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Published January 9th 2015
Beautiful one day, perfect the next
A weekend away in the Beautiful Valley sounded very appealing and hard to resist. Well at least that was my message as we packed the bikes and the hiking shoes and headed to South Australia's mid-north to our cabin-in-waiting at the Beautiful Valley Caravan Park in um, er, Beautiful Valley ?
The history of the Beautiful Valley originates from the first European settlers in the region in the 1850s. They were so impressed with the richness of the region (it was obviously during a time of good rainfall) and the prettiness of the setting and decided to name the district Beautiful Valley. in 1876 the town was officially named Wilmington by Governor Musgrave in a decision that caused the locals to protest. The locals liked the name Beautiful Valley as it described the area the best, but they seem to have been overruled by one local who insisted that Beautiful Valley was the name of the local station (property) and it was never the name of the town.
From that point onwards the township of Wilmington came into being, and at the turn of the century a narrow gauge rail line was introduced to the town from Gladstone. This line survived until 1982 when economics forced its closure. Today Wilmington is a sleepy little town with a population of only a couple of hundred people with a Hotel, Garage, Deli, Butcher, General Store, a couple of Caravan Parks and a disused railway line.
Not satisfied with a disused rail line, a rail trail was introduced in 2012. Similar in concept to the trails in the Barossa Valley and the Onkaparinga Valley, the trail makes good use of the natural rail alignment. The trail commences at the southern end of town just off Railway Street and travels south for 22km running parallel to the Main Road to a point just north of the township of Melrose near the Melrose Oval. The trail has been made from compacted earth and gravel, and suits mountain bikes.
From Melrose the trail runs behind the Beautiful Valley Caravan Park and across Stony Creek before getting close to the Main Road. A series of rail culverts have been removed, and the trail traverses around where they would have been before crossing the Main Road safely, and with plenty of signage for drivers and cyclists.
From that point the trail follows the main road in the shadows of Mt Remarkable and amongst rows of beautiful gum trees. This fantastic setting no doubt contributes to the naming of the Beautiful Valley - albeit the stuck front tyre in a small mud pool on the trail meant there was a few other adjectives used as descriptors !
The trail continues towards Melrose and passes near a monument about Goyder's Line. Given that we had ridden on both sides of this imaginary line over the last 20km, and seen dust on one side and bog on the other, we could attest to Goyder's assertions.
The trail ends near the Melrose Oval, and it is then a short trip in to the town of Melrose. Here we cross the Heysen Trail and the Mawson Trail at one of only a few places where both trails meet each other. A quick stop then at the Over the Edge cycle shop almost became an expensive exercise. Not satisfied with the espresso that was on offer, a quick browse through the shop nearly saw the purchase of yet another bike. Luckily logic prevailed - I could only carry two on the car, unless .....