Our History

The land upon which the Old Log Cabin now sits was purchased by the Seventh-day Adventist Church from Mr Bill Beckett in 1963. It is situated approximately one kilometre south of the Natural Bridge National Park turn-off.  There is access to the Nerang River and the land is still largely covered with rainforest, providing an ideal location for bushwalking and nature observation. A trail down through the forest leads to The Platypus Pool where these unique mammals can be seen feeding at about 5:00pm each day.

A log cabin was initially erected and used for camps. It had sleeping accommodation at each end and a dining room situated in the middle. The building was used for quite a long time, until new dormitories and shower/toilet facilities were constructed for the campers. Dividing walls were taken down so it is now one large room where meals can be prepared or meetings can take place. The rustic, old log cabin structure is now used as a common shelter for all campers on site. Many folks like to sit in front of the fireplace in the evening and have a warm cuppa while enjoying the serene surroundings of the tropical rainforest.

Redneck Pademelons, Potaroos, Possums and other marsupials are active on the grounds at night. Many rare species of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles are also found in the area. Whipbirds, Honey-Eaters, Parrots and Riflebirds fill the air with song each morning.

The camp is regularly used by various church denominations, school groups, overseas visitors and individual travellers.

The camp is operated by three SDA Churches in New South Wales with caretakers living onsite.

Local History of Numinbah Valley and the Natural Bridge

Some of the earliest evidence of human activity in this area comes from archaeological remains in Bushrangers Cave, under the peaks of Hobwee. These have been dated at over 6000 years, indicating Aborigines certainly made use of the plant and animal resources in the valley thousands of years ago. However, low numbers and simple stone-age technology greatly limited their environmental impact on Numinbah Valley. The Aboriginal Heritage in the valley is preserved in some place names, including the name “Numinbah” itself.  Local historians note that “Numinbah” was the Aboriginal name signifying “holding tight” since they believed that the narrow valley held the mountains tightly together. The name is also attributed to a local hunting dog called “Numinbah” or “hold him tight”.

The discovery and settlement of Numinbah Valley in the mid 1800’s is associated closely with the opening up of the Tweed and Richmond River valleys by cedar cutters. The progressive northward incursion of cedar cutters into Aboriginal territories in the Gold Coast Hinterland inevitably brought about violent conflict from time to time, but the lure of the valuable red cedar (Toona ciliata) was greater.  Very large trees could fetch prices of up to £200, a fortune in those days.  This attracted more and more cedar cutters to the area. The first timber men to enter Numinbah Valley were William Duncan and Edmund (Neddy) Harper in around 1846. Logs had to be dragged to the river and floated down to Nerang, commonly during flood flows, or cut into sections and dragged by bullock teams to Nerang, where rafts could be built to transport timber to Brisbane, or loaded onto paddle steamers. The first sawmill in Numinbah Valley, the Pine Mountain Sawmill, was constructed in 1881 in response to demands for timber from the new township of Nerang (surveyed in 1865), and coastal towns such as Southport. It was relocated in 1910-1911 as local supplies of timber around the mill had been exhausted. The Yaun Brothers Sawmill was active in the valley until December 1944, when it was destroyed by fire (rumoured at the time as a possible arson case).

Timber cutting was dominant in the valley in the late 1800s with five more sawmills built along the Nerang River. However, these were generally small mills producing plants to make packing cases for Bananas. Red Cedars were especially favoured for shipbuilding at this time, along with Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). By the late 1800’s, railways enabled easier transport of the timber to growing urban centres and to ports for export overseas. The post-1945 period saw a revitalisation of the timber industry as there was major demand for hardwood timbers for low-cost housing provided to ex-servicemen, poles for electricity and telephone lines, and railway sleepers. As many as 12 sawmills were active in various parts of Numinbah Valley in the early 1900’s with extensive deforestation being associated with harvesting a range of hardwood timber trees. Most forested areas affected by the early timber harvesting have regenerated and dense regrowth forests cover the hillsides today.

The first white farming settler in the valley was Frank Nixon, who set up farm blocks in the central part of the valley in the 1870’s. His selections appear on the 1887 parish map of Numinbah Valley. Nixon was the first to attempt dairying in the valley. The dairy industry only really got underway in the early 1900’s. Factors promoting this included the introduction of exotic improved pasture grasses (e.g. Paspalum, Kikuyu and Clovers) and better transportation (road and rail), enabling shipment of produce, mainly cream and salted butter, to town markets. South Coast Dairy Co-operative, established in Southport in 1941, played a major role in the growth of dairying in the valley. Up to 41 dairy farms operated in the valley during this time. However, competition from margarine, amongst other factors, forced many smaller dairies out of production such that by the 1970’s only 16 dairy farms survived, assisted by more efficient bulk transport of fresh milk to the coastal depot along the newly tarred roads. As at 2004, only two dairies operated, and these mainly deal with Pauls Ltd, successor of South Coast Dairy.

Banana plantations have also been a significant part of the agricultural history of Numinbah Valley. The first banana plantation was established in 1928 in the Natural Bridge area. Before long, there were banana plantations on the foothills of the mountains along the eastern and western flanks of the valley. Farmers typically cut local timber from the forests to make packing cases to ship the bananas to urban markets via railheads at Nerang or Murwillumbah, or direct by road to Brisbane. Combinations of disease, poor weather, transport costs and competition from larger producers eventually saw the demise of most commercial banana production in the valley. Plantations have been abandoned for many years and taken over by forest regrowth (there is very little undisturbed forest here).

Beef cattle production has also played a role in the development of Numinbah Valley. William Duckett White secured grazing rights in the lower reaches of the valley in the 1850’s, but there is no clear evidence that he actually grazed any cattle there. Frank Nixon certainly brought cattle and horses into the valley when he settled here in the 1870’s. The best grazing was on the more open, sparsely wooded river terraced in the middle and lower reaches of the valley, where Kangaroo and Blady Grass were dominant; periodic burning promoted new growth of grass for the cattle. Bullock teams used by timber getters were also grazed on the open grassland areas in the 1800’s. There was a local butchery in the lower Numinbah Valley by the early 1900’s, and stockyards in Nerang for marketing animals. When the stockyards closed in the late 1970s, cattle had to be transported further afield by road to such places as Beaudesert and Beenleigh. As the dairy industry has declined in recent years, more and more land has been taken over for beef production.

The decline of many rural industries has led some local farmers to seek alternative and/or supplementary sources of income. This has resulted in the development of small-scale tourism-based activities such as farmstay and B&B accommodation, horseriding and guided tours.

Farming and timber harvesting have resulted in major, long-lasting changes in the natural landscapes of Numinbah Valley. Primary changes in the landscape date from the early 1900’s when larger numbers of settlers moved into the valley. This resulted in larger scale land clearance, planting of pasture grasses, construction of fences and homesteads, and building of roads and bridges. Natural attractions such as the Natural Bridge continue to draw visitors from outside the valley, increasing human impact on the environment. The contemporary landscape is an attractive mosaic of farmlands and natural forest, and is the product of some 150 years of human activity in the valley. It is clear that maintenance of this scenic mosaic will require continued intervention and management of the land by its inhabitants. Farmers are essentially the “gardeners of the countryside” and their daily work keeps the scenic landscape of the valley in a healthy state.