THERE'S an audible crunch of unswept autumn leaves underfoot at the old Penny Royal Gunpowder Mill tourist site.
Once upon a time, the sound would have been drowned out by the roar of the waterfall, the bang of cannon fire and the squeals of delighted children on boats, swishing through the water.
In its heyday in the early '80s, about 3000 people would enjoy the site every day.
Today, the boats are high and dry, the cannon is silenced and the waterfall dried up. The lake is empty and the children are gone.
But that's not news. The site has been shut for more than 10 years. Now, it's back on the market, together with the motel, apartments, tavern and shop, all still operating, and the iconic windmill, which is not.
Developer Roger Smith recalls fondly the day it all started, back in 1972, with a pile of convict bricks he was buying from a property at Barton, in the state's midlands.
``I saw an old water mill, which was falling down,'' he said. ``I found the owner and agreed to buy it for $1000.''
He woke up at 3am the next day with a vision of how it should look on the Launceston site where he had planned to build an 11-storey hotel.
``What Launceston needed was heritage,'' he said.
``No one bothered with it in those days. There were some very nice stone buildings being destroyed.'' The water mill building opened under floodlights on December 20, 1972.
By accident, Mr Smith then bought a second water mill, which was found just yards from the first, and rebuilt it as a working corn mill. ``Then I decided on a windmill,'' he said.
Mr Smith spent four months in Lincolnshire, UK, learning how to build one, and once built, it attracted between 300 and 400 people a day.
``Then I realised the one thing that had never been done was a gunpowder mill,'' he said.
With support from the Launceston City Council, in six months and with 47 workers, he built the tourist attraction that recreated a six-stage gunpowder mill, and travelled the world buying cannons for it.
He designed a barge system with 13 mechanical engineers to ensure the barges ran smoothly around a track in the man-made lake.
The site opened in December 1979. At its peak, in 1980-81, the site received a record 4666 visitors in one day.
Mr Smith sold it in 1985 for $18 million, double what it had cost him to build, and it underwent a $1 million facelift in 1998 under the control of the Ross Ambrose Group, before it was sold again in 2002 to Sydney-based investor Kurt Braune's company, Crown Management.
The gunpowder mill was closed in mid-2001 winter for maintenance, but the closure was extended until January 2002. The rest of the attraction was finally closed in July 2006.
A lack of affordable air fares bringing tourists into Launceston was blamed for falling visitor numbers. ``It was a total tourism experience,'' Mr Smith said. ``We were very close to history, we didn't stray from it, nor did we have to.''
Mr Smith said he was glad it was being sold again. ``At least now it has a chance to be restored,'' he said.
Property agent John Blacklow, of Knight Frank, said that 30 local and interstate parties had expressed interest in the Penny Royal site, less than halfway through the expression of interest period, which runs until March 27.
More than 50 information packs had been sent out, and eight parties had signed a confidentiality agreement, which gave them access to the receivers' financial data about the property, he said.
The site includes 33 motel units, 39 apartments, a tavern with restaurant and bar, which has monthly tenancy and is still open, a retail shop with monthly tenancy, the closed Penny Royal Gunpowder Mill tourist attraction and car park, on 1.87 hectares.
There are also 12 more potential rooms at the motel, which are incomplete. Trading figures show consistent accommodation revenue of about $2 million a year.