Bothwell – Part One

Leaving Strahan yesterday, we drove through dense forest until we reached Queenstown. For 57 kilometres, the road was very curvy with hardly a straight section at all

From Queenstown, the scenery changed dramatically. The (almost) bare hills are not quite the ‘moonscape’ that they once were, but they are still quite dramatic. The evidence of past mining activity is very stark.

It seems that Queenstown is making the most of these bare hills. World class mountain bike tracks have been consructed in the hills surrounding the town and mountain biikers come from around the world to compete on them. This one looks terrifying.

We passed the ghost towns of Gormanston and Linda which serviced the historic and enormous Mount Lyall Mine. This old hotel building is one of the few remaining structures.

Mount Lyell Mining  Company was formed on 29 March 1893. Following consolidation of leases and company assets at the beginning of the twentieth century, Mount Lyell was the major company for the communities of Queenstown, Strahan, Linda and Gormanston. It remained dominant until its closure in 1994. During its life, mining operations produced more than a million tonnes of copper, 750 tonnes of silver and 45 tonnes of gold.  

East of Queenstown is the start of the walking track to Fenchman’s Cap. It’s one of the bushwalks that I never got to do in my hiking days. The car park was absolutely full so I can only assume that the camping area at the mountain would have been very busy. There is a short section of track that ;leads down to the Franklin River. In the early days bushwalkers had to wade across the river, but now there is a swing bridge crossing.

The landcape across this area of Tasmania with its highland plains are quite unique. Button grass grows in poor boggy soils. Extensive areas of this vegetation are spread across the western part of the state. We found this view at King William Saddle.

Our lunch spot was at Derwent Bridge from where a five kilometre long road travels to the southern end of Lake St Clair. This is the southern end of the world famous Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The Aboriginal people of the area called the lake Leeawuleena, meaning sleeping water. Carved out by ice during several glaciations over the last two million years, this is the deepest freshwater lake in Australia (167 metres) and the headwaters of the Derwent River. 

I was quite entertained by a short visit to ‘The Wall’ in Derwent Bridge. In a long building is a 100 metre series of panels, three metres high, of an incredible series of hand-carved huon pine sculptures. These tell various stories of life in Tamanaia through several stages of its history. . 

We were heading to the little town of Bothwell in the centre of the state but missed the first turn off the highway. By good fortune, we ended up going through the town of Hamilton.  It is a small Georgian and early Victorian village that  has remained largely unspoilt from its foundation days in the 1830s. It is sufficiently removed from the commercialisation of places like Richmond to offer an opportunity to experience what the villages of southern Tasmania were like in the 1830s and 1840s.

For example, the foundation stone for St Peter’s Church was laid in 1834 and it was completed in 1837. It was consecrated by Bishop Broughton, at the time the only Bishop of Australia, on 8 May 1838. The explanation for the church having only one door is a comment on the times. It was almost certainly to prevent the congregation, which was about 50 per cent convicts, from attempting to escape. The original church was a simple stone building. There were plans to add a spire to the tower in the 1920s but they never eventuated. The headstones around the church date back to the 1830s.

One of particular interest is that of Sarah Lane who died at the age of 8 years in 1844.

The inscription on the headstone reads:

This little inoffensive child
To Sunday school had trod
But sad to tell was burnt to deat
Within the house of God

The dropped ‘h’ is the result of the stonemason getting his measurements wrong while the untimely death of the child as a result of a Sunday school fire seems bizarre.

It was a short drive from Hamilton to Bothwell through pleasant grazing country.

Bothwell Historic Town is one of the most historically significant towns in Tasmania with a total of 60 buildings and locations of significant historic interest. The Visitor Information Centre has a small brochure titled ‘An Underrated Little Gem’ which provides a useful map to the town as well as short descriptions of the places of interest around the town. The Castle Inn dates from 1829 and is recognised as the second oldest continuously licensed hotel in Tasmania. So old is the hotel that there is evidence that local Aborigines performed a corroboree in front of the hotel in 1832.

We are staying at Ratho Farm which has an eclectic mix of quite nice accommodation in its old farm buildings.

‘Ratho’, itself, is a single storey stone house with wooden Ionic columns at the front. Built in the 1830s to a design by architect Andrew Bell it was the home of Alexander Reid. Ratho’s great claim to fame is that the Ratho Golf Course, on its property, is the oldest course in Australia and the oldest known course outside Scotland. Ratho is still a working farm with “grazing sheep maintaining the fairways and fences to keep them from the square greens, the course is a time capsule of how the game began and the way it was played during its first 500 years.” It is now over 190 years old.

2 thoughts on “Bothwell – Part One

  1. So enjoying this trip of yours. The mountain Bike course, OMG. silly question, where is the road that takes them to the top?

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