The recent passing of our patron, C Warren Bonython AO, brings cause to reflect on his remarkable spirit of adventure and dedication to bushwalking, conservation and science. Amongst the extraordinary legacy he leaves for future generations of South Australians is the Heysen Trail.
C Warren Bonython AO
11/9/1916 – 2/4/2012
The Heysen Trail Visionary
Here, we publish tributes from some people and organisations that have been inspired or impacted by Warren’s life.
By Robert Alcock
President, Friends of the Heysen Trail
Warren’s book Walking the Flinders Ranges opened the eyes of many people, inspiring countless others to get out and experience what he saw.
Sadly the Friends have lost not only our Patron, but also one of our strongest supporters. Warren had the vision and passion, driving discussions for many years, until finally, in 1978, the Heysen Trail construction was under way. With the formation of the Friends of the Heysen Trail group in 1986, he became our Patron and every year he would attend our AGMs, celebrations and events. This included our 25th anniversary events last year.
It was in typical Warren style that he arrived to our 25th anniversary picnic in Belair Park last October. The Friends had organised a car to collect Warren and Bunty and bring them to the picnic. However Bunty was not well, so the car was waved away as Warren took Bunty to hospital. Once she was settled, he drove himself to the picnic, arriving in perfect time to cut the cake. Our 95 year-old Patron was resplendent in his bright orange floral shirt and yellow shorts.
Before joining the Friends, I knew of Warren from his legendary walking expeditions, and also through my father. For many years dad and Warren participated in the Conservation Society of SA annual park surveys, each year camping in another park, recording the flora and fauna. I have since learned that this was just one of the many nature, heritage and conservation groups he actively supported. I did not know Warren well, however I was fortunate enough to meet and have a brief chat to him several times over recent years. His eyes would sparkle as he took a lively interest in what was happening about him.
Walking was Warren’s way of connecting to the earth’s many environments. He believed that if others were to see and value the country, then they too would want to care for it.
Warren’s book Walking the Flinders Ranges opened the eyes of many people. In it he described what he saw and experienced, and this has inspired countless others to get out and experience it for themselves. Walking was Warren’s way of connecting to the earth’s many environments. He believed that if others were to see and value the country, then they too would want to care for it. From that vision the Heysen Trail was created and becomes his lasting legacy, more tangible than his huge contribution to conservation and heritage groups in SA. Warren had good foresight, energy and determination, and he applied this to the benefit of our society here in South Australia.
A truly unique character, our friend and Patron. Vale C Warren Bonython AO, we miss you.
Lincoln Gore, Berri
Sad news indeed – I met Warren several times when I was living ‘up the bush’ – spent a fantastic evening (well into the early morning) with him and other Royal South Australian Geographical members in about 1991 just off the Birdsville track. He also circumnavigated Lake Eyre on foot with my ‘old’ geography teacher, Terry Krieg – this exploit being well chronicled in Terry Krieg’s book, Walking on Eyre.
By Thelma Anderson
The late C Warren Bonython AO, who, sadly, passed away on 2 April, 2012 at the age of 95, has left a priceless legacy for all recreational, as well as scientific activists throughout South Australia and beyond its boundaries, by his example and contribution to the walking community throughout his lifetime. Warren passed away, not as the result of accident or illness, but at the end of his long and fulfilled life spent walking and working in the Northern Flinders Ranges. Above all else Warren was a conservationist of the natural environment, particularly of the unique northern South Australian environment.
Many of his experiences are recorded in the publication Walking the Flinders Ranges, a unique document that many walkers, particularly of the northern regions, are proud to possess. Just glancing through the pages of this book is an experience in itself. The increasing number of walkers within the ARPA (Australian Retired Persons Association) membership who have walked the entire length of the Heysen Trail will also be able to attest to the experiences the Trail offers. Some of these identities have also followed in their footsteps to Innamincka and the South Australian-Northern Territory border – experiencing the unique, rugged environment of South Australia’s northern regions – Mount Babbage for example, the originally intended northern extension of the Heysen Trail. Continuing northwards Mount Hopeless stands amongst the bleached rocks and assorted native plants – a truly inspirational experience of isolation to be there!
Warren was also a source of great support and wisdom to the late Terry Lavender in delineating the route of the Heysen Trail as well as securing walking access in certain areas of more southern locations of the Trail. I clearly recall our journey to Burra to meet with Mrs Tennant for permission to locate the Heysen Trail along sheep tracks through Princess Royal Station in order to connect existing northern sections of the Trail with those south of Burra and to avoid the use of developed roads. Terry had done his homework, part of which was to request Warren to accompany him, and myself, to the Princess Royal Homestead, on foot, across the sheep tracks for a scheduled meeting with the late Mrs Tennant (and her accountant) to discuss Terry’s request. An early start had been necessary for this appointment and we set out on foot with due anticipation of successful negotiation with the prominent landowner. Terry and I puffed breathlessly along one of the steep tracks in search of Warren who had forged ahead, when at 12.00 pm we finally found him with lunch box open containing a sandwich and a measured allocation of red wine! (It was lunch-time!)
We paused to confirm our plans for the meeting with the landowner and continued towards the homestead. On arrival a lengthy, but amiable discussion ensued and the sought-after permission was granted following discussion with the accountant and assurances given by Terry relating to walkers’ respect for private property. The lavish accoutrements of the homestead could only be compared to a visit to Buckingham Palace in the Bush. The successful negotiations for safe walking access through Princess Royal Station were concluded and celebrated in the usual manner of an alcoholic toast from the bar. From that moment on all walkers passing through Princess Royal Station were assured of safe, and legal access as they journey onwards to the northern extremity of the Heysen Trail at Parachilna – at least throughout the ownership of Princess Royal by Mrs Tennant and, of course, through the Friends’ valued association with our Patron, C Warren Bonython. It was a memorable day and an important and unforgettable milestone in building the Heysen Trail.
We mourn the loss of our distinguished Patron and extend heartfelt sympathy to Bunty Bonython who has also become well-known to many Heysen Trail walking enthusiasts.
It must have been 40 years ago when I first heard Warren speak and I am certain it was about his book Walking the Flinders Ranges. Warren described how he walked the Flinders Ranges from Crystal Brook to Mount Hopeless over an 18 month period. I was about 25 years old and Warren was 55 years. I had been bush walking for about 10 years and had been walking in the Flinders Ranges, (Wilpena Pound) once.
What was this man doing; using a light plane for transport, carrying not one but two heavy bottles of expensive wine 120 odd kilometres in up to 38 degree temperatures.
I marvelled at what this ‘old’ man achieved compared to what I thought I could do as a much younger man. What was this man doing; using a light plane for transport, carrying not one but two heavy bottles of expensive wine 120 odd kilometres in up to 38 degree temperatures. Warren’s H-frame rucksack weighed 89 lbs (40 kg), while I struggled to carry half that. I was envious.
The thing I remember most clearly from Warren’s talk is him toasting Her Majesty The Queen with Penfolds Grange Hermitage on the summit of Mt Hopeless. Now that is something I would like to do!
Warren was a beautiful man and did some amazing things. My parents often talked about his exploits as they were of the same generation. His work in relation to the initial idea of the walking trail which is now the Heysen Trail has proved to benefit so many people and he will be long remembered.
Memories of C Warren Bonython AO
By Simon Blight
Some years ago, in the mid-1990s, my childhood interest in bushwalking and camping was reignited as an adult by reading a copy of Walking in the Flinders Ranges by C Warren Bonython. The book meant a lot to me as I read and personally walked a few of the trails in the Flinders and was able to relate to much of the text and photographs that Mr Bonython had included in his now reprinted book, which was out of print for some years.
Never being backward in coming forward, I plucked up the courage to telephone Mr Bonython asking him if we could meet, chat a little more about the Flinders, thank him for all the enjoyment his book had bought me and hopefully have him personally sign my book.
I am delighted to say that Mr Bonython was only too happy to both accept my telephone call and make a time to meet late morning one Sunday after he had been to church with his wife, Bunty.
Our morning tea in the magnificent lounge room of Mr and Mrs Bonython’s timeless residence Romalo at Magill was an hour I will never forget. Warren (as he insisted I call him) took great delight in personally engaging with me, reminiscing about his time in the Flinders Ranges and, after disappearing for a few minutes, presented me with a pristine copy of another of his books Walking the Simpson Desert, which he signed along with my old copy of Walking the Flinders Ranges.
Mr Bonython also revealed when I asked about his beautiful home, that he and his beloved wife Bunty had lived there since they were married, having bought the home from her parents. He proudly told me of his devotion to his wife and family and laughed about the fact that his wife – as a child, teenager, young adult, wife, mother and grandmother – had only ever lived in one home!
The Friends of the Heysen credit the combined efforts of Warren Bonython & Terry Lavender with the concept and creation of the Heysen Trail – an achievement that many generations of South Australians will be forever grateful.
Conversation led to Mr Bonython’s understated (by him) role in the creation of the Heysen Trail together with the late Terry Lavender, and his ongoing involvement with the Friends of the Heysen Trail as their Patron. The Friends of the Heysen credit the combined efforts of Warren Bonython & Terry Lavender with the concept and creation of the Heysen Trail – an achievement that many generations of South Australians will be forever grateful.
I am happy to say that I have had the pleasure of meeting up with Mr Bonython and his wife Bunty again at two recent Annual General Meetings of the Friends of the Heysen Trail where Warren proudly served as the Patron.
As I reminded him of our meeting some 15 or so years earlier, he was genuinely pleased that our meeting and conversation had led to my joining the Friends of the Heysen Trail, and to the enjoyment that membership of such an organisation can bring.
Vale C Warren Bonython AO (1916 to 2012), a great South Australian and co-creator of the Heysen Trail. I extend my most sincere condolences to Mrs Bunty Bonython and the Bonython family.