We had no idea of the area’s rich history when we purchased the 36-Ac Branxholm property in 2001. Initial exploration of the bushland awakened our curiosity to learn more about what seemed to be historic mining sites. The Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources was extremely helpful in finding and supplying copies of old maps detailing the historic mining leases. Apart from the Martial Mary lease on the river flat, which had been owned by the local Anglican priest, other leases had been owned by members of the Chinese community, including Ah Moy, Fon Hock, and Ah Back. A substantial portion of the Ah Ping lease was on our property.
The Ah Ping alluvial mine has remained undisturbed for 100 years and has revegetated with man ferns, Myrtle and Sassafras. With some remaining tall eucalypts this has formed a natural grotto still showing evidence of the manual mining techniques used, including fern and moss-covered rock heaps and tail race that flows with water in the wetter months. We felt this peaceful site and its history should be made accessible to our guests.
In 2008 we won a Tasmanian Tourism Promotion Plan grant to develop a walk through the alluvial mine site and to research the history. A brief history of Henry Ah Ping and the Chinese miners of Branxholm is available upon request. Ah Ping’s Sculpture Walk is an easy 2km taking you along the Ormuz/Arba water race and through the historic alluvial tin mine site.
We commissioned Folko Kooper (Mangalore Tasmania) to create steel silhouettes to depict the hard working Chinese miners. These silhouettes slip quietly into the landscape as ‘gifts’ for the observant walker. At the centre of the mine there is a meditation area with sandstone seats (sourced from mainland China) and steel bollard with an inscription, “when you put yourself in another’s position, your wisdom reveals”.
The project was officially opened by the Minister for Tourism, Michelle O’Byrne, in 2009. We were very privileged to have Mr Norman Moy (grandson of William Ah Moy) and 6 members of his extended family present for the opening. Norman spoke with great passion about his family ties to Branxholm and provided a collection of photos and documents to assist with our project.
We have met other descendants too, including descendants of Ah Ping and Henry’s wife Louisa Seelin, Maa Mon Chin (Weldborough), Fon Hock (Chung), Teuon, Chin Kit and Chintock. For us this has been a greatly rewarding experience and we continue to learn more about our local history.