Meryla Siding, on the Southern Railway between Moss Vale and Exeter, was renamed Werai in 1901 and this became the name of the locality immediately east of the rail line.
As noted previously, a settlers' track continued eastward to farmland around Bundanoon Creek and southeast to Meryla Pass, a gap in the ridge leading into Kangaroo Valley. The earliest documented use of the name 'Meryla' was on Surveyor Hoddle's 1831 map of Kangaroo Valley and is perhaps of Aboriginal origin. Today the Wingecarribee Shire localities of Werai, Manchester Square and Meryla cover the area, the latter being a rugged region to the south, now mostly State Forest and adjoining Morton National Park.
The settlers who established farms in the Werai/Meryla area from the 1860s became aware of a spectacular waterfall, calling it Meryla Falls. The Town and Country Journal of November 2, 1895 described it as follows:
"The region lying between Picton and Marulan and the Illawarra district is rich in picturesque localities, but of these none surpass in natural loveliness the vicinity of the Meryla Falls, which are destined to be included among the most popular of our numerous pleasure resorts. The falls are situated in the wild, romantic country lying south-east of Sutton Forest; portions of which, by reason of their inaccessible character, remain unexplored to this day. Here, at the entrance to the immense ravine, at the head of which are the famous Fitzroy Falls, rises a large, table shaped mountain, called Mt Meryla, forming the southern extremity of the huge line of cliff on the western slide of the glen, through which the water of the falls descends, to join that of the Kangaroo River."
By the early 1900s Fitzroy, Belmore and Carrington Falls were popular local attractions, but Meryla Falls was no longer mentioned. Did its inaccessibility prove a barrier or did its water course change? If anyone knows, the BDHS would like to hear from you.
Definitely accessible today is the Old Meryla Road trail, described on the 'Visit Kangaroo Valley' website as being for fit walkers. The area's difficulty is illustrated by this Scrutineer story from 1932:
"A simple accident caused serious injury to Harry Norman and led to heroic measures to succour him being adopted by his companions. Norman had made a practice of taking his horses into the Meryla Valley to graze. On Monday morning he entered the valley, intending to bring the animals back to Bowral. As he sprang forward to seize the bridle on one of the animals, he tripped and fell, striking his head heavily on the ground, and was rendered unconscious. It took one of his companions an hour and a half to reach a telephone, from which he sent an urgent call to the ambulance."
"Meanwhile, several other companions improvised a stretcher from tree branches and then set out to climb up the track leading out of the valley. The track was so narrow that two men were unable to walk abreast. The stretcher-bearers had to walk warily, for a false step would have endangered the life of their injured comrade, and their own. They had to ascend more than 1000 feet before they reached level ground, and two and a half hours passed before they were able to bring Norman to the spot where the ambulance was waiting. He was then speedily conveyed to the District Hospital."
The ambulance would have taken Meryla Road, built in 1896 and still the main vehicular access today. While some farms remain, most of the area is now State Forest or National Park.
In 1938 several of the district's nature reserves were amalgamated into one large reserve extending from Fitzroy Falls to the Shoalhaven River. Its first trustees adopted the name Morton Primitive Reserve in honour of local state member, Mark Morton, who had been instrumental in its formation and who soon after passed away, aged 74. In essence, the reserve encompassed Fitzroy Falls and the parishes of Burrawang, Yarrunga, Caoura, Meryla, Moollattoo, Talwal and Yallowal, totalling about 45,000 acres. It became Morton National Park in 1961 and, after control passed to the National Parks and Wildlife Service in 1967, it expanded southward to become the fifth largest national park in the state.
Natural beauty is there preserved for all to appreciate.
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society - compiled by PD Morton. Part 3 of a 3-part series.