Guest post by Chris Davies, Chair, Willunga Basin Trail Inc.
My partner Zara and I have walked many miles in several countries and seen some wonderful sights. I have always been intrigued by the many and different approaches that have been taken to allow walkers access to or from the next paddock or enclosure, yet barred stock and other animals. Instantly recognizable in the landscape when seeking a way are the huge wooden A-frame ladders over high-wired deer fences in Scotland. Not always as discernable are the horizontal slabs jutting as steps from drystone dykes. In North Yorkshire, slender slots to squeeze through stone walls. And clever off-centre hinges that cause small heavy wooden gates to re-latch with a “clunk “behind you. The ubiquitous pole on the fence line, with two or three boards set through the fence as steps, is perhaps the simplest, cheapest, and most easy to use of all stiles, yet due to construction methods I have seen many in disrepair.
In South Australia, when crossing a typical wire fence at the beginning of the Little Kaiserstuhl walk near Tanunda, I was struck by how easy this stile was to climb, where one may use two hands for added safety and the simplicity of its design.
When we were deciding on a style of stile for the Willunga Basin Trail, I found that this Flinders Ranges Bush Walks Stile is approved by the South Australian Insurance Corporation. It was designed by Rob Marshall of the Walking Trails Support Group.
A phone call to Rob and we were on the way to a decision.
We had estimated that we would need at least 29 stiles, that they would need to be rugged due to the varied conditions and terrain in which they would be placed, and above all, safe to use. Ease of construction on site was also a factor. The fewer parts, the easier to assemble was the thought. Chats with an engineer in McLaren Vale eventually saw the production of 38 stiles, each having a single heavy duty pipe frame with 4mm thick walls, rounded step-ends for extra safety should a climber slip, and double galvanising for durability.
We have now placed 35 stiles on the trail.
If you asked our volunteers about how easy these climbing frames have been to erect, you may hear a few mumbles. Dedicated, happy and very loyal though they are, a trench big enough to take up to 380 kilograms of ready-mix concrete had to be dug for each of the 35. This was often into hard rocky clay that came out of the ground looking like dry wood chips, enough to test the patience and strength of even our stalwart volunteers. Throw in 33 degree heat or wind driven rain and you may start to wonder about “ease of construction”.
But the sight of a beautifully choreographed 4 person team, each member holding a corner of a two metre square tarpaulin, moving to the callers instructions, mixing up to seventeen 20 kilogram bags of ready-mix concrete and then pouring it directly into that hard won trench, eases the aching bodies and doubtful minds. Another stile stands ready in place. They are simple, they are strong. They make climbing wire fences easy and are easily recognizable in the landscape.