08 April, 2011

"Ring! Ring!"

Riders along the Barwon
Ring Road that is! Today's escapade saw us take to the bikes again to investigate the relatively new track which runs alongside stage 1 of Geelong's Ring Road. Rather than take a shorter ride across town and fight with the traffic, we chose to take the scenic route and get our dose of the river along the way. I couldn't resist the urge to grab a "large, weak, skinny cap, please" from Barwon Edge on the way past and we sat at a conveniently located table a little further up the track to have morning tea, watching the usual array of cyclists, joggers, walkers and - a new one on me - a pair riding horses.
And so to Fyansford and the one hitch with this particular route - the cement works hill. Taking it somewhat slower than my last attempt and at a walk after losing my chain, we made it to the top then headed for the Gabrielle Blythe Linear Park for the ride around to Church Street.
This is not the most direct route to the Ring Road track, but it is more scenic than McCurdy Road which has the added disadvantage of no bike lane (although traffic is not heavy).
Lewis Bandt Bridge on the Geelong Ring Road from
the Ted Wilson Trail
As I have mentioned previously, I would also like to see the linear park provide an alternate route to busy Church Street by which to reach the waterfront.
Our detour turned out to be well worthwhile as we came across a group from the Bellarine Railway who were just starting the process of ripping up the rails as I had seen discussed in the papers only a week or so ago. We were informed that these rails would be re-laid in a section of the Bellarine line near Laker's Siding as they were longer than the existing rails and the resulting reduction in joins would mean a smoother ride for the trains.
Leaving the guys to their work, we headed to Church Street and then via the bike lane, the short distance to its western end. Had we chosen to ride in the other direction, we could have connected - as we did on our previous ride - with the trail around the bay, but this time, we were headed north.  
From the end of Church Street, it was a matter of metres to the beginning of the Ted Wilson Trail and a short stop to take in some sweeping views of the Moorabool Valley, the old quarry at Fyansford and the Barrabool Hills. 
Before we continue, it is pertinent to mention that Ted Wilson, after whom the trail is named, is a now-retired police officer from Geelong who was instrumental in establishing the Bikeplan program which was piloted in Geelong in the 1970s and 80s and in developing the Bike Ed program which is still taught in Victorian schools today. Ted was also responsible for the re-introduction of police bike patrols across the state in the 1990s. Now, where was I? 
View towards the Batesford Quarry
The Church Street end of the trail was perhaps the most picturesque section which otherwise spends much of its distance shielded from the traffic of the Ring Road behind the large, steel noise barriers. On the other side, the track opens on to suburban backyards and in some parts, on to neighbouring parkland. From the intersection of the Ring Road with the Midland Highway (aka Ballarat Road), there is a good view of the Batesford Quarry, a little further up the Moorabool River.
Along its length, the track is well made from concrete and makes for good riding with minimal road crossings over fairly even terrain up to Cowie's Creek. From there it heads downhill to - I am informed by the local media - Broderick Road in Corio, a total distance of 11.4km. However, we did not have time to go further on this occasion, so discovering the remainder of the trail will have to wait for another day.From this high point above the creek, the view extends north towards the You Yangs Regional Park and west across the northern suburbs of Geelong to the Shell oil refinery which, whilst rather industrial and mundane during daylight hours, becomes quite spectacular at night when it is ablaze with lights.
Looking south along the Ted Wilson Trail
Further contributing to the somewhat industrial feel is the looming presence of high-voltage power lines running above the track for some of the way. Clearly this is a new pathway which has had little time to develop. A concerted effort at tree-planting could go a long way to breaking up those somewhat bland sections which do not have a substantial view. Tree-cover would also provide a significant boon to the local bird-life and on a warm day such as today, would provide some welcome shade for those using the trail.
Another aspect which was brought to my attention was signage. The comments were made on another website bemoaning the lack thereof and in retrospect, yes, they have a point. By word of mouth I knew the trail started at the bottom of Church Street, but there was no sign at any point to inform me of this, nor, as was also pointed out, is there any sign at the major road-crossings (at least one of which required multiple sets of traffic lights to negotiate) which shows where or if the path continues on the opposite side of the road.
Despite these shortfalls, this is still an interesting and well-constructed trail and I am looking forward to investigating the remaining kilometres to Broderick Road at some point in the near future....

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