A series of sharp turns on older, narrow streets leads to Waterworks Road, a winding lane which expands at the base of wild hills in the south of Hobart. A paved road breaks off to the right, leading into a neat, well-tended park broken by sections of forest to the left, with the vista of two great water reservoirs to the right.
Waterworks Reserve was constructed to be the initial water supply for the city of Hobart. The twin reservoirs are fed by a pipeline which stretches back through the forest to Fern Tree, Neika, and beyond to Wellington Falls, which is situated on the south side of Mount Wellington. This path incidentally forms the Pipeline Track (an external link, for now.)
As one drives through the park, you’re met with signs indicating numbered barbecue sites which can be hired in four-hour periods, from the local council. The Receiving House is situated in the centre of these. Once tasked with clearing sediment prior to water delivery, it was retired and has been repurposed to hold graphic displays detailing the history of the Reserve.
A short history
According to these displays, the pipeline and reserve were built and extended from 1861, primarily by itinerant Irish labourers, most likely from the slums of Hobart’s wharf district. To some degree, the development of the water supply was seen as a public relief effort, both insofar as the water supply itself and the provision of employment to the workers. Water supplies to the colonial town had been a contentious issue for some time: the Hobart Rivulet was polluted by industrialists on the mountainside. Relatively clean water would then be received by the upper classes, who had their water piped in further downstream, which was followed by every type of business imaginable in the day, resting on the banks. By the time the rivulet reached the poor, it was little more than a sewer. Over time, those with money desired Hobart to portray the appearance of a modern city, acknowledging the need for Hobart to move forward in civic services, to push it forward socially and if it were to ever have any hope of growing and surviving.
A majority of the displays appear dedicated to highlighting the injustices of the past, I suppose to remind modern Australians of the conveniences of our age, so that we can honour the efforts made by convicts and poor labourers alike back when they were employed to found the very infrastructure that the city relies upon. Much of their work would have been for the sake of survival.
Each reservoir is flanked by the park to the left, but both are connected through the middle, and around the circumference by walking tracks throughout the surrounding forest. It is a fairly easy trek, suitable for families and manageable by children. The entire circuit, according to Greater Hobart Trails, is 2.6 km. I took each track separately, on different days – an important note, I think: the park closes and is locked at 4 pm during the winter, so it’s advisable to park your car just outside and walk through, if you arrive later in the day.
The reserve is as peaceful and quiet as it looks, for a space five minutes from the city, but really, Hobart does that well. The track is replete with majestic views of the water, ducks and swans crowd the area around the central reservoir, though feeding them is forbidden (both reservoirs are still used to supply drinking water.) For this same reason, maintenance tracks directly surrounding the waterside are restricted to public access, though, insofar as looking for nice photos to take, it’s a shame..
Gentle Annie Falls
A relatively short track at the far end of the Reserve leads to Gentle Annie Falls, the first landmark on the north side of the Pipeline Track. I actually visited the Gentle Annie first, drawn by the idea of a waterfall. The sign does specify “dry waterfall”, but I assumed it was a less than literal description, or perhaps some kind of joke you would realise when you reached it, but no, Gentle Annie Falls is really just that: a natural sandstone formation. Water was once driven directly over the rock, as a convenient means to aerate and direct the water further towards the reservoirs.
It was a steep climb to the summit, and to be honest, not particularly rewarding. At some point, when newer trees had been shorter, there may have been a fine view of the reservoirs and a glimpse of the mountain and Hobart beyond, but not anymore. According to a plaque in the Receiving House, the name originates with the death of a nine-year-old girl, Josephine Fleming, who visited the Reserve on a school trip, fell into an open trough, was carried through the Receiving House and drowned. Apparently this story disintegrated into myth with the notion that a girl named Annie had once drowned while collecting water above the falls.
Unfortuantely I decided not to keep my photos of the Gentle Annie Falls. I wasn’t originally planning to write about them either. Maybe another time.
I’d like to hear more from you, dear reader. So if you read this blog, tell me: What sucked? What was amazing? Of which or what would you like to see more?