Dry Creek Linear Park Mawson Lakes
Walkley Heights is located approximately 10 kilometres north east of the City of Adelaide. Dry Creek Linear Park forms a secluded nature corridor along Dry Creek, extending 3.5 kilometres from Walkleys Road to Bridge Road.
Nature trails wind through the Park and link with Founders Reserve on the eastern side and the Stockade Botanical Park on the western boundary. The trails provide easy access for visitors to enjoy the recreational and scenic value of the park. Car parking, toilet and picnic facilities are available, as well as electric barbecues located at the Stockade Botanical Park.
The undulating hills and the Dry Creek valley conserve important stands of remnant native flora, which once flourished across the Adelaide plains.
In the early spring, the hills are adorned with the blossoms of the Golden Wattle and Kangaroo Thorn, in contrast with the scarlet flowers of the South Australian Blue Gum. During the hot, dry, summer months, walks in the early morning or at sunset are a delight and are enjoyed by many residents. When the autumn rains begin, the native grasses are revitalised and the brown hills begin to turn green. Through the wet winter months small cascades link the shady pools that wind beneath the spreading branches of the River Red Gums.
In July 1854, twenty-five convicts were transported from Adelaide to a 160-acre reserve at Dry Creek, where they were to begin quarrying stone for use in the construction of buildings and roads. From that time on, the reserve was known as Yatala Labour Prison.
A branch from the Gawler railway line to the prison quarries was completed ion the late 1850s. The track entered from the west and extended along the southern bank of Dry Creek for several hundred metres. In 1861, two turntables were constructed towards the end of the track. Cart tracks branched out from the line and spanned Dry Creek to reach the heart of the quarries. The line was used to transport stone to Port Adelaide.
John Walkley, a farmer, arrived in Adelaide from England in 1840. He first settled in Dry Creek, and then later moved to Northfield. The Walkley farm was bounded by Walkleys Road to the west and Grand Junction Road to the south. The farm remained in the Walkley family until it was sold in about 1950.
The Yatala Powder Magazine was constructed in 1879 and used to store explosives for the nearby quarry operations. The Magazine had thick stone walls, internal timber lining, perimeter guard walls and a special lighting conductor to protect the sensitive explosives from the risks of sparks and fire. Thick rubber floor mats were used as a precaution and those in charge of handling explosives wore rubber soled shoes. The Yatala Powder Magazine can be found on the northern side of Dry Creek and can only be accessed from the trail of Tower Court in Walkley Heights.
Production from the quarries included high grade quartzite for building, road metal and a clay slate, which was used for production in a cement factory. Cross-jointing of the quartzite allowed rectangular blocks to be produced as ‘builders’. These were mainly used to form the lower courses for walls, between the foundations and the brick superstructure.
The prisoners, many of them in chains, worked in the quarries for eight hours a day, in well guarded gangs. As part of their daily duties, prisoners were required to break up a cubic yard of road metal to a 2 inch gauge. The quarries were worked by hand, with holes bored by hammer and drill, and then blasted. Large stones were broken with spalling hammers.
The prison quarries continued to be worked until the late 1960s. The old stone quarry faces can be clearly seen on the other side of the river from the Dry Creek Trail.
Three guard towers were constructed in 1870 to oversee prisoners working on the stone quarry on the oposite side of Dry Creek. Guard Tower One can be found on the southern side of the catchment, just below Yatala Labour Prison.
Guard Tower Two can be found on the northern side of the catchment and can be accessed from either the Dry Creek Linear Trail or off the trail at Pioneer Avenue in Walkley Heights.
Guard Tower Three can be found on the southern side of Dry Creek, and can be accessed off the trail, abouth 40 metres east from the second bridge crossing over Dry Creek.
The Blacksmith's Shop was constructed in 1854 by prisoners and was constructed using stone from the nearby quarries. For many years, the trades of boot making, tailoring, tinsmithing, blacksmithing, carpentry and canvas work existed at the Yatala Labour Prison. The Blacksmith's Shop can be found on the southern side of the catchment; there is also a picnic table here which is located here which is a perfect opportunity to have a rest and take in the natural environment and nearby historical sites.
The 55 hectares of land adjacent to the prison was purchased by R.M.Williams in July 1951. An impressive R.M.Williams homestead was built using stone from a quarry on Dry Creek, but after the land use changed in the late 1980's by correctional services, the homestead was demolished. It was thought the homestead may be used as a hiding place by prison escapees.
A small cottage was built as the Stockmen's Quarters; this along with the stable and ruins of the pump house next to the creek still remain.
Rodeos were held on the property and thousands of visitors gathered on the terraces, on the southern side of Dry Creek to enjoy the spectacle. This site can be accessed from Parkway Avenue, Walkley Heights.
Dry Creek is an ephemeral stream, flowing during wet winter months and usually drying up in summer, leaving only a few shallow pools. The catchment extends into the Mount Lofty Ranges and covers an area of over 100 square kilometres. Dry Creek travels some 28 kilometres before it flows into the Barker Inlet, at Swan Alley Creek.
The native vegetation conserved within the Dry Creek Linear Park forms a corridor for wildlife in a suburban environment. The various plant communities create a variety of habitats for wildlife. Along the creek, the river red gums are a haven for numerous bird species, and hollows in the trees are home to bats and brush tail possums. Golden Wattles are scattered along the creek, and the weeping branches of Willow Wattles overhang the banks.
The pools and reed beds attract a few aquatic bird species, including the Australian Grey Teal, White-faced Herons, Cormorants, and the Pacific Black Duck. Other birds common in the park include the Willie Wagtail, Yellow Thornbill, New Holland Honeyeater, White-cheeked Honeyeater, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Crested Pigeon, Murray Magpie, Australian Raven, Australian Magpie and Black-shouldered Kite. Frogs inhabit the grassy banks, reed beds and mud along the creek.
Where soils are deeper on the hillsides, the Mallee Box dominates. The small eucalypt grows to 5 metres and has a shiny rounded crown. Clumps of Kangaroo Thorn and Golden Wattle form an understory. Spiny plants attract smaller insect eating birds. The prickly habitat provides protection for nesting. Reptiles and invertebrates especially insects, are abundant throughout the area. Tussocks of Kangaroo Grass and stands of Spear-grass are shelter for Sleepy Lizards and large Blue Tongue Lizards. Snakes are occasionally seen, including the venomous brown snake.
An extensive tree planting program was commenced in 1996 and included revegetation of degraded areas. Previously exposed quarry works were landscaped with native species of grass, shrubs and trees, which are now well established. In many areas the park has been transformed. A good example is the use of trees to screen the northern perimeter of Yatala.
New plantings across the hills have included Mallee Box, South Australian Blue Gum, Golden Wattle, Kangaroo Thorn and Drooping Sheoak. Kangaroo Grass and Spear-grass were once widely distributed across the Adelaide plains and it is important that existing populations within the park are protected and encouraged to greater distribution.
In geological terms, up until early Tertiary times 60 to 50 million years ago, the catchment drained in a southerly direction, flowing into the Torrens River. In more recent times, during the Pleistocene and Holocene periods, which began about 1.8 millions years ago, tilting and uplifiting of land east of the Para Fault caused what is now Dry Creek, to drain in a westerly direction. Walkley Heights is part of the uplifted Para Fault Block.
The trench carved out by erosion to form Dry Creek, has exposed layers of Precambrian sedimentary rock (sought after in the quarries for building stone). These rock layers were formed from sediments which were deposited in the Adelaide geosyncline, a process which began about 900 million years ago and continued until about 520 million years ago. This rock formation continues north and similar rock is exposed in spectacular features in the Flinders Ranges. The ramparts of Wilpena Pound are carved from late Precambrian rock.
On the tops of the hills in the Park, outcrops of calcrete can be seen protruding through the thin layer of topsoil. Red brown earths start to appear below the top of the hills, and increase in depth towards the valley floor. The earths are underlain by variable calcareous slates and siltstone. Fragments of these greenish grey rocks can be seen exposed along the creek bed.