The famous cafe and icecream shop in Laura
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29 October 2017
On the road again by 9am, this time our morning tea break is the small town of Laura, nestled in the eastern slopes of the southern Flinders Ranges 218kms North from Adelaide and 40kms East of Port Pirie.
The township of Laura was surveyed in 1872, when a section of Booyoolee Run, a pastoral holding which was leased by the pastoralist Herbert Bristow Hughes, was surveyed and subdivided. In 1872 the new town was named Laura after Laura Hughes, Herbert’s wife. Prior to the establishment of the town the area had a number of large pastoral holdings most of which dated from the 1840s. Beetaloo Station had been established as a cattle run in 1844.
The town grew as it became an important supply post for the workmen building the Beetaloo Reservoir. Two Chinese market gardeners settled there and implemented South Australia’s first irrigation system to grow vegetables and fruit at Laura. Beer, ice and dairy products were later produced in the town for shipment to Broken Hill after its mining operations were established in the 1880s. Flax was also produced in the area.
Laura is the home of a favourite icecream maker, so of course we had to stop for a rum and raisin icecream. Laura is also the home of Australian poet and writer CJ Dennis, of ‘The Sentimental Bloke’ fame, a much respected early identity of Laura (statue above right). His father was the licensee of the Beetaloo Reservoir Hotel from 1892 to 1910. Clarrie Dennis spent much of his youth in Laura.
Leaving Laura, we headed to the beautiful wine growing area of the Clare Valley and to Reilly’s Cellar Door and Restaurant at Mintaro (above) for delicious luncheon platters of local produce, and of course some wine tasting. It was also the opportunity for our group to thank our tour leader, Flick, for her thoughtfulness, care and great commentaries during our tour.
The first European to explore this district was John Hill , who in April 1839 discovered and named the Wakefield River and Hutt River. In early 1840 the first European settlers arrived in the district, led by John Horrocks. The town itself was established in 1842 by Edward Burton Gleeson, and named after his ancestral home of County Clare in Ireland. The town was first named Inchiquin. Lake Inchiquin is now the name of a reservoir located to the north of the town, near the golf club.
A railway line was built from Riverton to Clare in 1919 and on to Spalding in 1922. It closed in 1974 and the tracks were removed in the 1980s after damage caused by the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983. The alignment now carries the Riesling Trail walking and cycling trail.
The layout of the town’s road system was apparently designed by a draughtsman in Adelaide, without any knowledge of the local geography. There are several roads in Clare that end abruptly at a cliff face, only to continue again at the top of the cliff. As one of the larger towns in the region, Clare is an administrative and service centre for the surrounding area. It has two supermarkets, many other specialty stores, two public and two private schools, three hotels, two motels, a caravan park and showground.
After our lunch we had time for a walk around this old town, before heading to our final destination, Adelaide. There are some very old buildings, many in a state of disrepair, but all very interesting and quaint. Most of the older buildings are made of rock and stone and it is amazing to think about how long it must have taken to erect many of the wonderful buildings. Some of the trees must be over 100 years old and the width and strength of the tree trunks is awesome!
Hard to believe we will be coming to the end of our tour this evening. Although it has been exhausting in places, we will have some wonderful memories of the scenery and beauty we found in the Flinders Ranges. Thank you Flick!