Bobin Creek Bridge is an old, low level timber bridge, in the quiet and relaxed village of Bobin. You may not have heard of it, let alone rumbled across its timber deck, but the Bobin Creek Bridge is barely beyond a hollering distance downstream from the spot where the hapless Jimmy Governor (Blacksmith) was bundled up by the locals in 1900. Bobin is on the road to the gorgeous Ellenborough Falls at Elands, the village which has been my home for the last 35 years or more. By Chris Sheed
Approaching Bobin Creek Bridge from Wingham, one passes the remnants of the original ‘slow food’ Bobin Bush Café, and follows a gently descending tree-lined left-hand bend. Warning signs adequately provide an alert to the speed bumps. I like the term ‘sleeping policemen’ on each side of the bridge – installed some years ago, to reduce the impact of trucks hitting the bridge at speed. Shading trees overhang the gurgling waters of the creek. She-oaks, and the occasional cedar, are interspersed with introduced camphor-laurel and privet, both of which have now run wild, having little to fear from control measures, funding for which faded with the loss of Catchment Management Committees – championed by our late and great former mayor Mick Tuck – but sadly disbanded by the State Coalition in 2014. Exotic Tradescantia (Wandering Jew and Creeping Jesus are no longer politically correct) carpets the creek bank.
“No passing” is allowed on the bridge, but country drivers are usually polite and unhurried, and giving way is no trouble. Once across the bridge, there is room on the left for a couple of vehicles to pull over and enjoy the relaxing ambience. In the heat of summer, there is the chance to splash in the water and enjoy the refreshing coolness that mountain streams so generously offer to travellers. Beyond Bobin, the bitumen deteriorates, morphing into gravel before crossing Bulga Creek, with its tall blue gums, and then winding, tortuously for the novice, a further eleven kilometres up the Bulga mountain, finally emerging onto the plateau at 2000 feet.
Of course, the Bobin Creek crossing no longer has the grandeur of the original tall rainforests that once hugged the watercourses. These are long gone now, substituted by open paddocks, and cattle that can trample and degrade the delicate unfenced river banks. But the crossing is still quaint, and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
However, all this is about to change, as the existing bridge is reaching the end of its life. But, rather than simply replacing the existing bridge at a mere fraction of the cost, our council, ripe with State Government funds sourced from the fire sale of public assets, has decided – without dissent – that we need a new, fifty-metre-long, high-level concrete structure, costing close to one million dollars. This “you beaut” new bridge will require realignment of the approaches, ostensibly improving road safety but, inevitably, inviting higher speeds. Repositioning of the road necessitates compulsory purchase of the private land abutting the approach, as the landowner has rejected the amount currently on offer. Council argues that the new bridge will alleviate the bridge closures in wet weather, but ‘over-topping’ is surprisingly infrequent, probably averaging less than one or two days each year.
The new bridge will reduce the journey between Elands and Wingham by a meagre thirty seconds at most, but at what cost? Visitors will fly over the bridge, blind to the beauty below, the concrete walls affording but a momentary glimpse of the creek. The destination becomes everything, the journey meaning nothing. A small irony here is that this road to Elands has recently gained the title “Remembrance Drive”, in memory of the war veterans who settled in the region after the Boer and Great Wars. Soon, the lovely old Bobin Creek Bridge will, too, be just a memory.
Chris Sheed is a local environmentalist and former member of the Manning Catchment Management Committee. He received an Order of Australia medal in 2000, for services to conservation and the protection of old-growth forests.