The first part
of our run to Old Government House at Belair followed the “old road to
Adelaide” route as far as Stirling and what memories that brought back. Not
only the road itself, but all the little shortcuts that we had to use when
trying to overtake trucks and semi-trailers. How did we ever survive? But on a
lovely autumn day this was a very pleasant drive despite the very dry
conditions. As we got closer to our destination, the countryside did start to
green up a bit and the trees started to show their autumn colours. This was
more like I had envisaged.
So, having met
up with the Wegeners and Chapmans at Kanmantoo and Tony Brine at Mount Barker,
we all made it to the Belair National Park despite my best efforts to lose a
few in the back blocks of Stirling. I was impressed that they all arrived. We
proceeded to Old Government House, where we were welcomed by Ray Wilkins and
his merry band of helpers. There were too many of us to do the tour in one
group, so we had to split, one group doing the tour straight away, the other
having tea, coffee and scones, then the groups swapping over. Weren’t the
scones great? However, I did not think we would all survive when something that
sounded like a small truck hit the roof. Ray calmly explained it was only a
Bunya nut from the huge tree overhanging the building we were in, but we never
did work out if it fell by its own accord, was dropped by the cockies or thrown
by the Koala.
The guided tour
started in the Old Government house itself. Built in 1860 as the Governor’s
summer residence, in reality it was more of a hunting lodge. Although a lovely
building, it is not large and nothing as grand as the summer house at Marble
Hill that replaced it around 1880. As the Governors of the time used their own
furniture, none of the items currently on display are original, however they
are period correct and have their own stories to tell, generally having been
previously owned by some of South Australia’s prominent citizens. The indoor
plunge pool is original though, the first in the state. Fed by spring water and
not heated, it would need to be a very hot day to entice me!
quarters and kitchen were also furnished with interesting household items of
the day and provoked many comments on their uses. The gardens with their
stately old trees and garden beds set the house off nicely.
When the house
ceased to be the Governor’s residence, it firstly, till 1885, became home to a
German chemist, Max Bernbaum, who converted the servants quarters into “the
Bi-Sulphide of Carbon Manufactory”, where he and 9 employees produced thousands
of gallons of rabbit poison to be supplied to the pastoralists, as rabbits were
in plague proportions in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Other residents followed before
the building was opened in 1961 as a National Heritage Monument, with the
Friends of Old Government House assisting in the restoration and
maintenance of the property.
We thanked Ray
Wilkins and the Friends of Old Government House for a very pleasant and
interesting morning before retiring to a nearby shelter shed for lunch in the
brilliant sunshine. What a pleasant setting. Eventually the group dispersed to
return home, although most could not resist a visit to the nearby State Flora
Nursery. I was impressed with the size of the whole setup and the variety of
plants and “things” for sale. I had thought that it may be tailored to high
rainfall areas, but that was not the case, as we purchased a couple of plants
that may even survive in our dry garden. Others must have thought so too, as
quite a few plants seemed to head off towards Murray Bridge.
And so it was time for us to head off home too. Thanks to all those who attended, hope you enjoyed the day.