Sheffield Tasmania has a very pro-active tourism committee. By 1980 the town faced certain decline, as did similar farming centres all around the country. But one bright spark was to suggest something that changed the course of the town’s history and fortunes.
Despite a spectacular location at the foothills of Mount Roland in north west Tasmania, Sheffield still needed a unique angle to attract tourists. The solution? An outdoor art gallery of murals, painted on any available surface.
The artwork of Sheffield, Town of Murals depicts the heritage of the north west coast region, with agriculture a definite feature. With about 1,000 residents, Sheffield Tasmania remains the main shopping centre for the farming community of Kentish.
The nearby town of Railton has a similar population, and they’ve also adopted the outdoor gallery theme of Kentish. Instead of murals however, Railton have claimed the Town of Topiary as their title. It’s lucky Tasmanian devils and spotted quolls are carnivores; although the native wombat might cause some damage to those hedges!
Not content with just being the Town of Murals, Sheffield hosts an annual Mural Fest. Each Easter, artists are selected to compete for the major prize of $6,000, painting with an audience over the week-long festival. After the event, the new murals remain in the town park for 12 months, with most being available for purchase by the public.
Sheffield is also promoted as a tourism base for hiking in the Cradle Mountains; and the international rowing course at Lake Barrington is nearby. Tours of the famous Mole Creek Caves and the Great Western Tiers are among additional things to do in the area.
Shopping in Sheffield Tasmania
Retailers in Sheffield probably have it tough these days. With the larger regional centres of Devonport and Launceston close by, competition for the shopper’s dollar would be fierce. Understandably, Slaters Country Store in the main street market their clothing business as a step back in time, boasting personal service and a proud history.
Also having an unusual aura, The Emporium has eclectic stock: ranging from Tasmanian souvenirs and home-made goodies; to collectibles and antiques. Among the books and bric-a-brac are records by the Beatles and a collection of interesting paintings.
Farming: Kentish and Mount Roland
Cattle and sheep are produced in Kentish for their meat, milk and wool, hence the predominance of hay bales, seemingly in every direction, in January.
Another chief feature is the poppy farms. Crops are harvested for the medicinal, pain-killing properties of the flowers. While the poppy paddocks make a serene landscape, they are always accompanied by a clear DANGER label: illegal use of crop may cause DEATH. Get the message?
Sheffield Tasmania is a haven for artists and photographers, thanks in part to picturesque Mount Roland. The surrounding paddocks provide strong support; pretty patchworks of chocolate browns and vivid greens.
With government projects to make Tasmania the food bowl of the nation, the north west coast has a promising future. Already boasting vineyards, fruits and vegetable crops, Sheffield Tasmania – Town of Murals could well become even more famous.