Yesterday (Saturday 9th May 2020) with some COVID-19 restrictions lifted here in South Australia, I decided to head out into the field and activate a park. My choice was the Nurragi Conservation Reserve VKFF-2247 which is located about 70 km south-east of Adelaide.
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.
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.
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.
I set up on the north eastern side of Nurragi Road. There is a nice spot here to park your car and a ‘pedestrian gate’ to allow access to the park. I walked a short distance into the park and set up my station. There is a wooden table and bench here, but it is a little too close to the park boundary for me to stretch out the dipole. So I chose the wooden benches a little further along and set up my fold up table. I ran the Yaesu FT-857d and the 20/40/80m linked dipole for this activation.
I found that 7.144 appeared to be clear and I asked if the frequency was in use, an Peter VK3PF came back to let me know that the frequency was clear. Peter became my first contact with an excellent 5/9 plus signal. This was followed by Rob VK5TS who was operating remote, Perrin VK3PT, and then Nick VK3ANL.
My 13th, but not unlucky contact, was with Keith VK2PKT using the special call of VI250COOK to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook sailing up the east coast of Australia from what is now Sydney to what is now Cooktown in Far North Queensland.
A few calls later and I had another special event call in the log. This time it was a QSO with Chris VK3QB using the special call of VI2020STAYHOME.
I logged a total of 24 stations before being called by Gerard VK2IO/p who was in the Lane Cove National Park VKFF-0281. It was great to log a Park to Park contact.
I logged a total of 48 stations before the heavens opened up. I was in QSO with Cam VK2DG when the rain really started pelting down. I made a mad dash back to the vehicle to get the bothy bag and then back to my operating spot to keep myself and the gear dry.
Unfortunately by the time I had settled in with the bothy bag, many in the pile up had lost their patience and moved on. I logged a total of 56 stations on 40m before the callers dried up.
With a clearing in the weather and a lack of takers on 40m, I took the opportunity of moving to the 80m band. First in the log on 80m was Ivan VK5HS with a very very strong 5/9 plus signal. This was followed by Ernie VK3DET, Mark VK7ME, and then Iam VK5CZ.
I logged a total of 9 stations on 80m from VK3, VK5, and VK7. To complete the activation I moved to the 20m band where I logged just the two stations, Brad VK6BAP and Fred VK4FE.
All up I made a total of 67 contacts for the activation.
At the end of the activation I went for a walk through the park. I was hoping to get some photos of some Rainbow Bee Eaters, but that was not to be. I did snap some bird photos though, and they can be found below.
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.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK2IO/p (Lane Cove National Park VKFF-0281)
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-
THANK YOU to everyone who called me. It was great to be out in the field once again.
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