Reflections on a magic valley

Reflections on a magic valley

Life & Style
Cameron Archer AM has lived beside the Paterson River for 43 years and has written an evocative ode to the pretty valley. Photo: supplied

Cameron Archer AM has lived beside the Paterson River for 43 years and has written an evocative ode to the pretty valley. Photo: supplied


An in-depth study of the Paterson Valley, north of Maitland brings to light the success and trauma of historical European settlement imposed on the ancient ideals of the Aborigine.


Perhaps it is an indication of our collective maturity or maybe simply a curiosity to better understand our past, but books like The Magic Valley have a well-deserved place in the library of our European settlement.

This in-depth study of the Paterson Valley was written by Cameron Archer AM, and he has had an abiding affection for the area for the past 43 years.

For much of that time Mr Archer was employed at the C.B Alexander Campus, Tocal College, Paterson, first as agronomy lecturer before his promotion to college principal and he has been witness to many irreversible changes in the valley.

He wanted to record those changes and in this fine work, he neatly captures the atmosphere of evolution from when Aborigines came to the valley, from when they were displaced by European expansion through to the modern era of McMansions on lifestyle farms beside empty farm homesteads.

In many ways this is a rigorous book, trembling with emotion.

To quote Mr Archer in the introduction ... "this book explores the forces that have driven exploitation and change in 'The Magic Valley' and tries to explain why the Paterson Valley is as it is today."

In weaving a narrative of connection between people and landscape, the underlying message implied in The Magic Valley can betested against every European settlement in this country.

The destruction of the natural environment by Europeans should not be underestimated, nor should the changes previously wrought by the Aborigine be viewed through misty eyes.

It is inevitable change occurs, but if contemporary progress means future carnage, then there are lessons to be learnt from reading The Magic Valley and steps taken to avoid societal collapse.

The Paterson Valley, despite the various alterations to landscape is a pretty valley and filled with connections to the colonial era.

Indeed, a centerpiece is the Tocal Homestead, one of the most intact of convict-era pastoral buildings in the state and deserved of its National Trust status.

The Tocal property is also home to the C.B Alexander Campus with its magnificent collection of buildings where students have studied for an agricultural career since it was opened by then prime minister Sir Robert Menzies in 1965.

But there is more to landscape than a few influential buildings or pretty words spoken beside pretty rivers and if we don't come to terms with our place in this land and have greater respect for it, the land will not accept our exploitative presence.

By examining the past and the present of one small valley, Mr Archer is challenging the reader to confront the issues associated with unbridled material expansion and its long term effect across the wider and fragile landscape.

It is an essential study for those with an interest in the Australian landscape and environment and the author has invoked an impassioned plea to be kinder to our land.

  • This book is coming to The Land Bookshop

From the front page

Sponsored by