Members Trips

Sir Hans Heysen's Camper Trailer

sir hans heysen's
1931 camper trailer

Model A Ford & camper - 1932

Sir Hans Heysen's landscapes of the Flinders Ranges, 'Droving into the Light', 'The Three Sisters of Aroona', 'Hills of Arkaba', 'Ramparts of the Wilpenas' and 'Guardian of the Gorge' are but a few of the renowned paintings the artist is famous for.  


His first trip into the Flinders Ranges was in 1926 catching a train to Quorn where he stayed at the Transcontinental Hotel for a few days making sketches of the surrounding area before continuing on to Hawker and the Royal Hotel. From there he jumped onto the mail truck to Wilpena Station. Although Wilpena made little impact on him, the country between the Pound & Hawker certainly took his attention.


The following year Hans along with friend Joyner, headed for Oraparinna Station where they were invited by the properties lessee, Mr KP Sawer, to spend a few weeks at an outstation in the beautiful Aroona Valley with Eddie Pumpa & his wife. The pug and pine hut was within walking distance of some of the most scenic country the Flinders had to offer, including Brachina Gorge.


From this base Hans produced many sketches and watercolours. Eddie drove them to locations in his 1922 model Ford where he would drop the two off, do his work and then come back to retrieve them. 


In 1928 Hans was back to the Flinders roaming for a week or two on station trucks beyond Blinman and in 1929 he stayed with Eddie Pumpa once again, this time at the Wonoka Hotel as the depression had forced Eddie off the land. In 1930 he repeated the trip.


Eddie Pumpa had agreed to take him further north in 1931 but after arriving in Hawker he witnessed the devastating floods in Hawker and a month long camping trip was out of the question. He caught the train back to Adelaide.


At the end of 1931 Hans bought a small trailer-caravan with collapsible sides and roof. Along with son David, driver of the Model A Ford Roadster, they  would camp as they travelled. The pair gave the trailer a trial run south of Adelaide and set out for the far north in March 1932. They did a repeat trip to the far north in 1933 with the camper. David was delighted to find his campsite improvements from the previous year still intact, the wireless pole, doorstep and stone table all ready for use. The five week stay on the Brachina was probably the best that Han's had ever spent in the Flinders.


reference: Heysen of Hahndorf by CM Thiele, (Adel, 1968)


the camper


The camper was built by a Mr Norman at premises on the corner of Fullarton and Glen Osmond Roads, Parkside in Adelaide and was restored in the 1980's. Hans had used it as a bird aviary for many years.


I had the privilege to be shown through the camper by Sir Hans Heysen's grandson Peter Heysen at the painters former home, The Cedars, at Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills, where it is on display. The camper is constructed with a wooden frame, ply paneling and a canvas roof. The flyscreen windows once had removable canvas covers for bad weather.


Setting the camper up is a simple task of the canvas roof being unclipped, three stringer supports removed and the triangle ends placed on the ground. The four hinged flyscreen sides are then lifted up and clipped into place. The triangle ends are then replaced, followed by the supports and canvas roof.


Entry is via a rear door. Inside the two bunk beds have storage underneath with a cupboard at the far end. Two supports pull out with the top of the cupboard folding to twice its size making for a very convenient table for inside dinning when the weather or flies are bad. At the door end of the camper there is a pressure fuel stove permanently mounted.


The leaf springs are mounted to a steel angle frame which is secured to the campers wooden frame. A simple hinged stand to support the tow hitch is held in place with a leather strap when travelling. The car is not the original Model A Ford Roadster, but has been bought to compliment the camper display.


Our trip into the Flinders was made all the more enjoyable with a little insight into the artists life after the visit to The Cedars where we also managed to buy a copy his biography, Heysen of Hahndorf by CM Thiele. The tour of The Cedars are run by volunteers and definitely worth it. You come away with a different outlook after hearing the little stories behind the paintings and the lives of both Hans, his wife and family


A big thanks to The Cedars manager Allan Campbell, the volunteers & Peter Heysen for the information & time setting up the camper for me. 




















Three Sisters of Aroona Valley - 1938 Aroona Valley - 2012


Guardian of the Brachina Gorge - 1937 the Guardian - 2012


Eddie Pumpa's hut - 1927 the hut - 2012


the cedars

Sir Hans Heysen's studio at The Cedars







flinders ranges
aroona hut

Aroona hut - 1927


The hut in the Aroona Valley, known as the Aroona Hut, was built as an outstation on Oraparinna Station. The property lessee, KP Sawer had instructed the property manager, Bert Mudie, to construct the hut in 1925, some twenty miles from the Oraparinna Homestead.


The hut is of pug and pine construction. Native pine was cut on site and driven into the ground closely spaced. Chicken wire was nailed to both sides and covered with a pliable mixture, usually of chopped straw and mud. Internal surfaces were generally towelled smooth and lime wash was applied internally and externally to improve the appearance and give protection from the elements. Some of this original pug is still on the walls.


The hut consists of three rooms built in a straight line, with verandahs running their full length at the font & back. The kitchen and washroom are enclosed at separate ends of the back veranda. The windows of the main rooms look out on the sweeping valley and its encircling mountains. One the east are the humps of the ABC Ranges, on the west the up thrust buttresses of the main mountain chain, now known as the Heysen Range, culminating in Mount Hayward.


There is a stone chimney & fireplace in the main room with some of the original rammed earth floor still existing. The corrugated galvanized iron roofing is gone and has been replaced with a new roof by the national parks as a conservation measure to preserve this historic building.



flinders ranges
aroona homestead

plan of the 1851 Aroona Homestead

On the ridge above the Aroona hut lays the remains of the original Aroona Run homestead built by John Hayward in 1851. Not far from the remains is a permanent spring which still bares water today. Hayward ran 3,300 sheep on the property. In 1853 Hayward made a profit of 1,419 pounds on the 106 bales of wool from 9,500 sheep shorn. Hayward sold the property and returned to England a rich man with 40,000 pounds only 15 years after his arrival with 40 pounds.  Bad droughts between 1864 - 1866 destroyed these pastoral runs and put an end to gross overstocking. The smaller runs never recovered. Some were absorbed into larger stations while others where abandoned.   






article by Rob

july 2012