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Together with the NSW Government’s 1972 decision to establish Bathurst-Orange as the state’s first growth centre came calls from the NRMA to upgrade the Great Western Highway to a four lane carriageway.

While upgrade works including the then completed Springwood bypass were already in train along the road, this new goal of “alleviating the mounting social and economic pressures in Sydney” via moving people out west of the mountains gave vital impetus to the project.

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With echoes back to the construction of the original Coxs Road and the surge of travellers using the route after 1851 to get to the goldfields, the stage was once again set for the mountains’ landscapes to be defined by highway developments.

It was really all simply summed up in the NRMA report advising that “travel would be more convenient and safer if the highway were realigned to avoid passing through busy shopping centres”. The stage was hecne set for towns like Woodford to be once again bypassed.

Just as the arrival of the railway in the late 1860s had dictated that travellers across the mountains would pass by rather than through the mountain villages that did not comprise their chosen destination, so too would the highway four lane upgrade consciously bypass these places in order to provide a speedy transit between Sydney and the lands west of the Great Dividing Range.

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While the mountains already defined its town areas in terms of them being north or south of the railway line / highway corridor prior to the four lane Sydney - Katoomba Great Western Highway upgrade completed in 2015, the new works put a new spotlight on an old problem.

This was the challenge of providing effective north south linkages across the transport corridor such that the two separate halves of the village communities could easily connect with each other. Reinforcing the dominant east-west travel alignment via the inclusion of upgraded pedestrian / cycle paths along the road easement was taken as a given as per the promotional artists impression put out in the community consultation process for the Woodford roadworks.

What was missing in this sketch however was the sense of any north-south connectivity.

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Thanks to community advocacy outcomes such as the road crossing installed outside the Woodford Academy were achieved, though more comprehensive solutions proved elusive.

This focus on the importance of the north-south balance of community life across the village in many ways harks back to the crossroads role that places like Twenty Mile Hollow played in the cultural landscapes of Aboriginal people reaching back to the distant past.

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The process of connecting with, sharing and caring for Country across the heritage landscapes at Woodford is ongoing.

It is grounded on a recognition that there are many stories and meanings we can draw from a heritage hotspot such as this. Today both the local and broader mountains community is finding new ways to connect with this heritage landscape.

Following forty years of hands on caring for the maintenance of the Woodford Reserve for example, volunteers were able to down mowers in 2018 and hand this role across to the local Council.

In cooperation with the local Darug Aboriginal community the focus is now moving away from day to day maintenance needs to focus on to how best to share and learn from this Country - to peel back and explore the layers in time that are today draped across Twenty Mile Hollow.

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