Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Burra, Clare Valley

Monster Mine, Burra, Clare Valley
I mentioned in our last post that we had been introduced to some friends of the homeowner, and had spent some time with them during our stay. Meeting new people is always a fun part of travelling, and we really enjoyed spending some time with them. It also gave me an excuse to cook a few times.

One of them also came out with us to the historical mining town of Burra, which was named after the Burra Burra Creek that flows through it. Back in 1851, around eight years after the first sketches for the settlement were drawn up, the town had grown to a population of around 5,000, which made it Australia's seventh largest town at the time. These days, the population is just under 1,000.

Burra was actually a group of small townships, which originated from the area being a rich source of copper, with many of the miners coming from the UK. We visited an old mining site from 1850, which was known as the Monster Mine. It was an important mine, and was fought over by two rival groups known as the Nobs and the Snobs.
Miners' dugouts, Burra Burra Creek, Clare Valley

Eventually it was agreed that the mine would be divided in half and they drew lots for who would get which. The Nobs got the southern half, which sadly turned out to be quite feeble, and quickly closed. The Snobs did rather better; they got the northern half, which became one of the best - and most profitable - in the world.

Of course, just because the mine was rich, didn't mean all of the workers were, and around 1,800 of the miners lived in 'dugouts' in the banks of the Burra Burra creek. These really are, as the name implies, just cave like holes dug out of the side of the banks.

Nic 'The Keymaster'
The mining area, the dugouts and other historical features of the town are all stops on the self-guided Burra Heritage Trail that you can do through the visitor centre. You have to pay a per person fee, and then receive a route map, some information about what you will see, and the all important key. You drive around the various locations, and can let yourself in through all of the relevant gates and doors with the key. Nic had our key, and soon garnered the nickname of The Keymaster. He took this role very seriously.

The Keymaster at work

Paxton Square Cottages, Burra, Clare Valley
There are quite a few stops on the tour, some of which are more interesting than others, so as it was a very hot day, we did pick and choose the ones we spent time at - generally speaking we favoured the ones with more shade. The Keymaster let us in to one of the thirtythree Paxton Square Cottages, which were built between 1849 and 1852 in an effort to rehouse some of the miners from the dugouts. The cottage has been furnished as it would have been.
Paxton Square Cottages, Burra, Clare Valley
Paxton Square Cottages, Burra, Clare Valley

Redruth Gaol, Burra, Clare Valley

We also took a look inside the Unicorn Brewery Cellars. The brewery dates back to 1873, but the above ground levels were demolished in 1911 to reuse the stone, after the new licensing laws of 1902 made the plant obsolete.

Another shady spot was the old Police lock up and stables, which dated from 1847, before the Redruth Gaol was built in 1856.

Redruth Gaol, Burra, Clare Valley
The Redruth Gaol was quite interesting to look inside. In 1897 the prisoners were transferred to Gladstone Gaol, and the building was turned into a Girls' Reformatory. There was quite a lot of information about the rules and way of life for both institutions, which I found quite fascinating. We also saw a shingleback skink.

On the way home, we stopped off at the Burra Scrumpy Company to try some rather nice ciders, and unsurprisingly, we took a few home with us too.

And here is an odd bit of trivia for you. Burra is known for it's merino wool. In 1970, the Collinsville Stud achieved a then world record price of AUS$27,000 for a merino ram. In 1988, Burra was declared the Merino capital of the world, and in that same year that a merino ram called JC&S Lustre 53 was sold in Adelaide for a new world record of AUS$450,000.

Monster Mine, Burra, Clare Valley

Monster Mine, Burra, Clare Valley

Royal Exchange Hotel, Burra, Clare Valley

Tiver's Row, Burra, Clare Valley

Redruth Gaol, Burra, Clare Valley

Redruth Gaol, Burra, Clare Valley

Shingleback skink, Burra, Clare Valley

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