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SUNDAY 17/8/14


On 12/8/14 the following article appeared in Hobart's Mercury newspaper:

            "The closure of a $6.5 million tourism development is robbing Tasmanians and visitors of the chance to access what has been described as one of the most memorable wilderness
             experiences in the country.

            The Eagles Eyrie lookout and mountain-top restaurant has been idle since last November when it changed hands from Forestry Tasmania to the Parks and Wildlife Service under the
            forest peace deal.

            The community and Derwent Valley Council have called for better access to the spectacular architectural showpiece near the top of Abbotts Peak, saying the mothballing of the site
            is a wasted opportunity.

            A PWS officer told the Maydena community last week the State Government was seeking expressions of interest to take over the stunning taxpayer-funded timber and stone building.

            Hobart chef Waji Spiby presided over a handful of cooking classes and functions in the Eyrie, which he described as an unrivalled wilderness experience.

            'It’s better than Mt Wellington. It’s the most amazing venue you’ll ever see but it’s just getting people up there,' Mr Spiby said.

            When the Eyrie was opened in 2009, Forestry Tasmania said it would revive the struggling Derwent Valley community.

            The original plan, touted by former Premier Paul Lennon and former Forestry Tasmania chief Evan Rolley, was for an $8 million funicular train, or hauler, to ferry visitors to the Eyrie.

            That plan was ultimately abandoned and the site, 1,100m above sea level, can only be reached by a narrow former logging road.

            Derwent Valley Mayor Martyn Evans said the development should have boosted local employment.

            He wants the road upgraded to provide car access. 'It could be an ideal opportunity for a private operator,' he said.

            Maydena Community Association member Geoff Williams said locals were keen to see a cable car to the summit and had even discussed approaching Mt Wellington cable car proponent
            Adrian Bold.

            Mr Williams said another option was tracked vehicles to provide access in winter, allowing visitors to see mountainous wilderness covered in snow.

            A State Government spokesman last night said the situation was a matter for the Parks and Wildlife Service.

            The PWS could not be contacted for comment."


Eagles Eyrie Aerial Photo

The Eagles Eyrie lookout and restaurant at Maydena. Photo The Mercury


After reading the above account of Eagles Eyrie in The Mercury of 12/8/14, we thought it would be an interesting day out to walk up to Abbotts Lookout and have a look at the building for ourselves. The weather was not exactly beautiful as we left Hobart at about 8.30am, with low cloud or fog down to around 100m. We hoped it would have cleared up by the time we started our walk. The forecast was for a fine day, temperature around 14oC.


The drive out to Maydena was uneventful, with very little traffic, travelling as we were in the middle of Winter and on a Sunday morning. We arrived at our start-point, where Matthew parked his car near a large steel shed a short distance up Junee Road, at 10.00am. We prepared to start our walk, from an elevation of approximately 300m.

We both had day packs with the usual extra thermals, gloves, beanies and waterproof jackets that we knew would be necessary at an altitude of over 1,100m at the top. I had in my pack the first aid kit, tarp and some sandwiches while Matthew took his lightweight gas cooker, hot chocolate powder, tube of evaporated milk and cooking pot for a hot drink. [He admitted he had forgotten his mug so intended using the cooking pot for his drink!]

We always each take our personal locator beacons (with GPS) with us as well as phones with GPS and map software (just in case). Matthew also had a drink bottle with Gatorade as well as each of us having a 1 litre water bottle. We also took our trekking poles to give some assistance with our uphill journey. I was wearing my GoPro camera on my chest. I hoped the batteries would last for the entire trip but they ran out of juice as we were preparing to leave for the return walk.

The Walk

It was a very easy start, with a gradual uphill slope along a wide, grassy track following under the power lines (wayleaves). We did not climb over any fences or open gates as there was easy pedestrian access next to the gate across the start of the track.

Start of Walk Junee Road

However, the gradual slope soon changed to a solid, relentless slog upwards that needed frequent stops to enable us (me, mainly) to get our breath back.

As well as walking under the power lines we were also following the route of a water main. We assumed that it was the main water supply line for Maydena, but we could have been mistaken about that.

Starting to get steepWater Main InfrastructureJef's Track Stage 2Wide Track Steep Walking

We plodded ever upwards, in virtually a straight line, following the shortest distance between two points that the power lines dictated.

There were several structures that we encountered on the way up, such as various stop valves, possible surge tanks and a water filter for the water supply. At one point there was a break in the pipe, with a resultant escape of water that formed a mini-creek down the track.

Leaking Water MainWater Main FilterJef's Track Stage 3

At the point where we saw the "Jef's Track Stage 3" sign, indicating there was over 3kms (at least) to go and 400m vertical distance and the power lines and poles stretched up into the far distance ahead of us (and I had called out "Holy Sh_t" or something similar), Matthew suggested it would be a good idea to have a rest stop at each power pole. I readily agreed.

At last we reached the communication towers on Roberts Road, where we stopped to put on our waterproof jackets, beanies and gloves to help guard against the biting wind.

Comms Towers Roberts Road

Once again Matthew checked his map and said we should expect to turn left off Roberts Road a short distance down from where we had stopped. True enough, within 200m a left turn came into view. We followed this up for about 500m until we reached our destination, Eagles Eyrie.

Inside Eagles EyrieInside Eagles EyrieMatthew and Eagle SculptureSeat at Eagles Eyrie


 Eagle at Eagles EyrieDeck at Eagles Eyrie

Here the wind really made its presence felt, funnelling through the open spaces in the building's structure. We had a quick look around, peering in through the windows at the two large rooms. The only place we could find to have our lunch with a small amount of shelter and sunshine was against a wall near the wood storage. I spread out the tarp I had brought and Matthew set up his gas stove to boil water for our hot drink. The sandwiches I had prepared were a bit of a disappointment, the bread being slightly less than fresh. We still ate them.

Naturally, any unoccupied building appears less appealing and less friendly than if it were a hive of activity. We both thought that the inside walls would have benefitted from a display of, say, wilderness posters rather than large newspaper headline banners from the past. There also did not appear to be many comfortable seats (apart from four backless couches) but a lot of hard kitchen chairs. Maybe things were different when the enterprise was in full swing.

We soon became very cold, despite our layers of clothing, so our stay was brief. We decided to walk down Roberts Road and set off at a brisk pace in an endeavour to warm our hands and feet. My hands were uncomfortably cold, while Matthew said his hands were painful and not able to grasp things.

As we approached the end of the walk, we detoured off Roberts Road onto a wide track that would take us in a direct route to near the start of our upwards walk. However, after about 300m the track simply ceased to exist, ending in a steep drop-off into dense undergrowth. The map software indicated the track continued. However, the map might have been 20 years out of date. We really had no alternative but to retrace our steps and find another way back to the car. Obviously, we could have walked to the end of Roberts Road and then along Gordon River Road but we thought a closer track should exist, if we could find it.

We followed another track that was indicated as moving in a direction opposite to that which we wanted to go (not marked on the map software). After a while it made a 180o turn and headed back towards our original track, enabling us to reach the car at about 3.30pm.

A quick snack at the local shop then a leisurely drive back to where I had left my car earlier in the day.

So ended an interesting, hard day trip to an isolated tourist attraction that really deserves a better fate than to be left empty and unused. We felt that if it is not resurrected as a viable venture soon then it is likely to deteriorate in the harsh conditions at the top of Abbotts Lookout.


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