HENRY AH PING SCULPTURE WALK
Interest from Chinese tourists and descendents of the original Chinese miners has rewarded our efforts to recount Branxholm’s local Chinese mining history. Entrance is free, but a gold coin donation helps with the cost of maintaining the road, the Settlers Hut with its displays, toilets and the walks.
We had no idea of the area’s rich history when we purchased the 36-Ac Branxholm property in 2001. We bought the land with the intention of establishing an eco-tourism accommodation business. Initial exploration of the bushland awakened our curiosity to learn more about what seemed to be historic mining sites. We contacted Greg Dickens at the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, who 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 historic 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 fell in love with the beauty of the site and felt that the site and its history should be made available to the community.
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 presented on posters within the settlers hut situated at the start of a 15 minute circuit walk. Ah Ping’s Sculpture Walk is an easy 2km taking you along the Ormuz/Arba water race to an 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.
GUIDING STAR CREEK WALK:
This walk can be accessed near the Chinese Heritage Walk’s Settlers Hut. The easy 6.7 km walk takes the visitor along the Ormuz Water Race through regrowth rain forest beside the Ringarooma River (historic Fon Hock mining leases) and then tracks uphill alongside the Guiding Star Creek to meet the Briseis Water Race, where Sclerophyl forest type predominates. Ask us for more informtion when you get here!