Capertee Valley

Day 5 – 8 March 2015

Woke this morning to grey skies and the cloud started to burn off. We set of in 4WD along our wheel lines in the grass we had laid done the previous day. It had been a wonderful sleep last night in the relative quiet of the bush. Before long we were back on the Bylong Valley Way. A coffee break was called once we reached Honeysuckle Rest stop. Such a cute little area nestled close to the side of the road.

Honeysuckle Creek Rest Area Pano

Next stop was Rylstone for lunch. We didn’t stay here long as we realised we had parked the Amesz on top of a meat ants’ nest. Fortunately, they ignored us, but we didn’t want to tempt fate too long. As we progressed along the way we came to a beautiful little church in Bylong. It was set well back from the road with a little cemetery on 1 side. The grass crackled as we walked over to photograph it, it has obviously been very hot here recently.

Bylong Church Pano

Leaving the Bylong we dropped down into the Capertee Valley, this is the largest enclosed gorge in Australia (approx 30km across and about 800m above sea level) and it provides spectacular views of rock formations and escarpments on the drive through to Glen Davis.

Capertee Valley

Today must be a church day as we came across another little church in Glen Alice. From a distance this church appeared to be built entirely from sand stone block, but it was actually moulded / pressed steel cladding.

On to Glen Davis where we found a little town lost in time. Glen Davis proudly opened ts post office in March 1939. It was abandoned in 1953 after the closure of the local oil shale plant that proved to be uneconomical to run. Steve & I had a lovely chat with the lady at the community centre who proudly showed us the many black and white photos that adorned the walls of the community centre.

A short drive up the valley is a great place to camp. We setup on the edge of the river bank where the Capertee River joins Running Stream Creek in Wollemi National Park.

I did an afternoon walk back towards Glen Davis to the lookout which gives a great view of the National Oil Pty Ltd shale oil factory ruins can be viewed. Steve enjoyed a book for the afternoon.

On my return, about 6 pm, we took our chairs down to the creek and sat in the running water and soaked our feet as the kangaroos made their way past us for an evening of grass munching in the camping grounds. One kangaroo came bounding down the river before he saw us, stopped and then tried to quietly sneak past. The sun slowly set on the cliffs around us and was a real spectacle.

We didn’t see any wombats during the night, even though there were many currently used borrows close to our truck.

Glen Davis Shale Oil Works – National Oil Pty Ltd

National Oil Pty Ltd

Shale Oil was extracted in the Capertee Valley by National Oil Pty Ltd between 1939 and 1952 to help make Australia self-sufficient in oil during the wartime petrol shortage. Today, the skeleton remains of a once proud factory. As the years pass
access to the site has changed and now you can only visit the site on tour. It is reasonably priced @ $15 pp but sadly only runs once a week on Saturday afternoon. You can still view the site from the Wollemi National Park and it does provide an excellent vantage point. The view allows you to see directly down Works Road – the road that runs directly through the centre of the operation. A good telephoto lens is a must.

National Oil Pty Ltd 1

Interesting, much of the shale oil equipment used in Newnes was purchased and bought to Glen Davis. Most of this equipment has not gone, sold at auction since the plants closure.

Retort No1

The most impressive structure still withstanding the ravages of time is Retort No 1. The Retorts were used to distill the shale oil into usable products like kerosene and petrol. There was No1 and No2. The majority of the heavier oils were
consumed by the production processes.

Glen Davis – A Ghost Town

Glen Davis, a ghost town in the Capertee Valley about 80kms north of Lithgow, owes its existence to the war and Australia’s need to be self-reliant in oil.

Glen Davis Main Street

The town was well planned with its horse shoe shaped streets around a central
park. 2500 people once called Glen Davis home at the height of the shale oil production at National Oil Pty Ltd. Today some 300 odd people call this little town home on the banks of the Capertee River.

Glen Davis Lemonard Glen Davis Shop Front