A lonely and lovely back road worth travelling

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Best hoof forward . . . Horseshoe Bend Bridge was built to lead a horse over.
Somebody’s Darling . .. One of the Lonely Graves on the back road between Beaumont and Mil› lers Flat. PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Shawn McAvinue takes the back road to Beaumont.

The Lonely Graves lie on the side of the road, about halfway down.

According to popular legend, in 1865 William Rigney found the body of a young man washed up on a bank at Horseshoe Bend. After the inquest into the death of the unknown man, Rigney arranged for his burial and later marked the grave with a wooden headboard stating ‘‘Somebody’s Darling Lies Buried Here’’.

This is just a story.

The body was found in 1865 but not by Rigney.

An inquest found it was probably the body of Charles Alms, a butcher from the Nevis Valley, who drowned at Clyde while herding cattle across the Clutha River.

There is no record of who buried the body.

When Rigney died in 1912, he was buried besides ‘‘Somebody’s Darling’’ and the words ‘‘Here lies the body of William Rigney, the man who buried Somebody’s Darling,’’ were placed on his gravestone.

Access to Horseshoe Bend Bridge, a timber pedestrian suspension bridge about 1km from the graves towards Millers Flat, is an easy 10›minute walk.

Children once needed a way to cross Clutha River to get to school.

The bridge was built to replace a precarious wire and chair system, after a farmer offered the council a subsidy of £50 if it would build a bridge strong enough to carry sheep and allow a horse to be led.

The 70.2m bridge, with 9.3m high towers, opened in 1913.

The back road is dusty, littered with potholes, shared with grazing sheep and cattle and, for some parts, cyclists on the Clutha Gold Trail. This detour will add time on your journey, but it is worth it.

If travelling inland on SH8 from Lawrence, take a right before you cross the Beaumont Bridge. Follow the sign pointing to the Beaumont Millennium Track.

If you are travelling in the opposite direction on SH8, cross the Millers Flat Bridge, take a right at Craig Flat Rd and take a sharp right about 5km later to avoid travelling straight to Avenal Station.

I travelled the road in an electric car after a storm and made it through, but it would have been more comfortable in a vehicle with more clearance.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Route: Millers Flat to Beaumont via The Lonely Graves (23km)

The drive: Turn off State Highway 8 and take the back road travelling along the beautiful jade›green waters of the Clutha River.

Fuel: If you are running low on fuel, make sure you top up in Lawrence or Ettrick. When I travelled the route I saw no›one, so it’ll be a long walk if you run out of juice.

Eat and drink: Great food and coffee is available at both ends — Beaumont Hotel and Faigan’s Cafe in Millers Flat. Or take your own food and stop at a picnic spot on the Clutha River.