Community and Lifestyle

Last riders of the Burragorang ranges

Beef Central, 30/08/2011

Luke Carlon with a mob of brumbiesA real-life Man from Snowy river tale has been captured on film in the wild country of the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area near Sydney over the past two years.

The picturesque Burragorang Valley 80km from Sydney was once home to a vibrant farming community, but was flooded in the 1950s to create Sydney’s major water supply, the Warragamba Dam.

The valley has since been classified as a Schedule One water catchment area and sealed off to the general public to protect the quality of water entering the storages.

In 2009 the National Parks head office found itself facing a quandary – how to remove a wily mob of 50 brumbies that was inhabiting the 50,000 hectare valley without resorting to the use of shooters in helicopters, a practice which had triggered public outcries in the past.

Besides choppers, the only way in and out of the valley is via a bone-crunching 5km ride on horseback.

The answer was to turn to Luke Carlon, a local horseman with a deep connection to the flooded valley.

His ancestor Patrick Carlon settled the isolated and spectacular valley in the 1820s, founding a dynasty of Irish Catholic cattle farmers who were forced to leave the valley when it was cleared of buildings and trees to make way for Sydney’s new dam.

Luke’s grandfather resettled in the Megalong Valley where his parents ran the famous tourist attraction Packsaddlers until it was too was shut down with a stroke of the bureaucratic pen when a Wilderness Area was declared.

Using only horses, Luke’s task was to lead as many of the wild animals as possible out of the valley.

Independent Sydney film makers Russell Kilbey and Amy Scully spent almost two years in extreme conditions documenting the brumby mission.

Their cameras followed Luke and his team – which includes champion campdrafter Adam Boyd and Japanese stockman Takeo Suzuki – on their adenalin-filled adventure across flats and over some the roughest terrain imaginable as they took up the challenge of removing last of the wild horses from Burragorang.

Amy Scully said they captured some amazing interactions between the horsemen and the animals.

“When people watch the film we hope it raises discussion and understanding of land management in wilderness areas and the place of wild horses in Australia.

“Too often city based environmentalists and rural people who work the land are at odds which each others viewpoints.

“This story documents the coming together of these sometimes opposing forces to achieve a common goal.

“We also hope that it confounds some of the preconceptions city people have about rural life and the deep connections of non -indigenous people to this country and the environment.”

Amy and Russell have assembled a rough cut of the film out of over 80 hours of footage and are currently seeking funding to complete the final production. 

To view the trailer click here 


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