Weldborough, Tasmania



These days if you blink you might miss it, but in years gone by, Weldborough was a tin mining boom town. During the 19th century, Weldborough had the largest Chinese community on any tin field in Australia. They are said to have outnumbered the Europeans. Weldborough was the cultural centre for the Chinese miners, this was the site of mining camps, festivals and a casino. A replica statue of Guan Di resides at the historic Weldborough Hotel.

Where Is it?: Weldborough is 28 km south of Derby, 117 km east of Launceston, 44 km north west of St Helens.

Weldborough was first known as Thomas Plains. It was named after an early surveyor. The original plan was to open the area to rural development but the discovery of tin resulted in a sustained mining boom. The boom saw a service town of pubs, general stores, butcher s shops and the like. Later a hotel (with good accommodation) and a racecourse were built. Chinese dominated tin mining and outnumbered Europeans by up to 10 to 1. At its peak, Weldborough had about 700 Chinese miners: most of the State s 1,000 to 1,300 or so Chinese.

The original pub slept three shifts to a bed. Not roulette but mahjong and fan tan were played in Tasmania's first casino. A lottery was part of gambling and a Chinese man was murdered while taking the proceeds to the bank at nearby Moorina. In 1893 a visiting Chinese opera company performed at Weldborough. The Chinese worshipped at an elaborate local temple, burning incense sticks and seeking guidance from the deity. Weldborough's joss house- with its ornately dressed figures, intricate carving, scrolls and plaques - is now at the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston.

At Weldborough cemetery there are numerous derelict graves of Chinese. Although most tin miners returned to China, at Moorina cemetery there is a monument in their honour, together with a stove in which to burn offerings to their spirits: testament to the fortitude of the Chinese and their contribution to the development of Tasmania.

In the roaring days of the Weldborough Mine the lights were never dimmed, and with three shafts to every bed the trade roared on continuously, and every prospect bore a pleasant smile. Having exhausted its importance as a going concern, the Weldborough petered out. 



Weldborough Pass


A few kilometres to the east of the town, Weldboropugh Pass rises 595 metres and offers excellent views on either side of the road and the range. It is known for the most spectacular fern displays that you will see anywhere in Australia. For a number of kilometres huge ferns line both sides of the road. They are interspersed with stands of blackwood, sassafras and some of Tasmania s oldest myrtle. At the top there is a lookout that offers spectacular views to the coast.



Blue Tier Reserve


The Blue Tier was an unknown little part of the world until it became the centre of a forestry operations debate. "Friends of the Blue Tier" has been formed to investigate alternatives to clear-fell logging and protect this beautiful area which has wild forests of giant trees, hidden waterfalls and fabulous wildlife, much of it threatened. The mountain plateau they are seeking to protect once had the world's largest open-cut tin mine with miners swarming through the forests, eager to make their fortunes. Now it is a walking destination catering for all levels of experience.

The Blue Tier Forest Reserve's long history in mining and forestry operations adds interest for visitors. The first Europeans came to this area after some miners who were working in the Mathinna goldfields discovered some rich tin deposits in some of the creeks in this area. The news spread quickly and the area was settled in 1878 as a mining town. Back then the town was made up of a pub, two hotels, a blacksmith, butcher, three stores and a few residential cottages. The level of work varied over the years with the fluctuation of tin prices from things such as the Depression. Chinese miners were also employed here for cheap labour until a policy to employ only white labour in the hard rock mines forced them out.

Over the years many mining companies came and went, some of these included Cambria, Wellington, Anchor Company and in more recent years Aberfoyle Ltd (1960s) and Renison Ltd (1977). Between 1875 and 1996 the Blue Tier produced more than 11,000 tonnes of tin. It was in 1958 that the Blue Tier was claimed as a forest reserve, and by 1997 more than 5000 hectares has been included to conserve the flora, fauna and rich heritage.

There are a series of tracks on Blue Tier that offer a variety of experience, duration and level of challenge for walkers (see below). Goblin Forest Walk is the shortest at only 20 minutes return. The walk has a great interpretation of some of the miners who worked here and also shows how the forest is regrowing back after it was cleared for mining all those years ago.



Goblin Forest Walk

The Goblin Forest Walk is the shortest and easiest of a series of tracks on Blue Tier. It is recommended for both walkers and mountain bike riders. These walks offer a variety of experience, duration and level of challenge. Interpretation signs along the walk explore the history of the Blue Tier. This 20-minute walk is great for those who do not have much time but want to stretch their legs and learn about the mountain of tin . The walk is of wheelchair standard. Another short walk is the 30 minute return to the top of Mt. Poimena. It is a short and steady climb to the summit. Walkers are rewarded with spectacular views over St. Helens and the coastline beyond (follow blue markers to the trig point). Winter snowfalls are rare, but add a special touch to a winter walk if you are lucky enough to be in the area after a snow fall.



Moon Valley Rim Loop Walk

(2 hours) Reaching the summit of Mt Poimena (816m), the 3.4km Moon Valley Rim circuit provides an excellent opportunity to experience the areas unique landscape, history and views. The Moon Valley Rim trail leads directly to the summit of Mt Poimena via a gently graded track. Traversing through open tea tree and beech groves, guideposts make following the track easily managed. The summit is reached 20 minutes in and offers panoramic views of the Blue Tiers area and further to the northeastern coast. From the summit the trail continues through scattered boulders and descends along the edge of Moon Valley to the historic Gough Battery tin mine. After exploring battery and adjacent sites the trail follows Sun Flats Road back to the trailhead and picnic area.



Australia Hill Loop Walk

(2 hours): This walk passes through open country and stands of regenerating rainforest and is great for visitors who want to see some remnants of the mining era. Look for abandoned machinery at Summit Mine and Harry Moses  (the last Blue Tier miner) sluice box at the Compere Mine. (follow orange markers)



Mt Michael Loop Walk

(2 hours): Begins at the Sun Flats Road. The walk passes through rainforest before climbing up to the summit of Mt. Michael. Walkers are rewarded with fantastic views. On the way down stop and look at the Mt. Michael Mine which was one of the largest mines in the area (follow yellow markers).



Wellington Loop Walk

(3 hours): Begins at the halfway mark on the Goblin Forest Walk. The walk is great for those interested in the history of the Blue Tier because it takes you past interesting remnants of the mining days. The walk passes through a diversity of vegetation types including regenerating rainforest, patches of remnant rainforest and sphagnum bogs (follow red markers).



Three Notch Walk

(6 hours return): This, the most difficult of the walks, follows an old pack trail to McGoughs Lookout and return. Walkers are rewarded with spectacular views of the coastline. The walk is long and difficult and should only be attempted by experienced walkers. (follow yellow and red markers). It is now possible to hike from Sun Flats to the bottom end near Pioneer. However this requires having a vehicle at the other end to pick up walkers.



Blue Tier Giant Walk

This hand-built track weaves unobtrusively through the landscape and divides into the Big Tree trail and a longer circuit. In addition to its stunning valley and fern-forest views, the loop track passes a number of striking tall trees, such as the ‘Cradle Tree’. It also crosses a stone-arch bridge over an agricultural water race.

The Big Tree, commonly known in Tasmania as a swamp gum or giant ash, soars to around 60 metres. It is the widest living tree in Australia – with a startling chest-high girth of 19.4 metres. Remarkably, its hollow would not have begun forming until the tree was around 150 years of age. Hollows like these are important habitats for birds, possums, bats and invertebrates, which use them as day or night shelters, or for feeding or rearing young.

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Lottah

The area around Pyengana had several tin mines such as the Anchor Tin Mine and Battery situated in the Pyengana Pass. Fifteen kilometres beyond Pyengana are the remnants of the mining village of Lottah where massive anchor stampers stand silently. These rusted tin crushing machines were driven by a waterwheel. At its height Lottah had 40 homes, but when the mine closed in the 1950s, the township was abandoned and all that remained was something resembling a moonscape. The site has since been reclaimed by Mother Nature.


Purple fungi at the site of the Poimena settlement

Poimena

The ghost town of Poimena is located on the banks of the Ransom River. At about 746m above sea level, Poimena is one of the higher localities in Tasmania. It is also one of the easternmost localities in the state. Tin miners began moving to Poimena in about the late 1870s, and within s few yeards it had a school, shops and a prominent hotel. Among the residents were Chinese tin miners, almost a thousand of whom lived and worked in the region at the time. Today, an open field lies where their houses once stood, but you can still see the foxgloves planted by Chinese miners more than a century ago, and signs point to where the town’s main landmarks were located.



Hall's Falls

Halls Falls in the north east, is located up near Blue Tier, and is the first attraction along the way to the Anchor Tin Mine Site and Blue Tier. There are also a number of picnic tables near the information booth, and some old mining equipment. The walk to the falls is only 30 minutes return, however if you want the full experience it is recommended that you dedicate about an hour and a half. The falls are one of the prettiest in Tasmania and are well worth leaving the main road to visit. What it lacks in sheer size it makes up for in quiet beauty.



Trail of the Tin Dragon


The Trail of the Tin Dragon has been developed to create a trail of experiences between Launceston and St. Helens that tell the tale of our past mining history. Spanning the rugged North-East,the Trail of the Tin Dragon winds its way through stunning scenery and historic townships. The Trail tells the story of tin mining in the North East of Tasmania, focusing on the European and Chinese miners who sought their fortune and risked all for this most remarkable metal.

The Trail of the Tin Dragon is the untold story of the North East of Tasmania. It is a Chinese story. It is a story of Tin mining, of boom and bust, flood and drought, riches and poverty, hope and despair. It is a story of racial hatred and racial harmony. A story of human transience and the power of nature. The trails begins at Launceston, and passes through Branxholm, Derby, Moorina, Pyengana and St Helens. In Western legends and myths, the dragon is usually depicted as a medieval fire-belching monster, representing evil, or a beast to be vanquished by moral force and valour. For the Chinese, the dragon symbolizes goodness, strength, fertility and change.