Heysen Trail pioneer Warren Bonython dies

By Sylvia Varnham O'Regan 4 April 2012
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Heysen Trail pioneer and South Australian explorer Warren Bonython has died at the age of 95.

EXPLORER, CONSERVATIONIST AND CREATOR of the Heysen Trail, Warren Bonython, has died, aged 95.

A man with many passions, Warren Bonython was an avid hiker and conservationist of  South Australian prominence. He is credited with planning and developing South Australia’s Heysen Trail, which today spans from the south-coast to the northern Flinders Ranges and covers 12,000km of land. It is a legacy that will be enjoyed by many generations to come.

Born into one of Adelaide’s most illustrious families, Warren graduated with a bachelor of science from Adelaide University and began work chemical engineer which spanned over two decades. His roles included managing the salt fields at Dry Creek in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, serving on the Australian Heritage Commission and chairing the Evaluation Panel for Natural Areas in South Australia. He was also a member of the Uranium Advisory Council and received the Order of Australia for services to conservation in 1980.

Friend and author Quentin Chester says that Warren’s love of the land was central to his life and work. “Despite his genteel upbringing, Warren revelled in the rigours of the bush, carrying – and hauling – huge loads for weeks at a time. He was determined and tough,” he says.

“By nature he was private, precise and reserved. Yet, through his enthusiastic writings and his life-time work as a conservationist, he inspired an entire generation of South Australians to see their landscape afresh, to get out and experience the bush, and to protect their natural wonders.”

Warren Bonython South Australian legend

Warren wrote many books, including: Walking the Flinders Rangers, Walking the Simpson Desert and The History of the Heysen Trail.

He was also a devoted husband and family man – his marriage to wife Bunty spanned 71 years – and a deeply religious and spiritual person.

“For him, arriving on foot to the top of a remote desert peak or the middle of Lake Eyre channelled every aspect of his being – his love of walking and challenge, the thrill of scientific discovery, and an exquisite feeling of freedom, verging on transcendence,” Quentin says.

Warren’s grandfather, Sir John Langdon Bonython, was a prominent philanthropist, politician and editor of The Advertiser. His father, John Lavington Bonython, was also a journalist and editor who later became the mayor of Adelaide.

Warren is survived by his wife Bunty, three children and six grand- and great-grandchildren.