26 June, 2011

Making a slight Deviation

View down Hyland Street from the cement works hill
In the course of researching my previous blog, I came across reference to the building of the Deviation - a significant stretch of road which overlooks the conjunction of the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers. I have driven up it all my life and run, ridden and walked past it on countless occasions, even dreamt of it as a child - one of the few recurring dreams I have encountered. However, I have never given it much thought.
The Deviation is the culmination of the Hamilton Highway which runs from Hamilton in western Victoria to Geelong where it joins the Princes Highway in Newtown. Prior to the construction of the Deviation, the highway extended along Hyland Street (originally named High Street) up the hill beside the cement works. The steep gradient of this stretch of road no doubt made it difficult for heavily laden drays heading into the port of Geelong in the pre-motorized era.
Deviation Road with Hamilton Highway in the background
Possibly as a result of these difficulties, the citizens of Fyansford first petitioned for an alternate road to be built across the face of the hill as early as 1879, however it was not until 1931 that construction began, using unemployed labour during the Great Depression.  The road was carved out of the side of the hill, providing a much lesser gradient for vehicles passing through. Originally of concrete construction, it was completed in 1932 and officially opened in 1933.
It did not take long however, for tragedy to strike the long-awaited new road. On 2nd December, 1934, a two women were driving a horse and buggy back to Fyansford from a church service when their horse shied at a land slip which had left debris on the road from further up the hill. The horse stopped and backed away and with no guard rail to prevent such a fall, the women were thrown from the buggy as it toppled down the hill. One - Miss Effie Clarke aged 51 - died and the other - her 69 year old sister Adeline - received treatment at the Geelong Hospital for her injuries. At a later inquest, the coroner was scathing of the state of the road, indicating that it was unsafe for vehicular traffic and that a guard rail should immediately  be installed.
The evidence of my own eyes tells me that guard rails were eventually installed, however land slips have continued to plague the Deviation right up to recent times, whilst the tight bends have been an ongoing source of danger to some drivers. In April, 1938 a motorcyclist (Owen B. McEwin, a cement worker from Fyansford) died when his bike with sidecar collided with a truck ascending the hill.
View along the Barwon River from the Lookout above
the Deviation
At the top of the Deviation is the Barwon Valley Lookout which gives panoramic views across the Deviation, the valley below and the confluence of the Moorabool and Barwon Rivers.
"The Lookout" as it is locally known was built in 1938, only a few years after the Deviation and is an art deco concrete structure with a stucco finish. As a child I would walk to the lookout with my grandmother to view the scenery below. During times of flood it makes a very popular viewing point as the valley below becomes, to a greater or lesser extent, submerged.
Today, the view includes not only the river, but also the grounds of the Queen's Park Golf Club, as well as those of the Geelong Amateurs Football & Netball Club (known locally as The Ammos), much of Highton, glimpses of the Geelong Ring Road and the Barrabool Hills in the distance beyond.
This scene is quite different to what it was even a few decades ago, when there was no Ring Road and much of the housing development was absent.
From 1836, in the earliest days of settlement along the river, Dr. Alexander Thompson's sheep could be seen grazing on the hills of what are now the suburbs of Belmont and Highton. Over the years, the signs of industry could be seen as first the flour mill and then the paper mill were built on the banks of the river below. By the mid 20th century, the scene had begun to change even further. The golf club opened in 1948 as a 9 hole course on land leased from the Commonwealth Lands Department which it shared with the Ammos who arrived in 1957. Club rooms were built in the early 1950s which were shared by both the golf and football clubs and in 1975, the course was extended to 18 holes using land that was previously known as the Botanic Gardens - not to be confused I imagine, with the gardens in East Geelong.
On the other side of the river, the fertile, well-watered land between the Barwon and the Deviation was used to grow vines, fruit trees, nurseries and other market garden vegetables. In 1880 it was recorded that Walker's Newtown Valley farm - one of the earliest in the area - was washed away by floods.  The area continued to be used to supply food for the local community into the mid 20th century. Today however, the vines and fruit trees are gone and this land has been re-vegetated and now forms part of the Zillah Crawcour Park which extends back to Queen's Park. In fact, so successful has the re-vegetation been, that it is becoming difficult to see the Deviation from the banks of the river below.

25 June, 2011

Grabbing a bite!

Works on the new Breakwater bridge
A pleasant - well relatively pleasant - winter's morning, so it was time for another ride around the river with a quick stop off to sniff out a geocache or two. We headed down to Breakwater intending to do the usual loop up to Fyansford and back only to discover that the path was closed for the day on the Belmont side to enable the installation of overhead spans for the new bridge. So, back we went and headed upstream via the other side of the river.
We'd had a coffee before departing, so didn't immediately feel the need for a stop, however by the time we reached Fyansford, my gloveless fingers were beginning to stiffen. With no great expectation,  I casually commented as we passed that we should stop for lunch at the Fyansford hotel.  I was taken at my word and we immediately re-routed across the common and headed for the pub and a coffee which was more for the benefit of my fingers than my caffeine levels!
In no real hurry, we also sampled a selection of bread and dips and contemplated the river and its environs. As we did so, we were drawn to consider the limited number of options along our route for refreshment. Of course, there are a significant number of opportunities for picnicking and barbecuing, but not so many options for those who either are not equipped or not wanting to self-cater.
In fact, the only venue which directly overlooks the river between Breakwater and Fyansford is the Barwon Edge Boathouse Restaurant. A licensed venue, it is located along the Newtown section of the river. This is a pleasant, modern restaurant with lots of glass to take in the river views and outside seating should the weather be suited. I can personally vouch for their coffee, cakes and several selections from the breakfast menu.
At a slight remove from the river and back towards town is the Boatshed Cafe, located within the surrounds of Mitre 10 who are currently in the process of removing themselves to the building next door. They provide coffee and cafe-style eating, but without the panoramic views of the Edge, they really don't have a "river" feel.
Towards Breakwater, there are no further options for refreshment,  unless of course the coffee van is at Landy Field providing much needed support for long-suffering, thermally-impaired parents and supporters of Geelong's brightest athletic talent.
Fyansford Hotel, built 1854
Nor is there an option along the opposite side of the river, returning back through town and beyond, until one reaches Fyansford, where at a slight remove from the banks of the river - actually the Moorabool River, a short distance above its confluence with the Barwon - we find the hotel as mentioned earlier. Today, the Fyansford offers a fairly sophisticated menu for both lunch and dinner, including the option to partake in the consumption of our national emblem, prepared in a variety of appetizing styles.
The building itself, if not the menu, has a significantly longer association with the river(s) than the other waterside eateries, but in typical 19th century fashion, also lacks river views from within. Not surprisingly, the history of the hotel parallels that of the township, making it one of the earliest watering holes in the district.
In the early days of expansion and settlement in the Western District, the naturally occurring ford at this site made it one of the most important points in the region, allowing traffic to access the ports in both Geelong and Melbourne. The influx of both money and population which accompanied the gold rush in the early 1850s and no doubt the rise of the wool trade following on from this era, made the little town of Fyansford a vital link in the movement of of both goods and people around the developing colony.
The first to recognize this importance was Captain Foster Fyans who established a police camp at the ford in 1837 and not surprisingly, the ford and the town which developed there came to bear his name. Nor was the town merely a way point on the journey to other places. In 1845 a flour mill was built on the banks of the Barwon, followed by a paper mill at Buckley Falls in 1876 (soon to be the topic of a separate blog post). Across the valley, overlooking the river junction, 1890 saw the opening of the cement works which operated until 2001. This soon made the little town a centre for the industry of the region and by 1854, the need was such that a timber bridge was erected downstream from the ford to provide easier access for heavy vehicles.
Three-span, Monier-reinforced concrete bridge over the
Moorabool River, built in 1900.
This bridge was in use until 1900 when a three-arch, concrete Monier-reinforced bridge (at that time, the largest in the world and designed by the engineer Sir John Monash and J.T.N. Anderson) was built nearby. This bridge in turn served until it was replaced in 1970 by a modern structure on the site of the original bridge.
At the same time that the increase in traffic required the building of the bridge, it became apparent that there was a need for a public house both for those passing through and for the local community.
As a result, in 1854 the publican C.B. Dawson called for tenders for the building of an hotel and by 1855, the new structure was erected only a stone's throw away from the site of the new bridge. The building which took shape and still stands today, is a two storey, brick structure which, I am informed, is a transitional Colonial Georgian style with "distinctive symmetrical fenestration and angled corner entrance" which was typical of many public houses built during this era.
On the whole, the building has not changed significantly across the years. The original roof cladding was replaced with corrugated iron, the corner entrance was also somewhat altered and the brickwork painted, but otherwise the facade of the building remains similar to its original form. Some additions were made at the back of the property in later years and the interior also had adjustments, but the Fyansford Pub would still be quite recognizable to the many generations of patrons who have passed through its doors over the course of more than a century and a half.
And so, with lunch complete and a few unwelcome clouds rolling in, we again headed for the bikes, and made our way back downstream.

19 June, 2011

A Bunyip Aristocracy

Every culture has its mythical beasts. The Egyptians have the sphinx, Greece has the Centaur, Scotland has the Lochness Monster, the Yeti inhabits the Himalayas and Bigfoot is found in North America. Both the European and Asian cultures created traditions based around the concept of dragons - a mythical, scaly, serpentine creature. Aboriginal culture also had its mythical creatures which varied from region to region, however one mythical creature which was common to many indigenous groups across the country was the bunyip. Known by various names (bunyip, kianpraty, katenpai, wawee, tooroodun), there were as many different descriptions of bunyips as there were names for it and each was different from the other. There was agreement that the bunyip was a large, aquatic creature which emitted a terrifying moan. However, one description was of an emu-like creature, whilst another had it with a tusk, teeth and feet like fins. It could have scales, fur or smooth skin.
To the European settlers who had recently arrived in the country, the concept of a bunyip must have been terrifying. They were in a land filled with animals which had been totally unimaginable only a few decades earlier - kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, platypus, a multitude of poisonous snakes, spiders and sea creatures and of course, crocodiles in the north, so the idea of a fearsome creature which lived in the rivers, lakes, swamps, billabongs and lagoons of this new country did not seem so far-fetched as it does today.
Drawing of a bunyip at "Barwon Lakes" near
Geelong, 1845
It is not surprising then, that the Wathaurong also had an established tradition of bunyip stories and sightings and naturally, several of these centred around the Barwon River. The first reported use of the word bunyip in and Australian newspaper was in 1845 when the Geelong Advertiser reported that a "wonderful new animal" had been discovered when a local indigenous man identified a fossilised bone as that of a bunyip. He claimed to have seen the creature and a tale was also told of an Aboriginal woman killed by a bunyip. When asked to describe the bunyip, he told of a part-bird, part-crocodile with an emu's head and a long bill. Its body was that of the crocodile or alligator and when in water it swam, whilst on land it walked on its hind legs, measuring about 12 to 13 feet. Interestingly, it was stated that the bunyip's preferred method of dispatch was to hug its victim to death. Another man showed deep scarring on his chest, also - he said - the work of a bunyip whilst it was also reported in the article that a "bunyip attack" took place on the river in South Geelong where the punts crossed back and forth. It was claimed that a local woman - the preferred prey of the bunyip - was taken in the river at this point.
However, not everyone was convinced that bunyips really existed. Some alternate explanations included seals which had found their way into inland rivers, fugitive humans hiding out in swamps, freshwater crocodiles or perhaps even a particularly large eel. If the latter is true, then I have seen a bunyip myself - by the Breakwater, dangling off the end of the rod of an elderly Greek fisherman. And an impressive size it was too!
Duck-billed dinosaur
As early as 1871 it was suggested that the bunyip was in fact an indigenous cultural memory of Australia's extinct megafauna with long dead bones being identified as those of bunyips. Gradually, as more people began to doubt the existence of bunyips, they slowly became a source of ridicule. It is from this we have terms like "bunyip aristocracy", used in 1853 to denigrate the idea of an hereditary peerage for Australia. Across the 20th century, the bunyip continued its transformation from fearsome monster to a wise and friendly creature used to impart wisdom to children - a far cry from the terrifying beast used to deter small children from wandering off into the bush or drowning in rivers and waterholes.
Nor was it only the Wathaurong who claimed to have seen bunyips in the Geelong region. William Buckley, the escaped convict who lived with the Wathaurong around the Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula during the first decades of the 19th century also claimed to have seen a bunyip on several occasions. In his 1852 memoirs he recounted that bunyips were to be found in Lake Modewarre (no doubt terrifying the poor musk ducks after whom the lake is named) and that they were common in the Barwon. Whilst he never saw a complete bunyip he claimed on several occasions to have seen the back of one in the water which was covered in dusky grey feathers.

Bunyip Pool, Barwon River
The local connection to bunyips was also reflected in the name of the last full-blooded man from the Barrabool clan of the Wathaurong. Waurn Bunyip who was also known as King Billy, died in 1885. He was named for the bunyip seen by his father on the day of his son's birth. In more recent times, the renaming of the "Devil's Pool" at Buckley's Falls to the "Bunyip Pool" after consultation with the local Wathaurong community also reflects the indigenous connection to the bunyip legend.
Whilst the bunyip was very real both to the Wathaurong and to the white inhabitants of Geelong during the 19th century, this was also true of the wider community and is reflected in place names across the country. The towns of Bunyip and Tooradin, the BunyipWaa in New South Wales all reflect this belief.

16 June, 2011

The thrill of the chase!

I have often considered the number of different sporting activities which take place along or beside the Barwon. Some are fairly obvious, such as swimming, water skiing, rowing, kayaking, dragon boating and canoeing which all take place in the water. Fishing generally happens from the bank whilst running, walking and riding take place on the trails beside the river. At a little more of a remove, golf, cricket, football and athletics are all played at venues located alongside the river whilst the children's playground and gym equipment at Barwon Valley Fun Park (currently undergoing renovations) provide further opportunities for exercise.However, I have discovered another sport - I guess you'd call it that - which is played along the length of the river and beyond. This is not a spectator sport with cheering crowds of supporters, referees or timekeepers. In fact no-one is supposed to see it happen at all and once finished, the participants are required to leave no trace of their passing. Those who are not playing are not to know the game is afoot and yet anyone can participate.
It is secretive, cryptic and often complex to play. It requires mental acuity and in some cases physical dexterity and endurance. All levels of fitness can be accommodated. Participants may not always reach their goal but withdrawal through injury is unlikely. Whilst there is no time limit - minutes, hours, days, months, even years are acceptable - it can none-the-less be quite competitive. There may be a prize for finishing first, or none at all. There are rules, but no-one will be present to ensure they are enforced.
 It is an international sport, played across all continents by more than 5 million participants, but it is not an Olympic sport. It can be played individually or in teams and at any hour of the day or night. Participants may have no idea how many others - if any - are playing and there are no age or gender requirements. There is no limit to the number of people who can play at any one time.
There are no uniform requirements, but protective clothing is sometimes advisable. Specialist equipment is a virtual necessity and a variety of tools can be helpful.
Of course, in any sport, there are terms and phrases which allow players to communicate. This sport is no different:
GZ = Ground Zero.
Muggles = those uninitiated who are not aware of the game.
BYOP = bring your own pen or pencil.
D/T = a rating of difficulty and terrain 1 = easy 5 = hard.
TNLN = Took nothing. Left nothing.
FTF = First to find.
These are only a few examples. There are many more.
So what is this sport?
It is known to initiates as "geocaching". Wikipedia gives a good description here but in short, it is the 21st century's version of hide and seek.
There's a geocache here somewhere!
Using clues, coded messages and a GPS device, players locate hidden "caches". A cache is generally a container with a logbook inside which is signed by the player to indicate that they found the cache. Players also report their "finds" online, keeping tallies and letting others know what they thought of that particular cache. Caches may also contain items which can be moved from one cache to another by players or traded for other items of similar value. In this way, some items have travelled across the world.
There are currently more than 1.4 million active caches for players to find. Anyone can hide and maintain a geocache but a certain amount of experience is probably necessary to know what constitutes a "good hide". Various websites like www.geocaching.com list caches making it relatively simple to determine which are nearest to you.
Which brings us back to the Barwon. There are several currently active geocaches located along the river at various points from West Barwon Dam to Barwon Heads and no doubt beyond and most seem to have been active quite recently. A quick search of my own postcode revealed 361 geocaches within that region alone - not all on the river of course, but several are.
Some players like to search at night, no doubt the extra degree of difficulty adds to the challenge. So, it would appear that on any given day - or night - there may be an undisclosed number of individuals marauding along the banks of the river hunting for treasure.
Amazing what goes on while you're not looking!

13 June, 2011

What's in a name?

As European settlement spread along the Barwon River, through Wathaurong territory, the new arrivals needed names to identify their surroundings and the new structures they were building. Sometimes - as in the case of the Barwon River - they used derivatives of local Wathaurong names such as Barre Warre N Yallock or  Jillong (Geelong). Connewarre is derived from the Wathaurong Koo N Warre meaning mud oyster.
The edge of Reedy Lake
These names were descriptive. Sometimes descriptive names were given in English too; Reedy Lake is indeed reedy, Salt Swamp is salty, a breakwater was constructed at Breakwater and the Barwon Bridge on Moorabool Street in Geelong was so named I presume, as it was the first bridge built across the river, however it was also known as Kardinia Bridge. Kardinia is an indigenous word meaning sunrise.
Often, the colonists named their places and structures for important colonial or European figures. As I have mentioned, the current bridge across the river on Shannon Avenue is the Princes Bridge - named for Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria and shortened from the original Prince Albert Bridge. Queen's Park and its bridge were named for Queen Victoria herself.
It seems that there was some dispute even at the time these structures were being built, over the adoption of names. There were those who favoured the "Old Country", preferring to use familiar names which reminded them of home and the people there, then there were those who preferred the use of traditional aboriginal names such as Balyang for the bridge at Shannon Avenue or other names of local significance such as Levien's Bridge for the Bridge at Queen's Park. (B.G. Levien was an early settler who operated a punt on the site.) This article published in the Geelong Advertiser on 12th December, 2011 gives a great description of the passions which were ignited amongst the locals when it came to the battle over naming rights, with the Addy leading the charge against the monarchists. 150 years later and history clearly shows who was the winner of that particular battle!
Baum's Weir in Flood
The area a little upstream of Baum's Weir was known to the Wathaurong people as Boonea Yallock meaning a place to catch eels. Whilst I know that the weir was built to supply water through the channel which runs to the paper and flour mills downstream of Buckley's Falls, I have not been able to discover who the weir was named for. And of course, the falls themselves were named for the escaped convict William Buckley who lived in the area with the Wathaurong people for many years.
 Likewise, Pollocksford and the bridge now located there, were named for an early squatter in the district.
This tradition of naming structures and places after people of significance or using Wathaurong names, continues today. But who were these people? The McIntyre Bridge is named for John M McIntyre, Engineer-in-chief of the Geelong Water Works. The Yollinko Aboriginal Park and Yollinko Wetlands directly across the river take their name from the Wathaurong word meaning yesterday.
This site was of particular significance both to the indigenous population who harvested plants and hunted in the area and to the European settlers who took their water from a pump on the west bank of the river between Yollinko Park and Prince's Bridge.
As the walking trails were developed along the river's edge through Geelong, a number of other names were adopted. Beginning near Yollinko Park is the Stan Lewis Walk. It extends along the west bank of the river as far as Queen's Park. So, who was Stan Lewis? Stan was the superintendent of maintenance - I presume for either Barwon Water or its precursor, the Geelong Water Works.
On the opposite side of the river, downstream of Queen's Park is the Rotary Walk, which recognises the contribution of the Geelong West Rotary Club to the development of recreational facilities for the community along this part of the river. Upstream of Queen's Park and on the same side of the river is the Zillah Crawcour Park. This space recognises the contribution made to the City of Newtown from 1957 to 1977 by Priscilla Crawcour who held a seat on the council and was also elected as mayor during this period. Upon her death in March, 1977, she was serving her third term in the office. Zillah recognised the importance of women in government through her role on the Victorian Branch of the Australian Local Government Women's Association (ALGWA) which was established in 1963, following on from a similar earlier organisation.
Heading back downstream, we come to Landy Field - the major athletics venue for the region. The facility is named for John Landy who was the most prominent Australian athlete of his day. Born in Melbourne, Landy was educated at Geelong Grammar after which, he joined the Geelong Guild Athletic Club, of which he became a life member in 1958. It was here in 1949 that his running career really took off. In 1954, Landy was the second man in the world behind his toughest rival Roger Bannister, to run a sub-four minute mile which he did in world record time. Landy Competed at both the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games, taking the Olympic Oath on behalf of the athletes at the latter games.
In addition to his running, Landy held a number of positions, including his appointment as Governor of Victoria on 1st January, 2001. He held the post until 7th April, 2006. Fittingly, he is a keen naturalist and served on the Land Conservation Council of Victoria during the 1970s. No doubt he approved of moves which were afoot to develop public open spaces along the banks of the Barwon River.
The development of the trail which now links Baum's Weir to the Breakwater, was in no small part due to the efforts of one man - Wal Whiteside, whose name is remembered in the "Wal Whiteside Walk" which stretches down towards Breakwater from Landy Field.
Wal Whiteside (or Wally Whiteside as I always heard the name as a child) was chairman of the Geelong and District Water Board from 1971, being re-elected in 1979 and 1983, having previously worked for the Board as a senior engineering assistant, prior to being elected as a commissioner on the Board in 1959 with one Len Sprague (more of whom later). Whiteside and Sprague were part of a new wave of up and coming  commissioners whose enthusiasm and skill drove the development of many of the projects established during the 1960s and beyond, which secured the water supply for the Geelong region. The largest and most far-reaching of these projects was surely the construction of the West Barwon Dam which was completed in 1965 after more than 14 years of planning and construction at a cost of 2.5 million pounds. The dam today provides the majority of Geelong's water and was the largest project undertaken by the board to that point in time. Another important project was the overhaul of the Black Rock water treatment plant which occurred in 1988.
End of the Wal Whiteside Walk at Breakwater
They were also at the heart of controversial issues such as the decision as to whether Geelong's
As time passed, the public became more interested in the recreational opportunities provided by the river and also the various water storage facilities. This was reflected in the introduction of public amenities at West Barwon Dam and various other sites. In recognition of his contribution to the Board over many years, the picnic facilities at West Barwon Dam were named the Len Sprague Reserve.
Along the length of the river in Geelong, significant effort was produced to buy back land which would be used as a public facility. It was this initiative which resulted in the walking trail which today extends from Baum's Weir and Buckley's Falls to Breakwater, including the reclaimed and re-vegetated section of industrial wasteland which now bears his name.

11 June, 2011

Which Barwon is Which?

I've spend quite a bit of time now researching the Barwon River and one thing I discovered rather quickly, is that our Barwon, isn't the only Barwon River in the country.
The other is a river in northern New South Wales which forms part of the Queensland-New South Wales border north of the township of Mungindi. It is an extension of the Macintryre River which flows south and west through the towns of Collarenebri, Walgett and Brewarrina before meeting the Culgoa River, at which point they together become the Darling River to the north east of Bourke.
Bunyip Pool at Buckley's Falls
Like its southern namesake, this Barwon River also takes its name from the local Aboriginal population, however in this case the name derives from a word meaning "wide stream". So too, it was of great significance to the lives of the indigenous population who lived along its banks. In Victoria, the Wathaurong people caught fish, trapped eels at Buckley's Falls, hunted the animals which lived by the river and harvested the plants which grew in and beside the water.
In New South Wales, the indigenous people of the Barwon belonged to the group of people who spoke the Ngiyampaa language. They constructed rock channels and weirs in the river at Brewarrina to trap fish, hunted animals, collected food along the riverbanks and told stories of how the river was formed. The Barwon at Brewarrina was a meeting place for many local clans.
Unlike the Barwon in the south, that in the north lies completely inland, having no outlet to the sea, except via the mouth of the Murray River, hundreds of miles away in South Australia. The northern Barwon runs through a wide, grassy flood plain with open forest and areas of rich soil. It is a slow-running river with a fall in elevation of only about 86m over its 890km length. The climate is considered arid to semi-arid. The annual rainfall along the river varies between 260mm in the west and 500mm per year in the east.
By contrast, the cool, temperate rainforest of the Otways where the headwaters of the Victorian Barwon rise before flowing down to the plains below, is very different. The altitude of the West Barwon Dam is about 260 metres above sea level, resulting in a significantly greater fall in elevation along the 160km length of the river to its estuary at Barwon Heads than that of the Barwon in the north. The average annual rainfall for parts of the Otways is around 1,400mm per year - the highest in the state and much wetter than further north. Even as far downstream as Geelong, the average annual rainfall still exceeds 500mm. This  is over a catchment area of 8,590 square km which is in contrast to the 139,000 square km catchment of the Barwon in New South Wales.
Also a contrast, is the tidal influence and the flow of sea water upstream from the mouth of the southern river, influencing both the flora and fauna of the lower parts of the river. This is not a consideration for the land-locked northern river.
Carp discarded at Breakwater
Another point common to both rivers is fish and a long history of fishing as mentioned above, however the species of fish in each river varies somewhat. In the north, Bony Herring, Golden Perch, and Yellowbelly are common whilst Murray Cod, Gudgeon, Silver Perch and Freshwater Catfish are less common.
In the south, the Barwon in Victoria is fished for the following species along different parts of its length: Southern Pygmy Perch, Mountain Galaxia, Spotted Galaxia, Common Galaxia, Congoli, Australian Smelt, Black Bream, Mulloway, Silver Trevally, Australian Salmon, Elephant Fish, King George Whiting, Sand Mullet, Yellow-eye Mullet, Tench, Short-finned Eels, Goldfish, Blackfish and Estuary Perch. Introduced Carp and Red Fin are common. Flathead Gudgeon, Pinkie Snapper, Barracouta and Brown Trout are also found, but less commonly. The Australian Grayling is a protected species.
One of these days, I will have to take my camera to visit that "other" Barwon and make some comparisons for myself.

09 June, 2011

Good weather for ducks!

...or so you'd think! In my quest to photograph as many of the different species of birds which frequent the Barwon and its surrounds as I can, I headed out yesterday in the hope of a) perhaps spotting one of those species of ducks I mentioned previously that I haven't managed to find and b) catching a glimpse of one or two of the various birds which overwinter along the river. This was despite the weather which did not exceed 11 degrees for the day and was intermittently either windy, pouring with rain, sunny or a combination of any of the above.
View towards the eastern suburbs of
Geelong From Tait's Point
I started at Jerringot which is supposed to boast 120 different species of birds throughout the year and then moved on to Tait's Point. Well, Jerringot had the usual Chestnut Teals along with moorhens and swamphens and a single Australasian Grebe, but even the swans it seems didn't want to be out and about. Well short of 120 species.
Tait's point wasn't a whole lot more successful. Not long after I arrived, a number of birds started wheeling overhead. At a glance they were ducks, but what variety I have no idea, and thanks to the two council employees with their tractors who chose to park their vehicles for lunch at the top of the boat ramp, the "ducks" weren't hanging around to let me identify them.
Meanwhile, one solitary swan was drifting around off the shore and two jetties and a log boasted cormorants - Little Blacks and Little Pied. (Incidentally, the collective noun here it seems is generally a "flight" of cormorants, however I did see a "mess" and a "gulp" suggested, which are much more amusing - to me anyway. I doubt the cormorants care either way.)
On a slightly more successful note, I may have spotted an egret trying to hide amongst the cormorants. I wasn't close enough to get a decent photo so my criteria for identification were a large (in comparison to the cormorants) white blob, with a pointy yellow blob where the beak should be and no sign of legs, which I took to mean they were grey.
Galahs at South Barwon Reserve
Back on shore, the Superb Fairy Wrens were out and about despite the weather and chattering at me from up in the paperbark trees were Striated Thornbills which I could see and hear, but which made sure they didn't sit still long enough for me to get a shot of them.
On the way home, I detoured past the South Barwon Reserve to have a look at the bottom end of Waurn Ponds Creek where it enters the Barwon. There were a large number of bullrushes, lots of soggy ground and I really couldn't get close enough to see where the creek entered the river. Instead I amused myself taking photos of the Straw-necked Ibis who had decided that one of the ovals at the reserve was their personal feeding ground and a pair of rather brightly coloured Galahs who weren't overly concerned with my presence.
So much for the birds. What of the weather? There are various websites which give chapter and verse on the effects of rainfall on the Barwon River system: for example, the City Of Greater Geelong website. It would seem that on a wet catchment - which I imagine is currently the case - 75mm of rain over a few days is enough to cause flooding, or 150mm when the catchment is dry.
Certainly, the prolonged drought and accompanying weather patterns from which we have just emerged have had a drastic effect on the health of the river and its denizens. A 2007 study by Deakin University examined the problem, indicating that reduced water flows would impact on salinity levels and plant life, in turn impacting on food sources for fish and water birds. For residents of Geelong and surrounds, there was the obvious impact of water restrictions as levels in the West Barwon Dam fell.
Fisherman at Barwon Heads
However, it is not only the river height and those of us who run, walk, ride along it which are affected by the weather. I am informed that redfin - an introduced species of fish common in the Barwon and which I have fished from the Moorabool River myself in the past - are also sensitive to the weather on a day to day basis. It seems that they like a rising barometer and fine weather - don't we all? Under these circumstances the fish are biting and a good catch is likely. When the barometer is falling, the fish are likely sulking on the bottom of the river and not about to be enticed by a tasty worm or a flashy lure. My own observations suggest that in general, the bird life is no more keen on being out and about in bad weather than the rest of us. It is only the hardy, the hungry or the waterproof who brave wet and wintry conditions and with the forecast for the coming week providing no sign of relief, I may have to wait a while to find those ducks.
And of course, I am now left wondering...what exactly is "good weather for ducks?"

07 June, 2011

Duck! Duck! Goose!

How to play: first, find a group of friends then sit in a circle and select one person to be the goose...
No! Not the children's game, but the real ones on the Barwon. There do seem to be rather a lot of them - well ducks that is - and they come in quite a variety of shapes and sizes and seem to inhabit pretty much every part of the river and various tributaries besides. Of course, when river levels are up and water finds its way into unaccustomed places, then ducks it seems will inhabit any kind of puddle or swamp. I have even seen ducks paddling on the running track at Landy Field!
In fact, so common are ducks to the river and to the Bellarine Peninsula in general that there is even a Duck Island located in the mouth of Swan Bay.
On a more light-hearted note, Barwon Heads even holds a "duck race" during its Festival of the Sea event held over a week-end in March each year. Rather than harass the local population of feathered paddlers, several hundred of the small, yellow plastic variety, attired in dark sunglasses, are released into the river as part of a sponsored charity event and make their way downriver, propelled only by the current.
Musk Duck on Lake Connewarre
Of course, ducks have been around for a while. Their remains can be found in the midden heaps of past generations of the Wathaurong and their names appear in local place names. Modewarre is the Wathaurong name for the Musk Duck. "Warre" means sea or ocean, which is interesting considering that Musk Ducks tend to prefer fresh water to salt. Having said that, the one occasion on which I have sighted a Musk Duck was at Tait's Point on the rather brackish Lake Connewarre.
This is a rather odd-looking duck, which takes its name from the scent gland on its rump. They also have a lobe (particularly prominent in males) which hangs beneath their beak, and legs which are set well back, making them great swimmers but not so good at walking, meaning they spend most of their time in the water.
Group of Khaki Campbell Ducks and a Muscovy Duck
(far right) at Balyang Sanctuary.
So, how many species of ducks are there on the Barwon? Well, lots, but I have not yet been able to spot all of them. I can certainly vouch for the presence of Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal, Pacific Black, Musk and Australian Wood Ducks. In addition to these species, Balyang Sanctuary and the section of the river at Winchelsea, seem to be home to a selection of domestic and mongrel ducks of who knows what origin. I have seen Muscovy Ducks (another odd-looking bird), Khaki Campbell Ducks, what were probably some "manky Mallards" (Mallard-crosses), a white domestic duck or two (possibly some derivative of a Pekin Duck) and a handful of other unidentified birds all of which were probably escaped domestic ducks of some description.
Australian Wood Duck aka Maned Duck or Maned Goose
So, which ducks have I not been able to find so far? Well, various Internet resources inform me, that there a number of other species which I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. They include the Pink-eared Duck, the Australasian Shelduck (also known as the Mountain Duck or Sheldrake), the Hardhead, Australasian Shoveler, Freckled Duck, Northern Mallard and Blue-billed Ducks. If the weather shapes up better than the forecast is predicting for this week, I'm hoping to get out and see if I can tick a few more of them off my list.
Of course, where there are ducks, there is also duck-hunting - an issue which causes much controversy during the hunting season each year and a flurry of media attention at the opening of the season. Naturally, having so many species of ducks in the area, hunting takes place on the Barwon and its surrounds - specifically at the Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve. The hunting season in 2011 extends from 19th March to 13th June which means that as of next Monday, I can again wander along the shores of the lake without risk of copping a stray bullet!
Magpie Goose at Lake Connewarre
So much for ducks! What about the goose? Well, there are a few of those around too, although the number of species of duck seems to be far greater and there is some overlap between the two groups. The Australian Wood Duck which has a somewhat pointed beak and is mainly herbivorous, is also called a Maned Goose. The only other species of goose I have discovered in the vicinity of the river is the Magpie Goose. This is a much larger bird than any of the duck species and is - as the name suggests - a black and white bird. It has a prominent knob on top of its head and my sources inform me that its feet are only partially webbed. It is a herbivore, living on spike-rush, grasses and wild rice. It is also and endangered species here in Victoria. I have only seen Magpie Geese on one occasion - on the edge of Lake Connewarre during the flood which occurred in January of this year. The only other goose around is the Cape Barren Goose (named for Cape Barren Island), however I cannot see any mention of this bird in association with the Barwon, although I do know they are occasionally spotted in the Geelong region. The Cape Barren Goose is an endangered species in Victoria, which probably doesn't help my chances of spotting it, but I'll keep an eye out none-the-less.
Pair of Hardhead Ducks at Jerrringot Wetlands
In a short update on the topic of ducks, I was pleased last week - mid-August 2011 - to discover that a number of Hardhead Ducks have taken up residence at Jerringot Wetlands, although so far they do not seem keen on approaching too closely, preferring to keep their distance.
Several weeks back, out and about without my camera, I also spotted several Australasian Shelducks, not on the Barwon, but rather, having a paddle on Corio Bay. I still have yet to spot them on the river. In recent weeks I have also seeen hundreds of ducks at Hospital Swamp, however I cannot approach closely enough and my camera isn't good enough to zoom in on them, but I suspect I may find some of the species I have not yet seen if I were able to get up close and personal.

05 June, 2011

Women of Substance

Boronggoop? Sounds rather like the name of a frog - or perhaps an Aboriginal term? Well, the latter as it happens is true. The name Boronggoop comes from the Aboriginal name "Porrong Goop" meaning "Place of Quails". So, what and where is (or was) it? Boronggoop was a 10,000 acre  squatting run on the Barwon River, located in the vicinity of what is now the Geelong suburb of St.Albans Park.
In 1840, two pioneering women by the name of Anne Drysdale and Caroline Newcomb (anything sounding familiar about those names?) took up the lease for the run from the government and built  a four-bedroom cottage on the property where they lived and worked the lease as a sheep run.
Boronggoop extended from the Barwon in a north easterly direction across to Point Henry on Corio Bay.
Anne and Caroline were extrodinary women for their generation. Anne was a Scottish gentlewoman who, having farmed in her home country, moved to the Port Phillip District for her health in 1837, with the intention of farming in the region. Soon after arriving, she went to stay at Kardinia House (see previous blog) with Dr. Alexander Thompson. Here she met his young English governess Caroline Newcomb who had been with him since 1837 and the two formed a very close friendship which was to last the rest of Anne's life.
Caroline, herself a woman of pioneering spirit, but less financial means than Anne had arrived in the colony in 1836 as governess to John Batman - the founder of Melbourne - having migrated to Tasmania some three years earlier.
With Thompson's help, the two acquired the lease of Boronggoop, built a cottage and took up residence on the property. Their home was described in flattering terms by the Presbyterian minister John Dunmore Lang, himself responsible for the immigration of many of Australia's earliest settlers, who found "a rare domestic character". The grounds had gravelled paths and a well established garden which Anne populated with flora transplanted from the surrounding bushland. Their first home - long since gone - was situated between the banks of the Barwon and the site of St. Albans Stud, to which estate some of the Boronggoop land eventually passed. As their venture prospered, a sheepwash was set up in the river and some of the marshy land adjoining the banks of the river was ploughed to plant potatoes.
Lang was also no doubt impressed with the women's piety. Anne was a member of the Presbyterian Church whilst Caroline followed the Wesleyan faith and was active in the establishment of the Women's Benevolent Association of Geelong after Anne's death. This was no doubt an appropriate endeavour for a woman who achieved so much as a woman in 19th century society.
The shore of Reedy Lake at Coppards Road - probably
part of Boronggoop Station
The pair's endeavours met with enough success that they were able to extend their property to "Leep Leep" (also an Aboriginal term meaning "Place of the Water Bird" - specifically Lewin's Rail) on the shores of Reedy Lake, but their main aim was own their own land. This was achieved when they acquired the leasehold for Coriyule Station near the present town of Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula in 1843. In 1847 their dream was realised when they purchased the freehold for the land and by 1849 they had built a homestead overlooking Port Phillip Bay. The mansion was made from locally quarried basalt for the foundations, limestone, quartzite and ironstone for the walls and Barrabool Hills sandstone for the chimneys. They lived here, running the properties until Anne's death in 1853. Such was Anne's admiration for her partner and friend that she remarked in a diary entry that "Miss Newcombe who is my partner, I hope, for life is the best & most clever person I have ever met with. There seems to be magic in her touch, everything she does is done so well & so quickly."
After Anne's death, Caroline continued to run the Coriyule property, often stating in her later years "Tell me what a man can do that I cannot!" Despite her fiery temper and this fierce statement of independence, in 1861 she married the local Wesleyan minister - Rev. James Davey Dodgson. The remainder of her life until her death in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick in 1874, was spent following her husband around his circuit, ministering to the faithful.
Tellingly perhaps, Caroline was buried not with her husband (who lived until 1892) or in church surrounds, but with her partner Anne, on the station at Coriyule. In later years, their remains were removed to the Eastern Cemetery in Geelong.
The Coriyule Mansion still stands today and is held in private hands. It has been suggested that the ghost of Anne Drysdale can sometimes be heard playing the piano in the house.
The original Boronggoop run on the Barwon, held by the pair when they first formed their partnership was reclaimed by the government in 1852 and subdivided.
A meat processing works was set up on part of the Boronggoop land which by the 1860s was owned by John Lowe, MLC. Lowe died in 1867 and passed the land to his son Edwin who set about building a boiling down works on the site.
The Barwon River at Wilson's Road, once part of Boronggoop
Station and later part of St. Albans Stud
In 1871, a further subdivision occured when 200 acres of Lowe's land were purchased for the purpose of establishing a meat preserving company. It was joined by a bone mill in 1872 which operated until 1877 when it was offered for sale. The preserving company had been put on the market the previous year. The eventual purchaser of this 200 acres, as mentioned in a previous post, was the noted horse trainer James Wilson who cleared the land and added it to his St. Albans Stud where he trained many of the finest horses to run in this country.
Included in the buildings to be cleared was the original cottage built by Anne and Caroline when they lived at Boronggoop. Wilson replaced their modest home with a substantial brick villa which still stands today.
Also present as a reminder of the contribution made to the colony by these two pioneering women are the town of Drysdale, near their property of Coriyule and the Geelong suburb of Newcomb.

04 June, 2011

"...landlord to a ghost..."

Ghosts it seems, have a long association with the Barwon and its surrounds. From the very earliest times, the local indigenous Wathaurong tribes believed in ghosts. The Moorabool River which flows into the Barwon at Fyansford is named for the ghosts which the Wathaurong people believed haunted a large billabong which lay on the river. Moora means ghost in the local dialect. Another local legend suggests that the call of the Curlew - probably the Bush Stone-curlew - was thought to be the voices of ghosts in the night. The Bush Stone-curlew is a nocturnal bird, more often heard than seen. Its long, drawn out "eeeeooooooo" call, especially when coming from multiple birds would be quite eerie and not a little dissimilar to the long drawn out wail of the Currawong which the newly arrived white settlers also believed was the call of ghosts.
In fact, one of the Wathaurong's  earliest contacts with a white settler was they believed, a supernatural encounter. As I have previously described, when they stumbled upon the escaped convict William Buckley, they believed him to be the ghost of a legendary warrior known as Murrangurk.

Barwon Grange, Newtown
With the arrival of European settlers in the area, further tales and traditions of ghostly encounters arose. Not surprisingly, where you have old houses, you tend also to have ghost stories and several of the stately homes upon the Barwon lay claim to ghosts.
Oral tradition has it that Barwon Grange has a female ghost who appears in a long gown. I am not sure who this apparition is supposed to be, but the weatherboard house was built in the Gothic villa style of the early Victorian era in 1855 for Johnathan Porter O'Brien - a wealthy, upper middle class banker, merchant and financier who, with his young family lived in the property for only a year before returning to England, selling off all the property's goods and chattels at auction upon their departure. Subsequently, the house underwent a string of changes in ownership including names such as Chadwick, Mercer, Buckland, Giblin, McCormick, Haimes and Elms before, being handed over to the National Trust in 1970 who undertook a restoration of the property to its original, 1855 decor. There do not appear to be any stories of murder or unnatural death associated with the house which might have given rise to the reports of a ghost sighting, so the at this point the identity of the lady in the long gown remains a mystery.
Along this section of the river are a number of historically  significant homes which were built in the 19th century. Not far upstream is Barwon Bank, built in basalt in the Regency style between 1853 and 1856 for local solicitor John Alexander Gregory. It boasted 18 rooms and a large garden and was considered the finest home in Victoria in its day. I have not come across any suggestion at this point that the property might be haunted.
Barwon Bank

Further upriver at the bottom of Pakington Street is Sladen House. It was built between 1849 and 1850 for the solicitor and later Victorian Premier Charles Sladen. Substantial renovations were undertaken in 1863. The style of the house is Victorian Italianate and like Barwon Bank it is built in basalt. Unlike the former two houses, Sladen House was demolished in 1940 for its materials but then rebuilt according to its original detail at a later date. Again, no ghost stories seem to attend the property.

Looking through the gates of Sladen House
The same can not be said however, for The Heights. One of Geelong's best known historic homesteads, the Heights sits on the corner of Aphrasia and Ruthven Streets at the top of "Joey's Hill" in Newtown overlooking the River. Built in 1855, it consists of 14 rooms and is a pre-fabricated timber house of German origin. The original bluestone stables, built soon after the house was erected, can be seen from the road as you rise from the valley. The house was built for Charles and Mary Anne Ibbotson and their family who occupied it for three succesive generations until 1975 when the National Trust took control of the property. It underwent significant modernization in the 1930s. Like many of Geelong's leading figures of that era, Ibbotson was a pastoralist and woolbroker and fulfilled many other public roles.
It is said that in recent years, the housekeeper reported seeing the ghost of a woman and on another occasion, it was said that the piano was heard to be playing of its own accord. Perhaps Mary Anne - who died in 1882 - or one of the younger Ibbotson women continues to walk through the rooms of this grand old home.
Opposite Barwon Grange on the Belmont side of the river, sits Kardinia House. The initial building was erected in a similar era to the other houses mentioned (1850-1855) by one of Geelong's earliest pioneers - Dr. Alexander Thomson. Thomson was medical officer for the Port Phillip Association as well as a leading churchman and politician. Kardinia house underwent extensive renovation over the years, with major additions made prior to 1869 and changes to the verandah in 1889. As it stands today, the exterior reflects further renovations carried out in 1890 by a local businessman H.F. Richardson, rendering the original facade unrecognisable.
Kardinia House, Belmont
In more recent times, Kardinia House was used as a children's home by the Salvation Army and is now used by Karingal Disability Services to provide an aged care facility. A local resident who lived in the house as the child of staff members describes waking during the night to see an old woman wrapped in a shawl, knitting at the foot of their bed. As they cowered under the covers, the apparition reached out to touch them and then was gone. The same person recalled that there were a number of occasions on which ghostly apparitions were seen in Kardinia House, appearing to the children who lived there and often not seeming as benign as the knitting lady. On one further occasion, the kitchen cupboards were for some unexplained reason emptied of their contents, tipping them all over the room.
Even further upriver, this time near the township of Winchelsea in August, 2009 there was significant media coverage of what was believed to be a photograph of a ghost taken during an evening ghost tour at Barwon Park. The 42 room, bluestone mansion plus stables was built by Thomas and Elizabeth Austin and completed in 1871, the year of Thomas' death.
Barwon Park
Born in England, he arrived in the Port Phillip District from Tasmania in 1837 with his brother James and took up land at Winchelsea. Thomas is credited with the very dubious honour of introducing rabbits to Australia in 1859, but was also a noted pastoralist and horse breeder. He also claimed to have introduced hares, blackbirds, thrushes and partridges.
By the end of his life, Barwon Park extended to some 29,000 acres and after his death Thomas' wife Elizabeth was credited with many charitable works, including the establishment of the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg and Austin Hall and Terraces, located in Yarra Street, South Geelong, only a few blocks from the river. This latter was erected as a home for "educated women in reduced circumstances" and has changed very little to the present day and maintains it's original function.
Barwon Park also remains much as it was in the Austins' day, but is now owned, like many of the properties mentioned, by the National Trust. As mentioned, in August, 2009 during a "ghost tour" of the stables, a photograph was taken which showed the image of a young woman in what appeared to be a low-cut, period dress - the ghost of Elizabeth Austin?
Well, probably not. Some few days after all the media hype, a young woman came forward claiming to be the face in the photo. This, along with other irregularities in the time stamp of the digital photo seem to have put paid to any ghostly claims, however it has been noted over the years, that a moving light can sometimes be seen coming from the window of the bedroom in which Elizabeth Austin died in 1901.
Finally, if we head back downriver as far as the present day Geelong suburb of St. Albans Park, we find the historic homestead of St. Albans, built in 1873 for renowned racehorse breeder and trainer James Wilson. The brick house consists of 30 rooms and was extended first in 1875 and then again three years later. The names of many famous racehorses were associated with the property during the 19th century and the early parts of the 20th century, including the great Phar Lap who was hidden on the property for three days prior to the 1930 Melbourne Cup after an attempt was made on the horse's life.
The property remains in private hands but has been opened to the public at some points. On one such occasion in 2003, the then owner remarked that whilst he had never seen a ghost in the house, he had noticed a number of unexplained occurrences such as mysteriously opening and closing doors. He also indicated that there were reported to be several ghosts associated with the property including a racehorse owner, a vanishing jockey and a lecherous ladies' man in the guest room. Exactly who these characters might be is not explained.
On balance then, it seems that there are a number of "ghosts" making themselves at home in the remnants of of 19th century architecture along the Barwon, however most are reported to be peacful apparitions and gruesome tales of murder and violent death seem to be largely absent. Perhaps, like many of us, these people from a bygone era so enjoyed their lives on the banks of the river that they are unwilling to leave.
No doubt there are many other ghost stories associated with the Barwon and its surrounds. These are just a few...

01 June, 2011

Sitting by the duck on the bay.

A couple of weeks ago I took off on one of our now customary bike rides with various family members. We were on a mission to investigate a trail we discovered a few weeks earlier. For the sake of directness, we decided not to ride via the river on this occasion, although not having to ride up the hill beside the cement works at Fyansford may also have been a contributing factor. Instead, we headed to the waterfront up what will - when it is finally completed - be the bike lane on Swanston Street joining the river to the bay. Recent complaints in the local media not withstanding, it will be a very handy pathway to have running virtually past our doorstep.
Little Pied Cormorant at Western Beach
After a stop to collect the third member of our expedition we made it as far as Rippleside Park before we felt it was time for a coffee stop. While we were there I spent some time studying the local bird life. I thought it would make an interesting comparison to that on the Barwon. Well, as it turns out, it was not so different as I had imagined - although in the short amount of time available I was not able to see the same variety of species I have seen on the river.
Silver Gulls (Sea Gulls) were in abundance as expected and I even spotted a cormorant or two, a Pacific Gull and a Royal Spoonbill dabbling in the shallows. On shore, the usual array of birds found anywhere in suburbia was also evident. What I was surprised to see were ducks. Lots of ducks. In retrospect I shouldn't have been so surprised and after a quick Google search it all made sense.
I noticed as I was taking taking some shots with the camera that the ducks in question appeared to be Chestnut Teals. I know that these birds are found not only on the inland sections of the Barwon, but also on the lower reaches which as I have noted before are considered quite brackish. It stands to reason therefore that these ducks have a significant tolerance level for salt water and various websites confirm this. None-the-less, it did seem odd seeing so many ducks at the beach.
Royal Spoonbill at Western Beach
From there, we rode around to St. Helen's Park and then, via a series of off-road trails, bike lanes and on-road twists and turns, we made our way around Corio Bay through the industrial part of town, to the shores of Limeburner's Bay (or the Lagoon as we called it at school) opposite the Grammar School. At this point we stopped for lunch and to assess our options. On the lagoon a pelican was taking the opportunity to do likewise. As it happens, we decided we had time and continued our adventure along the Hovell's Creek Nature Trail.
As the name suggests, this trail follows Hovell's Creek from its inlet at Limeburner's Bay (not to be confused with Limeburner's Point on the opposite side of Corio Bay) back along its length as far as the township of Lara. The scenery is open rolling farmland most of the way providing views of the creek and the nearby You Yangs whose name incidentally comes from an Aboriginal term meaning - appropriately enough - "big mountain in the middle of a plain". Hovell's Creek on the other hand, was named for the English explorer William Hovell who with the perhaps more widely known Hamilton Hume, in 1824 explored the area having made the trek overland from Sydney. It was they who heard the local Wathaurong word "Jillong" used to describe the region. Although not the first white men to reach the region, their voyage of exploration was of significant benefit to the fledgling colony.

Limeburner's Bay
Our journey on the other hand was somewhat easier than that of the early explorers, we being provided with a well-maintained bitumen track which we followed as far as the Princes Freeway, under which the track passes. At this point, running short of time and facing an uphill ride for the last stretch into Lara, we decided to call it quits and head back from whence we had come.
Our return journey was made at a somewhat less relaxed pace than the outward journey, stopping only for a couple of brief breaks and (in my case) to investigate a bunch of black birds in a gum tree. As per my previous blog, these were most probably Australian Ravens, in which case the appropriate collective noun for the group is either a murder (as in a murder of crows), an unkindness, a storytelling or - possibly my favourite - a conspiracy of ravens. I wonder then, if conspiracy is the correct term, whether a group of ravens meeting a group of crows is perhaps....a conspiracy to murder...??
Enough! We made it back to town in good time and headed home. Another trail explored and a few more kilometres clocked up on the bikes.