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Riesling Trail celebrates 30 years

Volunteers who manage a popular bicycle trail through Clare Valley wine country are celebrating the opening of its first stage 30 years ago.

May 20, 2024, updated May 20, 2024
Clare Valley's Riesling Trail is celebrating its 30th year. Photo: Supplied

Clare Valley's Riesling Trail is celebrating its 30th year. Photo: Supplied

The Riesling Trail is built on a former rail line which ran from Adelaide to Spalding in the mid-north.

The 33km path from Auburn to Barinia marked the first time a railway line had been converted for recreational use in South Australia.

The trail was completed in four stages – Sevenhill to Watervale in 1994, Clare to Sevenhill and Watervale to Auburn in 1998, Clare to Barinia in 2009, and the final stretch into Auburn in 2019.

Riesling Trail Management Committee secretary Sue Wurst said the features which made building the original rail line a challenge was what attracted visitors, along with the scenery.

“Its construction was not without challenges,” Wurst said.

“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.”

Riesling Trail Management Committee chair Allan Mayfield said that around 100,000 people a year used the path, of which “30 to 40 per cent” were locals.

“Probably ten per cent [of visitors] are international – the impact is significant,” he said.

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“People who have accommodation tell us it’s more and more that people are coming to Clare for the Riesling Trail rather than the wineries. But clearly they do both.

“When you see properties for sale in the paper they say ‘this property is near the Riesling Trail’… we rarely ever pay for publicity because we just get it.”

While the committee received some government funding, most came from local businesses and individuals.

“When I joined the committee 12 years ago, they had only a small amount in the bank, and really couldn’t do much,” Mayfield said.

“We have a lot of energy, we’re very focussed on what we’re doing, and as a result we tend to do more than what happens with other trails. Every two weeks at least we’re on the trail checking and making sure everything is right.”

Mayfield said volunteers dedicated around 1000 hours a year to the Riesling Trail’s upkeep.

“I think it’s really unique in Australia that the trail is managed by a voluntary committee,” he said.

“That motivates us to keep the trail in really good nick, so that people who come enjoy it and tell their friends, and keep coming.”

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