I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring,
the problem is not with Adelaide.
If you like my articles, please subscribe and click the link to Like them.
Published July 11th 2018
Once a home for incorrigible rogues and robbers
Walk through Watiparinga Reserve to Sleeps Hill Railway Tunnel
Watiparinga Reserve is 32 hectares of National Trust bushland reserve in the Adelaide Hills. Once owned by the Ashby family like Wittunga Botanic Garden, the land was donated to the National Trust in 1957 for the reserve. It still contains the first National Trust plaque in South Australia unveiled by the then Governor of South Australia Sir Robert George.
Much of the land had been cleared for farming, but hard work by volunteers has seen the Grey Box woodland and its grassy understorey restored. This huge park south of Adelaide borders Shepherds Hill Recreation Park and the suburbs of Pasadena, Eden Hills, Belair and Blackwood. Unless you are a local, you might not even realise the park is here.
The restoration of the natural environment has encouraged local fauna to live in Watiparinga Reserve, including 57 indigenous bird species. For this reason, dogs are only permitted in the park on leash, and mountain bike riding is not allowed.
The Wattiparinga Creek flows intermittently through the bottom of this hilly reserve, much as it did when indigenous people roamed the area hundreds of years ago. The word "Watiparinga" (also spelt Wattiparinga) means "middle creek" or "plenty of water". Wattiparinga Creek once flowed down to Tonsley Farm, later the Tonsley redevelopment where the farmer's house is still called Wattiparinga.
Soldiers on South Road Cross Wattiparinga Creek in 1942 (Image: State Library SA PRG-1631-44-148A)
There's much to be explored in the Watiparinga Reserve. Take the Viaduct Track from Shepherds Hill Recreation Park and you will pass through natural bushland terrain into Watiparinga Reserve before making some startling historical discoveries. You can still see the remains of the old railway viaducts demolished a hundred years ago, together with the now sealed former railway tunnels at Sleeps Hill. It's one of many derelict and abandoned tunnels in Adelaide.
The railway viaducts crossed two steep gullies, and nine hundred men using a hundred horses were employed during their construction. It was such an achievement that even today the viaduct foundations are state heritage listed. The viaducts had been tested with a loaded train by the manufacturer and were guaranteed to take up to 70 tons passing over them at 30 mph. Despite this, confidence in them was never high.
National Trust Plaque Unveiled in 1957 by the Governor of South Australia
The Dale Road entrance to Watiparinga Reserve in Eden Hills takes you past the original National Trust plaque unveiled by the Governor 60 years ago. Quite a large area of the park is relatively flat and easy to walk, and there are commanding views to the suburbs and sea. It's a popular place for locals to walk their dogs, and I saw a variety of bird life around here. Walk further from the road and the terrain gets much steeper before it reaches the Adelaide to Melbourne railway line.
Entering the park from Eurilpa Street in Eden Hills, there is only a relatively small flat area in Watiparinga Reserve. Walk a little further and you get good views of the gulf, railway line, viaduct foundations, and the former railway tunnel. A couple of narrow walking trails let you explore into the valleys. There's much less room to park at this entrance to the park.
The reserve is quite different at the Gloucester Avenue entrance in Belair. Here you can walk gently sloping trails along a fire track in the City of Mitcham O'Dea's Reserve (adjacent Watiparinga) down to Pasasdena, or take steep and narrow winding tracks leading to the railway tunnel and the bottom of the gully. It's probably another way to see Wattiparinga Creek, but I haven't walked that far.
Whichever way you enter Watiparinga Reserve, it doesn't take long to feel removed from civilisation. Apart from bird calls, you will occasionally hear a passing train or even people talking on the other side of the valley, hundreds of metres away. I've tried all the main entrances to the reserve, and enjoyed walking there with my dogs.
Find more about things to do in Watiparinga Reserve on the National Trust of South Australia website. You can also discover more about Mitcham trails for walking and mountain bike riding on the City of Mitcham website, and on the Walking SA website. The cooler months are a fantastic time for all the family to explore this awesome open space.