Straightening the Apsley

Looking back: This view of Walcha from 1913 shows part of the original semi-circular course of the Apsley River on the western side of Derby Street. The intersection of Fitzroy and Derby streets is partly obscured by the tall pine tree.Until quite late in the 1890s, the Apsley River took a sharp turn to the west as it exited the mill hole. It then flowed across Derby Street, wound its way around the yard presently occupied by the Walcha Carrying Company and again crossed Derby Street near the intersection with Walsh Street.

The area was quite flat and even the slightest rise in the river caused nuisance flooding in the locality.

During 1897, the Walcha Municipal Council decided this area should be protected from regular flooding and proposed that a channel be excavated from the mill hole directly to the Fitzroy Street bridge, thus isolating the troublesome portion of the original course of the river, the greater part of which is shown in the photo.

Alderman J.F. Campbell, who was also a surveyor, liaised with the Department of Works during the planning and construction stage, at considerable cost saving to council.

Negotiations with the government saw grants totalling 1320 pounds given to council to undertake the Apsley River Inundation Prevention Scheme.

Part of the land to be resumed was low-lying and considered “useless and of no monetary value” while other portions were unimproved.

A market garden conducted by Ah Chung in the present location of the Walcha Bowling Club greens suffered some inconvenience.

In December 1889, council, mindful of the litigation by affected landholders that followed the Blair’s Gully Scheme, announced that the plan adopted for straightening the Apsley River would remain on view at the Council Chambers until January 7, 1899.

Councilinvited perusal and inspection by all interested parties.

Since there were a lot of unemployed workers in Walcha at the time, council decided to engage “day labour” for the job, which commenced with a dozen “pick and shovel” men hard at it in February 1899.

The Walcha Witness of August 12, 1899 reported: “The Apsley River Work is just about completed. The employment given has been a source of pleasure to many industrious local residents, and no one can fail to admire the wonderful transformation effected.

“This safe guarding of the interests of the town and the protection of local property is deserving of high praise.”

The redundant Apsley River channel was eventually filled; sawmill waste was used for the job in some places.

In later years, this caused problems according to the late Arthur Drage, who recalled attending a few smouldering fires beneath the surface which was due to spontaneous combustion of the fill material.

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