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May 1, 2023

Get in step with the Pioneer Women’s Trail Walk

Once a year, thousands of walkers band together for a 26-kilometre walk from Hahndorf to Beaumont. Here’s why you should too.

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  • This article was produced in collaboration with History Trust of South Australia.
  • Pictures: Elana Bailey Photography

The historic Pioneer Women’s Trail Walk is the motivation you need to get outside this May.

Sign up for the full 26 kilometres from Hahndorf to Beaumont, or take the shorter trail from Bridgewater or Stirling.


Pioneer Women’s Trail Walk
7:30am ’til 4pm Sunday, 21 May
Start from Hahndorf, Bridgewater or Stirling.
More info

Even the longer distance will feel like a walk in the park when compared with the efforts of the women for whom the trail is named.

One of their stories is that of Thelka Staude (née Stanetzki), who was six years old in 1837 when her family uprooted from their homeland in Eastern Europe and embarked on the treacherous sea journey to the fledgling colony of South Australia.

Soon after arriving, the Stanetzkis established themselves in the German-settler village of Hahndorf, located on the land of the Peramangk people.

At the age of 14, Thelka began making the round trip to Adelaide to sell produce door-to-door from her family’s farm.

A death notice in The News from 1931 stated, “When 14 years old [Thelka] used to walk from Hahndorf to Adelaide with eggs and butter, making the return journey the next day with groceries”.

Thelka was one of a group of ethnic German Lutheran women and girls who would regularly make this long and arduous journey to sell their goods. The German women walked along paths travelled for thousands of years by the Peramangk and Kaurna people, who used the trail for ceremonial and trade purposes.

Usually setting out twice a week around midnight, the women would sing Lutheran hymns as they passed through a stringybark forest and along ridges and spurs, all the while carrying heavy baskets full of fresh vegetables, butter, cream and eggs. They would stop at several locations to rest their tired and sore backs and feet, and on the return journey, they were each required to carry a brick to build a Lutheran church at Hahndorf.

The route taken by these women was first recreated by the National Trust in 1980, using an old map, and has since been named the Pioneer Women’s Trail.

Since 2009, the Pioneer Women’s Trail has been a regular and popular fixture of the National Trust’s calendar. Every May, thousands of walkers descend in the early morning from Hahndorf and make their way to State Heritage-listed Beaumont House, where the women used to stop to rest.

Walkers amble along picturesque country roads, winding laneways and bush tracks of the Adelaide Hills, lined by historic homes, deciduous trees and native bushland.

Travel journalist Ben Stubbs, who retraced the Pioneer Women’s Trail in his book The Crow Eaters: A Journey Through South Australia, says that many people passing along the freeway would not realise the dangerous journey these women took.

“To spend six to eight hours walking this trail like they did twice a week was really humbling,” Ben says.

“Just to see the realities of what these women would do, getting up in the middle of the night and having these yokes on their back with butter and cream… and then to come back early in the morning to construct their church.”

Regular attendee Katrina Jane says the event is something she and her mother look forward to every year.

“My mum and I do the walk each year – I can’t wait to do it again this May,” Katrina says.

“My favourite part is walking through Bridgewater and down Mount Osmond, with the stunning views of Adelaide.”

Walkers will be farewelled from their starting points with live music from Argy Bargy Band, Dave Clark Sing For You and Gerry’s Ukelele Band.

At Beaumont House, they’ll receive a Welcome to Country from Kaurna, Narungga and Ngarrindjeri man Robert Taylor. The post-event celebrations at Beaumont House will be open to all members of the public.

Against the backdrop of spectacular city views, there’ll be live music from the energetic Baker Boys Band, paella from Oranaise, traditional Armenian food from Lilit’s Hamov Kitchen, tasty temptations from the National Trust Burnside branch’s Soup & Sandwich stall, plus Lobo Spirits and Cider and Deja Brew ready with a celebratory beverage.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the website.

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