are limited.

 

APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY, AND CONDITION OF THE INHABITANTS.

Many people are misled by the name "bush," which is frequently applied to the rural districts in this as in the other colonies. They imagine that the country is closely covered with bushes of some sort or other, among which the sheep or cattle find a scanty supply of grass or other herbage. The term is so false in the meaning it conveys, that in the southern and eastern districts, where cultivation of the soil is the chief employment, the word "country" is now used in preference.

This practice we shall adopt: in truth, there is no country in the world less deserves the name "bush," from the number of bushes. The annual fires carry away almost all the small trees and brushwood, and the remainder is used by the settlers for fences and firewood.

In the settled districts, the country is covered at the present season with a beautiful rich sward of grass, and which has got closer every year; so that now in many districts the natural grasses grow nearly as close as in the English pastures.

Almost everywhere the country is well wooded. In some districts the gum trees prevail; in some the she-oak; and in other: the stringy- bark. The gum trees generally betoken good agricultural land, and water; the she-oaks good pasture land; and the black-wood, which is decidedly the finest timber we have, and is now extensively used in the manufacture of furniture, grows uniformly in a rich moist soil.

The stringy-bark is found on the high ranges, and does not dislike a good soil, for our best and most abundant crops of potatoes are raised in the immediate vicinity of this timber. The pine grows extensively, and almost exclusively, on the banks of the Lakes and the Murray, and is found extremely useful for house-building.

The country is unpleasantly diversified in some parts by what are called scrubby ranges, which are covered with stringy-bark, mostly of a stunted kind, and a dense scrub. This scrub consists of little bushes; many of them are not unlike heath. All of them flower in the season, and not a few would be esteemed perfect gems in European gardens and grounds.

Fortunately the scrubs we speak of are not very numerous or very extensive ; they merely diversify the country, and are not altogether unavailable. As the colony advances in wealth and population, indeed we do not doubt that large portions of them will be used advantageously in some way or other.

The most extraordinary, extensive, and hopeless scrub is that near the banks of the Murray. In approaching that river from the west, at about ten miles from its banks the traveller enters a forest of gum trees about ten feet high. The soil is almost everywhere pure sand. There is no water, grass, nor any green herb: all is desolation and the only objects diversifying the scene which we saw, were a few rocks of white granite.

The geological theory of this wonderful formation is, that the rocks are the peaks of antedulivian mountains, which, with the basin of the Murray, have been covered with sand by the deluge, and that the mineral ranges to the westward have been subsequently formed by convulsions of mother earth.

The fossils on the Murray, the state and position of the rocks and minerals, are pregnant proofs to the geologist of these interesting facts.

In speaking of the appearance of the country, it would be unpardonable to omit mention of the very remarkable advances and improvements which are visible in every district.

In every direction from Adelaide, where, a few years ago, were open plains or dense forests, are now seen neat and comfortable cottages, and thousands of acres fenced and cultivated.

The farmers have their fields of luxuriant and healthy-looking wheat or barley crops, and the cottagers have their gardens of an acre or two each.

In some corner of the latter, also, will generally be found a dozen or two of fruit trees, and a few hundreds of rooted vines or cuttings.

These pleasing symptoms of prospective luxury and wealth are not confined to any particular spot: on the north road, the south road, and the eastern road, the settlers are actuated by one spirit; and we observed with much satisfaction in the Mount Barker and eastern districts, that the settlers are all with equal eagerness forming orchards and vineyards.

It may be invidious to particularize, but we cannot help mentioning what, indeed, is admitted by all who are familiar with country statistics, that the Strathalbyn people have outstripped not only Mount Barker, but all the other districts at a distance from Adelaide, in the improvements and appliances of civilized life. Their houses are more comfortable; their fencing and cultivation more extensive; their gardens better attended to, and farther advanced.

To crown all, they have built a handsome and substantial stone chapel, capable of accommodating about one hundred and fifty people; are erecting a large school-house and library; and are contributing handsomely for the support of both clergyman and teacher.

Another important improvement now effected in the country districts, requires especial mention.

At Nairne and Mount Barker townships, Gawler Town, Noarlunga, and various other places, there are good flour mills; and in almost every district, however small, there are wheelwrights, carpenters (who also make furniture), blacksmiths, shoemakers, and tailors, who establish little communities of healthy and happy families, and contribute most materially to the wealth and comfort of their respective neighbourhoods.

Many of these artisans are no mean proficients in their trades. A number were mentioned to us as superior workmen, who were comfortable at home, but were induced to come out solely through a restless desire for elbow-room, and a dislike of the confinement and impure air of large towns. Thus country gentlemen are enabled to have elegant furniture, superior boots and shoes, houses of good design made and constructed, gardens and grounds laid out, and many other difficult operations performed in the best style, by men in their immediate vicinity.

With all this, it is extremely pleasing to notice the change in the condition and feelings of the people. Formerly, the general articles of food were mutton, salt pork, damper, and tea without milk; the people lived in miserable huts, and many were discontented.

Now, it is impossible to describe the profusion and variety of eatables. The country teems with fowls, eggs, milk, butter, cheese, vegetables, fine wheaten bread, bacon, and all sorts of butcher meat.

On the Murray and Lake, delicious fish are caught, and in many places wild turkey (which we can testify to be exquisite eating), kangaroo, and other wild animals, are common articles of food. Above all, the fine season, the excellent prices of wool, stock, and wheat, the astonishing richness of the mines, and the good prospects for next year, have put every one in the best humour. Every countenance beams with satisfaction, and every one declares that this is the finest province in the world, and is destined to be the seat of an empire.

A drive from Port Pirie over the hills to the Beetalo Valley