Sep 27, 2016
On the verge of becoming a ghost town, Derby is now a world-class mountain-biking mecca, writes Chris Ryan.
It was three brothers who put Derby on the map. In 1875, the Krushka boys – sons of Prussian immigrants – discovered a rich tin lode in the region, almost 100 kilometres north-east of Launceston. The brothers became wealthy men on the back of that find and the Tasmanian town of Derby grew around their mining operation, with more than 3000 people making it their home.
But harvesting the ore was a thirsty operation. In 1924, work began on a dam above the town to supply water to the Briseis mine, one of the most profitable tin mines in the world. After a deluge in the autumn of 1929, the dam burst. Bridges collapsed, buildings were swept away and 14 people died.The mine was eventually reopened but its glory days were over and, in 1956, it was closed down. “From that day on Derby really struggled,” says Dorset Council mayor Greg Howard. “Go back three years – it was almost a ghost town.”
The unlikely resurrection of Derby is thanks to Blue Derby, a network of world-class mountain-bike trails that lures riders from across the globe. “Plenty of people thought the idea was crazy,” says Howard. Fortunately, Glen Jacobs from World Trail wasn’t one of them.
Jacobs’ company, which has designed mountain-bike trails in 20 countries, was enlisted for the ambitious $3.1 million joint project. Since the first tracks opened in February 2015, Blue Derby has attracted 1000 riders a month on average and its popularity is set to grow following the announcement that a stage of the 2017 Enduro World Series race will be held there.
Shannon Rattray, who runs Derby Post Office and rents out accommodation for tourists in the adjacent Postmasters Lodge, has been struck by Derby’s rejuvenation. “Everyone used to say how beautiful and quaint it was,” she says of the town, “but people drove straight through. Suddenly, there was a real buzz.”
For Rattray, the appeal of Blue Derby lies in the beauty of the trails. “Blink and you’re in a green and luscious rainforest full of ferns,” she says. “Then you can be on a rock face with a river going past and then riding around a dam. It’s so inspiring. You’re in the middle of nowhere, in awe of what’s around you.”