June 25.—Upon starting this morning we traversed a succession of fine open and very grassy plains, from which we ascended the low ridges forming the division of the waters to the north and south. In the latter direction, we had left the heads of the “Gilbert” and “Wakefield” chains of ponds, whilst in descending in the former we came upon the “Hill,” a fine chain of ponds taking its course through a very extensive and grassy valley, but with little timber of any kind growing near it. On this account I crossed it, and passing on a little farther encamped the party on a branch of the “Hutt,” and within a mile and a half of the main course of that chain of ponds. Our whole route to–day, had been through a fine and valuable grazing district, with grass of an excellent description, and of great luxuriance.
We were now nearly opposite to the most northerly of the out stations, and after seeing the party encamp, I proceeded, accompanied by Mr. Scott, to search for the stations for the purpose of saying good bye to a few more of my friends. We had not long, however, left the encampment when it began to rain and drove us back to the tents, effectually defeating the object with which we had commenced our walk. Heavy rain was apparently falling to the westward of us, and the night set in dark and lowering.
In some parts of the large plains we had crossed in the morning, I had observed traces of the remains of timber, of a larger growth than any now found in the same vicinity, and even in places where none at present exists. Can these plains of such very great extent, and now so open and exposed, have been once clothed with timber? and if so, by what cause, or process, have they been so completely denuded, as not to leave a single tree within a range of many miles? In my various wanderings in Australia, I have frequently met with very similar appearances; and somewhat analogous to these, are the singular little grassy openings, or plains, which are constantly met with in the midst of the densest Eucalyptus scrub.
Every traveller in those dreary regions has appreciated these, (to him) comparatively speaking, oasises of the desert—for it is in them alone, that he can hope to obtain any food for his jaded horse; without, however, their affording under ordinary circumstances, the prospect of water for himself. Forcing his way through the dense, and apparently interminable scrub, formed by the Eucalyptus dumosa, (which in some situations is known to extend for fully 100 miles), the traveller suddenly emerges into an open plain, sprinkled over with a fine silky grass, varying from a few acres to many thousands in extent, but surrounded on all sides by the dreary scrub he has left.
In these plains I have constantly traced the remains of decayed scrub—generally of a larger growth than that surrounding them—and occasionally appearing to have grown very densely together. From this it would appear that the face of the country in those low level regions, occupied by the Eucalyptus dumosa, is gradually undergoing a process which is changing it for the better, and in the course of centuries perhaps those parts of Australia which are now barren and worthless, may become rich and fertile districts, for as soon as the scrub is removed grass appears to spring up spontaneously. The plains found interspersed among the dense scrubs may probably have been occasioned by fires, purposely or accidentally lighted by the natives in their wanderings, but I do not think the same explanation would apply to those richer plains where the timber has been of a large growth and the trees in all probability at some distance apart—here fires might burn down a few trees, but would not totally annihilate them over a whole district, extending for many miles in every direction.