These history notes are contributed to Valley Ventures by one of our members, Max Farley.
The Central Coast was a by-passed district in its early days with the only realistic access to the Sydney market being by water from Gosford. Yarramalong Valley residents had the additional task of first getting their goods down the Valley to Gosford. The handful of early settlers were, however, subsistence farmers who relied on the few animals they had and on the food they grew for themselves. Trees were only felled to make rudimentary shelters for the family and to clear land for growing vegetables and crops and to make space for animals and poultry.
These few words cannot tell the Valley’s timber story in any detail. As more settlers arrived in the latter part of the 1800s the potential to sell cut timber grew. When the Great North Road was developed in the 1850s it became possible to send timber from the top of the Yarramalong Valley to Maitland in one direction and to Wisemans Ferry in the other. By the 1880s the easiest timber to access had been removed and it was not economic to spend effort cutting and transporting timber from higher up the Valley’s hillsides. The industry declined.
The situation changed dramatically with the opening of the railway line from Newcastle to Sydney in 1889. Transporting timber in quantity to those markets became possible. Yards for the loading of timber were established where the road from the Valley met the railway line. This was where the racecourse now is. A town, Wyong, was created. This new phase of the industry peaked about 1910 and began to fade when available trees were again becoming less available in the 1920s. With timber from the surrounding State Forests together with some regrowth, the industry continued for many years but on a vastly reduced scale. There are now no mills in the Valley.
In 1906 it was said “that when the timber is gone, Wyong is done”. Happily this proved wrong.
The 1889 railway was not only a boon for timber. The access to the markets of Sydney and Newcastle in particular could be utilised by other industries which had been developing in the shadow of the timber industry. There were a number of these. Yarramalong Valley residents were well experienced in tending to cows, orcharding and poultry farming. It is not at all surprising those three activities expanded commercially to fill the timber void.
Other dates could be chosen to mark the beginning of commercial dairying in the Valley but the opening of a dairy in about 1890 by Anders Christenson at his home “The Cedars”, known as the “Stone House”, was important. It and its adjacent cheese house still remain at 595 Brush Creek Road. He also had a piggery and produced ham and bacon. From that date on, dairying expanded rapidly. In 1907 a co-operative, the Wyong Butter Factory, was set up near Alison Homestead. Farmers supplied cream to the Butter Factory to make butter which was sold in Sydney. By 1921, 200 dairy farmers were sending both milk and cream to the factory. It became known as the Milk Factory. The best dairying days were the 1950s, 60s and 70s before the industry declined. Land prices in the Valley increased to such an extent that for many it became preferable to sell out and put their capital to better use with less physical effort and a better life style.
Orange trees had been growing in limited numbers in the Shire for many years before the coming of the railway made citrus a commercial industry. The Salmon brothers of Wyong Creek introduced citrus into the Valley in the early 1900s and it became a major industry. Crops were not restricted to citrus but extended to persimmon and stone fruit. Both dairying and orcharding suffered a decline in the depression and after WW2 the necessary land areas were being reduced by urban growth. Large scale orcharding had virtually disappeared as a significant industry by the late 1960s.
Poultry farming required relatively little land space and became a main industry when the citrus and dairying industries were declining. In 1961 the Central Coast was producing eight million eggs annually as well as large quantities of meat. However this industry lost its commercial significance in the Valley with the advent of egg production and poultry meat in “battery” cages. These practices do not exist in the Valley.
Much changed in the latter quarter of the 1900s. Timber, dairying, orcharding and poultry farming largely disappeared. At the same time transport to other parts of the Central Coast to Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter improved even more, particularly with the opening of the M1 (F3) freeway.
These changes had significant social effects. It became possible, particularly for Sydney people, to travel easily to the area and purchase full or part-time rural retreats and hobby farms. Land values increased (a mixed blessing perhaps); education and employment opportunities away from the Valley became available to all particularly women and young people. Cultural attractions not available in the Valley drew people to them.
Notwithstanding these many changes, the Yarramalong Valley has been able to retain much of its valued rural atmosphere. This is partly because a number of turf farms replaced dairies; properties devoted to horse care – breeding, spelling and riding – multiplied and specialist farms (alpaca, cattle breeding and grazing, deer, donkey, goat) appeared. Even bee breeding and, for a time, wine production. Hospitality activities (farm stays, function venues, dining locations) have emerged. There is no limit to the commercial possibilities available within the Valley to those with imagination and enthusiasm.
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SOURCES: Max Farley; A Pictorial History of the Wyong Shire, Volume 1-5, Edward Stinson.