Whilst I run, walk and ride the sections of the river from Breakwater to Baum's Weir fairly regularly and have done for some years, I do occasionally venture further afield for a change of scenery. Of late, I have been riding more often and as a result of being able to cover more distance, have been looking for other tracks and trails to ride.
I have started by revisiting several of the tracks which I have run in the past: the Bellarine Rail Trail, the track to Waurn Ponds, the linear park running along the disused train line from the cement works to North Geelong, the Waterfront. All of these are - or have the scope to be - excellent community facilities for those wishing to run, walk or ride effectively from one side of Geelong to the other.
|Looking at the cement works across the junction of|
the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers at Fyansford
So, with this in mind, yesterday's excursion stemmed from a couple of runs I'd done in the past and a desire to prove that I could run up "Cementies Hill" (the hill which runs up from Fyansford past the now decommissioned Australian Portland Cement works).
My original run in January of 2010, took in the river up to Fyansford, the hill and part of the old railway line running between the cement works and the docks. This line has not been used since the closure of the cement works, but a walking/riding track now runs beside the line. Much of the infrastructure is still present including the rails and signage.
Originally opened in 1918, the line ran from the cement works to North Geelong where it connected with the Geelong-Ballarat line, servicing the cement works and also providing a public goods service. Incidentally, Australian Portland Cement also ran their own private 3'6" gauge railway from 1926 which serviced the quarries, carrying limestone up to the works. When the line closed in 1966 the one diesel and six steam engines were preserved in various museums. Today, five of the six steam engines are in the keeping of the Bellarine Railway and some are used to pull the tourist train which runs between Queenscliff and Drysdale (see my subsequent blog).
|Railway sign, Herne Hill|
What would be ideal is a complete loop for walking, running and riding linking Fyansford with the Waterfront and on the other side of town, the river to the Waterfront. I know this is under consideration by the powers that be, however it has yet to be fully implemented.
In September 2010 when the World Championship Cycling was on its way to Geelong, there was a significant amount of action around the trails. Various parts of the river trail were resurfaced, new signage was put in place and the beginnings of a shared footpath/bike track was installed on Swanston Street between the river and Fyans Street. This was a great improvement. The problem however, was the way the remainder of the link to the Waterfront was to be achieved. A Copenhagen style bike lane with a cycling lane running between the footpath and parked cars was mooted and rejected. Local residents and businesses had concerns about changes to the availability of parking which is already at a premium in the area. This idea was shelved.
Over subsequent months, an on-road bike lane was marked out as far as Kilgour Street and the necessary changes made to the footpath structure. The paint rapidly faded and nothing else happened. In recent weeks however, the paint has been re-applied and and new markings now take the lanes as far as the McKillop Street intersection. Great! But what now?
Over the last few months I have made regular use of the bike lane to the river but on Tuesday as I was riding to the Waterfront felt somewhat vulnerable without my paint barrier. I can only hope that there is enough cash in the budget to take the road markings as far as the Waterfront in the not-too-distant future. But of course, funding may not be the only issue. As far as I am aware from the local media, a decision was still to be negotiated as to exactly what form the remainder of the trail would take.
|Lewis Bandt Bridge across the Moorabool Valley on the|
Geelong Ring Road
After making it to the top by whatever means, the linear park begins just a short distance across McCurdy Road. This section of the old railway line extends to the Church Street intersection where a road crossing is required. Its name acknowledges the achievements of Barcelona Olympian walker and local girl Gabrielle Blythe. This, incidentally, is only a short step from the new track which was built alongside the Ring Road. I have yet to investigate this track but when I do, it will probably form part of a future blog.
For now, let's continue with the linear park. The entire path is bitumen-sealed and follows along beside the rails which are still present, however a recent article in the Geelong Times informs me that this is not to be the case for long as the sleepers and rails are to be removed within months. What then happens to the land does not seem to have been clearly decided.
|Tom McKean Linear Park|
This crossing is the busiest of the three and would be well served if the nearby pedestrian crossing were to be moved to the same location as the path. By now, we are in North Geelong and the scenery is significantly less residential and proportionally more industrial. There is less in the way of tree plantings, but this could be rectified.
It also occurred to me that a lengthy concrete wall could provide an interesting opportunity for a sizeable mural presenting a topic or topics relevant to the area and to the park itself. Also present along the course of the track was the usual array of bird life found in the urban woodland areas of Geelong which could no doubt be encouraged by further native plantings.
Unfortunately at this point, the trail comes to an abrupt halt at Douro Street in North Geelong and it is here that things become complicated. As the crow flies, we are no more than one kilometre from Corio Bay or a little under two kilometers from the end of the bollard walk around the Waterfront at Rippleside Park. However, between Douro Street and the Waterfront is a significant obstacle in the shape of the Geelong to Melbourne railway line, the Princes Highway and some fairly heavy duty industry. How exactly a walking/cycling path would pass through such an area remains to be seen. The present on-road option is to use the bike lane on Church Street, however this is not exactly a scenic, low-traffic alternative.