On the weekend just gone I was working afternoon shift and as a result would not be able to compete in the Remembrance Day Contest. This was a real shame as the weather was fantastic and I was hoping to go portable for the contest. So instead I decided for a quick morning activation on Saturday 12th August 2017.
I headed to the Nurragi Conservation Reserve VKFF-2247, which is located about 70 km south east of Adelaide. This is a newly added park to the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, and my activation would be the first time the park had been put on air.
The Nurragi Conservation Reserve follows the old branch railway line to Milang and runs a distance of about 12 km, from Sandergrove to Milang. The park is about 65 hectares in size. The Friends of Nurragi was established in 1988 to protect and restore the reserve and in 1991 the Minister of Lands dedicated the area as a Nature Conservation and Plantation Reserve under the Crown Lands Act 1929.
The reserve forms a wildlife corridor linking the eastern Mount Lofty Ranges with Lake Alexandrina and contains extremely important vegetation in a region that has been cleared of over 98% of its original cover. More than 300 native plant species are present, with over 50 of those being of particular conservation significance (eg rare or endangered). It preserves remnant mallee vegetation including square-fruited mallee, narrow-leaved red mallee, peppermint box, and native apricot. Understorey plants include wallowa, needle bush wattle and broombush.
During my visit there were a few flowering native plants, particularly the wattles, which were vivid yellow.
Over 95 species of birds have been recorded in the park including Peaceful Dove, Weebill, Australian Magpie, Little Raven, Grey Shrikethrush, Diamond Firetail, Southern Boobook, Red-capped Robin, Hooded Robin, and Rufous Whistler. Native mammals found in the park include Western Grey kangaroos, Brush-tailed possums and bats. About 11 reptile species have been recorded including the Sand Goanna.
During my visit the park was alive with New Holland Honeyeaters and Superb Fairy Wrens. I also spotted a Shrike Thrush (I think?)
I was pleasantly surprised to find a number of interpretive signs in the park, no doubt the result of the hard work of the Friends of Nurragi.
The park commences at the town of Milang, which is located on the banks of Lake Alexandrina. Between 1860 and 1880 Milang was one of South Australia’s busiest ports. It connected Adelaide with the thriving river trade. Wool from the Darling and Upper Murray stations was landed at Milang and then transported by horse and bullock teams to Port Adelaide. Wheat was transported to Milang, processed at its flour mills and then shipped back as flour.
A number of historic buildings remain in Milang. But sadly, an impressive group of Landseer buildings which stood in the main street were demolished in the 1950’s and replaced by the present day shopping centre. What a great shame! Albert Landseer was one of South Australia’s principal river merchants.
In May 1854, the first public railway in South Australia was completed, linking Goolwa and Port Elliot. The success of the Goolwa-Port Elliot line aroused interest in Strathalbyn where local business men saw advantages for them in a direct link with the new port at Victor Harbor. In 1857 a group of 20 people attended a meeting at the Lake Hotel in Milang, in support of a line from Strathalbyn to Milang. Unfortunately a larger meeting at Strathalbyn resulted in confirmation that the line would run from Strathalbyn to Middleton on the south coast.
In 1881 there was a new push for a branch line to Milang. A Select Committee was appointed by the South Australian Government. On the 8th November 1881 the House of Assembly passed the ‘Strathalbyn and Milang Railway Bill’. Tenders for the construction of both lines were called on the 18th April 1882 and Walker and Swann were successful in obtaining the joint contract for a price of ₤143,678.
The Milang branch line was opened on the 17th December 1884 from a junction with the Victor Harbor line at Sandergrove. At Sandergrove the Milang line served as the passing siding for the station, sharing an island passenger platform with the Victor Harbor main line. A goods siding also catered for local goods consignments. The only intermediate station was at Nurragi where there was a 70m long goods siding. There was also a passenger stop at Punkulde where the line crossed the Milang-Finniss road.
At one stage there was a small turntable at Sandergrove to turn locomotives working to Milang. Through most of its later life the branchline was operated with Brill railcars. The last passenger service ran 30 November 1968 with the line closed on 17th June 1970.
If you are in Milang I highly recommend a visit to the Port Milang Historic Railway Museum. The museum is located on the banks of Lake Alexandrina and tells the story of the Lakes Railways, displays a collection of South Australian rolling stock and equipment.
Although the Milang line has long since closed, the line between Mount Barker where I live, and Victor Harbor, is still used by SteamRanger Heritage Railway which runs a number of different heritage steam and diesel hauled tourist trains through the Adelaide Hills and along the South Coast to Victor Harbor.
I set up right in the middle of the park, off Nurragi Road. There was a small area here off the road for me to park the vehicle, and make a short walk to where I set up. I ran my normal portable set up for this activation consisting of the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts output, and the 80/40/20m linked dipole, inverted vee at 7 metres at the apex.
I was all set up and ready to go by around 9.30 a.m. local time. First in the log was Peter VK3PF, who is well and truly leading the pack when it comes to park hunters in Australia. Next was another keen park hunter, Dennis VK2HHA from Albury, followed by my good wife Marija VK5FMAZ. It was very slow going and I had real doubts that I was not going to reach my 44 contacts which are required to qualify the park for the global WWFF program. Contact number 10, qualifying the park for me for the VKFF program, was with Kevin VK3HKK.
Shortly afterwards I worked Stef VK5HSX who was portable in the Girraween National Park VKFF-0198. It is always nice to get a Park to Park contact in the log during an acivation. I went on to work a total of 22 stations on the 40m band before callers dried up. I headed over to the 80m band where I called CQ on 3.610. This was answered by John VK5NJ in Mount Gambier who was booming in at 5/9 +. Mark VK5QI then called, followed by Les VK5KLV at Port Augusta in the north of South Australia, and then Mick VK3GGG/VK3PMG in western Victoria.
I then headed back to the 40m band where I logged a further 31 stations from VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, and VK7. My 44th contact came at 90 minutes into the activation, with a QSO with Andrew VK5MR at Roxby Downs in the north of South Australia.
I then headed back to 80m hoping to get my wife Marija VK5FMAZ in the log. She had just arrived home from shopping and we had corresponded via SMS. Marija was my first taker after calling CQ, followed by David VK5PL in the Barossa Valley and then Wolf VK5WF in Adelaide. I then worked Geoff VK3SQ at Beechworth in north eastern Victoria, John VK5BJE in the Adelaide Hills, and finally Allen VK3ARH. More proof that 80m works very well, even in the middle of the day.
I then received a SMS message from David VK5KC to advise he was portable in a park on the Eyre Peninsula. So I quickly lowered the squid pole and removed the 80m links and headed to 7.144. I logged David who was activating the Laura Bay Conservation Park VKFF-1048.
I then tried my luck on 20m. It was too early for any DX, but I did log a total of 4 stations from VK4 and VK6. To finish off the activation I moved back to 7.135 on 40m where I picked up 2 more stations.
It was approaching 12.30 p.m. and I needed to pack up and head home for some lunch and a shower, and then off to work. I had a total of 71 contacts in the log and another unique park activated. Thanks to everyone who called and thanks to those who spotted me.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK5HSX/4 (Girraween National Park VKFF-0198)
- VK5KC/p (Laura Bay Conservation Park VKFF-1048)
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-
Birds SA, 2017, <http://www.birdssa.asn.au/location/nurragi-conservation-reserve/>, viewed 11th August 2017
Milang, 2017, <http://milang.org.au/history/>, viewed 14th August 2017
National Trust, 2017, <https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/nurragi-conservation-reserve/>, viewed 11th August 2017
Steamranger, 2017, <http://www.steamranger.org.au/enthusiast/guides/guide7.htm>, viewed 11th August 2017
Walking SA, 2017, <https://www.walkingsa.org.au/walk/find-a-place-to-walk/nurragi-conservation-reserve-walking-trail/>, viewed 11th August 2017