Beer Tasting, Polish History and a Short Hike in the Clare Valley

Pole Hill River Church

After cycling the Rattler Rail Trail and Riesling Rail Trails there was time today to visit some of places we learned about on the Trails.

On our list of places of interest were Pole Hill River Church, Pike Brewery, Quarry Lookout and Quarry Rail Bridge, and walk a the Cascades Walk which is a very short section of the new 325 km Lavender Federation Trail.

Pole Hill River and Church

One of the information boards on the Riesling Rail Trail is about the Polish immigrants that settled at Hill River. The mention of ‘Pilgrimage’ attracts our attention and we delve deeper into the history.

Pole Hill River Church

The Poles travelled north from Port Misery (Now Port Adelaide) by bullock teams and with most of the adults probably walking, settling in the Clare Valley with the largest group at Hill River.

Pole Hill Church Plaque

The beginnings of the settlement were very difficult with some settlers living in dug-outs and hollow trees at first. The area named Hill River became their “New Little Poland”, with a Polish community forming around the church of Saint Stanislaus (Stanisław) Kostka, and a community school. The area became known as Polish Hill River.

Pole Hill River Church Well
Pole Hill River Well

Around one hundred years after the first pioneers fled Polish regions in search of new opportunities a second wave of Poles arrive. Polish post Second World War Displaced Persons, following WWII and unable to return to their beloved Poland because of the Soviet occupation and Communist rule, migrate to South Australia to begin new lives in exile. They discover that they have not been the first Polish people who sought freedom in this country and their discovery of an earlier ‘Little Poland’ in the Clare Valley gives them hope and inspiration.  Thousands of kilometres from their homeland, the Polish spirit is reborn as a new wave of migration honours those who came as pioneers over one hundred years earlier.  

The restoration of the church of Saint Stanislaus (Stanisław) Kostka and the establishment of a museum within the attached rebuilt school rooms soon becomes a place for pilgrimage, to tell the story of those pioneers and of their own sacrifices and journeys to freedom.  Once again, a “Little Poland” is born, celebrating Polish faith, culture and freedom.

Pike Brewery

Coincidentally, Pike Brewery is next to the Pole Hill River Church. Henry Pike, who emigrated from Dorset began brewing in 1886. Even though it was not yet lunchtime Steven took the opportunity to try a selection of craft beers.

Pike Brewery - Clair Valley SA

Quarry Hill Lookout

One of the prettiest views of the Clare Valley. The road runs off Main North Rd, just south of the caravan park. A dirt road takes you to the lookout. 360 degree views over Polish Hill River Valley, Pikes, Paulette’s and Wilson’s vineyards.

Cascades Walk

The Cascades Walk is a short not too difficult 1.4 km return walk and is the most popular bushwalk in the Spring Gully Conservation Park. The walk starts from the Blue Gum Lookout where you get sweeping views from Gulf St Vincent to the Cascades, which run after sustained rains. Blue Gum Lookout was also great place to enjoy the view while eating lunch on the tables provided.

Our walk started off together mainly downhill to the Cascades. Trish then retraced our steps back to the car while I crossed the Cascades (just a dribble today) and carried on following the Lavender Federation Trail uphill for another 5 km or so where Trish would pick me up at the top of the hill.

Cascades trail Clair Valley SA

The Lavender Federation Trail is now on my ‘to do’ walking list. Only 318 km of it left to walk!