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Figure 1. A survey plan of the Milton area in about 1850 (B.1234.14), held by Queensland’s Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying.
In an earlier post called The Waters of Milton, I explored a survey plan of Milton drawn in 1850 (Figure 1). Survey plans are valuable historical artifacts because they generally represent the first efforts to capture the landscape on paper. They reveal natural features that have long since vanished, such as creeks, swamps and even hills. They also provide insights into how the colonists saw the land, indicating its potential uses and specifying how it was to be divided up among its new owners.
Since writing that post, I have obtained several more digitised survey plans of the Milton Reach and Western Creek areas, thanks to the assistance of the Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying, which is part of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines. I look forward to featuring them all in articles in the future, but today I will explore just one of them. This particular plan carries the catalogue name of M.31.65. I have no idea what that means, but then there is a lot about these plans that I am still fuzzy about. Some of the surveying markings may as well be hieroglyphs to me, but thankfully there is much that can be gleaned even without specialist knowledge.
Unlike the Milton plan, this one depicts an area inland from the river. I’ll get to the precise area shortly, but first we need to dispense with some formalities.
There’s nothing like a change in surroundings to cast your normal environment — that familiar place you call ‘home’ — in a new light. The closer you are to something, the easier it is to forget what makes it special or distinctive.
For me, home has always been Brisbane’s western suburbs. I’ve lived in Bardon, The Gap, Toowong and, most recently, Roaslie (which nowadays is just a part of Paddington). But a few months ago I ventured outside my native habitat, moving across the river to the southside, landing in a sort of semi-rural-industrial outpost called Rocklea.
Like Rosalie, Rocklea is built on a floodplain, and to that extent probably should never have been built at all. But that’s about where the similarities end. It’s not just that you won’t see any cows or two-train semi-trailors in Rosalie, or that the local cuisine there gets more exotic than meat pies. For me, the most striking difference between my new environment and my old one is the topography. I’m used to living among hills. In Brisbane’s western suburbs — in Paddington, Bardon, Ashgrove and Toowong, for example — there are ridges that you can follow all the way up to Mount Coot-tha. In those parts of town, you live either on a hill or at the bottom of one.
Not so in Rocklea. If I look to the west from here, the first big hill I can see is the southern tip of the D’Aguilar Range. To the north-west it is Mount Coot-tha and the Taylor Range. The CBD lies nearly 8km to the north, but from here you can generally get city views by climbing a tree. To the east it’s easy riding until you hit Toohey Mountain and then Mount Gravatt. To the south, on a clear day you can see just about forever, and leading you most of the way there is the great floodplain of Oxley Creek.