We departed Clyde on Saturday morning 31 March to return home via Central Otago on one of my favourite drives. We crossed the Clutha River via the Clyde Bridge to drive the route through the Earnscleugh Valley. This valley lies between Clyde and Alexandra, and has orchards and vineyards lining the road on either side. I took a few photos on the way through – remember its autumn in New Zealand!
About the Clutha River: the Maori name for it was Mata-au which means eddy or current across an expanse of water. The early miners knew it as the Molyneux, named by Captain Cook after his sailing master. Today it is known as the Clutha.
We passed a private lifestyle property and either side of the driveway entrance were Corten steel panels with cut-outs of bull-rushes and dragonflies. I’ll bookend this post with the panels – I loved them! A car came out of the property and to our surprise it was a lovely staff member from the Postmasters Cafe and Bar in Clyde that I’ve already posted about. She told me that her sister had designed the panels.
Apple orchard with fruit ready to be picked. Gorgeous!
The two photos below are from a different orchard where the fruit has already been harvested. I imagine these would be apricot trees.
Not as obvious as the orchards and vineyards is the gold history of the Earnscleugh Flat. Dredges operated on the Earnscleugh Flat from the 1890s through to 1963; at the height of the dredging more than 150 dredges worked the Clutha and its tributaries [see Lessons from the Wasteland below]. Most of the gold dredge tailings here are within an historic reserve of 165.5 ha. I’ve walked through some of them years ago and found it very interesting. I mean, they’re barren mounds with lots of thyme growing but the massive changes to the landscape wrought by the gold industry over the years is mind boggling!
Further Reading about the Dredge Tailings at Earnscleugh
- History, Technology, Archaeology
Gold dredge tailings ‘premier site’ [newspaper article] | 23 April 2016 : historic, technological and archaeological significance of the Earnscleugh Dredge Tailings. Otago Daily Times
- Tailings as a Wildlife and Plant Refuge
Lessons from the wasteland [journal article] | Jan-Feb 2014 : The writer of this article visits the Earnscleugh Dredge Tailings with Brian Patrick, an ecologist specialising in insect-plant relationships. Fascinating overview of the history of the tailings and how as they’ve been abandoned, they’ve become a refuge for wildlife and plants. Fantastic information and photographs. New Zealand Geographic
- Different types of Dredges, Innovative Solutions to Problems
Earnscleugh Dredge Tailings [web page] Concise overview of dredging, useful information in summarised form of the succession of different types of dredges over the years as new technology and innovation allowed.
Modern Gold Mining at Earnscleugh
I knew that a modern gold mining operation had been set up at Earnscleugh in the last decade so I tried searching, and struck gold so to speak! The mine was put up for sale in 2014 but I found a great advertising video showing drone and ground footage of the modern Earnscleugh gold operation including various stages of processing, the dredge, and the re-instatement of the land to pasture. (The 150 ha site had been leased in 2008).
Earnscleugh alluvial gold mining [Video]
Blow to alluvial gold mining is an interesting article from October 31, 2014 about the reasons for the closure of the mine. Quarry & Mining Magazine.
Text and Photos by Liz; Exploring Colour (2018)