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Hillcrest and Oakden Heritage Walking Trail

Home > Adelaide > Places of Interest | Walks
by Michael Genrich (subscribe)
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Published July 14th 2017
Once upon a farm
The trail was developed as a celebration of the Centenary of Federation and leads walkers through beautifully presented parks and gardens. Wander along the streets exploring the agricultural, commercial and residential history of the area. Signs along the way describe interesting features of the land, its inhabitants, and its flora and fauna. Much of the trail relies on linear park set aside for a proposed Tea Tree Gully railway in the 1950's which never eventuated. Find the introduction and map of the walk in Harry Wierda reserve near the corner of Fosters Road and Sir Ross Smith Boulevard.

Hillcrest, Oakden, Adelaide, Walking Trail
Harry Wierda reserve - Oakden

The old dairy

As you set off toward Roy Amer wetlands you'll pass a large old stone building. Beefacres estate once spanned from Yatala Prison to the Torrens River. From 1901 to 1917 Mr John Williams established a two-hundred-acre farm called Moolooloo and built the dairy in this time. In 1917, it was sold to the state government for the Northfield Mental Hospital farm.
The old dairy has been restored with benches and toilets. Surrounded by barbecues, playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, it's a popular weekend picnic destination perfect for large groups.

Dairy, Oakden, Hillcrest, Picnic
The old dairy picnic shed - Oakden

Roy Amer Reserve

It's a short walk along the wide bike and walking paths next to Sir Ross Smith Boulevard to Roy Amer reserve, a wetland complex and engineering feat providing recycled stormwater to water the parks and gardens in Oakden and Hillcrest. It was completed in 1993 as renewal of the area began in earnest. It's a large park with playgrounds, boardwalks, shelters, walking trails, interpretive signage. If you fancy a drink or a bite to eat, the Lakeside Café is nearby. Check this weekend notes article out for a great description of the park.

Oakden, wetlands, picnic areas, duck feeding, bbq
Roy Amer wetlands - Oakden

Kaurna use of wetlands

The Adelaide plains area from Cape Jervis in the south to Crystal Brook to the Mt Lofty ranges was occupied by the Kaurna nation of indigenous people. They made use of the local wetlands and native flora and fauna. Using bullrush reeds to make fishing nets and baskets is one of the things described on signage at Roy Amer wetlands.

Gilles Plains School

Gilles Plains school building was built in 1917. The school now has moved behind the building and the old school operates as an op-shop for the North-East Community Assistance Project.

Gilles Plains, Hillcrest, Oakden, Adelaide, Walking Trail
The old Gilles Plains School building - built 1917

Bush Tucker

Along the way there are a couple of interesting signs describing the native bush tucker that once (and still does in some places) was part of the diet of the Kaurna people. See if you can spot some nearby!

Bush tucker, Hillcrest, Oakden
Bush tucker signage - Hillcrest

Anchor Foods
Not far along the walk you'll return to Fosters Road and the site where Aveo Crestview Retirement Village now stands was once the factory of Anchor Foods. Closed in 1988 Anchor Foods now produces its goods purely in Western Australia.

Department of Agriculture

Many Adelaideans will remember that the area was once wide open mixed farmland occupied by the Department of Agriculture until its development in 1993. The department's activities were transferred to new facilities at Waite Campus and Roseworthy in 1994 after being part of the community for thirty years. Northfield Laboratories continued work on Fosters Road until the development of the new suburb of Lightsview on the last remaining piece of undeveloped broadacre land in Adelaide in 2006.

Harry Butlers Aerodrome, Sir Ross and Keith Smith

In 1920, following the completion of the first flight from England to Australia in 1919, Sir Ross and Keith Smith landed their Vickers Vimy bomber at Harry Butlers airfield just west of Fosters Road.

Vickers Vimy, Northfield, Lightsview
Source - State Library of South Australia

Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital

Some Adelaide old timers will still remember the old Hillcrest Hospital, infamous for its reputation as a psychiatric institution. Closed in 1994, it now operates as a mental health service for the elderly, its old residences like Czechowicz House still line Fosters Road.

Hillcrest, Hospital, Fosters Road
Hillcrest Hospital and the old Department of Agriculture

If you're a local, or a history buff, then the Hillcrest area is rich in recent history. As the last open space within the Adelaide metro area to be developed, traces of its farming history remain today and the trail is an outstanding example of how to connect residents with the area and its past. Get out this weekend and find some local heritage, or if you have any memories of life in Hillcrest, comment below, we'd love to hear it!
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Why? Something to do in the suburbs
When: Anytime
Where: Hillcrest and Oakden
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Great history and well illustrated, thanks Michael!
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11307) 1480 days ago
Where was the proposed rail route??
by ceeja (score: 1|16) 1479 days ago
The Tea Tree Gully History Co-ordinator knows nothing of this 1950s proposal. There was talk at one stage of extending the Northfield Dry Creek line to TTG but this would have all been north of Grand Junction Road and not around Hillcrest. I have wondered about the strip near Oxford Street. I'll see what the Enfield history people know of this.
by ceeja (score: 1|16) 1470 days ago
My wife and I grew up in hillcrest, and remember all the things you talk about eg cows grazing in the paddocks. Life was a lot different in the 60,s I delivered telegrams through hillcrest w/gdns etc on pushbike so know the area backwards. Al
by allan (score: 0|4) 1478 days ago
Thanks Michael for this great review of the HOWT. FYI, when the local Centenary of Federation Committee sat down to come up with ideas in 1997 to commemorate local European history, yours truly suggested the walking trail and to my surprise, everyone agreed, and so it came to be in 2000.
- Cr Mark Basham, former resident of Oakden
by crmar (score: 0|2) 265 days ago
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