Beulah access road works

 

We've just finished work on the first stage of the reinstatement of the access road and bridge into the Endangered Houses Fund property Beulah at Appin.

The road runs through a 60 hectare block of endangered Shale Transitional Forest and Cumberland Plains Forest which is now protected as a biobank area. A ten metre easement through the bush has been allowed for the roadway but the works are not allowed to impact on the bush outside that area. However any bush felled within the road area can serve as fuel for programmed controlled burns and as ground habitat for animals.

The original road

The age of the original road and bridge is still the subject of debate. We know that the Beulah house was built in 1834, and an 1839 advertisement for the sale of the property refers to the house being ‘approached by a noble avenue from the public road leading to the Illawarra’ but it is uncertain if this refers to the road we know. Other evidence suggests that the remnant road may not have been built until after 1854 when Francis Rawdon Hume - the owner of the neighbouring property, Meadowvale, and the front block through which the road passes - purchased the Beulah house and pastures.

Handtinted image of road through bushland.

Original roadway, c1910-20. © Iona

The roadway has not been used for many years, with the bridge impassable since the early 2000s. The bushland had slowly pushed back across the road until there was little more than a narrow bush track remaining. The new road follows, with some minor deviations, the original alignment.

Planning the works

The roadway was surveyed, marking out a ten metre wide zone for clearing. However this original alignment would have required the felling of over 100 trees including dead trees with hollows that might be native animal habitat and some significant ironbarks. To minimise the impact, the alignment was adjusted slightly to meander around the larger trees and we were able to halve the number of trees that were to be removed.

We have full council approval to reinstate the road and bridge, with the requirement to use an ecologist to minimise the impact of the works on the local animals. Nick Everitt was contracted to develop a plan for the tree removal, along with staff from Toolijooa, a company that runs the Beulah bushland management program. Nick inspected the site and marked ten trees that remained within the road corridor that might still have housed animals. The felling of these marked trees was to be left to the end of the works, in the hope that the disturbance caused would cause any animals to leave the area. When the contractor was finally ready to fell these trees Nick was to return to supervise the work. If there were still animals in them, the hollows were to be blocked up with rags, and the trees cut down in sections from the top with the sections lowered gently by rope to the ground where Nick was to look after animal relocation.

Clearing the roadway

Active Tree Services removed the trees and undergrowth over four days in early November 2014. Large trees were either directly felled or cut down in sections by a chainsaw operator working from a truck mounted elevated work platform that could lift up to 30 metres.

Man wearing protective gear, standing in white elevator platform cutting tree with chainsaw.

The felled trees and sections were then moved into the bush area by an excavator with a grab head.

Machinery in operation in bushland.

Smaller trees and undergrowth were mulched by a positrack with a mowing head that could mow trunks up to 300mm diameter. As a final process, the stumps of the larger felled trees were ground down to 300mm below the ground level by a robotically controlled grinding machine.

Large yellow piece of machinery with toothed mulching tool visible.

On the final day the ten habitat trees were inspected and carefully felled. In the hollows of one of the dead ironbarks the contractor found two fledgling sulphur-crested cockatoos. After consultation it was decided that there was no safe way of removing them. The tree has been left in place and will only be removed after the chicks have matured.

Man in white elevator platform inspecting tree hollow.

With the road area now cleared of trees and undergrowth, the civil construction works for the road and bridge can now commence. These works have been tendered out and a contractor will be appointed soon.

About the Author

Portrait view of man in black long sleeved shirt with arms crossed against background of old building.
Richard Taylor
Former Project Manager
Heritage Team
Richard Taylor was a project manager in the heritage team at Sydney Living Museums.
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