Steppes Reserve protects an important piece of Tasmania’s high
country sheep-grazing heritage. Sheep grazing was an integral part of
early settlement life and the need for grazing pastures and stock
rotation meant pastoral families tended to live remotely, allowing them
to more effectively manage their stock and ensure access to an adequate
food supply year-round.
Since 1863, the Wilson family settled at The Steppes, near Bothwell in Tasmania, where their existence revolved around the sheep they managed. The Steppes remained the family’s home for over a hundred years. During this time, The Steppes was utilised as a police station, a church, a site of weather observation, a summer school, post office and offered lodging to travellers visiting the lakes district. The Steppes diverse use included being a family home and, in later years, was recognised as a bird sanctuary due to the proliferation of birdlife in the region.
Today, this reserve is maintained by the Parks and Wildlife Service because of its historical significance to Tasmania’s Central Highlands.
the mid 1800's, sheep-grazing at The Steppes involved driving stock up
to the highlands to rest the lowland paddocks during the summer months. A
series of accommodation paddocks were provided en route where the sheep
were held overnight. Some of these paddocks are still used today when
sheep are driven from farms in the vicinity of Ouse and Bothwell to
highland locations like the Liawenee moors for the summer.
The Wilson family history
In 1874, James Wilson married Jessie Moyes, the daughter of a Bothwell publican. They raised five children at The Steppes; a sixth child died in infancy and is buried nearby. James was made redundant when the police station was closed at The Steppes in 1894. The Wilsons were allowed to stay as tenants of the Police Department. Ten years later he purchased a 17 acre property about one kilometre from the homestead. James died in 1922, aged 85. Mrs Jessie Wilson and her three daughters continued to live at The Steppes. The middle daughter, Marion, moved away when she married the Reverend Carr, the rector of Richmond. However, in her later years she returned to The Steppes following her husband’s death. Mrs Carr died in 1967.
The two sons William and Archie moved away, married and bought farms of their own. Archie returned to The Steppes when his marriage failed and lived there to his death in the 1950s. Mrs Jessie Wilson lived at The Steppes until her death in 1946 at the age of 99 years.
The last of the family was Miss Marjorie (Madge) Wilson who lived her entire life here at The Steppes. She passed away in 1975 at the age of 92 years.
The Steppes Stones
Twelve bronze sculptures, each mounted on its own natural stone plinth, comprise The Steppes Sculptures. They stand in a bush area, just off the road, 35 km north of Bothwell, almost opposite to the road into the Lagoon of Islands. A short walk through the forest, or a short drive on the road, will bring you to the Steppes Homestead, built in 1863 when sheep grazing was popular in the highlands. Both sights are included in a reserve area.
Dedicated to those who share in the love and care of the Highlands of Tasmania from the past to the future
Concept and sculptures by Stephen Walker A. M. as a gift to Tasmania from the sculptor and his family
Future caring by the Department of Parks, Wildlife and Heritage and the Municipality of Bothwell
Inaugurated by Vincent Serventy A. M.
28th November 1992
What makes the Steppes special?
The Steppes was the home of the Wilson family for a period of 112 years that began in 1863. During this time, the Wilsons were a focal point of the life of the area. The arrival of James Wilson at The Steppes in 1863 was intertwined with the growth of sheepgrazing in the highlands. With the pilfering of stock, police districts were created on the plateau and mounted police employed.
A police station was constructed at The Steppes in 1863 and James Wilson, due to his extensive knowledge of both stock and the Lake Country, was offered the position of Superintendent of Police, a position he held for 30 years. He was assisted in his work by 2–3 deputies.