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Published November 5th 2017
Our favourite gully was nearly something else
Most of us have only ever known Waterfall Gully as the start of that 4km climb to the loftiest point in Adelaide amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the Adelaide Hills. A regular workout, the weekly challenge or perhaps a casual once-off stroll to the top. But Waterfall Gully was not always like that– in fact, Waterfall Gully was once the home of much conflict where early pioneering quarrymen and market gardeners challenged nature and the environment in order to make a living, and nearly removed all of the natural beauty which we know and love.
Waterfall Gully, and in particular the First Creek which meanders from the slopes of Cleland Conservation Park along the Gully through the suburbs and ultimately emptying into the Torrens River was once the home to 16 sets of waterfalls These oft-running falls were a significant attractor to the Kaurna people during their annual autumn pilgrimage to the safety and security of the hills.
When the European pioneers arrived in the 19th Century, they too were attracted to the hills but for the different reasons. The dense forestation provided a natural supply of timber for the emerging city of Adelaide, and it was no surprise that a sawmill was one of the first buildings established in the area. Boyle Finniss, one of Colonel Light's survey team, bought the mill and surrounding lands, extended them and renamed them as Finnissbrook Flour Mill using the water of the First Creek as a significant input into the operations.
A short while later, Dr Wyatt purchased land to the east of the First Creek and immediately set about building a large stone house on the hillside overlooking Adelaide which he named Kurralta. Dr Wyatt was a significant contributor in the early days of Adelaide, and he set about building an extensive garden around his home, one that required the pumping of water from First Creek.
Meanwhile, the desire for Adelaideans for good quality mineral resources saw various quarries and brickmakers appear alongside the creek, a creek which over the years had washed away much of the poorer soils and had left exposed bluestone bedrock, quartzite and other smaller deposits. For around 100 years, the gully and creek were home to various companies including the Adelaide Brick Company, Magill Brick Company, Halletts and Dunstans Quarry, and was a significant employer in the area.
Competing with the quarries for the water supply were the market gardens, the majority of which stretched nearly the full distance along Waterfall Gully Road. The success of vines in other parts of the state led to some early plantings in the 1860's alongside fruit orchards, violets and some hardy vegetables like peas, beans and carrots. The hillsides of the gully also became home to a number of sheep which revelled in the greenery and produced some fine wools some of which was stored in the old woolshed alongside today's Winter Track.
It wasn't long before the combination of the sheltered gully and constant waterflows saw a reputation for quality produce emerge and along with that came budding entrepreneurs at Mark's Violet Farm, Samuel Finn's Orchard and Garden and Tucker's Nursery. Over time olive trees were introduced alongside the Creek and by 1900 the 10,000 trees produced some of the best olive oil seen in South Australia.
Despite all the activity and business distractions along the Gully it became a popular destination for visitors and tourists alike. That popularity was enhanced by the Waterfall Gully Hotel (now The Chalet), the 'Homelands' Tea Gardens, the Waterfall Gully Kiosk, and several fresh produce market stalls along the way. Near the hotel, the natural pool and spring became a popular place for children to swim, while the landowner sold fresh lemonade and waters from the side of the road.
At the turn of the 20th-century pressure was placed to bear upon Governments for conservation and recreation. In 1915 this was partially answered with the declaration of Waterfall Gully as South Australia's first National Pleasure Resort and was followed by the State Government through the acquisition of some of the lands, cessation of the quarries and the ultimate transfer to the National Parks Commission to oversee its conservation.
The Historic Self-Guided Waterfall Gully Walk starts near the roundabout on Greenhill/Glynburn Roads and tracks along Waterfall Gully Road to the First Falls. Walking brochures are available online or at the Burnside Council offices. The walk is around 4km long and offers an interesting insight into the beginnings of our beloved Waterfall Gully.