Mitchells Cottage and Bendigo Historic Reserves Otago Goldfields Park
7th March 2020
In February and March of this year we spent 38 days adventuring around the South Island. Twenty-four of those days we spent wholly or partially in the conservation estate. Our trip was anchored by participation in two club multi-day trips, and included a variety of day trips and shorter experiences. We made morning visits to two historic reserves, a different focus from the Department of Conservation's environmental activities.
Mitchells Cottage and Bendigo are two of numerous historic sites that make up the Otago Goldfields Park which is “managed and preserved” by DOC. There are numerous web pages that can inform visitors about the diversity of the historic reserves.
Our initial visit was to the site of former gold diggings at Bendigo in the upper Clutha River valley. The gravel access road passes through vineyards before steeply rising to a gently undulating landscape with regenerating vegetation. Here are found remnant structures and evidence of the former townships of Welshtown and Logantown.
We wandered along the Aurora Track loop, seeing evidence of many of the hard-gained infrastructures developed by the gold searchers – graded tracks, dry stone retaining walls, exploratory mine shafts. In both township sites there are domestic and commercial buildings in various states of decay. We encountered a guided group on the track and the accents reminded us of the pervasive presence of international tourists in the DOC estate.
One unique feature that left us pondering was an exploratory shaft near Logantown that had a secure protective grid over it. When we peered down, there was nothing but blackness. A person from one of the local vineyards was showing a friend how the depth of that shaft could be measured. He said the depth was acknowledged to be close to two hundred metres, and to provide evidence dropped a hand-sized rock through the grid. We waited and waited – finally a small sound came up.
Our time at Mitchells Cottage, south of Alexandra, was the shortest of all our DOC estate interactions - a 'long hour'. This reserve has meticulously preserved domestic structures dating from the period of gold exploration in Otago. The buildings are open to the public and we were fortunate to be the only visitors that morning, allowing for a relaxed time sharing comments on what life must have been like for a family with ten children in a two-bedroom cottage. The warm summer weather encouraged us to wander the fenced, manicured grounds and examine unexpected features such as drilled stone fenceposts.
These two Goldfield Park locations were each accessed immediately from a car park. They made us aware of the variety of the Department of Conservation’s conservation responsibilities.
- Party members
- Tricia French & Bill Allcock (scribe).