Clare, South Australia

We motored north from Coonawarra, and stopped for a couple of nights in the Clare Valley on the way to the Flinders Ranges. We stopped for lunch at Lyndoch in the Barossa on the way to Clare at Schild Wines and, as with all our lunchtime winery stops, really enjoyed the platter and wine.

I chose the rather baldly named "Clare Valley Motel" for our stay in Clare, mainly because of good Tripadvisor ratings. We stayed here two nights, and really enjoyed our stay. This is not, nor do they claim to be, a luxury hotel. But what they set out to do, they do really well. Nice, bright, modern motel rooms, set on a small hill. There is a pool and well maintained grounds. A pleasure to sit at one of the garden tables with a glass of wine after a day's exploring. The owners were welcoming and charming, and at 125 dollars a night it gave us remarkable value. In short, one travels hoping that every hotel experience will be as good as this.

The town of Clare was, as most of the small Australian towns, relatively untouched by redevelopment. The main street in Clare has a nice selection of old buildings. Outside the town we saw the rather bizarre sight of a cornfield full of kangaroos - you think you are seeing things at first, then you realise that there are masses of the little fellows chomping away in the field - what the farmer might think would be another matter!

Martindale Hall is a 19th century Georgian mansion. Built in 1879 for a 21 year old sheep farmer, Edmund Bowman Jnr, it was designed as a home for entertainment and sporting activities. He, perhaps unsurprisingly, went bust, and subsequently it was sold to the Mortlock family: it is in near original condition, including furniture and fittings. The Mortlock Family bequeathed Martindale Hall and the estate to the University of Adelaide in 1965. The building is currently leased to John Maguire, who has developed Martindale Hall into a heritage museum and boutique hotel. A large renovation project in 2002 repaired salt damp damage and returned the Hall to near-original condition. The hall is now located within the 45-acre Martindale Hall Conservation Park, which is itself within the original 11,000-acre Martindale Station, still an active sheep station.

On the way back to Clare we sought out the Polish Church (there having been many Polish emigrants here in the 19th century) , but it was only open for a few hours each month.

One lunch was at Reillys at Mintaro, a bit off the main drag but worth the detour. We enjoyed their lunch platter and a bottle of their wine (well part of the bottle, we took the rest away with us ). They are keen to take you through a tasting of their wines, and I settled on the Sauvignon Blanc to drink with the platter You can sit on the verandah, as we did, and look out over the Magpie Stump opposite, it's all very quaint and relaxing The service was cheerful, and I recommend anyone in the Clare area to stop here for lunch.

Chris enjoyed our stop at the Sevenhill Winery : this was established by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1851 to produce sacramental wine. While this tradition continues today, Sevenhill is also highly regarded for its premium table wines, which are recognised for the regional qualities that have put the Clare Valley on the world stage. She bought a bottle of Late Harvest Gewurtztraminer which made its way back to Moraira. Sevenhill's old stone winery and cellar door, St Aloysius' Church, the College building, spacious gardens and the surrounding vineyards provide visitors with a different perspective on a winery. It is the only remaining Jesuit-owned winery in Australia, and resident Jesuits are actively involved in Sevenhill's ongoing development. The Jesuit Mission uses the profits from their wine to support works of charity throughout Australia. Mind you we did not actually see any Jesuits while we were there

 

We enjoyed a morning in Burra, a pastoral centre and historic tourist town east of Clare. The town began as a single company mining township that, by 1851, was a set of townships (company, private and government-owned) collectively known as "The Burra". The Burra mines supplied 89% of South Australia's and 5% of the world’s copper for 15 years, and the settlement has been credited (along with the mines at Kapunda) with saving the economy of the struggling new colony of South Australia. The Burra Burra Copper Mine was established in 1848, mining the copper deposit discovered in 1845. Miners and townspeople migrated to Burra primarily from Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Germany. The mine first closed in 1877, briefly opened again early in the 20th century and for a last time from 1970-1981.

When the mine was exhausted and closed the population shrank dramatically and the townships, for the next 100 years, supported pastoral and agricultural activities. Today the town continues as a centre for its surrounding farming communities and, being one of the best-preserved towns of the Victorian era in Australia, as a historic tourist centre. Burra's population has declined from a peak of 5,000 in 1851 to a present figure of approximately 1,000. The dramatic decrease at the end of mining inhibited expansion and helped preserve many of the original buildings and houses.

We went to the tourist board and purchased the key and guide book to "do" the heritage trail. With heritage listed sites scattered in and around the area, offering a 'passport key' to go and explore the sites works well. Presumably it would not be economic to have guardians at each site, so they have solved the problem with the key. The key permits entry to attractions such as the Redruth Gaol and Miners' Dugouts in the bank of the Burra Creek, while the passport includes entry to Burra’s three museums during their opening hours - hmm!? . .only one was open while we were on the trail. One can tour past, or into, 49 historic sites (including industrial and civic buildings, chapels, residences etc.,) over an 11 km driving trail.

This chimney standing at the entrance to the Burra Mine site, is a reconstruction of the original chimney for Peacock’s Winding Enginehouse built in 1857. In 1971 when the engine house was removed to make way for the modern open-cut mining operation, this flue was dismantled and rebuilt on this site by the National Trust. The figure at the top of the chimney is Johnny Green, the mascot of the Burra miners. Originally made of wood it stood atop Roach’s Pumphouse until 1855. It was replaced with one of sheet-iron at the top of the shears above Morphett’s shaft in 1858.

Around 600 dugouts were excavated in the banks of the Burra Creek between 1846 and 1851, to provide accommodation for an estimated population of 1800. This was over 40% of the population of what was, then, the seventh largest settlement in Australia. As a result of the lack of available accommodation, these primitive dwellings were constructed in the banks of Burra Creek. Known as miner's dugouts, they are basically a hole dug into the side of the creek with a roof on top. It was cheap for the miners to live here because if they built anywhere else on the Burra lease, they had to pay rent to the mining company. Although recent archaeological work has found that some dugouts had white-washed walls and glass windows, conditions were still damp and often unsanitary, contributing to epidemics of typhus and smallpox.

On to the Flinders Ranges

Australia 2013/2014