In the spirit of our bioregional walking tours, Sophie and I recently set out to follow the Pioneer Women’s Trail from Beaumont to Verdun. In the words of the official promotional spiel, “The Pioneer Women’s Trail honours the early European settlers who supplied Adelaide with fresh produce at a time when most foodstuffs had to be imported into South Australia. In 1838 this British colony was barely two years old when Lutheran refugees arrived from Prussia. In the picturesque Onkaparinga River Valley, fifty-four families were the first to establish a farm village which they named Hahndorf after Captain Hahn of the Zebra. The women and girls were the first to supply Adelaide with fresh vegetables and dairy produce from the Mount Barker district. At midnight they left Hahndorf with laden baskets to walk barefoot to Adelaide 35 km distant. They carried stout sticks, fearing outlaws along the forest track.”
According to assorted historical markers and guides, they would go barefoot in order to save shoe leather, and the point where we started the walk, at Beaumont, was the point where they would rest and soothe their feet in the creek before descending to the city to sell the wares they’d carried in baskets or yokes. On the return journey they would carry back additional supplies, and profits they’d made and two bricks each, for contributing to the construction of the Hahndorf church.
Starting out early on a Sunday morning, the trail winds up past Beaumont’s mansions through gullies and ridges towards Mount Osmond. Behind the first crest of the hills above Beaumont, we could see the Adelaide Hills rolling back towards Mount Lofty, still green from the rains of the cold months. Like the Yurrebilla trail, the Pioneer Women’s Trail is a powerful way to build an understanding of how the landscape changes, and how each valley or hill connects to each other – an understanding of the landscape that is often lost when driving on the same freeway through to the same locations. Walking a trail like this helps to reinterpret the familiar landscapes through their ecology rather than solely by which roads link them.
The trail links a number of existing trails, and broadly follows the South Eastern Freeway to its end point in Verdun. Highlights include the initial ascent up from Beaumont, and a section of the trail through Cleland, where you’re able to see the forested landscape descending from Mount Lofty towards the sea in the ‘Tiers’ described by the early colonists (and from which the Tiersman foresters and bandits took their name).
While the walk through suburban Crafers and Stirling with the roar of the freeway in the background is less sought after, at the more peaceful edges of the Mount George Conservation Park we were joined by Jeremy and Innis, who escorted us, together with Scarlet Robins, Blue Wrens, Grey Fantails and Currawongs through the Stringybark forest and into Bridgewater. From Bridgewater, the walk scrambles across Cox’s Creek and takes country lanes before it (abruptly) terminates on the outskirts of Verdun. While its proximity to the freeway doesn’t always make for getting lost in nature, the Pioneer Women’s Trail is a great day’s bioregional exploration and a fitting story to weave into the landscape.