Earnscleugh, Just Passing Through

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.


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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.

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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.

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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)

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13 thoughts on “Earnscleugh, Just Passing Through

Add yours

  1. Central Otago in Autumn is a most beautiful sight. I’ve posted about that before. I have a similar orchard photo but in late Autumn. But the whole of NZ is so picturesque. I was in the Auckland area in February.

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    1. Yes I remember looking at your Central Otago photography last year, must go back and look again. Yes NZ is lovely and I truly admire Australia as well and especially the colours of the outback and the very colourful and interesting birds and other critters. I also love Aboriginal art! So you were in Auckland so recently – wow! You do get around!

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  2. I just love traveling along with you in your pocket! It is from this vantage point that I am fortunate to view sights that I would have otherwise have never seen. Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year and your magnificent photos are perfect captures of the reasons. I do love those steel panels with the cut-outs, what a clever and unusual choice. I’m off now to follow all the provided links. Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ellen! I particularly enjoyed finding the footage of the modern gold mine operation as we could never see anything much of it from the road! Many of the processes seem so similar to the old days, just a lot more mechanised; of course nowadays they have to tidy up after themselves. No one worried about such things in the old days!

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  3. The first of the two apricot trees pictures is really awesome! The pictorial colours and textures, also the central perspective – just great!
    Regards, Franz

    Liked by 1 person

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