20 March 2017 by Sophie Warburton
If you want a challenging walk, starting a few km from the Promised Land Retreat, consider the steep walk up the Syndicate Track
This walk is one of the lesser used ones in the Dorrigo National Park, and can be done as a one way walk if you can be picked-up or dropped at one end, or a walk up from Adam’s Lane, loop up the escarpment, and down the same (very steep) way.
This walk brings a real sense of the timber getters and logging history:
Timber getters harvesting red cedar entered the forests in the 1830s. Farming lands were already established in the nearby New England region and were spreading towards the Dorrigo Plateau. Despite this, the steep escarpments still prevented easy access to the Coast where goods needed to be transported for shipment to Sydney. Dairy farms were established on the cleared section, leaving very little temperate rainforest covering the Plateau. The supply of accessible and cedar, beech and rosewood west of the coast began to dwindle and the timbergetters gradually pushed into the gullies and valleys along the Bellinger River.
The first bridle track from Dorrigo to Bellingen was surveyed in 1876 and road construction began in 1882. Valuable supplies of hoop pine also known as Dorrigo pine, were discovered on the Plateau. W.J. Hammond acquired a lease on a corridor of land for a pine-shoot in 1910. Local businessmen then formed a Syndicate to build an inclined tramline to transport hoop pine from the Plateau to the timber mills in Bellingen. From there, it was shipped to Sydney. Hoop pine was used extensively for household joinery, furniture and butter boxes and the high demand for timber soon depleted the forest of pine. the tramline, known locally as ‘The Pine Line’, was constructed of locally cut timber. it was two miles long and climbed 2,600 feet in altitude. The rails were built of 6”× 4” brushbox and the sleepers were split hardwood placed at two-foot centres and notched to take the ails, at a gauge of four feet. Wooden trestle bridges were built over the gullies and hundreds of rough posts were sunk into the ground to anchor the track to the mountainside. Trolleys built of 6” × 9” beams, were approximately 14 feet long and five feet wide, with 18” cast iron wheels. The winching station, built halfway up the line on a rare flat piece of land, controlled the ascent and descent of the trucks. the station operator kept in touch with the drivers of the two trucks via a telephone line that ran parallel in the tramway. the logging tramway operated along the Syndicate Ridge from 1913, until its closure in 1928. The plant was auctioned in 1929. the syndicate ridge Walking Track, opened in 1988, now follows the remains of the tramline from the Valley to the Plateau.
Coachwood trees were harvested on the Plateau for construction of Spitfires during World War II and later to make school desks for the Department of Education.
Two small areas were reserved for public recreation and to protect flora and fauna habitats from further logging in 1901. These formed the nucleus of what is now Dorrigo National Park. Managed by a local trust for the first 75 years, flora and fauna were diligently protected. By the 1950s logging had ceased in most areas, but in 1967 the trust strongly opposed, and were successful in halting a proposal to log a further section of the Park. NPWS have controlled these reserves and additional parcels of land since the Wildlife Act was declared in 1967.
The acclaimed Dorrigo Rainforest Centre was opened in 1991 and is manned by NPWS staff. It has won many tourism awards and provides 180,000 annual visitors with access to the outstanding rainforest, as well as interpretive educational displays relating to the evolution of rainforests and their diverse wildlife.