There are three official walking tracks that end up at the very little that remains of the former Sherwood Homestead, about 45 kilometres from Canberra. The walks vary between 6.8 kms (this one) and 8.4 kms return. I have written a seperate reviews on the walk in from Mountain Creek Road and the walk in from the Blue Range Hut which, in itself, is of historical significance to the Canberra region and is now home to a camping site, making it the most popular starting point to get to Sherwood Homestead.
In this review I have included parts of, and a few pictures from, my the Blue Range Hut access review, related to the homestead.
Today, the primary reason for visiting the former homestead was to enjoy the daffodils which bloom here each spring as they have since the 1860s. On today’s late winter/early spring walk they were in bloom, unlike when I walked in from the Blue Range Hut. Accordingly I have included quite a few pictures of them here.
Anyway I have got ahead of myself.
The access point for this walk is a little tricky to find. Driving south along Brindabella Road from its intersection with the Uriarra Road you turn right, after about 2.1km, into the (gravel) East West Road (there is a very small sign) and continue for about 400metres until you come across a gravel track, again on your right. While I parked in a small clearing on the right having entered the track, I could have carried on for a couple of hundred metres to a slightly larger parking area by the gate depicted below.
Having passed through the gate there is a post with a small blue triangle pointing towards Sherwood Homestead.
There are two more of these signs en-route so I suggest you use some form of offline mapping application or device to keep you on track as there are a few sidetracks which you could inadvertently take. Mobile reception is patchy along the track with no reception at the former homestead.
When I started my walk, at 8.30am, there was a fairly dense fog and the temperature was about -2C. While the fog precluded views across the Murrumbidgee River towards Canberra, on the way in, it made for a nice atmospheric walk and I knew (hoped) it would dissipate fairly quickly and the temperature would rise.
The track in to the homestead a fairly gentle decline most of the way, meaning a fairly gentle incline on the way out. In addition to being a little shorter that the walk in from Blue Range Hut it is also somewhat easier (not that the latter is difficult).
The majority of the walk is through or along relatively new pine forest though not so dense as to preclude some lovely views of the surrounding landscape (once the fog cleared). I say relatively new as the pines were planted at some time after 2003 when a major bush fire ripped through this area destroying everything in its path. In addition to being a source of timber, the pines help combat erosion and thus improve the quality of water flowing into the Cotter Dam, one of Canberra’s main water sources.
At around the halfway point I could hear a loudly gurgling stream and was very pleased to see water in this stream as depicted, in addition to various other small streams along the way.
While this may not sound that exciting for my non-Australian reader, rest assured Australians get very excited to see water away from the coast, major rivers and reservoirs these days. I should add that in this particular area many once flowing streams are also now dry as water has been diverted to the nearby Cotter reservoir.
About 500 metres from the former homestead the track merged with the one from Blue Range Hut and opened out into a small valley like area affording me sweeping views and a gentle, level walk to the site of the former Sherwood Homestead.
A few minutes later I arrived at the former homestead site, first settled by immigrants from England, Henry and Eliza Phillips in 1863.
Today nothing of the homestead remains, above ground, apart from a few stones from a chimney which have been assembled into a pile at the former chimney location.
The Phillips raised four children here in a seven room house and on a small farm which allowed the family to be self sufficient in terms of meat, eggs, dairy produce, fruit and vegetables. Henry was a sawyer, bookkeeper, teacher and the postmaster at the nearby Uriarra village until 1903.
Reading his obituary in the Queanbeyan Observer (13 January, 1913) I have learned that:-
“Mr Phillips was a gentleman of superior intellect and of wide and varied information…He was one of nature’s gentlemen of a decidedly religious turn of mind and lived in profound respect of all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance….”
The centre piece of the now over-grown garden is a massive and really gorgeous looking oak tree. Like me, you will have to imagine it in its autumn foliage.
Eliza Phillips named the property ‘Sherwood’ after the forest made famous by Robin Hood which was close to her birthplace. The story goes that Eliza planted an acorn from Sherwood Forest at her new home though it is unlikely that the large oak here today is from that acorn. A descendent perhaps?
In addition to the oak there remains a selection elms, cedars, cherry trees, apples, walnuts and raspberry bushes. Given the lack of foliage I was unable to tell one from the other. Besides, today I had come to see daffodils.
To create an English garden in the middle of the harsh, dry Australian bush in addition to planting the non-native trees mentioned the Phillips planted daffodils, including the ‘fluffy’ Rip Van Winkle variety, which resembles a dahlia.
These daffodils, or more correctly their descendants, still bloom every spring, providing a living reminder of those early days of the region’s pioneers.
In admiring the daffodils I noticed that the creek that would have provided the family with water, completely dry on my last visit, was this time flowing fast.
Having admired the daffodils and enjoyed a mid-morning snack I crossed the track I had come in on and headed in the direction of Roper’s Hill – up a slight incline for a distance of about 150 metres from the track. Here I easily located, surrounded by a wooden rail, the small graveyard where Henry, Eliza and their infant son, Henry are buried. Their other off-spring left the property which was sold to Uriarra Station in 1926 which, in turn, owned it until 1977 when the ACT Forests Department resumed the lease.
A large oak tree, now cut down with only its stump remaining, marks the graves’ location. In more recent times a small brass plaque has been added. When I visited in 2019 a new oak tree had been planted in front of the old stump. Sadly, by 2020, this had died or been vandalised.
The positioning of the graves at the top of this small hill would have been a deliberate attempt to ensure they were not damaged in the event that the creek by the homestead flooded.
Burying people on their properties was a fairly common occurrence in the 1800s and the early 1900s, until the enactment of legislation requiring the use of public or church graveyards for burials. I have come across quite a few of these private burial sites in the Canberra area. Ones I have written about in this blog include the burial site of Elizabeth Westerman and her unnamed infant brother at Westerman’s Homestead in Namadgi National Park and the much grander De Salis (or Cuppacumbalong) Family Cemetery at Thawa Village, to the south of Canberra.
Returning to my car, and passing a group of about 20 people coming in for a visit, I was able to enjoy views denied to me by the fog on the way in, which had now completely dissipated to reveal yet another beautiful late winter Canberra day.
And to finish some more late winter flora on display.