Bushwalking Clubs

'Pinnacle, Mt Wellington', 1878 (W.L. Crowther Librar, SLT)

Before the Hobart and Launceston Walking Clubs were formed in 1929 and 1946 respectively, there had been individuals and small groups, such as the Mountain Club, Sunday Trampers, South West Expeditionary Club and Northern Tasmanian Alpine Club, who were interested in bushwalking. However, formal organisation into clubs required a critical mass of walkers with sufficient leisure and affluence, a culture which valued walking and suitable places for walking. Initially walks, day or overnight, were restricted to the immediate environs of the two cities because of working hours and restricted transport access. Longer trips, such as those to Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair, the south-west, Mount Field and Freycinet, were confined to Easter and Christmas holidays. Since then other clubs have been organised regionally, such as North-West (1965) and Deloraine (1972), while some cater for specific groups, such as the University Bushwalking Club.

Recently government and private enterprise have partly or wholly taken over activities like track work, education, bushcraft and first aid, disseminating maps and route guides, publishing magazines (Tasmanian Tramp, Skyline and North-West Walker by the Hobart, Launceston and North-West Walking Club respectively), and assisting in search and rescue – formerly the domain of clubs. Especially since the 1960s, clubs have been active in major conservation campaigns, particularly in defence of the inviolability of national parks and reserves.

The spirit of adventure has diminished with increased affluence, car ownership, reduced working hours, expansion of roads, increasingly detailed maps, and introduction of lightweight gear and equipment. While the spirit of bushwalking is strong, clubs face challenges from other outdoor activities and a younger generation unwilling to join organisations.

Bushwalking in the Hartz Range, 1900: a hard climb for adult women especially, in long skirts and large hats
(AOT, PH30/1/2811)

Further reading: Hobart Walking Club, The Hobart Walking Club, Hobart, 1979; N Plomley, 'First years of the Club', Skyline 22, 1976; P Allnut, 'The Club's foundation fifty years ago', Tasmanian Tramp 23, 1979; Tasmanian Tramp, Skyline and North-West Walker passim.

Tim Jetson