Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Quartz Reef & Bendigo Historic Goldfields- Part 1


Finally I've found some time to concentrate on doing a few blogs, you'd think after two weeks in lockdown I'd have had all the time in the world but, to be honest I can't believe how fast the time has flown and how little I have managed to catch-up on. Hopefully the next two weeks will fly by just as fast and, fingers crossed, we can move out of Level 4 and return to some sense of normality in Level 3. Ever the optimist....

Back to catching up on past adventures, I'm continuing on from October last year and we're still in Cromwell.

There's an unexpected surprise hidden in the hills high above Lake Dunstan and not too far from Cromwell town. 

From a carpark beside John Bull Creek on the Tarras-Cromwell highway there's a short sharp 1km walk up the lower slopes of Northburn.

A sign, a rabbit proof fence and a stile await your arrival at the top of the 4WD farm track.

The Quartz Reef Point gold mine tailings aren't your usual pile of rocks & boulders left behind after the miners have moved on; this is a very special place with a unique feature that is the best example of its kind in New Zealand and most probably in the world. 

David on the viewing platform
The remnants of the 1865 Quartz Reef gold mine, also known as the Northburn Tailings, form seventeen very distinctive herringbone patterns.

Looking towards Cromwell
As miners worked their way up the hill they symmetrically stacked the rocks in walls to ensure the channels & working areas stayed clear. The gravel 'wash' was directed down the side & main channels before running through the sluice channel & riffle boxes to extract the gold. 

Herringbone tailing disappearing into the distance along the ridge
The tailings are virtually unmodified and in a pristine condition since the area was abandoned in the early 20th century. This is likely because the tailings were on privately owned farmland for many years and the owner restricted access. A few years ago the landowner gifted the land to the Department of Conservation (DOC) who now manage the site as one of New Zealand’s most important historic reserves. 

There were at least fifty miners here during the height of the gold rush through the 1860s but little is known of their success or otherwise.  

Looking south from the top of the workings, viewing platform on the right
It's also thought that the neatly stacked rocks could be the work of Chinese miners who followed along after the European miners left. Chinese miners stacked rocks much more neatly and precisely than the European miners who were usually first on the scene and in a hurry to get the best of the gold before moving quickly on to the next gold rush. 

David captivated not only by the amazing patterns formed
 by the miners but the sheer scale of the workings
Chinese miners tended to work together in large groups and would work systematically, they were also more thorough by nature and also had to be thorough to find whatever gold had been missed. Chinese also had the time and inclination to neatly hand stack rocks in walls in the calmer post rush era.

Looking north to the rear of two herringbone channels
The gold mine reserve is a huge area, the herringbone patterns below are just a small portion on one side of the workings. 

'An irreplaceable piece of artwork' - former miner Budd Hyndman

From the air the herringbone patterns look like fern fronds, they can also be seen from space. Photo courtesy of Te Ara New Zealand

The viewing platform is on the largest far left branch
Eventually we headed back down to the car park at a fast pace, past the flowering wild thyme buzzing with bees...

...and after a cold winter, the fresh looking vegetable sheep. This is the alpine plant Raoulia, commonly known as 'vegetable sheep'. The plants are 60-70cm (1-2 feet) high sometimes and they form densely compacted hard cushions, hence their name as they look like sheep from a distance. although these ones are rather flat 'sheep'. I'm not sure if the green growth is another plant of part of the 'sheep's' new growth.

The view out over Lake Dunstan is spectacular and I can see the NZMCA Lowburn Park is just about opposite the tailings.

That's where we are parked, behind the willows (centre right) just before the dark green of the pine plantation next door.

To be continued....Part 2

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