Stage Two – Cudlee Creek to Burra

The First End-to-End walk of the Heysen Trail

Walking through Warren Conservation Park
Resting on the summit of Mount Crawford
Morning after the storm at the Ross Fire Track
Dry stone wall running up the the summit of Kaiserstuhl
Crossing the North Para River
Looking north from the summit of Belvidere
Nearing Kapunda
Historic concrete bridge over River Light
Anlaby Shearing Shed
Approaching the northern end of the Tothill Range
Walking through the Hallelujah Hills
Walking along the Burra Creek in Worlds End Gorge
The end of Stage Two at Burra

It seemed no time at all since completing our Cape Jervis to Cudlee Creek walk before we re-assembled at Cudlee Creek on Tuesday 23 August 1983 to commence the second stage of our walk to Mount Babbage. Our next immediate destination was Burra in the Mid North.

Our number had reduced from the original eleven who had left Cape Jervis on 25 April that year although Carlien Melrose had re-joined us after walking the sections she had missed after leaving the first stage at Myponga. This had been done in stages, mainly on weekends. We had been joined by my cousin, Richard, who would walk with us for the first few days. John Dunn had been unable to escape his busy Penola medical practice, but Bob Nicolle, Lyn Steven, Cameron Storey, Dick Grant and Harold (Woody) Woodward were continuing.

One of the big considerations in planning the overall walk was making the Mid North section (part of the Northern Mount Lofty Ranges) as attractive as possible for our walk. The Heysen Trail had not been built beyond the Barossa Valley and we would not meet a built section of the Trail until we reached Hawker a few days into the fifth stage of the walk. Although hilly in parts, the Mid North has been heavily cleared, with little remnant vegetation. Vistas and views that inspire exhausted walkers were also likely to be missing for most of the walk and finding the best, most attractive route for the walk had been challenging.

Several possible routes had been discovered by close inspection of the 1:50,000 topographical-cadastral maps of the area. Several trips into the region in the weeks preceding the start of the second stage confirmed the most appropriate route. In fact some of the areas found provided a pleasant surprise in regard to walking quality. For the second stage I had contacted about 20 landowners to obtain permission to cross their properties. Only one had refused permission.

Following a brief photo session we left the Cudlee Creek kiosk and campground, crossed the River Torrens and followed the bitumen road to Chain of Ponds, passing the Millbrook Reservoir on our left. Just north of Chain of Ponds we left the bitumen and followed logging tracks in a section of the Mount Crawford Forest Reserve. The track rose gently, passing Simmonds Hill before we emerged onto grazing land. Crossing Checkers Hill Road we soon came to the summit of Mount Gould (531 metres), our lunch spot.

It had been an interesting morning, re-establishing friendships made in during the first stage. Everyone was pleased the walk was again wending its way north.

After lunch we followed a road reserve down from the summit of Mount Gould, joining and then following Norsworthy Road for several kilometres before diverging along a road reserve to the left and entering another section of the Forest Reserve. A steep descent into a creek system and a steeper rise out on the other side brought us to another road reserve which led us north through open farmland to Watts Gully Road. About a kilometre along the road we entered the Warren Conservation Park. Crossing a stile we followed a narrow walking trail through the Conservation Park, looking for a suitable campsite which we found about a kilometre inside the Park.

Despite the steepness of some sections of the trail we followed, our progress for the day had been excellent. Each lunch and campsite for the whole of the walk had been planned in advance and generally, as we had that day, we achieved our target.

As was our usual custom we left camp at about 8.00 am the next morning, and continued the delightful walk along a narrow trail through the Warren Conservation Park. After an hour we emerged onto grazing land, reaching a fire observation tower shortly afterwards. The Warren Reservoir was in plain view to the north and the South Para Reservoir could be seen to the west. Further out to the west, over Gulf Saint Vincent, ominous dark clouds were visible. The weather the previous day had been excellent but this, clearly, was not going to last.

Following a substantial track to the east we entered a mature Pinus radiata plantation. Our next break was adjacent to the Williamstown to Birdwood Road. Soon after the trail swung abruptly to the north and we began a gradual 125 metre ascent through a magnificent grove of native vegetation to the summit of Little Mount Crawford (525 metres) and then descended rapidly to the banks of the South Para River where we stopped for lunch. Talk at lunch centred on the approaching storm and whether we would be in camp before it arrived.

Immediately after lunch the trail took us steeply up to the summit of Mount Crawford (562 metres), before dropping just as steeply down the other side. Proceeding north we left and then re-entered another Pinus radiata plantation. After climbing a high ridge onto the Wirra Wirra Peaks (592 metres and 577 metres) we walked across open grazing land. The view with the rapidly approaching storm was spectacular. As we reached the microwave tower on the ridge the storm arrived. In just a few moments the rain was teeming down.

A kilometre to the north, in heavy rainfall, we reached the Ross Fire Track. The built section of the Heysen Trail went south, down a valley to the end of the currently built section a few kilometres on at Tweedies Gully. Our route however was to the east. We had planned to camp adjacent to the Ross Fire Track and found a suitable site several hundred metres up the Track. Within minutes of reaching the campsite everyone had their tents erected and had retreated inside to change into dry clothing to remain as dry as possible whilst preparing an evening meal. By 5.30 pm, as the rain continued to teem down, I had finished my meal and had got into my sleeping bag, managing to stay relatively dry. I hoped my companions were similarly comfortable. To venture outside to check would have resulted in becoming completely saturated in seconds.

The rain continued to fall throughout the night, lessening just before dawn. Light showers continued to fall as we had breakfast around a miserable fire, produced only by the combined heroic efforts of Bob and Woody for half an hour. Packing our wet tents (and for several – wet sleeping bags) we bid farewell to Richard who was walking down to Lyndoch to be picked up and taken to his home in Adelaide. We walked east up the Ross Fire Track to its junction with Trail Hill Road, then north around the back of the Pewsey Vale property along Corryton Park Road for a short distance and then Brownes Road. We had intended to climb the nearby Pewsey Vale Peak but the continuing drizzle and the low cloud obscuring the summit convinced us otherwise.

After crossing Jacob Creek we entered yet another Pinus radiata plantation and followed a series of logging tracks north, arriving at the back of Kaiserstuhl at lunch time.

The lunch site was soon festooned with drying tents, sleeping bags and other items. Fortunately the rain had ceased and gradual emergence of the sun and a light breeze was providing a valuable service. Whilst our equipment was drying Bob, Woody, Lyn and I climbed the 150 metres to the top of nearby Kaiserstuhl (600 metres). This attractive, distinctly German name was the original name of the peak which had been reinstated after it had been named Mount Kitchener during World War One. A feature of the summit, apart from the splendid views out to the west to Gulf Saint Vincent, was the dry stone walls running up to the trig point on the summit from several directions. In South Australia’s early days the fixing of property boundaries were often based on trig points at high points, necessitating fences to be laboriously constructed to those difficult locations.

The sun and the breeze had dried most of our equipment and after repacking we moved on, passing the Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park on our right and following a series of road reserves down to our campsite at Bethany Reserve on the banks of Tanunda Creek. We had arrived early which gave the opportunity to finish drying equipment that had not completely dried at Kaiserstuhl. Bethany was the site of the original settlement in the Barossa Valley by early German immigrants.

A short walk along Thiele Road and then Basedow Road the next morning brought us into Tanunda where we met the District Clerk of the local council and a reporter from the local newspaper. By chance we also met the proprietor of Heinemann Park, a local tourist complex incorporating a well-known restaurant. On learning of the purpose of the walk and proposed route through the Barossa Valley he offered to deliver us a cooked lunch at a pre-arranged location later that day – an offer that could not be turned down!

The original route planned through the Barossa Valley included crossing the North Para River via a swinging bridge, one of the few remaining in the state, but it had been washed away in the floods that followed the Ash Wednesday fires and was yet to be replaced. We crossed the river by a nearby vehicular bridge, and walked along a series of secondary and minor roads, reaching the Seppelt family crypt at Seppetsfield in time for our important lunch appointment. Lunch soon arrived – a selection of German sausage, cooked cabbage and strudel cake – not exactly a typical hikers lunch but much appreciated.

After lunch we continued to walk along several minor roads on the western side of the Barossa Valley and then a sealed road that passed under the Sturt Highway. Following minor roads enabled us to skirt around the western edge of Greenock and walk to the base of Belvidere, a peculiarly named local hill, part of the western range that defines the Barossa Valley. Leaving our packs, Bob, Woody, Lyn and I climbed the 100 metres elevation to the trig point on the summit (~ 390 metres). We used the opportunity to survey the country to the north, identifying the areas we would be walking through over the next few days. Our return to our waiting companions was delayed as Woody had lost his pedometer on the way up Belvidere, which despite much effort, could not be found. Minor roads took us north across the Greenock to Kapunda Road and then the Greenock Creek. Late in the afternoon we selected a campsite on a little used road reserve on the banks of a small creek. The owners of a nearby farmhouse were good enough to provide us with rain water. We were doubtful of the creek water because of the number of small pig yards we had seen on a number of the farms we had passed by that afternoon.

The weather had cleared up and the next morning promised further improvement. Walking along the secondary and minor roads towards Kapunda was difficult because of the muddy sections on the mainly gravel roads. Frequent clay sections caused mud to build up under our boots and walking become arduous, and treacherous! Soon after crossing a ford over the River Light we entered Kapunda. After passing the old mine workings on our right we reached the main road at the southern end of the town and walked to the Post Office, our rendezvous point for our food resupply, in doing so, and to our amusement, passing a police speed detection unit in the process.

Our arrival in Kapunda coincided with a major anti-uranium protest rally over several days at Roxby Downs. We had erected our Jubilee 150 flag at the Post Office on our arrival and members of the group soon found, whilst visiting local shops for milkshakes etc, that we were being linked to this distant dispute.

Our food re-supply arrived just before noon and after packing we walked north out of the town along the main bitumen road. Several kilometres on we left the bitumen road and diverted to the north-east along a series of minor roads, crossing Allen Creek along the way. Several hours walking later, as we approached the historic Anlaby property, we crossed the River Light for the second time that day. We crossed by way of an old concrete bridge that had been built by the Dutton family that had owned Anlaby for a number of generations. I later heard that this bridge was one of the first steel re-enforced concrete structures built in South Australia. Another interesting feature in the immediate area was the phantom township of Victoria that was to straddle the River Light a kilometre or so to the west. Planned and surveyed soon after the discovery of copper at Kapunda by speculators, the town was just too far from Kapunda for miners to commute to and from the mines and the blocks were never taken up. The cadastral topographical map we were carrying showed just how extensive the town that was to be – but not a single building was ever built.

Passing the entrance to the Anlaby homestead we soon reached the vast Anlaby woolshed, near where the Mosey family, the owners of Anlaby, whom I’d met several weeks before whilst reconnoitring possible route for the walk, had given us permission to camp. The substantial nature of the many buildings on the property, from the shearing shed, the commodious shearers quarters and the meat house, was a fascinating insight into a past era and was the subject of much discussion around our campfire that night.

We woke the next morning to a severe frost and we were glad to start walking as soon as possible in order to warm up. We continued north along a minor road, through the small Buchanan settlement with its long abandoned hall, and soon came to and crossed Tamma Creek and the Marrabel to Eudunda road. This marked the start of the remarkable Tothill Range, a narrow north-south strike range that we were to walk along for the next 25 kilometres.

Discovering the Tothill Range had been quite a bonus. The Tothill Range forms the longest continuous area of native vegetation in the Mid North and was the ideal route for us to follow. Following the narrow ridge we slowly gained height and soon views over the country on either side of the range and to the south opened up. Mount Lofty and the Barossa hills were in plain view. Minor roads crossed the range every three or four kilometres. Lunch was taken at one of these crossings. In the mid afternoon we reached Smith Hill (615 metres). Later in the afternoon we walked down the eastern side of the ridge and camped next to a farm dam. Our route had be directly north for the entire day, which coupled with the great scenery and vegetation and the warm day after the freezing start had everyone in high spirits.

We returned to the ridge top the next morning and continued our journey north. Progress was slower as the ridge had become more rugged and was thickly vegetated in places. After passing Webb Gap we had lunch on Lagoon Hill (~ 690 metres), with excellent views of Apoinga and Porters Lagoon to the north-west and out onto the Murray plans to the west. Shortly after lunch we reached Niblet Gap where we left the Tothill Range, and walked down minor roads to the east, passing Brady Creek and Emu Downs. Soon after crossing over the Morgan to Whyalla pipeline we entered the Hallelujah Hills. A rough bush track led into the hills along a road reserve. We had an enjoyable but exhausting day on the northern end of the Tothill Range so we selected the first suitable campsite. Nestled in a thick grove of low trees and shrubs we soon had tea prepared and consumed and most retired early. Strong winds sprang up during the night and the surrounding vegetation continued to give loud warming of each approaching wind gust, resulting in a disturbed sleep for some.

The walk north-east through the Hallelujah Hills the following morning was an excellent experience, but all too soon we emerged from the eastern edge of the hills. Turning north we walked along undulating foothills and reached the Burra Creek and the Worlds End Gorge by mid-morning. Crossing the creek proved difficult but after scrambling across a convenient fallen River Red Gum to the other side we were able to commence a delightful walk upstream through the gorge. After five kilometres we stopped for lunch at Thirty Pound Pool, perhaps so named after the weight of a fish once pulled from the river at that point. Following the Burra Creek upstream again we established camp in the mid-afternoon, enabling Bob and I time to climb 260 metres to the summit of the nearby Burra Hill (608 metres).

The wind was blowing a gale as we reached the summit, and as a consequence we didn’t stay long after leaving the customary note in a receptacle in the substantial cairn at the summit. (This I later retrieved when I re-visited Burra Hill in 1986 with students from the Penola High School undertaking the Burra to Niblet Gap stage of the Jubilee 150 Youth Trek.)

We were in good spirits as we left our campsite the next morning, and continued walking north on the banks of the Burra Creek. We were due in Burra after lunch, the end point of the second stage and quarter of the way to Mount Babbage. By mid-morning we had reached the historic Princess Royal homestead and delighted in crossing the ancient swing bridge across the Burra Creek into the homestead’s extensive gardens. We were fortunate to meet the manager of the property who explained some of the history of the property and the magnificent two-storey homestead.

Following the road from the property further north towards Burra we stopped for lunch as we approached the southern outskirts of the town. Soon after lunch we were walking through the town’s streets and arrived at Market Square in the town centre at 2.00 pm. It had been an excellent walk with no unplanned withdrawals. Our schedule had been maintained and navigation had been free of incident.

It would be eight months before we assembled again at Burra to re-commence our journey north. By the end of the next stage we would be in the Flinders Ranges. Seven days of walking through the Mid North remained however and whilst the challenge of finding an interesting route between the Barossa Valley and Burra had been met the further challenge to make the walk from Burra to the southern end of the Flinders Ranges at Crystal Brook interesting and enjoyable remained. Hours of map reading and several field trips would be required in the months ahead to select the best possible route.

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