Welcome to the Barossa Goldfields. Photo: Peter Cochrane
Located about 40km north-east of Adelaide, the Barossa Goldfields walking trails provide interesting walks through the old gold mine sites, where almost 4000 people came to try their luck in the early days of South Australian settlement.
From the first discoveries in October 1868, to the proclamation of the unsold crown land as an official goldfield, the site was an important feature in the development of the small Barossa township established to meet the needs of the growing population. A narrow lane of stores and hotels, even a blacksmith who set up a temporary store to sharpen picks, formed the early town near Spike Gully. As the people rushed to the site, a Warden of the Goldfield was appointed and police troopers were sent to the fields to issue licenses and manage disputes.
Barossa Mine Headshaft. Photo: Peter Cochrane
Accessed from the Allendale Road car park, the trails follow fenced off walkways through the site, with small platforms to view the mine shafts safely. Information boards situated along the walking trails offer a wealth of information about the mining activities, geology and life on the diggings.
Starting from the car park, the 1.2km Victoria Hill Circuit traverses the site where 100 miners rushed in 1869 but deserted by 1871, only to be reworked by 20 hopeful miners in 1930. Over 100 shafts were sunk on Victoria Hill, some to a depth of 24 metres, searching for the elusive gold buried below layers of sand, gravel and clay alluvial shafts.
Trees have regrown where the land was once cleared for the goldfields miners. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Walking through the pink gums, golden wattles and native pines, it is difficult to imagine the area during the gold rush of 1869, with all the vegetation removed to make room for the canvas and calico tents sprawled over the hillsides. Trees were cut down for use as tent pegs and fuel, wattles were used to spread on the ground under blankets and bedding.
Old mining skips on display near Bowden Cottage. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The Watervale Gully area is home to ruins from the 1800s and 1900s. Resettled during the depression in the 1930s, the low stone wall is part of the canvas tent and stone dwelling of Charlie Hacker and family in 1929. A mound of stone and earth, once the fireplace of the Edwards family home, are the only remaining evidence of the former occupants.
Ruins of Homes on Victoria Hill Circuit. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Continuing on the Victoria Hill Circuit, the trail passes the Belle of the Barossa Mine, an unsuccessful quartz-reef mine from 1895. At checkpoint G2, the Victoria Hill Circuit returns to the car park via the Bowden Cottage or joins the Phoenix Circuit.
The Bowden Cottage and museum, under the care of the Barossa Goldfields Historical Society was restored from a ruined stone cottage, earmarked for demolition, to the museum and cottage on view today. Built as a labourer's cottage in 1907, and extended by Jack and Vera Bowden in the 1930s, the two room stone, timber and sand cottage featured one bedroom and a central room with a fireplace. Extended when the youngest daughter, Iris married, Vera continued to live in the cottage with Iris and her husband until 1957.
Today the building is a museum, open on Tuesdays between 9-12 noon and the 3rd Sunday of every month, entry fee is a gold coin donation. Group bookings can be made by appointment.
Bowden Cottage, Barossa Goldfields. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
For those continuing to the Phoenix Circuit, the slight inclines and grassy areas, rich with Blue Gums, provide a greater insight into the mining activities. The trail passes the site of the 77 metre North Tunnel, driven into the hill to gain access to the deep quartz reef below the surface and the fenced off Costean trench, used to test exposed quartz reefs, running up the hillside.
Menzies Mine Area. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
Near the creek, the ruins of the Steam Winding House and the site of the 60 m deep Menzies Barossa Shaft sunk in 1895 can be seen. Passing the fenced off shaft, the information board describes the 85 metre Phoenix tunnel which was active between 1895 and 1898 on an outcropping quartz reef.
From inside the Tunnel on the Phoenix Circuit. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The walking trail continues through the gum tree lined path coming to the tramway tunnel, a feature of this circuit. Excavated through the hill to allow passage of horse drawn ore skips filled with gold bearing quartz. The trail folds back past the other tunnel entrance and passing the ruins of the Boiler house and gold battery site, a 40 head stamp battery erected in 1898 to crush and treat ore from the Menzies mine.
Steam House Ruins at Barossa Goldfields. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The Phoenix Circuit turns back, toward the Allendale trailhead and intersects with the Lady Pearce Circuit at checkpoint G4. The Phoenix Circuit passes the largely unsuccessful Barossa Junction Mine formed by the Barossa Junction Company in 1896 to explore for gold in the quartz reef, before meeting up with the Victoria Circuit toward the Bowden Cottage.
Victoria Hill Circuit. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The 5.8km Lady Pearce Circuit passes through the Para Wirra Conservation Park, meeting up with the Victoria Hill Circuit at Checkpoint G5, before returning to Bowden Cottage and the Allendale trailhead. Passing the spur to the Devil's Nose at Checkpoint G6, the trail crosses the ford of the South Para River, polluted in the late 1890s when mercury amalgam used in gold extraction and passes remains of a stone wall which may be the remains of the blacksmith's hearth. The trail meets up with the Victoria Hill circuit to lead you back to the Allendale Trailhead via Bowden Cottage.
Magpies waiting for an invitation for lunch. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The well-marked trails passes by fenced off deep mine shafts, some mines have viewing platforms for a closer look. Many species of birds can be seen through out the mine site including Adelaide Rosellas and Lorikeets. The shady picnic area is the ideal spot for lunch or a snack, provided you don't mind magpies, coming up beside you for a view of your lunch. Toilet facilities are available near the museum.