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Tocal's convicts 1822-1840

Clearing the rainforest

Gaint remnant of Tocal's rainforest Tocal's convicts had to clear the rainforest that grew along the river and creek flats so that crops could be planted. The vegetation was dense and included vines, gigantic cedar trees, figs and gum trees, although the cedar may have been logged before Tocal was established.

Right: Gigantic remnant of Tocal's rainforest, estimated to be 400 years old.

Clearing was hard physical work that involved felling the trees and burning the trunks and branches. Often the first crop to be planted was maize (corn), with the seeds sown between the tree stumps after the ground was prepared with a hoe. Later the stumps were removed by burning or grubbing so the land was free to be ploughed.

The diary of one Hunter Valley estate shows many of its convicts employed at clearing and stumping each day from April to early October, and then working on harvest and related tasks for the rest of the year.

At Tocal seven acres (3 hectares) were cleared by September 1822 and 350 acres (142 hectares) by 1830.

Below: Riverine rainforest on Webber's Creek at Tocal. Convicts had to clear dense rainforest to plant crops.

Riverine rainforest at Tocal