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Beaconsfield gold breeds miners made of the right stuff

May 09, 2006
Beaconsfield gold breeds miners made of the right stuff

The amazing Beaconsfield gold mine cave in survivors Brant Webb and Todd Russell walked out of their 1.2m by 1.2m hard rock prison just before 6am on Monday, May 8 after being trapped for 14 nights and underlined that the miners of North West Tasmania are made of the right stuff.

In the early 1900s Beaconsfield was big news too as gold made it the third biggest town in Tasmania. Beaconsfield was once called Brandy Creek back around 1878.

But the name did not suit the parishioners of the, Church of England so Brandy Creek is now forever set in Aussie mine rescuehistory as Beaconsfield.

The Tasmanian hard rock miners of today have a proud heritage. Beaconsfield has attracted skilled, tough miners since gold mining began in 1877 and reached a peak when the Tasmanian Gold Mine, the biggest in the state, operated in Beaconsfield.

Beaconsfield is 39 km (about 40 minutes northwest of Launceston) on the West Tamar Highway, which runs up the western side of the Tamar River.

There are apple-orchards all around the area and and oysters fatten in leases in the beautiful Tamar River.

The headframe viewed from behind the Main Street, Beaconsfield, courtesy Beaconsfield Gold NL
The headframe viewed from
behind the Main Street, Beaconsfield,
courtesy Beaconsfield Gold NL

Gold was first discovered in the area in about 1847 although it was not until 1869 that alluvial gold was panned.

By 1877 major gold companies were in the area and by 1881 Beaconsfield was the richest gold town in Tasmania.

At its peak there were 53 companies working the goldfields.

Beaconsfields Grubb Shaft Museum Complex. on West Street, is based on the gold mining era between 1877 and 1914.

There is a miner's cottage, the Flowery Gully School - a one teacher school built in 1892, a shop from the period, and the original Tasmania Gold Mine.

Extremely high gold grade in quartz reef, courtesy Beaconsfield Gold NL
Extremely high gold
grade in quartz reef,
courtesy Beaconsfield Gold NL

The Grubb Shaft mine went down more than 470m and was worked for 37 years yielding 26 tonnes of gold.

But flooding problems closed it in 1914.

Mine pumps, which are part of the display could not cope with the water which poured into the shafts.

The Grubb Shaft Museum is open from 10 am to 4 p.m. daily in summer time.Beaconsfield also made Australian news in 1953 when it was the first Australian town to fluoridate its water.

Launceston Visitor Information Centre says there is plenty to see:

Mourners gather for Larry Knights funeral
Mourners gather for
Larry Knights funeral

Bradys Lookout is named after bushranger Matthew Brady, who used this vantage point to sight travelers
Historic Rosevears Hotel was built by William Rosevear and first licensed on September 24, 1831.
Rebecca Monument - the 29 tonne cutter Rebecca was built and used by John Batman to found the city of Melbourne in May 1835.
Supply River Flour Mill Ruins - Ruins of the first water driven flour mill in Tasmania built in 1825 by Andrew Charlton closed in 1888.
Auld Kirk Sidmouth - is a well known historic Presbyterian landmark in the Tamar Valley. It was built in freestone by convict and free labour in 1843.
Batman Bridge - is one of the worlds first cable-stayed truss bridges dominated by the 100m high steel A-frame tower.

Two miners safe, but one lost
Two miners safe,
but one lost

Supply River Uniting Church - is one of the oldest surviving weatherboard churches in Tasmania.

Beaconsfield - is full of mining history and interesting old buildings, the Grubb Shaft Gold Heritage Museum shows the history and heritage of the area. There are more than 30 visitor-activated working models and machinery. There is something for the whole family.

Anderson Creek Monument - marks the discovery of the creek by Ensign Robert Anderson in 1804, where settlers from the Norfolk Island established farms.

York Town Monument - Lt. Colonel William Paterson established a military headquarters at this site in 1804.

George Town - Established in 1804, George Town is the oldest town in Australia.

Paterson Monument - is a monument which marks the spot on the riverbank where, in 1804, Lt. Colonel Paterson took possession of Northern Tasmania in the name of King George III.

The Grove - The Grove Georgian Open Home is a fascinating colonial home, try lunch or teas in the coffee shop or stay in cosy Nanna's Cottage.

Follow the Wine Trail signs
Follow the Wine Trail signs
Low Head Pilot Station Is a working Pilot Station with maritime and communications, museum and archive.

Windermere Church - is a splendid example of 1800s architecture which is worth photographs from both sides of the Tamar River.

Launceston and its river valley blend history, scenery, creativity, adventure, entertainment and fine food and wine.

The scenic Cataract Gorge Reserve, with its tree rhododendrons and peacocks, fern glades and spacious lawns is close by.

Its an adventurous city try rock climbing in Cataract Gorge or cable hang gliding at nearby Trevallyn.

For quieter experiences, the Queen Victoria Museum Art Gallery holds one of the nations best collections of colonial art.

Todays creative artists and craftspeople are also well represented the internationally acclaimed Wood Design Collection has its home in Macquarie House, Civic Square.
Cataract Gorge
Cataract Gorge

Join the action at the Country Club Resort, catch an open-air concert at the Basin, and sip a Tamar Valley wine or a James Boag Premium, voted the worlds best beer at the Australian Beer Awards, in one of the citys award-winning bistros and restaurants.

The Tamar Rivers quiet waters and sheltered shores provide a perfect environment for many species of waterbirds.

At Tamar Island, 8 km from Launceston, boardwalks let visitors stroll over the wetlands and see the birds in their own habitat.

Notley Gorge has deep fern glades, dense rainforest and waterfalls. Further north at Low Head on the eastern side of the river visitors can take a tour and watch fairy penguins coming ashore and nesting in the coastal scrub. A short charter boat trip links to Australian fur seals breeding on Tenth Island.

Tamar Island Visitors Centre
Tamar Island Visitors Centre
The picturesque Tamar River has created a fertile valley of beautiful and rich contrasts as it flows from Launceston to the sea.

The river meanders its way through scenic pastures, orchards, high-yielding vineyards and forests to Bass Strait. There are interesting towns and beautiful natural attractions throughout the valley.

To explore the many areas of interest and browse this stunning area, it is certainly worth an overnight stay with a variety of accommodation available.

The best way to explore the Tamar Valley is to leave the highways and wander through the country roads along the riverfront.

Throughout the valley there are road signs indicating the States official Wine Route and the majority of vineyards are open regularly for visitors. Most have cellar-door sales and several have their own restaurants.
Seahorse World
Seahorse World

A drive along the western side from Launceston reveals many small villages nestled on the riverbank, with various attractions such as wineries, orchards, a lavender farm, breathtaking wilderness areas, a Swiss Village, water bird sanctuaries and the Grubb Shaft Gold Heritage Museum, which is full of the history and heritage of the West Tamar.

The scenery is tranquil, beautiful and visitors are never far from the majestic beauty and influence of the river.

Many artists and crafts people have made the valley their home.

Seahorse World located on Inspection Head Wharf at Beauty Point (a short drive drive from Beaconsfield) is open for tours every day.
This attraction is a major draw card for visitors from around the world.
Cable hang gliding
Cable hang gliding

The West Tamar has vineyards, farms and orchards, with pretty detours along the banks of the broad Tamar River, and a panoramic sweep from Bradys Lookout on the West Tamar Highway.

The East Tamar experience starts at the picturesque hamlet of Hillwood.

Highlights include sampling some of the local produce with many of the hamlets orchards and farms open daily for inspection and tastings.

From Hillwood it is a short drive to historic George Town, Australias oldest town.

Visit The Grove, an elegant Georgian home, learn about the areas history on the George Town Heritage Trail or drive to the top of Mount George and capture the panoramic views on camera.

The George Town central business area provides a variety of choices for dining, shopping and accommodation.
Windermere Church
Windermere Church

Historic Low Head (just five minutes from George Town) is the seaside village where Tasmanians themselves choose to holiday.

It includes many historic and natural attractions, the most prominent being the historic Pilot Station and Maritime Museum, Australias oldest continuously operating pilot station.

The near nearby Low Head Light House is popular for its photographic opportunities.

A short walk away is the Low Head Penguin colony. Guided tours to the colony run daily about an hour before sunset.

The Tamar has a rich heritage the historic buildings of Beaconsfield recall the boom days of gold.

Today, perhaps the Tamar Valleys brightest gold is a swirl of delicious chardonnay, while some of tomorrows rich heritage rests in cellars, as precious bottles of pinot and cabernet age gracefully or some great bubbly.

The Tamar is Tasmanias most productive and best-established wine region.

Vines grow in tidy lines on gentle hills sloping down to the water, and mellow autumn sunshine ripens the grapes, adding unique cool-climate complexities of flavour to the Tamars widely acclaimed wines.

Editors note: GoSeeAustralia thanks Tourism Tasmania, Edenholme Grange the Tamar Island Visitor Centre and photographers Nick Osborne, Geoffrey Lea, Rob Burnett, Chris McLennan, Bill Bachman, Bob Iddon, Garry Moore, John Temple, and Dan Fellow for assistance with pictures in this feature.

Editors Note: Also see:
Low Head Lighthouse
Low Head Lighthouse