Nestled in a valley on top of a hill lies the striking ruins of a 19th-century plant nursery. Established by Charles (Carl) and Mary (Margaretha) Newman (Neumann) in 1856, 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, 17!
By the 1880s, the nursery had become a huge success and was considered a prime showpiece of the colony. At its peak, it covered 500 acres. There were 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. A family home was built on-site, along with with stables, a huge glasshouse, and various outbuildings.
Then tragedy struck. First, it was 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 in 1913, fierce storms destroyed buildings and plants and caused severe flooding that damaged the valley. In the early 1980s, the Ash Wednesday bushfires finished it off for good. The nursery now lies abandoned as nature reclaims it.
The eerie silence of the valley combined with the remarkable ruins makes you feel as though you might be somewhere in ancient Mesopotamia. Instead, you’re in little old 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 voices coming from inside the earth…
But the best time to visit is in the heart of Adelaide’s cold, gloomy winters. When heavy fog and mist hang low over the old ruins, you can’t hear a soul for miles, and the mystery of these old buildings is laid bare.
Know Before You Go
Visit at dusk or dawn for the best views over the ruins. The ruins are part of the Anstey Hill Recreation Park and there's a nice walk from the park entrance at Gate 4 or 5 on Perseverance Road out to the site. Located in Vista, a suburb about 12 miles (20km) northeast of Adelaide.