|Barwon River at Winchelsea|
The river itself was actually quite difficult to approach at this point as it is thickly lined on both banks with silver poplars. As is the case with these trees, they had no doubt been introduced at some point and then, as poplars are want to do, they'd taken hold, throwing up countless saplings along the banks, taking full advantage of a ready source of water. In the process, they had created a sizable thicket which made photography difficult and access all but impossible in most places.
|Barwon River at Birregurra|
And so we continued on our pilgrimage. From Birregurra we headed over the bridge and turned off on to the Forrest-Birregurra Road. Clearly were were approaching our objective. The only other town we passed along the way was the pertinently named Barwon Downs which is set in the rolling grasslands found at the foot of the Otways. As we travelled, we noticed that the mild season had allowed for a significant amount of back burning, resulting in regular plumes of smoke rising into the air from neighbouring farms.
|Restored rail bridge on the "Birregurra-Forrest Tiger Rail|
Trail" crossing the Barwon River
Naturally, having discovered a new (to me) trail, I had to investigate its history. This one - now known as the Tiger Birregurra-Forrest Rail Trail - was once used to transport timber from where it was cut in the surrounding bushland, processed in the sawmills at Forrest and then transported to Birregurra. In 1889 the line was opened as far as Deans Marsh and whilst originally surveyed as far as the township of Baramunga, financial limitations instead saw it terminate at what was to develop as the township of Forrest (which incidentally was named for a politician who fought to have the railway extended to that point). Extended to Forrest and opened in 1891, this branch line not only carried timber out of the region, but was also used to transport farming produce out and other needed supplies inwards. Tourists heading to Apollo Bay and Lorne also made use of the line.
Other towns serviced by the line included Pennyroyal, Yaugher and Gerangamete, however with the increasing use of road transport, the line closed in 1957 and was allowed to fall into disrepair. Today, all sidings have been removed and it is not always possible to see where the line once ran, however I gather that it is still possible to see some remains at certain points. The Birregurra Station still stands and is in use on the Melbourne-Warnambool line.
|The West Barwon River at Forrest|
Just a little out of town, we once again crossed the river and found ourselves in a picnic area by what had now become the west branch of the river. It was an appropriate point at which to stop for lunch, park the car and go for a wander. At this point, the river had widened a little and was not so overgrown. In some scrub near the opposite bank I came across a section of one of the many mountain bike trails which now form the basis of Forrest's tourist industry. At the edge of the track was a sign post informing me about the many miles of tramways which used to run in the area, all connecting to the rail terminus at Forrest, carrying in the logs, cut by the sawyers.
These days, there is no sign of the rail network which once served the area, however the effects of white settlement were none-the-less evident.
|The Barwon River at Forrest|
Pretty as all this was, we had more exploring to do, so once again, we packed up the coffee cups, brushed off the crumbs and headed upriver - but that is a story for another day...