In step with history in Coromandel Valley
The Sturt River Linear Park walk in Coromandel Valley is a treasure-trove of beautiful scenery and historic learning.
Explore the heritage of Coromandel Valley along the Sturt River Linear Park walk, winding from Frank Smith Park on Magarey Road to Horner’s Bridge, about 3km downstream.
The walk highlights the beauty of the Sturt River, running over an ancient bed of bluestone rock. The path is well-constructed with brick paving to enable easy access for walking, biking and pram traffic.
“There’s a lovely view around every corner,” says Trevor Conlon OAM, chairman of the Coromandel Valley and Districts Branch of National Trust South Australia.
The trail can be enjoyed in full by starting at Frank Smith Park and commencing on a series of paths around the park itself, prior to walking on the paved pathway that follows the river through the historic township.
Adjacent to the carpark at Frank Smith Park is Magarey Orchard. The Magarey family established the orchard in 1909. As Trevor explains, it is the last remaining functional orchard in the community and is prized for the quality of its pears, apples and plums.
“Magarey Orchard is an interesting sideline if walking on a weekday as it is open for fruit sales on an honour system,” Trevor says.
Travelling from Frank Smith Park, the trail passes the old Methodist Church that is now a private residence. By crossing Main Road to the Lions Bookshed, walkers access the linear park pathway nearby Watchman House and the Winns Road Historic Precinct. There are four heritage listed places in this location being Watchman House (originally a butcher shop and residence, believed to have been built around 1890), Shepley House (built in 1860 as a general store and post office, now a private residence), Winns Bakehouse (built in 1878) and the Winns Road ford.
“Continuing down the path across Winns Road, immediately on the right walkers can go to the river’s edge and see the water cascading over the bluestone,” Trevor says.
“The path crosses the Sturt River at a number of locations. Take a break here and there. Sit and watch the water. Along the walk hear the sounds of the creek and admire the vegetation that’s providing habitats for fauna.”
Following the watercourse through the valley there is an area that has been planted with fruit trees, symbolic of the agriculture that was established in the area in the early pioneer days from the late 1840s and continued until the 1970s.
Traversing Shepherd Court, the path continues along the river to the Coromandel Valley Institute building, accessed by a flight of stairs. Built in 1881, the building no longer serves as a community hall but walkers will observe the work of local stonemasons.
Across the river behind the institute is the site of the old four-storey Jam and Biscuit Factory. Built in the late 1850s, the building was formerly owned by Alexander Murray and is now a private residence.
In its first decade, the factory produced more than 70 tonnes of biscuits each year, many of which were supplied interstate and to other British colonies. At its peak, around 60 people from the local community and surrounding area were employed to work in the factory. The site operated through to 1903.
There is work underway adding to the pathway further along the river to Horner’s Bridge, a classic single span stone arch built in 1866 by Nathaniel Horner and company.
The Coromandel Valley and Districts National Trust branch is working in collaboration with Onkaparinga and Mitcham councils on signage to tell stories and help interpret things seen along the path. The signs will be increased over time, steadily improving the storytelling process along the Sturt River Linear Park walk.
“Coromandel Valley has an ancient past that has provided water, food and shelter for people over thousands of years,” Trevor says. “First nations people in the area highly valued their country, community, culture, and clear water. Those same values can be shared by people currently living in and visiting Coromandel Valley in appreciating the area, our community life, our shared culture, and taking care of our waterways.”
Walking maps and information are available at Watchman House, 360 Main Road. COVID-19 has interrupted the opening of the house on regular Saturday mornings but people are invited to contact Bruce Harper, liaison officer of the local National Trust branch, to make an arrangement to meet and receive help with information. Phone 0474 066 776 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the Coromandel Valley and Districts Branch of National Trust SA on Facebook and at cvdnt.org.au
STROLLING THE STURT RIVER
Coromandel Valley residents Peter and Valerie McPherson have lived in the area for 50 years; Watchman House built around 1890; Winns Bakehouse built in 1878; Shepley House built in 1860; Shepley House and Winns Bakehouse pictured in 1914; the Coromandel Valley Institute built in 1881; the four-storey Murray family Jam and Biscuit Factory built in the late 1850s; the site of the Murray family Jam and Biscuit Factory is now a private residence; Horner’s Bridge built in 1866 to facilitate travel to Goolwa via Ashbourne, near Strathalbyn.