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Tim the Yowie Man: Matters of the hut

This column's recent series on high country huts was met with a warm response from readers, with many recounting tales of their own alpine adventures. However, several readers like Denise Campbell of Kambah grumbled about the long hikes to access the huts featured. "Are there any huts that I can visit without having to haul a day pack?" asks Campbell.

While many mountain huts are tucked away in the remote back country, there are several which are relatively easy to visit, including by those unable (or unwilling) to walk long distances. However, just because they are located in close proximity to roads doesn't mean they are any less photogenic. So today, I reveal my top four huts for non-bushwalkers, along with my favourite photos of each.

 

David Brayshaws Hut

Location: Southern Namadgi National Park.

David Brayshaws Hut under the night sky.

David Brayshaws Hut under the night sky. Photo: Seth Lazar

 
The hut: This rustic mountain cabin was built in 1903 by Edward Brayshaw for his brother Davey, a grazier who lived in the hut until 1931, when at the age of 76 he died of exposure after falling from his horse. Apparently it took two days for his body to be found.

According to Bob Salijevic, President of the Kosciuszko Huts Association (KHA), "the hut continued to be occupied until the early 1960's after which it was converted to shearer's quarters and in the late 1980s, it received extensive renovation, returning it to the original design."

If you have time to snoop around, not far from the hut are the ruins of an old school house, known locally as the Tin Dish School. Built by local parents from materials salvaged from another school and operational for only a few years (1907-1910), only blocks of stone from the fire place remain.

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The photographer: This stunning photo was taken by Canberra photographer Seth Lazar with his Nikon D750 and Samyang 20mm f1.8 lens. It was a race against time for the serious shutterbug who reveals he managed to take the photo "just before a freezing fog rolled in." According to Lazar, "the unearthly green colour is airglow, not visible to the naked eye but very prominent in photos". You can check-out more of Lazar's night sky photography which shines the spotlight on our region and beyond at instagram.com/sethlazar and www.sethlazar.org

How do I get there? David Brayshaws Hut is located 50km south of Tharwa along the Boboyan Road (which links Tharwa with Adaminaby). About 36km south of Tharwa the road becomes gravel. When I recently drove this section of road it was suitable for 2WD, but conditions are dependent on weather events, so best to check at the Namadgi Visitors Centre (Ph: 6207 2900) before leaving home. If you want to stretch your legs, David Brayshaws Hut is at the start of The Settlers Track, a moderate 9-kilometre circuit along a marked trail which leads to two other huts, namely Westermans and Waterhole.

 

Delanys Hut

Location: Northern Kosciuszko National Park.

Delanys Hut, photographed by Dorothy Brown circa 1970.

Delanys Hut, photographed by Dorothy Brown circa 1970. Photo: Dorothy Brown

The Hut: One of two huts located on the side of the Snowy Mountains Highway between Adaminaby and Kiandra, Delanys is often visited by snow bunnies en-route to Mt Selwyn.

The two –roomed wooden hut was built in 1910 by James Thomas Delany for grazing his cattle from Buckenderra Station and according to the KHA website "Tom Bolton, the Kiandra mailman, often left his horse here, and went on to Kiandra over snow, using snowshoes."

In his book Huts of the High Country (TableTop Press, 2008, still in print), Klaus Hueneke recounts the harrowing story of Mick Shanley an old stockman who perished in a blizzard while taking a mob of sheep from Delanys Hut.

A search party found Shanley's body under a snow drift. It was "totally frozen" and the rescuers had a heck of a job to retrieve it.

"His body was dragged, pushed and carried with great difficulty to the top of the hill, wrapped in a sheet and taken by toboggan some 25 km towards Adaminaby where it was met by a hearse and a party of friends and relatives" reports Hueneke. However, the unceremonious recovery of Shanley's body didn't end there, for as documented by Hueneke, "when they reached the top of Sawyers Hill the toboggan got away and went careering at a tremendous pace through the alpine ash".

Thankfully, during this somewhat comically morbid event, Shanley's frozen corpse never hit a tree and informant Bill Hughes of Kiandra later confided in Hueneke "that old Mick never travelled so fast in all his life."

The photographer: This historic photo of the hut (pre 2003 fires) after a snow fall was taken circa 1970 by Dorothy Brown a veteran cross country skier. Although the delightful nonagenarian can't recall the exact day she took this photo, she does fondly recall huddling in Delanys during "regular ski tours to Table Top Mountain and Broken Dam Hut".

How do I get there? Located on the northern side of the Snowy Mountains Highway 26.7 km from Adaminaby towards Kiandra. The hut readily accessible by car, but the turn-off to the car park is easily missed. If you pass the turn-off you may need to drive another three-kilometres to Sawyers Hill Hut and turn-around.

 

Sawyers Hill Hut

Location: Northern Kosciuszko National Park.

Sawyers Hill Hut after a light snow fall.

Sawyers Hill Hut after a light snow fall. Photo: Courtney Wilks

The Hut: To readers who rarely venture off-track this landmark cabin located just metres form the busy Snowy Mountains Highway is probably the most recognisable of all Kosciuszko's huts and is a popular rest stop for motorists. Sawyers was part of a larger building, originally built in the early 1900s as a staging post for coaches on their way to Rules Point (near Yarrangobilly Caves).

Like Delanys, the hut was rebuilt after the 2003 fires and consists of vertical wooden slabs, with a concrete floor and roof of iron. There is a fireplace and a chimney of stone and brick. As the KHA website points out, "with the exception of the concrete floor, the current construction is correct to the original design, despite it being primarily used as a picnic shelter."

The photographer: Twenty-year old Courtney Wilks of Fraser captured this photo of Sawyers after a recent light snowfall. Wilks reveals she "just loves the serenity of exploring Kosciuszko National Park, there is no place like it," adding "I've been going to Kossie all my life and love both the huts and the landscape."

How do I get there? Located on the Snowy Mountains Highway, 3 kilometres the Kiandra side of Delanys Hut.

 

Bullocks Hut

Bullocks Hut, perched on the banks of the Thredbo River.

Bullocks Hut, perched on the banks of the Thredbo River. Photo: Tim the Yowie Man

Location: Southern Kosciuszko National Park.

The Hut: While most mountain huts were built for graziers, miners or snowy hydro workers, this fortified series of structures located on the grassy area above the confluence of the Little Thredbo and the Thredbo River, were built purely for recreation.

In the early 1930s the family of Howard Bullock a well-heeled Sydney doctor made the two-day journey to this site each summer to fish, swim, ride horses and bushwalk. Wanting more comfort, in 1934, Bullock employed Charles Conway to construct the main building which the family used regularly until 1950. The kitchen was added in 1938 and the stables in 1947.

The buildings were solidly constructed with thick cement-rendered stone walls and alpine ash shingle roofs to withstand the strong winds which can sweep along the valley. A hawthorn hedge which is still in place was planted around the area to provide additional protection and privacy from fishers on the river.

Apparently the Bullocks were paranoid about other anglers breaking into the hut and as result installed bars on the windows and a steel door. However, it appears that at least one local tested the old adage that 'a castle is only as strong as its weakest point.

"Before Dr Bullock came one Christmas for his holidays a bloody little kangaroo got down the chimney somehow and was rotten in the fireplace. I think Straighty Pender was behind that…" reveals Dave Pendergast in a 1981 interview with Klaus Hueneke.

The photographer: All right, I confess, I had to squeeze in one of my own. While Bullocks itself isn't as photogenic as the other huts featured, framed by mountains it's a very pretty spot for a picnic.

How do I get there? Bullocks Hut is located about 300 metres walk down river of the Ski Tube car park which is located off the Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo. It's also accessed via an easy walking track (allow 10 minutes each way) from Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa. When I visited earlier this year with historian Matthew Higgins, several of the Bullocks buildings were open, but they are often locked in winter to minimise vandalism.

WHERE IN CANBERRA?

Where is this in Canberra.

Where is this in Canberra? Photo: Glenn Dando

Clue: Northside

Degree of difficulty: Medium

Last week:

The heritage-listed chapel at Parkwood Farm.

The heritage-listed chapel at Parkwood Farm. Photo: Oskars Pumpurs

Congratulations to Carolynne Ryan of Civic who believes last week's circa 1972 photo, taken by Oskars Pumpurs, to be of the heritage-listed chapel at Parkwood Farm which is just over the ACT/NSW border, north of Belconnen.

"Parkwood was originally settled by the Southwell family in 1838," reports Ryan, a sixth generation Southwell descendant, adding, "the chapel is on private property and only accessible during Heritage Week each year when the Southwell Family Society have photos on display and talk about the origins of the property."

Oskars Pumpurs was a planner with the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) and on his death late last century, his significant personal collection of materials relating to the NCDC and the planning of Canberra was dispersed by the Planning Institute of Australia to increase its exposure.

Some of this collection, including this photo, was dispatched to ArchivesACT who are attempting to confirm the location of the chapel.

How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to timtheyowieman@bigpond.com. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday, August 12, 2017 with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.

CONTACT TIM: Email: timtheyowieman@bigpond.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.