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Bonython Park is the largest park in Adelaide, in the north west corner of the city's parklands. It's a popular place for major functions, and in the past has seen the Skyshow, Schutzenfest, circuses and many major musical events.
It has recently undergone a makeover to implement a new activity hub and a new playground has been installed which is designed to be more accessible to children with all sorts of disabilities.
The park hasn't always been a place of fun and entertainment though. Sheep and cattle were permitted to graze this area of the parklands for many years, which was very convenient as a slaughterhouse operated on the site from around 1840-1915 until the abattoirs at Gepps Cross were built.
I believe that a road in the area is still called Slaughterhouse Road, possibly at the end of Gaol Rd, but it does not currently appear on maps. It is however referred to in Adelaide City Council documentation.
The same Council reports also mention the existence of a billabong in Bonython Park, which has existed for well over a hundred years. There is historical evidence of the billabong's use as a fishing spot for the Kaurna prior to European settlement.
After settlement, the billabong was used as a rubbish dump and to dispose of offal and unwanted products from the slaughterhouse. It was only around 1960 that this area of Bonython Park was landscaped by Town Clerk William Veale, and the billabong was re-created with terracing on the banks of the Torrens.
There are few references to the billabong today except in Adelaide City Council (ACC) documents, although an 1837 Plan of Adelaide by Colonel William Light depicts a linear island in the billabong at the time. This ACC report includes an 1855 sketch showing the billabong and nearby slaughterhouse.
Today the billabong lies downstream from the railway bridge and near to the new playground. The banks of the river were still mostly green, although close to the bridges they were brown, presumably not irrigated, Lots of reeds lined the river banks.
When I arrived to take photographs the playground was deserted. With the temperature forecast to be 44 degrees, there were unlikely to be many visitors so I chatted briefly with the friendly kiosk manager. Even at 8am the day was already hot.
A few other people were out walking the river banks, or cycling to work on the Torrens Linear Park.
I went for a walk along the banks of the billabong toward the State Heritage listed railway bridge. It was mostly quiet, apart from the occasional dull rumble of a train. That will not be an issue for the next few months.
There seemed to be far fewer water birds here than at the St Peters billabong, although that may have been due to the hot weather. I found no historical references to swimming in this billabong, although at the St Peters Swing Bridge it was hugely popular in the early years of the 20th century.