The Hobart

Exploring Mount Nelson Bicentennial Park

by Liz Osborne
Exploring Mount Nelson Bicentennial Park

Have you wandered any of the tracks of the Bicentennial Park at Mount Nelson?

Venture on to the Troglodyte Track, starting below the lookout at the Mount Nelson Signal Station, classified as “moderate difficulty”. The track winds downhill through lightly wooded bushland with breathtaking views of Hobart and the Derwent River. Porters Hill, and the iconic Dorney House, are a two kilometre walk along the track. In 2006, to ensure the preservation of Hobart’s wooded skyline, the Hobart City Council acquired the Dorney House and thirty-five hectares of surrounding bushland.

Porter Hill is the site of Fort Nelson, built in 1904, as part of the network of fortresses that defended the approaches to Hobart. It was abandoned at the end of World War Two. The old fort was purchased by renowned Melbourne architect, Esmond Dorney, in 1949. Dorney built his family home on top of the thick concrete walls of the northern gun emplacement. Imagine doing that today!

Southern gun emplacement Fort Nelson

The remaining southern gun emplacement and concrete rooms contrast with the light modern architecture of the house. The house is a story of resilience and courage. The first house Dorney built in 1949 was destroyed by bushfire, as was the second in 1966. The present house was constructed in 1978. Will the building survive if a bushfire sweeps across the hills of Mount Nelson again? The Dorney House is stunning, an icon of modern Australian architecture. Walking up the steep drive, the building seems to float on the skyline; it is all curves, shimmering glass, and metal. The house is an eyrie, a sky house of infinite views.

Exhilarated by the beauty of the Dorney House, we decided to return to the summit of Mount Nelson via the 2.1-km Truganini Track, on the south-east side of Mount Nelson. The track follows the Cartwright Creek, through light eucalyptus woodland to a sheltered rainforest gully filled with birdsong. The ascent is arduous. The steep steps have eroded over years, a metre between some, well beyond the length of my short legs. It was certainly a good cardio workout! We paused at the Truganini memorial, contemplating Truganini’s life.

Back of Dorney House

In one walk on Mount Nelson, we had connected with Truganini’s story, the military might of the British Empire, and iconic twentieth century architecture.

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June 2024

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