Sarah Jacob and Gerry Young discover the shadows of history speak of a colourful past
Photographs by Fiona Walsh
A crisp June morning in Tasmania. Frost sparkled on the car windshield under clear blue skies. We packed the vehicle ahead of two solid day trips around our green state, searching for signs of Tasmania’s rich mining heritage.
Driving up the Midlands Highway from Hobart, the observant traveller will discover a sculpture trail featuring more than a dozen metal silhouettes placed in the surrounding countryside, documenting Tasmania’s fascinating history. From bushrangers to the thylacine, stage coaches to the now locally extinct emu, you can read more about the history and folklore behind the Shadows of the Past sculpture trail by visiting the Southern Midlands Council website. Along the highway, many wildlife species can be easily be spotted, including wedge-tailed eagles, brown falcons, echidnas and even wild fallow deer.
Moving on through Scottsdale, we were keen to find the Mount Paris Dam, an impressive structure located along Mount Paris Dam Road (C425), between the towns of Branxholm and Weldborough. The site is just 100m from the road, but it is not clearly signposted – only a modest wooden post marks the turn-off to a small car park. A visit to the friendly staff at the Scottsdale Visitor Centre will aid you in your quest to detect the area.
As we stomped down the sandy trail, the wall of the dam suddenly materialised out of the bush on our right, its slate-grey concrete walls pockmarked with decay after decades of disuse. A narrow stream filters through a blast hole in the dam wall, created after the dam was decommissioned in 1947. The dam was originally known as the Morning Star Dam, and was built in 1936 to service the Mount Paris Tin Mine. At the outset, an 11km race connected the dam to the mine zone. Incredibly, the reinforced concrete slab and buttress structure was built by hand and had a capacity of 1300 megalitres. A camp was established for the dam workers and their families nearby during construction. Little now remains of the camp, but when we scouted around the surrounding area, we came across numerous relics.
Nearby Weldborough is an excellent place to visit for a pub meal or for an overnight stay. There are several heritage cottages available as accommodation through Airbnb or private rental. The town still bears the signs of its tin mining history. Weldborough is of particular note because many Chinese immigrants flocked to the town to work in the 1870s and their legacy can still be touched on. The local cemetery bears a shrine to these workers and outside the Weldborough pub, ornate Chinese dragons flank the doors.