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It’s a pearler! Riesling Trail celebrates 30-year milestone

PHOTO – South Australian Tourism Commission
Gabrielle Hall

The Riesling Trail, an SA shining light, attracts 100,000 people each year

Undoubtedly a jewel in the Clare Valley crown, The Riesling Trail this month celebrates 30 years since the opening of the first section from Sevenhill to Watervale.
Now spanning 33km of ever-changing landscape – from Auburn in the south to Barinia in the north – the iconic trail attracts 100,000 users annually. It has become a drawcard to the Valley, with tourists from across the world visiting to run,
walk and ride the trail, combining it with the region’s other shining lights, its wineries and tourism offerings.
And it is just as popular with locals who regularly exercise along the trail, park-runners each Saturday morning and half-marathon runners who flock to Clare annually to challenge themselves.
The Riesling Trail is managed by a volunteer group, each member passionate about their local community, among them are Riesling Trail Management Committee chair Dr Allan Mayfield and secretary Sue Wurst.

Riesling Trail Management Committee members, Sue Wurst and Allan Mayfield.  Photo – Gabrielle Hall

An old railway line transforms into an SA treasure

Reflecting on the 30-year milestone, the pair spoke of the history of the trail and achievements of volunteers across three decades.
“The Riesling Trail was constructed on the former Riverton to Spalding rail line, which was originally built in 1918 after considerable lobbying by the community to the government of the time,” Sue said.
“Its construction was not without challenges – bitter wage negotiations, shortage of materials during World War I, wet weather, and the need to dig significant cuttings through difficult, hilly countryside. Ironically, these cuttings are now some of the most attractive features of The Riesling Trail.
The line was burned in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires and never re-opened, sitting idle for many years.”

Allan says it was a “fortuitous combination of talents and enthusiasm” – inspired by local winemakers Tony Brady (Wendouree Wines) and Evan Hiscock (Petaluma Wines) – that saw the potential to turn the old rail line into a walking trail that could link with the wineries and promote the Valley’s famous Riesling wine.
The now iconic trail, shouldered by bushland, vineyards, agriculture and townships, was born. The Riesling Trail was completed in stages – Sevenhill to Watervale in 1994, Clare to Sevenhill and Watervale to Auburn in 1998, Clare to Barinia in 2009, and the final, upgraded stretch into Auburn in 2019.

A 30 year labor of love for the Clare Valley Community

It has 17 access points along the trail and its flat surface makes it accessible to families, wheelchairs, cycles, walkers and runners.
Local businesses including Clare Quarry – who tirelessly worked away at upgrading the trail surface into one that has an enviable reputation for its quality and safety, while still maintaining its ‘bush’ feel, and Clare Metal Fabrications who constructed the striking Quarry Road Bridge, along with the Auburn bridge over the Wakefield River – have helped the development of the trail into a world-class attraction.
Continued support from local business, and subscriptions from the community through the Friends of the Riesling Trail initiative, have enabled the upkeep and improvements to the recreational asset.
“The Riesling Trail now goes from Auburn right through to Barinia in the north, and essentially covers the grape growing region of the Clare Valley,” Allan said.
“It also connects seamlessly with the Rattler Trail – from Auburn to Riverton – along with the Lavender Federation Trail from Murray Bridge to Clare, the new Wine and Wilderness Trail locally and is also host to part of the Mawson Trail from Adelaide to Blinman.”

Photo- SA Tourism Commission

Inclusion of signage, both to direct users to nearby landmarks and facilities, but also to highlight the history, flora, fauna and geography of the area, along with sculptures and artwork along the trail have been popular additions.
“There is a growing demand from visitors and walkers wanting to know the story behind the region,” Sue said.
“Installations such as the cyclist sculpture, the Monica McInerney sculpture at Lennon Street in Clare, and the entrance at Auburn have all enhanced the look, feel and experience along the trail.”
Next on the plans is the addition of several water fountains along the trail. The Riesling Trail was made possible thanks to generous ongoing local business support, State Government and local government funding and hundreds of hours of volunteer work.

Behind the success story has been a band of dedicated volunteers on the management committee who pride themselves on the quality of the trail and the community pride it has generated.
On any given day, it is highly likely you will see them out, tidying, controlling invasive weeds and trees, and enhancing the experience for others.
“We love to be out on the trail, and even when we’re out there working, the chance to chat to visitors and hear where they have come from and their feedback on their experience is very satisfying,” Allan said.
“A lot has been achieved over the past 30 years, but we’re always coming up with new ideas, there’s always plenty of maintenance to be done, and we really look forward to welcoming many more trail users in the decades ahead.”

For more information on the Riesling Trail click here 


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