I'm a resident of the northern suburbs of Adelaide, keen to share interesting ideas for weekend activities, especially but not exclusively, north of Gepps Cross.
Published May 10th 2015
A Good Walk by George
The Mount George Circuit Hike is about 9 kilometres and takes about 3 hours to complete. It follows the Heysen Trail through the Mount George Conservation Park past the Mount Lofty Golf Course and ends up back where you started at the picnic area near the Bridgewater Mill. Take it slowly and breathe in the views.
If you are driving from Adelaide, take the Bridgewater exit on the South-Eastern freeway, turn right on to the Carey Gully Bridgewater Road and keep going until you get to Bridgewater Oval. There are public toilets and parking at the oval.
Take the path from the Oval, past the Bridgewater Mill and then follow the Heysen Trail markers under the railway line. Keep following the Heysen Trail under the South Eastern Freeway into Mount George Conservation Park.
Once in the Conservation Park follow the Heysen Trail until it crosses the Carey Gully Road into Woodhouse Activity Centre. Instead of crossing the road, turn right walking along Carey Gully Road until you get to Mt George Road. Continue down Mt George Road until the road ends and here you can pick up the Heysen Trail back to the Bridgewater Mill where you started.
For thousands of years, the Peramangk people lived in the Adelaide Hills. They had a variety of food sources - kangaroos, wallabies and emus were hunted, the watercourses provided fish and yabbies and the native vegetation provided things like moth larvae, bird eggs, roots and vegetable products. The Peramangk, like all Australian indigenous people, lived very much in harmony with the land and the seasons. It was a symbiotic relationship where they looked after the land, and the land in return provided for them.
By the 1830's European settlement meant that the Peramangk's traditional existence was no longer possible. Introduced disease, agriculture and timber felling had a huge impact on the Peramangk, and by the 1850's there is little mention of them in any historical sources. There is evidence that the surviving Perramangk people integrated with the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. While hiking through Mount George Conservation Park, I am aware that it is Peramangk land and I like to imagine that the people that lived there for thousands of years are walking with me.
During the 1830's, Mt George was a source of timber for the rapidly expanding population of Adelaide, the Port and the Adelaide Plains. Cocks Creek, the watercourse that runs past the Bridgewater Mill, at the start and conclusion of the Circuit Hike, became home to a band of colourful characters who built ramshackle huts on her banks and spent their days felling timber and transporting it to Adelaide for sale. At this stage, Adelaide was in it's very early stages of becoming a town – South Australia was proclaimed a province of Great Britain in 1836 and Colonel Light commenced surveying 'Town Acres' which would become Adelaide in 1837. The colonists referred to the Adelaide Hills as 'The Tiers' and the timbermen were dubbed 'tiersmen'. The steep, wooded slopes of Mt George were difficult to negotiate on horseback and were rarely visited by the fledgling colonial police force, so the life of a tiersman was attractive to escaped convicts from the eastern States, sailors who had deserted their ships and anyone else who wanted to escape from their past.
I admire the tenacity of the Tiersmen – felling timber with axes and then dragging the logs on sleds behind bullocks down the steep slopes. Interestingly, Greenhill Road started as a bullock track created by the Tiersmen carting timber to Adelaide for sale.
By 1840, market gardeners started settling along Cox Creek, in the shadow of Mount George, growing produce and using the bullock tracks carved out by the Tiersmen to go to market in Adelaide. In 1841, Benjamin Dean, a farmer from Cheshire, opened an inn, which he tongue in cheek, called 'The Deanery'. Nothing remains of 'The Deanery' now but there is a stone in Deanery Park which marks where it once stood. Fairies now live in the area as evidenced by the little doors that can be seen in the trees as you walk past on your way to Mount George Conservation Park (Fairies in the Garden).
In the ten years that The Deanery operated, there were stories told of unsuspecting bullock drivers, who fell victim to Benjamin Dean's special extra strength beer, only to wake and find that there bullocks had vanished. The dense, steep slopes of Mount George provided the perfect cover for the stolen cattle, and after the police had given up the search, bullock stew was the Special of the Day on the Deanery menu!
The Walk starts and end near the Bridgewater Mill with its iconic waterwheel. Today the Mill is owned by a winery and the waterwheel operates as an attraction rather than a means of producing power, but in the 1860's the waterwheel was the largest in the colony and wheat was ground into flour using the water in Cox Creek and a steam engine.