tortoise logo Willunga, SA

Sun 22 Feb 1998

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Started the day in the Milang Railway Museum.

For a tiny town with apparently nothing going for it, this is a surprisingly successful enterprise. They are open every Sunday and they get about 6000 visitors a year.

The place is impressive not so much for what it contains but for the enormous local effort which has gone into it. All the major exhibits, including the station building itself, have been donated, or bought, and move to the site. The tracks have been relaid and the rolling stock refurbished and returned to the rails.

The plans for the future include refurbishment of the pier and the dredging of a marina between the station and the pier. One would have to say that this all seems unlikely but the same would have been said about what has so far been achieved.

We were shown around by an amazing old character, 76 years old, born and bred in the town, one of its most successful farmers, full of reminiscences and real information about what life and farming have been like in this town for the last seven decades. "I remember the trains coming onto the pier to unload the paddle steamers", he said.

His great grandfather settled in 1837 and neither he nor his son ever accumulated any wealth. Jack's son now runs the farm and is buying an air drill for direct seeding his paddocks at a cost of $90,000, presumably the family is now successful.

We were privileged to get a relatively intimate insight into the lives of other people.

Jack talked about the problem of salinity in the lakes. He reflected that the lakes were mostly fresh when Europeans arrived only going salt in years when the Snowy Mountains suffered a severe drought. The ecology of the lakes had evolved to cope with this and there was long term stability. In the thirties it was decided, by those who decide such things, that the water quality in the lakes and the lower Murray would be improved by building barrages to keep the seawater out of the lakes. To quote Jack "The lakes haven't settled down yet even though its been sixty years". For example, there has been a great weed infestation which has gone away only with the arrival of the carp. They take 80 tonnes of carp a week from Lake Alexandrina!.

We went to Goolwa to see the barrages. There are five in all with a total length of some kilometres, quite an imperessive piece of civil engineering for sixty years ago. We watched some little boats going out through the lock and were reminded of an afternoon's entertainment watching English holidaymakers taking their narrow boats through the locks in Bath when we were on holiday there.

The road from Goolwa to Willunga has a sign "Low branches for next 16 km Pruning planned", a bit of a worry for the driver of a 3.4 metre high motorhome. We had a tense quarter of an hour but in the end there were no low branches, just a sign which had not been removed.

The Motley is now parked in front of Joy's house, two wheels up on ramps, with electricity laid on so all is very homely.

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Created on 22 Feb 1998 - Last revised Mon, 11 May 1998