Nestled in a valley on top of a hill there are the suggestive ruins of a 19th-century plant nursery. Founded by Carl and Margaretha Newman in 1854, Newman’s Nursery was once home to rare and exotic varieties of flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables, as well as the family’s 17 children. Yes, really 17!
By the 1880s, the nursery had become a huge success and was considered a prime showpiece of the area: at its peak, it covered 500 acres, with 90 acres of fruit trees including 500,000 apples, cherries, and stone fruits, 100,000 citrus, and 100,000 vines, as well as 300 orchid varieties and over 600 types of roses. In addition, a family home was built on the property, along with with stables, a huge glasshouse, and other outbuildings.
Then the tragedy. First the death of the couple’s young daughter, Mary, their 14th child. At the age of three, she tripped and fell into a pot of boiling water as she ran to greet her father. Then the nursery was devastated by flood in 1912. Fierce storms destroyed buildings and plants and caused severe flooding that damaged all the valley. It never quite recovered, being used as a dairy from 1932, and from 1935 assets from the buildings were salvaged and the property used for sheep grazing. What remained was destroyed by Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, that finished the property off for good. The nursery now is abandoned as nature reclaims it. The extensive ruins show glimpses into the past. With its heated glass houses, it was the largest nursery in the southern hemisphere.
The eerie silence of the valley combined with the suggestive ruins makes you feel as though you might be somewhere in ancient Mesopotamia, even if instead you’re in Adelaide! And if you chance to come in spring, and go along the wildflowers walk, you’ll be privileged to see the flowers of the many beautiful varieties of exotic bulbs that still live in the valley. Or you can follow the trail to the old Silver Mine, where, if you listen closely, you can hear something similar to the voices coming from inside the earth.
However in my opinion, the best time to visit this place is in the heart of Adelaide’s cold, gloomy winters, when the fog hang low over the old ruins, you can’t hear a soul for miles, and the mystery of these old buildings is laid bare.
Author’s notes: located in Vista, a suburb about 20km northeast of Adelaide, the ruins are part of the Anstey Hill Recreation Park and there’s a nice walk from the park entrance at Gate 6 on Perseverance Road out to the site.