11 September – Clare to Watervale 23 km
An unhappy day in history but a happy day for us. We arrived in Clare the previous night and had a comfortable evening in Clare Hotel. After dinner we went for a walk to find the trackhead but failed miserably. The next morning we had more luck, asking a local who directed us to the Reisling Trail trackhead, which now serves for the start of the LFT. We took some photos and headed off shortly after 7am, straight down Lennon Street, under the bridge and on our way. We passed the sports ground and climbed up Essington Avenue and along Neagles Rock Road.
In no time we were walking foot track up over Neagles Rock and down to the next valley and along Bennys Hill Road. We now walked through farmland with the road lined with beautiful old gum trees. We saw our first vineyards and kangaroos – many more of both to be seen in the next few weeks.
The trail entered Spring Gully Conservation Park with a view towards Yorke Peninsular, but not today. The clouds were ominously building up to the SW but the view was still good with fields of canola, brilliant yellow in the sun patches, way below in the valley. The Cascades Walk took us to Spring Gully, a fold in the small mountains with a trickle of a creek flowing through it. We then picked up Wymans Hike which climbs out of the gorge, through the forest and descends into the next valley. In amongst the many vineyards, we saw a bearded dragon and many blue tongue lizards whose rude form of defence is to poke their tongue at you. The severely pruned vines are showing no signs of life but blossoming fruit trees line the gravel roads that we walk along.
For the last part of todays walk, the LFT dropped onto the Reisling Trail and followed this old rail corridor into Watervale. Along the way we pass the village of Penwortham, founded by John Horrocks and see the 400 year old tree which he lived in before building his hut. The trail here is lined with pine and olive trees and appropriately, lavender bushes. As the trail approaches Watervale, a water tank is passed. We eye this as a possible camping site but move on into town and over a beer at the pub, we are told that some nasty weather is moving in. We call every B & B in town but they are closed, full or not answering. Over another beer we decide to fall back on the old South Australian standby, the local oval. There are toilets and water and a three sided covered shelter, under which we set up our tents, just prior to the heavens opening up. Theres nothing so restful as the sound of rain on a tin roof.
We explored the town with its many old buildings, including a very early gaol behind the pub, the Stanley Grammar School building and the small museum building. Afternoon tea was at the general store and dinner at the pub. In the cold and gloom we headed back to the warmth of our tents.