For Darug and Gundungurra Traditional Owners of the Blue Mountains, water has always held special significance in recognition of the live giving role it plays is caring for and nourishing their ongoing relationship with Ngurra.
Wetlands and natural sources of healthy water are found accompanying the ridges and within the valleys throughout the mountains, with pure springs like the one right here, being important centres of traditional cultural life.
When the inn at 20 Mile Hollow was first put up for sale in June 1839, there was no doubting what its main feature was.
An ‘overflowing spring of PURE WATER’ was a very precious asset on the traveller’s path along the barren mountains’ ridgeline.
In the early years of the 20th century the fertile ground here provided the sports fields used by the Woodford Academy boys.
Recalling the scene at one of the school's sports days, John McManamey noted that: "Not the least pleasant and picturesque is the afternoon tea, where the orchard on one side and the tall pines on the other, prettily enclose a sunny spot of greenery across which flit, as it were, the bright costumed boys in the service of their lady friends, gay also in their summer attire."
Standing here prior to extensive modification of this location by European settlement, you would have been surrounded by a swampy basin at the headwaters of one of the creeks scattered along the central ridgeline of the Blue Mountains Range.
Fuelled by a freshwater spring some 200m away to the west of here, this location would have been an ecological hotspot that provided an array of resources for Aboriginal people.
In addition, its sheltered location with its back to southerly and westerly winds would have helped make it an ideal precinct for use during the warmer months of the year.
From a landscape perspective, 20 Mile Hollow / Woodford is positioned as the western edge of the upper valley headwaters that define the notoriously problematic-to-traverse section of country running from 17 Mile Hollow (Linden) past 18 Mile Hollow (Bulls Camp) to 20 Mile Hollow (Woodford House / Academy).
This railway map from 1915 traces out the tortuous paths that led around the top of the Woodford Creek catchment across here to the 20 Mile Hollow.
In the early 1870s, this location was a hive of activity as the new owner of the former Buss' Inn, Alfred Fairfax settled in.
As well as renaming the locale Woodford, Fairfax set about extending the orchard that had long provided jams and fruits for the people stopping over at the inn.
Having just acquired the major additional 40 acre block to the east of his holding, Fairfax set about planting a commercial-sized orchard here.
In March 1878, at a time when his new trees were starting to reach fruit bearing age, Fairfax advertised for an experienced fruit gardener to come and work at Woodford to manage the orchard.
Major changes occured here in the early 1900s when the extensive Fairfax estate lands were sold off and strategic subdivisions commenced that allowed for the development of Woodford in its present day layout.
One significant consequence of this was the construction of Woodford Avenue here along the boundary between the main Academy grounds and the separate 40 acre block to the east.
Here at the northern end of the new road, the Waterhouse's built their palatial home. As the Blue Mountains Echo was to write in 1909: "The residence just completed for G. J. Waterhouse Esq. which appears on this page will convey a better impression than any word picture can do of the general excellence and superiority of this house."
Sadly this main house was destroyed in the disaterous 1957 bushfires that swept across the Blue Mountains.