The Hobart

New Town Rivulet Track: Walk from Lenah Valley

by Elizabeth Osborne
New Town Rivulet Track: Walk from Lenah Valley

Easter Monday was the perfect day for a relaxing walk along the New Town Rivulet Track to Wellington Park. We started at John Turnbull Park, walking along the rivulet to the Lady Franklin Gallery. The sandstone building, a perfect classical Greek temple, comes from another time and place as it sits on a gentle slope in the bush. Why was it built here, and by whom?

In 1837 the famous explorer, Sir John Franklin, was appointed lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen’s Land. His wife, Lady Jane Franklin, accompanied him. It was not a happy appointment. Sir John was a navy man, not an administrator, whilst his wife was an articulate intellectual.

When the Franklins arrived in Van Diemen’s Land, they were horrified by the lack of cultural institutions. Lady Jane was determined to improve the colonists’ culture and aspirations. In 1841 she bought land at Lenah Valley, which she named Ancanthe, “vale of flowers.” The building was completed in 1843, but a month after the grand opening of the gallery, the Franklins were recalled unexpectedly to England. Lady Jane’s dream was forgotten; Ancanthe became an apple orchard, and the museum a storage shed.

Lady Franklin Gallery

In 1938, the Hobart City Council took over the Ancanthe site, and restored and renovated the little Greek temple. It was a brave decision, for in 1938 Tasmania was still suffering the effects of the Great Depression. Since 1949, the building, now known as the Lady Franklin Gallery, has been leased to the Art Society of Tasmania, whose regular exhibitions realise Lady Jane’s vision of a centre for the arts.

After wandering around the park, we walked further along the New Town Rivulet Track. The rivulet was flowing freely after recent rains, thundering over rocks and boulders. We passed a boy practicing the art of fly fishing. “There’s heaps of brown trout here,” he said. “I caught seven, but I threw them back cause they were too small.” I bet he imagines one day he’ll catch fish as big as the giant fish in the riverbank sculpture, “Fauna”.

Two kilometres along the track we reached the ford at the entry to Wellington Park. We filled our drink bottle with cold mountain water, enjoying the icy drink, before walking back to our car. The Rivulet was our companion, the sound of vigorously running water soothing away the world’s troubles as it rushed down to the Derwent River.

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May 2024

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