Hill End is a semi-ghost town west of the Blue Mountains, remnants of a thriving 19th century mining settlement whose population once reached 40,000. Today the remnant buildings are preserved as a designated historic site, with many hectares of open commons and surrounded by abandoned gold digging mounds and gullies.
My first visit to Hill End was in Nov. 1989, as part of an excursion with the National Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA) – archivists may locate the excursion report in Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism vol.2, 1990. There is plenty of herbal history at Hill End, but even more enticing, the old diggings and neighbouring Common host a variety of naturalized and largely undisturbed European herbs, in particular hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) (in full flower back in ’89), covered in unripe “berries” during this December’s visit. More relevant to the current visit, St. Johns’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is flowering and abundant.
Camping at the Village Campground, there was abundant wort withing a few minutes walk, along with other herbs right for the picking, such as centaury (Centaurium erythrina – see earlier blog), self heal (Prunella vulgaris) the invasive Scotch broom (Sarothamnus scoparius) and periwinkle (Vinca major).
Self-heal among the St. John’s wort
As usual I had some good extra virgin olive oil with me, and made up the Hypericum oil as I harvested, with enough spare to dry at home and make up the tincture. This is one of the most rewarding of herbs, providing a rich dark red coloured oil within days, and an equally dark red within minutes of making the tincture, the ethanol being a good solvent for hypericin, the characteristic pigment responsible for the characteristic colour – and some but by no meals all – of the therapeutic activity in the herbs.
Its worth spending a little time looking around the old town, some impressive buildings remain, along with occasional signs of life.
Farwell from Hill End, well worth a visit.