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Published April 9th 2017
What would you do with a hole in your yard ?
At various points in time we've probably all had a hole in our backyard. Whether it is caused by birds or dogs or your own digging or even a swimming pool. But I am guessing that none of us have had a hole as big as James Umpherston found in his yard, a massive sinkhole that would eventually become one of the most well known and visited tourist attractions in South Australia,
It was back in 1864 when Umpherston bought the property that he uncovered the sinkhole, a large cave like hole caused by the collapse of the limestone that has dissolved over time. After a few years of heavy gardening work and before the days of Backyard Blitz, Umpherston cleared the hole, laid down paths and steps, planted ferns, shrubs and flowers, and then opened the "sunken garden" to the people of Mt Gambier to enjoy during the heat of summer.
However this was not to last as Umpherston passed away in 1900, the gardens fell into disrepair, and the SA Woods and Forests Department ended up purchasing the land in 1949 and the sinkhole soon became a ruin and rubbish tip. In 1976, some staff from the Woods and Forests Social Club decided to rectify this, and they set out to restore the garden.
Roll forward a few years and the garden is now under the care of the City of Mount Gambier, and features rows of hydrangeas, ferns, ivy and various other species local to the region. A long concrete ramp, solid stairs, information boards, shelters, small playground and public amenities now ensure that a visit to the Umpherston Sinkhole or Umpherston Gardens is accessible for many, and enjoyable for all.
The Umpherston Sinkhole is located at Jubilee Highway East, Mount Gambier, and is open every day. The Sinkhole is the centrepiece to a large well-maintained park with green lawns, shady trees, kiosk, bbq's, shelters and all being disability access friendly. Entry is for free, and this includes the many possums who find the sinkhole as a great place to visit at sunset and a place where they can get a guaranteed feed every night.