Hampshire and St Valenrine's Peak
Hampshire has a unique place in the history of Tasmania in that was the site of the first inland settlement by Europeans in Tasmania's North West. Only Burnie and Stanley were established as settlements there before Hampshire. The Van Diemen’s Land Company, a consortium of English businessmen, received a royal charter in 1825 giving it the right to cultivate land, build roads and bridges, lend money to colonists, execute public works, and build and buy houses, wharves and other buildings in Tasmania's north west. The VDL Company has operated on its original royal charter land grant longer than any other company in the world, gifted by King George IV in 1824. They were granted six parcels of land in the north-west of the colony, eventually amounting to over 350,000 acres.
From a base they established at Circular Head (Stanley), they sent out their chief surveyor, Henry Hellyer, to find land suitable for sheep grazing. Emu Bay, the site of modern day Burnie, was selected as the most suitable site for a port from which to export wool. Hellyer then headed inland in search of suitable land for grazing and believed he had found it when he came across the rolling plains of what is today Hampshire, mistakenly believed to be good grazing ground for sheep. In fact, the open lands were the result of generations of burning off the natural temperate rainforest by the indigenous aboriginal population of the area.
Hellyer climbed St Valentine's Peak and was impressed with grassed plains which he called the Surrey and Hampshire Hills. As a result, the Company selected a huge block extending from Emu Bay south beyond St Valentine's Peak, with its base camp on the site of Burnie. It included 150,000 acres at Surrey Hills and 10,000 acres at the Hampshire Hills, 10,000 acres at Middlesex Plains, plus a 50,000-acre strip along the Emu Bay Road.
A year later the Emu Bay settlement consisted of a store, small jetty, sawpit and a few huts on the western shores of Emu Bay. Hellyer's next task was to establish inland settlements and a narrow dirt road was cut through hills to the south of Emu Bay. Local legend has it that with little more than a bullock gang and crude hand tools he carved his way through the dense forest into the wild hills. His road was a success and subsequently named after him. Groups of settlers soon followed. By 1832, the Company establishments consisted of Surrey/Hampshire Hills (population 62 men, 7 women and 10 children) with a store at Emu Bay; Woolnorth (24 men, 11 women and 25 children) and Circular Head (45 men, 11 women and 25 children).
Hellyer believed he had found good grazing land, but it proved to be totally unsuitable for the chosen purpose. The Van Diemen’s Land Company incurred great cost attempting to raise sheep and cattle there, and they perished in the winter. In 1832, after a very cold winter, Surrey Hills was “becoming the graves of all the sheep”. Hellyer tried to defend himself; he became oversensitive to criticism; he retreated into himself; and melancholy began to consume him. In the early hours of 2nd September, 1832, Henry Hellyer committed suicide.
In later years, white settlers returned to the area, initially to clear the forests for timber. The fertile soils of the cleared land has since been used for a variety of agricultural uses although it is currently mostly used for timber plantations.
Hampshire was gazetted as a locality in 1973. Hampshire Post Office opened on 10 January 1921 and closed in 1969. Hampshire was home to one of Gunns woodchip export mills that chipped eucalypt forest residues that were exported to Japan to be used as paper pulp in the paper making process.
Old Surrey Road
Old Surry Road was the first road built from the Bass Strait coast into the hinterland of Tasmania's North West after white settlers entered the region. Approval had been given in late 1827 for the establishment of a port at Emu Bay (Burnie) on the Van Diemen's Land company's 15,000 acre Emu Bay property which extended from Emu Bay to Cam River. In May 1827, Surveyor Henry Hellyer supervised the construction of a jetty, a store on Blackman’s Point near the jetty, a sawpit and a few huts. This was the beginning of Burnie.
Work was then commenced on the construction of a road, between 18-20 feet wide, from the little settlement to Surrey Hills, an inland area selected as a suitable place for the Company’s sheep to graze. Under Heller's guidance, a road work of five men constructed a muddy track through the dense coastal rain forests. The route they took is generally followed by what is now Marine Terrace to the Emu River, then up from the coastal plain via Old Surrey Road, through Romaine, Ridgely, Highclere and on to Hampshire, a distance of around 30 km.
Old Surrey Road Drive
Upper Cam Falls
Situated on a branch of East Cam River, the Upper Cam Falls near Tewkesbury are easy to find and well worth visiting. Upper Cam Falls are 8 km west of Hampshire. To get there from Hampshire, turn west onto the C103, and continue until the western road swings north. Take Lockwood Road to the left and proceed to the parking area. The falls are to your right in a ferny glade.
St Valentine's Peak
St Valentine's Peak was Hellyer's destination on his trek from Circular Head in February 1827. To get to there, follow Ridgley Highway to Bunkers Road in Guildford (42 km), take Bunkers Road to the car park at the foot of St Valentinme's Peak.
Hellyer's original trek to the summit of St. Valentines started from Stanley; the current walk starts approximately 4.5km from the summit. To get to the start of the walk turn left off the B18 highway 15km South of Ridgley into the Upper Natone Road, then after 1.7km turn right on Kara Road, then drive just over 6km to a left turn just before the gate to the Kara Mine. Then follow this thin, muddy road to the carpark at its end. The dog friendly walk is approximately 4.5 hours return, the first section is a little overgrown, but this improves quickly.
Care should be taken in these alpine areas, as parts are very exposed, and the peak may be capped with snow, also the final section of the walk requires you to negotiate a ridgeline which is extremely thin and steep either side, so again, please take care.