Originally named Cock's Creek, after the explorer Robert Cock who led an expedition through the area in 1837, the town of Bridgewater lies in the Adelaide Hills about 21 kilometres from the CBD, near the original Cock's Creek settlement.
The name of the town changed to Cox Creek before changing again to Bridgewater. In 1859, a miller called John Dunn built the Bridgewater Mill near the creek. Powered by a large waterwheel, the mill remained operational until it was purchased in 1986 and transformed into a restaurant and cellar door. Now an iconic restaurant and a distinctive feature of Bridgewater, the building rests adjacent to the Cox Creek Park, which is where the 7.5 km walking trail to Mt Lofty begins.
Stone steps start the trail. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The charming park with stepping-stones, playground and a picnic area for families lies next to Cox Creek. Children can often been seen sitting on a log which spans the width of the creek, reminiscent of "old school' play, away from TVs and game consoles. For the grown-ups, the outdoor dining area of the Bridgewater Inn can be a great place to relax after the walk or, during the winter months, the welcoming open fire in the restaurant is an ideal venue for a family meal.
Following the Heysen Trail up the curved stone stairs, walkers will need to zigzag up the hill and progress along the dirt path toward the Mt. George Conservation Park. In spring, the path is bordered with a variety of wildflowers including correas, native orchids, and native shrubs.
Information signs in the park explain that the native vegetation in the area was under threat prior to the start of the Cox Creek Rehabilitation Project. The projects works to remove exotic plants and trees, including woody weeds such as blackberries and trees such as poplars, which degrade the native vegetation and provide a poor habitat for native fauna.
Walking through the graffiti covered arched Cox Creek tunnel, which passes under the railway track, leads through the Arbury Park School Forest toward the Deanery Reserve. Formerly the site of the Deanery Hotel built by Benjamin and Elizabeth Dean in 1841, the reserve is now home to the fairy garden. Fairy sized doors and houses are scattered through the trees with lots of places for children to explore.
Leaving the fairy garden, the trail passes through a tunnel under the South Eastern Free way into Mt George Conservation Park. Home to blue wrens, yellow tailed cockatoos and a variety of reptiles and mammals, the terrain in the 62-hectare reserve varies from areas of wetlands to open forests. Heavily logged for timber and firewood until the 1940s, the area is now managed to provide protection for the native vegetation and a diversity of habitat types in the area, including a fenced section, which was developed as an Earthwatch Reserve for nature conservation and environmental education in 1986.
Crossing the creek over the Tiersman bridge, the trail passes through the Mt George Wetlands before arriving at a tree stump with the plaque commemorating 25 years of the Heysen Trail and recognising the efforts of Terry Lavender, the creator and driving force behind the famous Heysen Trail.
The trail meanders through bushland trails, ascending small banks of stone steps, crossing over the Davenport Bridge, and following along the banks of the creek. Passing through the Stirling Golf Course, walkers need to be aware of golfers playing on the green when leaving the course toward the Woodside Activity Centre.
The Woodhouse Activity Centre, owned by the Scouting Association since the 1950s, is located on 54 hectares of land in Piccadilly Valley and offers three separate accommodation centres. Activities such as the flying fox, giant swing and climbing wall explain the loud laughter and yelling which is heard while walking this section of the trail. Signs near the entrance and throughout the park remind walkers of the need to keep to the trails in the Activity Centre.
The large stone near the exit of the activity centre marks the completion of the Heysen Trail on April 4, 1993.
Reaching the Sprigg Road Intersection, continuing to the right along Sprigg Road leads to Mt Lofty summit. The trail to the left onto Lambert Road leads to the summit via the beautiful Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens, passing Mt Lofty House. This route will add an extra 6km each way to your walk or could be incorporated into a circuit from the summit.
The view from Mt Lofty Summit. Photo: Hazel Cochrane
The final incline to Mt Lofty Summit is steep and difficult, demanding a good level of fitness to reach the car park of the summit. The viewing platform at the summit provides panoramic views over Adelaide, dominated by the obelisk known as Flinders Column, named after Matthew Flinders.
The summit is a popular place for walkers, cyclists and tourists with facilities including a café, restaurant, and gift shop, toilets and water fountain for refilling drink bottles. Ideally, parking a car at each end would negate the need to walk the return trip. although the walk down Mt Lofty to Sprigg road is a lot easier than the ascent.
Alternatively, the loop from the summit through the Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens returning to Sprigg Road for the walk back to Bridgewater is an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful gardens representing flora from many parts of the world. Open to the public since 1977 and heavily damaged in the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, the Gardens display an amazing diversity of flora such as the cool green Fern Gully and the South American Gully. The loop will add considerable distance to the walk, so visiting the gardens may be an option for another day.
Have done some of this walk in stages.The fairy garden is almost non existent now..pity...like the photos.WONDERFUL walking track.The creek is currently stagnant...with rains on the way...experience will be more rewarding with creek flowing.