The Derwent Valley is famed for, among other things, its autumn leaves. Many plantings of mature deciduous trees are located to the north west of Hobart along the River Derwent between New Norfolk and the beginnings of the Central Highlands at Ouse. Cool nights signal a chemical change in the leaves of poplars planted as windbreaks on paddocks of rich soil as well as other magnificent oaks, elms and other exotics, causing a show of golden tones.On a clear sunny Tasmanian autumn day these are set off to perfection against the blue sky reflected in the river.
The township of Bushy Park, around 50km from Hobart, is perhaps the prettiest place to catch the show, which is supplemented by the township’s other hidden charms. Famed as the island’s ‘hop capital’, fields around the village are responsible for bittering most of the beer produced in Tasmania and considerable quantities produced elsewhere as well. In the nineteenth century, hops were widely grown throughout the valley, requiring the construction of oast houses in which they were dried before shipping.
These picturesque barns, with their airy lofts and vents, were mainly constructed from timber and sadly many have fallen victim to fire over the years. However there are still many to be seen in the area, especially in Bushy Park, where three magnificent examples sit almost hidden down a laneway in the midst of working hop fields at the centre of the town.
The most famous is the ‘Text Kiln’, built by Ebenezer Shoobridge in 1867. Clearly a devout man, he believed that his workers would be inspired to work harder and lead better lives by the improving biblical texts with which he adorned is oast house.
A pond, complete with very tame ducks, picnic tables and lawns make this a singularly picturesque spot to pause and explore. Another spot is the Redhill Cemetery, also scenically located on the hill overlooking Bushy Park. Those in repose here are treated to a fine view of the valley and its autumn trees against the farming fields that roll off into the distance.
At the time of this visit (early April) the trees were really just starting to turn, it having been a warm summer and mild autumn to date. They should really start to glow over the next few weeks as the weather cools.
It has also been very dry – the storages in Tasmania’s hydro dams, to the west and north of this area, are at record lows, with the state’s electricity generator importing diesel generators to try and ensure the island’s lights stay on. The fields around the town here were certainly looking dry.