Yesterday (Sunday 19th February 2017) I met up with a good mate and work colleague for some lunch over at Meadows in the Adelaide Hills. As we sat indoors enjoying our meal I couldn’t help but notice the quite heavy rain outside. I had planned on heading down to the foothills of Adelaide after lunch to activate the Brownhill Creek Recreation Park VKFF-1688, and it wasn’t looking promising. But at the conclusion of lunch, I decided to take my chances. Fortunately the rain cleared to intermittent showers as I got closer to town.
The Brownhill Recreation Park is situated about 8km south east of the city centre of Adelaide. This was to be the first time the park had been activated for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, so it was to be a unique park for me as an activator and a unique park for all the WWFF hunters.
Above:- Map showing the location of the Brownhill Recreation Park, south east of Adelaide. Map courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
Brownhill Creek Recreation Park is 51 hectares in size and is located in the foothills of the Mt Lofty Ranges, ‘Adelaide Hills’. The park is a popular multi-use recreation area which is also valued for its historic and scenic attractions. The park is linear in shape, with an average width of just 200 metres. It follows Brownhill Creek for about 4 km.
The creek flows through a steep sided valley with majestic River Red gums, some of which are more than 300 years old. Blue Gum woodland climbs the valley slopes which are dotted with golden wattle. The park also supports a small threatened, ecosystem of greybox grassy woodland. The park contains 27 plant species of conservation significance, including 5 at State level.
With the clearing of much of the native vegetation during the 1800’s for crops and sheep grazing, also came the introduction of numerous exotic species. Willows, Oaks, Poplars, and Walnut trees can still be found in the park today. The revegetation of the park with native species is gradually progressing thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Brownhill Creek Group.
Brown Hill summit can be located in the park. Unfortunately it does not have sufficient ‘prominence’ to qualify for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program. However, if you are keen to climb to the top, you will be rewarded with some great views. Brown Hill itself appears as one of the trig points for the first survey of land in South Australia during 1837 and 1838. These maps were published by the British Parliamentary House of Commons in 1841.
The creek valley is a natural wildlife corridor for over 40 species of birds and mammals. Native animals that are found in the park include the Brush Tailed Possum, Koala, Ruing-tailed possum, Swamp Rat, Bush Rat, Echidna, and the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot. The Southern Brown Bandicoot was once widespread across the Mount Lofty Ranges, but due to heavy predation by foxes, numbers have declined dramatically. Bird species in the park include the Kookaburra, Little Wattlebird, Superb Fairy wren, Rainbow Lorikeet, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, and White-faced Heron.
A number of bat species are also found in the park including Goulds Wattled Bat, Chocolate Wattled Bat, Southern Freetail Bat, Lesser Long Eared Bat, and Large Forest Bat. Various reptile species can be found in the park including Eastern Brown snake, Sleepy Lizard, Eastern Bearded Dragon, Eastern Blue-rongue lizard, Barking Gecko, and the Creamed-striped Shining Skink. Amphibians found in the park include the Common Froglet, the Bull Frog, and the Brown Tree Frog.
South Australia was proclaimed on the 28th December 1836 and by 1837 the SA Company established the No. 1 Sheep Station along the Brownhill Creek valley to hold sheep overhanded to feed the colony of South Australia. One of the earliest outlying communities to spring up in the new colony of South Australia was that of Mitcham, in 1840. Mitcham is located just below the current day Brownhill Creek Recreation Park. There are numerous historic buildings remaining in Mitcham dating back to the 1880’s, with interpretive signs explains their historical importance. I took a short detour into Mitcham to have a look.
The Brownhill Creek area was once an important camping, hunting and gathering ground for the Kaurna Aboriginal people. The Kauna people called the area Wirraparinga, meaning “creek and scrub place”. One of the first Europeans to settle in the area was Pastor William Finlayson who arrived in 1837. He observed that Brownhill Creek was ‘a gathering place for Aboriginal people with as many as a hundred and fifty camping there at any one time‘.
Above:- Pastor William Finlayson. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
By 1840, agriculture, market gardening and quarrying were important local industries in the Brownhill Creek area. Much of the native vegetation was cleared for crops and sheep grazing, along with the introduction of exotic species.
In 1841 Brownhill Creek was set aside for ‘public purposes‘, making it one of the oldest parks in South Australia. This followed the finding of a specimen of freestone which was obtained from a quarry recently opened near Brownhill Creek. The land surrounding the reserve was progressively surveyed up until 1854, consequently the Brownhill Creek Reserve did not appear on maps for the area until 1858.
Above:- Two young men resting at Brownhill Creek c. 1885. Image courtesy of Trove.
By 1868 quarrying in the Brownhill Creek area had become a major industry for the district by providing building material, road metal and ballast for the railways and the Outer Harbour breakwater for the following 100 years. Reminders of the quarrying days in the park can still be found. Viney’s bluestone quarry once provided a source of large blocks of bluestone for buildings down in Mitcham, Parkside, and Eastwood, and for lining gutters and kerbing in Hindley and Rundle Streets in Adelaide. Mundy’s rock crushing plant from which road metal was obtained, can also be seen.
Above:- The stone wall ruins of Mundy’s rock crushing plant.
In 1874 the Brownhill Creek Chapel was built, just outside the current day park boundary, at the junction of Tilleys Hill and Brownhill Creek Roads. The Chapel was a branch of the Mitcham Baptist Church. Mrs Joseph Grigg, as one of the oldest residents in Brownhill Creek at the time, had the honour of installing the foundation stone which can now be found at the site of the Monarch of the Glen in the caravan park. From 1893, the chapel was used as a school for children who lived on the market gardens. The building was then used as a private home until 1942 when it was burned down in a bushfire and vandalised, leaving only the foundation stone.
Above:- A view of the Brownhill Creek Chapel in the valley (left), and the interior of the Chapel (right). Images courtesy of Trove.
During the late 1880’s the reserve was placed under the control of the District Council of Mitcham by proclamation made under the Crown Lands Act 1888 and the District Councils Act 1887. It was during this time that two sets of stone and pug manure pits were built, one in 1891, and another in 1893. The purpose of the pits was to prevent pollution of the creek due to market gardening in the valley. An 1869 letter by a Mr. John Calf brought attention to the quality of manure that market gardeners were depositing on the reserve. A decision was made to investigate the issue, but it would not be until 22 years later that Mr. Alf Terry, on behalf of the Mitchum Council, built the two sets of pits to store horse manure used as fertiliser for local market gardens.
During 1893 swimming baths were constructed for public recreation. It is recorded that in 1902 a local market gardener, T, Newey, complained to the Mitcham Council that the baths were interfering with the natural flow of the creek and market gardening options. As a result the council resolved that “all dams on the creek be destroyed and no further bathing allowed“.
The Mitcham Council continued management of the park until 15th July 1915, when it became known as the Brownhill Creek National Pleasure Resort. It was declared as a Recreation Park in 1972 “in order to provide recreation opportunities for the Adelaide and eastern metropolitan region and to conserve remnant aged river red gums and the riparian zone habitat.”
I accessed the park via Brown Hill Creek Road which runs through the centre of the park. At the entrance to the park is a memorial stone declaring Brownhill Creek Reserve as a National Pleasure Resort. A hanging sign displaying the name of the park originally swung here. The Brownhill Creek Tourist Park (caravan park) is also located at the western end of the park.
You can also access the park on foot from Northbrook Avenue in the north western corner of the park. There are a number of car parking spots dotted throughout the park, as there are numerous picnic areas with picnic tables. Unfortunately I was not going to be able to take advantage of those during this activation due to the intermittent rain.
I stopped off to have a look at a large River Red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), known as the ‘Monarch of the Glen’. The tree which is located in the grounds of the Brownhill Creek Tourist Park, is estimated that the tree is around 400 years old. By the 1830’s when European settlers came to the area, the trunk of the tree had already been burnt out, suggesting that the hollow trunk once sheltered the Kauna aborigines. Settlers who camped near the creek used the hollow trunk as a temporary home and it is reported that several settlers even gave birth inside the tree.
I also stopped to have a look at White’s Bridge which is one of the earliest structures in South Australia. It was originally a wooden structure until 1919, when Mitcham Council received a government grant to construct a new reinforced concrete bridge, with the contribution of local rate payers. Brown hill Creek Road which dissects the park can be traced back to a letter received by the Mitcham Council in 1869 from quarry owner and resident H Mundy asking permission to cut a road through the reserve to his house. The request was approved and a formal road was constructed.
I drove all the way to the eastern end of the park and then turned back around. Brownhill Creek Road continues on for a few km but is marked for local traffic only.
I found a small clearing off the road near the Creek, and in between the showers I set up the 80/40/20m linked dipole, supported on the 7m squid pole. The shower activity was just too regular for me to set up outside, so I operated from the vehicle for this activation, which ordinarily I do not like doing. I much prefer being out in the open air, sitting back in a deck chair. That was not an option on this occasion.
Above:- Aerial shot of the park showing my operating spot. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
I had alerted on parksnpeaks that I was to be on air by 0400 UTC and I was all set up and ready to go by 0354 UTC (1.24 p.m. South Australian local time). There were some power lines following Brownhill Creek Road but I was pleased to note when I switched on the Yaesu FT-857d that there was no man made noise on the 40m band. There was the occasional static crash which was reaching strength 5. So conditions were very good.
I called CQ on 7.144 and this was answered by Paul VK3HN who had a good 5/9 signal from Melbourne. This was followed by Steve VK5KSW at Wool Bay near the bottom of the Yorke Peninsula. Steve had a strong 5/8 signal coming across the Gulf St Vincent about 100 km away. I had not checked the HAP chart for Adelaide so I was unsure what propagation was expected to be like around South Australia. Of recent times the close in propagation has often been non existent on the 40m band. But my contact with Steve was a pleasing sign of things to come for contacts around VK5 during this activation.
Contact number 10 was Peter at Strathalbyn, about 50 km south of the park. Peter was a little bit of a struggle to me (3/1) despite the band being very quiet, with Peter receiving me a little better (5/3). A few calls later Andrew VK5CV called me from nearby Netherby with a massive 5/9 plus signal, on ground wave. Contact number 23 was Les VK5KLV at Port Augusta, about 300 km north of the park. Les was 5/9 and reciprocated with a 5/9 for me.
At this stage of the activation it appeared that contacts within 100 km were highly improbable on 40m. If they were there, signals were going to be well down as indicated by my contact with Peter VK5PET. But a few calls later after my QSO with Les I was proven to be wrong. Trevor VK5TW gave me a shout (5/7 sent and 5/3 received) from nearby Bellevue Heights in the Adelaide foothills. I then spoke with Rob VK5TRM in the Riverland region about 350 km to the north east (5/9 both ways), and then John VK5BJE in the Adelaide Hills (5/9 sent and 5/5 received). This was followed by Jeff VK5JK at Encounter Bay near Victor Harbour, about 80km to my south. Jeff advised that a few minutes earlier he could not hear me, but that my signal was now 5/9. I also logged Adrian VK5FANA on the Yorke Peninsula, David VK5PL in the southern Barossa Valley, Greg VK5GJ at Meadows in the Adelaide Hills, Shaun VK5FAKV in the Riverland, and Andrew VK5MAS at Mount Gambier about 400 km to the south east.
During the activation I had a steady flow of callers on 40m from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5, and VK7, all with good signals. Within 90 minutes I had 44 contacts in the log, with David VK5PL in the southern Barossa Valley being number 44, qualifying the park for me for WWFF. I also made a Park to Park contact with Ian VK1DI who was in the Mount Painter Nature Reserve VKFF-0853.
After logging 51 stations on 40m I headed to 14.310 on the 20m band. I asked if the frequency was in use and didn’t hear anyone reply so I started calling CQ. After a few CQ calls I heard someone calling VK1DI. The station was very very weak and I could not hear VK1DI at all. I checked parksnpeaks and saw that Ian VK1DI was on 14.310. Sadly it was an indication that there was not going to be any propagation into New South Wales and the ACT on 20m.
I headed up to 14.315 and started calling CQ. In the middle of my CQ calls I heard a voice ask ‘is the frequency in use’. It was Alex VK4TE who was about call CQ. I logged Alex who was a strong 5/8 to Brownhill Creek. Unfortunately despite numerous CQ calls, the only other stations logged on 20m were Daniel VK6WE and John VK6NU, both in Western Australia. I tuned across the 20m band and heard just a few weak DX stations. The strongest (5/5) was 4X6TT in Israel, who I called, but sadly he was unable to hear me.
I then headed to 3.610 on the 80m band and started calling CQ. My call was answered by Greg VK5GJ at Meadows in the Adelaide Hills, running QRP 4 watts (5/7 sent and 5/9 received). Next up was Dean VK5LB on the Fleurieu Peninsula, south of Adelaide with a lovely 5/9 signal. Peter VK5KPR at Port Augusta, 300 km to my north, then called me with a good 5/7 signal. Peter gave me a 5/5 signal report and advised he was suffering a bit from noise. Whereas for me in the park there was no man made noise at all on 80m. If only it was like that at home. Next I spoke with Hans VK5YX who also advised he had S9 noise, but I was above that into the southern suburbs of Adelaide. I logged a further 4 stations, Mike VK5FMWW/VK5FVSV, Shaun VK5FAKV in the Riverland, and finally Tim VK5ML.
I then lowered the squid pole and removed the linked dipole and erected the 15m dipole and put a few CQ calls out on 21.244 but had no takers. So with 62 contacts in the log, and a unique park activated, it was time to head home.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK1DI/p (Mount Painter Nature Reserve VKFF-0853)
I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
City of Mitcham, 2017, <http://www.mitchamcouncil.sa.gov.au/bushlandreserves>, viewed 19th February 2017
Department for Environment and Heritage, 2003, Brownhill Creek Recreation Park Management Plan
National Parks South Australia, 2017, <http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Adelaide_Hills/brownhill-creek-recreation-park>, viewed 19th February 2017
Wikipedia, 2017, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Hill_Creek>, viewed 19th February 2017