The well-preserved buildings of Old Wilpena Station
Old Wilpena Station
Living with Land is a kilometre-long walk around the Old Wilpena Station precinct of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. We weren't sure what to expect, but, in the end, I was quite impressed with all the well-preserved buildings and interpretive signs. I also discovered how this pastoral settlement survived its remote and isolated setting for 135 years.
Walking in an anti-clockwise direction, our first stop was the bookkeeper's hut. This original pug and pine cottage has been stabilised over the years but remains pretty much intact for its age. It dates back to the 1850s during the early years of the run. Beneath its galvanised iron roof, I was surprised to find the hut's original thatch.
Not far from the bookkeeper's hut is the blacksmith's cottage. Built in 1864, this pug and pine cottage was later cement-rendered by the Hunt family. They recognised its heritage value and carried out regular maintenance during the mid-1900s to ensure the survival of the building. Although termite-resistant, native pine timber does require some protection over time.
Heading further eastward, we came to the old stockyard and a rather interesting gum tree. No, it isn't just any ordinary gum tree. It is one with corner posts attached! I could see, standing in front of it, why it's called the tree fencepost. This old gnarled red gum served as a corner post for several pens.
We then carefully set foot in the blacksmith's shop. Entry is permitted but please do not touch the objects inside. Also, you'll need to be aware of snakes if you happen to visit in the warmer months. These early blacksmiths had an important role to play. They worked with fire and hammer to put shoes on horses, repair wagons, make tools and shape gates. Unlike today, blacksmiths were almost indispensable in days gone by.
Horses also shaped life on the run. They did just about everything, from hauling drays to delivering mail. The log-slab building near the blacksmith's shop was once stables for these four-legged beasts of burden. As we approached the building, I noticed something quite unusual - its slabs were lain horizontally instead of vertically! Why? That's for you to find out while you're there.
Another unusual feature is the suspended shelving inside the two-storey store. Ants, mice and weevils were constantly spoiling precious goods. So, in order to protect supplies, the store shelf was hung and, surprise surprise, this novel approach worked like a charm. Vermin-proof shelving held all-important bags of flour and chests of tea. Rations were common. A shepherd and his family would receive approximately 470kg of flour, 90kg of sugar and 10kg of tea in one year. Luxuries did not occur often, thus was the way of life.
A slight detour brought us to a small secluded cemetery with two headstones. One was for the station manager James Smith Clarke who died in 1866 and another was for a possibly young child named Henry Ryan.
And, last but not least, we arrived at the homestead. This stone residence was built by George Marchant in 1860 and later modified to include additional rooms. Its floor area almost doubled after that. Deceased pets were honoured with cement plaques in a corner of the homestead garden. Betty Hunt started commemorating station dogs and cats after visiting the Tower of London's pet cemetery. Among the many inscribed names were Bindii, Mouche and Tim.
We then took a peek at the fowl houses on the way back to our car. Having done this walk, I can recommend it to anyone interested in pastoral heritage. Living with Land was definitely worth my while.