Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve VKFF-2886

Today (Thursday 25th April 2019) is an extremely important day on the Australian calendar.  It is ANZAC Day, a National day of remembrance for Australia and New Zealand.  It commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who have served and died in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.  It is also just one of three days during the year that Australian amateur radio operators can replace the normal VK prefix with AX.

AX5PAS (Anzac Day).jpg

Above:- My special ANZAC Day QSL card.

I decided to head out and have some fun with the special prefix and activate another one of the newly added parks here in South Australia.  My choice was the Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve VKFF-2886, which is located between Gummeracha in the Adelaide Hills and Williamstown in the southern part of the Barossa Valley.

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 8.03.24 pm.png

Above:- Map showing the location of the Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve in the Adelaide Hills.  Map courtesy of Protected Planet.

I headed from home to Woodside and on to the town of Gummeracha.  I then travelled north on the Forreston Road and into the little town of Forreston which is named after Alexander Forrest.  He was a blacksmith by trade and had arrived in South Australia in 1848.  He settled in the Forreston area in 1850 and in 1858 laid out the village of Forreston.  At its peak, the town had a post office, store, wine shop, wheelwright, blacksmith, butcher, and school.  A number of the historic buildings remain, and a plaque indicating the location of many of the buildings can be located outside of the Forreston Hall.

I continued along the Foreston Road until I reached Watts Gull Road.  At this location, you can find a monument for the historic site of the Robert Burns Inn which was licenced between March 1851 to December 1857.  It was located in the settlement of Kirkwood which was established in c. 1850, and was later known as North Gummeracha.  The settlement once boasted a midwife, wheelwright, carpenter, blacksmith, store, legal practitioner, and sawmill.


Above:- Monument for the Robert Burns Inn.

This is truly beautiful country, with rolling hills and numerous vineyard and orchards.  Albeit very dry, as we have had very little rain here this year.

I soon reached the Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve, which is part of the Mount Crawford Forest.  The park is well signposted.

The Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve is 342 hectares in size and comes under the control of Foresty SA.  It was dedicated as Forest Reserve in 1918.  The reserve is recognised as a significant remnant of the original vegetation in the area.  It is estimated that less than 15% of the original vegetation remains in the area.  Much of the vegetation was previously disturbed in the past by activities including mining and timber cutting.

The area surrounding the park includes a number of farms and pine plantations under the management of Forestry SA.  The park is dissected by Watts Gully Road.  There is no vehicular access into the park.

The reserve consists of Messmate stringybark and Long-leaved box Woodland.  It contains plant species with high conservation significance, including the Nationally vulnerable species, Clover glycine.

The are was used for grazing and cultivation purposes up to 1918.  Timber cutting in the reserve continued up until the 1950s.

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 8.12.26 pm.png

Above:- An aerial shot looking west, of the Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve.  Image courtesy of google maps

The Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve is part of the Mount Crawford Forest which is named after the nearby hill of the same name, Mount Crawford which is 526 metres above sea level.  Apparently, it does not qualify for the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program as it does not have the necessary prominence.  The mountain was named in 1839 by explorer Charles Sturt after James Coutts Crawford (1817–1889).  Coutts and his drovers arrived overland from New South Wales in April 1839 with 700 cattle, setting up a hut and cattle run at the base of Mount Crawford.  Crawford soon moved on to be a pioneer of Wellington, New Zealand.


Above:- James Coutts Crawford.  Image courtesy of wikipedia

The reserve is home to a number of native mammals including Western Grey kangaroo, Koala, Short-beaked echidna, Brushtail possum, and Common ringtail possum.  Sadly a number of introduced pests can be found in the park including Red fox, Fallow deer and European rabbit.

Birds SA have identified a total of 69 native bird species in the reserve.  This includes Adelaide Rosella, Superb Fairywren, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Crescent Honeyeater, Striated Thornbill, Grey Shrike-thrush, Common Bronzewing, Brown Thornbill, White-browed Scrubwomen, Rufous Whistler, White-browed Babbler.

Below are some of the birds I observed during my visit.

The area is historically significant due to its mining heritage.  The reserve takes its name from James Watts who discovered gold in the area during 1884.  Watts was a Norwegian sailor who settled near Forreston in the 1850s.  At its peak, the goldfields had more than 200 men mining in the area, two stores and three blacksmiths.

The Evening Journal, dated 20th June 1885 reported…..

“Whatever the ultimate success of the Watts Gully Goldfield may be there can be no doubt that it has been exceedingly useful in providing employment for a large number of men during a dull period of the year.”

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 8.50.29 pm.png

Above:- News article from The Evening Journal, Adelaide, Tuesday 28th July 1885.  Courtesy of Trove.

Watts was described as a first-class practical miner who had an almost intuitive knowledge of where to sink for gold.  Unfortunately, he met with an accident and had to have one of his legs amputated.  Watts lived with his wife and five children in a tent on the goldfields.  Mrs Watts subsequently built a hut and walked the seven miles into Gummeracha for work as a washer, receiving four shillings for 27 dozen washed items.  To supplement her income she cut down gum trees and split them into posts.  She received one pound for 150 posts.  What a lady.

In 1931/32 another gold rush occurred in the area when a 20-ounce gold nugget and other smaller pieces were found in the area.

The northeastern section of the reserve is currently part of the Mount Crawford fossicking area.  Permits are required prior to any fossicking and are available from the Mount Crawford Forest Information Centre.

I parked at the gate for Fire Track WG12.  The gate was locked and there was no vehicular access.


However, it appeared that at one time there was vehicular access into the reserve as at the end of the fire track there were a number of wooden tables and benches.


I set up about 100 metres down the track.  I ran the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts, and the 20/40/80m linked dipole for this activation.

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 8.09.41 pm.png

Above:- Aerial shot of the Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve, showing my operating spot.  Image courtesy of Protected Planet.

I put out a CQ call on 7.144 and this was answered by Mike VK6MB/3 with a strong 58 signal.  Mike kindly spotted me on parksnpeaks, which soon resulted in a mini pile up, as you would expect considering this was a unique park.  David VK5PL was second in the log, followed by Paul VK3DBP, and then John VK4TJ.

Within 8 minutes I had qualified the park for VKFF with 10 contacts.  QSO number ten was with Andy VK5LA.  Within 45 minutes I had contact number 44 in the log, and the park was qualified for the global WWFF program.  QSO number 44 was with Kevin VK2HLK.

I logged a total of 69 contacts on 7.144 from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, and VK7.  This included the following Park to Park contacts:-

  • Allen VK3ARH/p – Alpine National Park VKFF-0619
  • Peter VK3TKK/p – Holden Flora Reserve VKFF-2333
  • Peter AX3TKK/p – Holden Flora Reserve VKFF-2333
  • Alan AX2MG/p – Brisbane Water National Park VKFF-0056
  • Ian VK1DI/2 – Queanbeyan Nature Reserve VKFF-1988
  • Peter AX3ZPF/p – Warramate Hills Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2886
  • AX1DA/p – Bullen Range Nature Reserve VKFF-0984

It was also great to speak with Amanda VK3FQSO after such a long time, and her hubby Bob VK3FLAK.  Great to hear you guys on the air.  Another nice contact was with Perrin VK3XPT using his Clansman military transceiver.  Very appropriate considering it was ANZAC day.

I then headed off to 20m where I called CQ on 14.310.  First in the log was Greg VK4VXX/p who was activating the Fitzgerald River National Park VKFF-0171.  It was a nice way to start off on 20m.  I then logged Andrei ZL1TM who is a very big VKFF hunter.  I logged a further 4 stations on 20m, one from VK2, and three from VK4.


Above:- the shack for the afternoon

It was then off to the 80m band.  I called CQ on 3.610 after placing a spot on parksnpeaks.  My good wife Marija VK5FMAZ came back to my call.  I worked a total of 12 stations on 80m from VK2, VK3, and VK5.  This included three Park to Park contacts:-

  • Peter VK3TKK/p – Gisborne Flora Reserve VKFF-2322
  • Liz VK2XSE/p – Murrumbidgee Valley Regional Park VKFF-1786
  • Peter AX3ZPF/p – SOTA VK3/ VC-029 & Warramate Hills Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2224

When things slowed down I tuned around the band and found Ian VK1DI/2 on 3.620 in the Queanbeyan Nature Reserve VKFF-1988.  Although both of our signals were low, we were able to comfortably have a contact.

I then headed back to 40m and spoke with Tony VK3WI (VK3XV) activating the HMAS Castlemaine, a Bathurst-class corvette which was constructed during World War II.   She is just one of two surviving examples of the Bathurst class, and is now a museum ship at Williamstown.  What a great contact on ANZAC Day.


Above:- HMAS Castlemaine.  Image courtesy of Wikipedia. 

I then moved up the band to 7.144 where I put out another CQ call.  Peter VK2FPAR came back to my call, followed by Ross AX7LH, and then Rod VK7FRJG.  I logged a further 20 stations which included Max IK1GPG in Italy.  Max has called me a few times now during my recent park activations and had a nice 5/7 signal.

It was that time of the day that the band was opening to Europe, and I soon had GW4UXS calling CQ on the frequency competing with me.  Sadly he couldn’t hear my little signal.

I moved back to 20m hoping for some long path Europe DX, but was sadly disappointed.  There appeared to be no DX opening.  I did, however, log Ray VK4NH up in Queensland who was a big 5/9 signal.

It was then back to 40m for a final CQ call before going QRT for the day.  I ended up being there for a little longer than expected, with a further 25 stations logged on 7.144 from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK7, New Zealand, and Belgium.  The big surprise was to be called by Danny ON4VT in Belgium who had a nice 5/7 signal.

To complete the activation I had a tune across the band and worked Gerard VK2IO/p who was on 7.155 activating the Solitary Islands Marine Park VKFF-1411.  It was a nice way to end the activation with a Park to Park contacts.

It had been another terrific activation, with my past 4 park activations, exceeding 100 QSOs each activation.  This time I had a total of 144 contacts in the log, including 14 Park to Park contacts.  Thank you to everyone who called, and a big thanks to those who took the time to spot me: VK6MB/3, VK3PF, VK5FANA, VK3SQ, ZL1TM, VK3ZPF, VK5FMAZ, VK5VC, VK5DW, & VK3ANL.  It is greatly appreciated.



I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-

  1. VK6MB/3
  2. VK5PL
  3. VK3DBP
  4. VK4TJ
  5. VK4/AC8WN
  6. VK4/VE6XT
  7. VK3MDH/p
  8. AX3PF
  9. VK3MCK
  10. VK5LA
  11. AX3DAC
  12. VK3MPR
  13. VK3ARH/p (SOTA VK3/ VE-046 & Alpine National Park VKFF-0619)
  14. VK3AHR
  15. AX3AFW (AM)
  16. AX2PKT
  17. VK3UH
  18. AX2HHA
  19. VK2KYO
  20. VK2NP
  21. VK3TKK/p (Holden Flora Reserve VKFF-2333)
  22. AX3TKK/p (Holden Flora Reserve VKFF-2333)
  23. AX4HNS
  24. VK4HNS
  25. VK3PI
  26. VK3FRAB
  27. VK4CZ
  28. VK2FJGO
  29. VK5WU
  30. VK7QP
  31. AX3KZ
  32. AX3VBC
  33. VK3GMO
  34. VK3MB
  35. VK4FDJL
  36. VK5KLV
  37. VK5GY/p
  38. VK3FPSR
  39. VK1VIC
  40. VK2VIC
  41. VK3AQZ
  42. VK3VLA
  43. VK4SYD
  44. VK2HLK
  45. AX2FSAV
  46. AX2MG/p (Brisbane Water National Park VKFF-0056)
  47. VK2ADB
  48. AX2IO/p (SOTA VK2/ NR-0239)
  49. VK2BXT
  50. VK2VW
  51. VK1DI/2 (Queanbeyan Nature Reserve VKFF-1988)
  52. AX3UKW
  53. AX2YW
  54. AX3KTO
  55. VK3FLAK
  56. VK3FQSO
  57. VK3OHM
  58. VK5FANA
  59. VK2ARJ/m
  60. VK3XPT
  61. VK3SQ
  62. AX4NH
  63. AX4DXA
  64. ZL4TY/VK4
  65. VK4NH
  66. VK4DXA
  67. AX3ZPF/p (SOTA VK3/ VC-029 & Warramate Hills Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2224)
  68. AX1DA/p (SOTA VK1/ AC-033 & Bullen Range Nature Reserve VKFF-0984)
  69. VK6KJ
  70. VK3WI (HMAS Castlemaine)
  71. VK3XV (HMAS Castlemaine)
  72. VK2FPAR
  73. AX7LH
  74. VK7FRJG
  75. AX3TNL
  76. VK3PWG
  77. AX2XSE/p (Murrumbidgee Valley Regional Park VKFF-1786)
  78. VK5VCR
  79. VK2YK
  80. VK3KTT/m
  81. VK3CWF
  82. AX3ASU
  83. VK4SMA
  84. VK3BHR
  85. IK1GPG
  86. AX3MKE
  87. AX2WQ
  88. VK3ANL
  89. AX3ANL
  90. VK7AN
  91. AX3MH
  92. VK4GSF
  93. VK4MWB
  94. VK4FARR
  95. VK7JON/p
  96. AX7FOLK/p
  97. VK7MD/p
  98. ON4VT
  99. VK1AT
  100. VK3OY
  101. VK2MJW
  102. VK3ZSG
  103. VK3MXT
  104. VK4OZI
  105. VK3NL
  106. VK2MOR
  107. AX3BY
  108. VK3BSG
  109. VK3JK
  110. VK2HMV
  111. VK2BXE
  112. VK3UP
  113. VK3FCMC
  114. ZL1TM
  115. VK2UXO
  116. VK4RF
  117. VK4HA
  118. VK4PDX
  119. VK3FGSL
  120. AX2IO/p (Solitary Islands Marine Park VKFF-1411)

I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-

  1. VK4VXX/6 (Fitzgerald River National Park VKFF-0171)
  2. ZL1TM
  3. VK2NP
  4. VK4MWB
  5. VK4TJ
  6. VK4VSM
  7. AX4NH
  8. AX4DXA
  9. ZL4TY/VK4
  10. VK4NH
  11. VK4DXA

I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-

  1. VK5FMAZ
  2. VK5VC
  3. VK5DW
  4. VK3TKK/p  (Gisborne Flora Reserve VKFF-2322)
  5. VK5FANA
  6. VK2XSE/p (Murrumbidgee Valley Regional Park VKFF-1786)
  7. AX3ZPF/p (SOTA VK3/ VC-029 & Warramate Hills Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2224)
  8. VK5LA
  9. AX5LA
  10. VK6MB/3
  11. VK5PL
  12. VK5BJE
  13. VK1DI/2 (Queanbeyan Nature Reserve VKFF-1988)




Birds SA, 2019, <https://birdssa.asn.au/location/watts-gully-native-forest-reserve/>, viewed 25th April 2019

Forestry SA, 2016, Watts Gully Native Forest Reserve Management Plan.

State Library SA, 2019, <http://www.slsa.ha.sa.gov.au/digitalpubs/placenamesofsouthaustralia/W.pdf>, viewed 25th April 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzac_Day>, viewed 25th April 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forreston,_South_Australia>, viewed 25th April 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Castlemaine>, viewed 25th April 2019

Wikipedia, 2019, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Crawford_(South_Australia)>, viewed 25th April 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s