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.

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