MORE POWER: The Botanical Gardens Marathon Mill is just one of many in the region.
MORE POWER: The Botanical Gardens Marathon Mill is just one of many in the region. Contributed

Old tech powering the region

LONG before wind turbines were ever considered "new age” and well before solar panels were devised as "renewable energy” generators, the world already had a piece of technology that was a low energy user, 100 per cent wind driven and changed the face of the farming industry and the developing rural communities.

From remote properties, droving camps and stage coach changing stations, this technology changed their way of life. As old as this technology is, it is still very much in use today; all hail the common windmill.

The windmill in its many guises and designs is very much a fundamentally simple machine with a sole purpose: to pump water.

Now technically, I don't know a whole lot about how a windmill works other than the blades of the windmill wheel catch the wind which then turns and through a series of gears, raises the pump rod along with a piston.

The faster the mill turns the more water it pumps.

So what has a windmill got to do with discovering our own backyard for this week?

Spread right across the central highlands, are many windmills going about their everyday job, bringing water to an otherwise water scarce landscape for cattle, homes and small communities.

In their heyday, windmills provided consistent water, the very lifeblood that led to the evolution of the central highlands into the valuable farming and agricultural industry that we see today.

A reliable water source meant farms and settlements could sustain themselves, stock and plant irrigated small to medium scale vegetable plots.

Not only did the variety of vegetables increase - but the health of the farmers also improved.

Back in those days, drovers could rely on what were government installed windmill driven watering points strategically placed along stock routes allowing cattle movement to grazing land or to railheads for transport to sale centres.

Even today, many roads throughout the central highlands still play a huge role in the movement of cattle along recognised stock routes and like those far gone days water is still as important now as it was then.

As you read this, there are two teams of drovers and hundreds of cattle between Springsure and just south of Rolleston on the stock route.

Often small settlements were established along these routes and indeed towns such as Dingo, Comet and Emerald directly developed from the push of the railway line as it moved further west.

Trains back then were driven by steam - and water was critical to the steam making process. No water, no trains.

The central highlands was criss-crossed by a number of stage coach routes both to the west and to the north and like trains of the day. Horses also depended on reliable water points, most of the time delivered by the humble windmill into a dam or tank.

Rolleston has one such windmill in Beazley Park as does Springsure in the Rich Memorial Park and the Emerald Botanical Gardens features the windmill that was moved from Marathon farm, compliments of the Cominos family where today it still stands pumping water as it has done for almost 100 years.

So when you are out there discovering our own backyard, keep your eyes open. Hundreds of windmills are just doing their job.


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