07 November, 2011

Branching out - the Moorabool

In addition to numerous creeks, the Barwon river has two sizeable tributaries. These are the Leigh and Moorabool Rivers. Lest this blog get out of control, I have so far resisted the urge to say too much about these rivers, however, today I had the opportunity to visit a part of the Moorabool River which I have not seen before. With any luck I will shortly be making a visit further upstream and may blog that too, today however, I was at Batesford.
The Moorabool River below Batesford
But first, a little about the Moorabool River. I have probably mentioned before that this river takes its name from the Aboriginal word Moora meaning ghost, as there was a large billabong on the river where they believed ghosts lived. Another explanation is that Moorabool also means Cooloo which is the name of a night bird, whose calls could be heard but which could not be seen. 
Moorabool River
Like the Barwon, the Moorabool has an east and a west branch which rise on the southern slopes of the Great Dividing Range between Ballarat and Ballan. The two branches meet outside the township of Morrisons after which the river flows to its confluence with the Barwon River at Fyansford.
Alarmingly, the Moorabool is one of the most environmentally stressed rivers in Victoria, with water being drawn from the river from the upper reaches of both the East and West Moorabool rivers, the Lal Lal Reservoir, Sheoaks and Meredith to supply water to Ballarat and Geelong. There is also a significant quantity of water used by farmers and other private operators. It has been indicated that at Batesford at the lower end of the river, environmental flow targets are met less than 50% of the time.
The removal of water from the system is not the only environmental factor affecting river health. The presence of a total of 15 water collection sites along its length impact greatly on the movement of native fish and other river fauna such as platypus whilst the loss of native vegetation for agricultural purposes and its replacement with non-native trees (such as willows) have also had a significant impact on river health.
Dog Rocks Hotel aka Batesford Hotel aka Derwent Hotel
But for now, back to today's adventure. Firstly, I went for a wander along the walking track through the Moorabool Nature Reserve which is located off Dog Rocks Road near the Moorabool Estate Winery. This short trail leads down to the river and then heads north, mostly keeping close to the river bank in the direction of Batesford. This section of the river is bordered by a combination of native and exotic plantings with farms close on either side. Unfortunately the path does not extend as far as the Batesford town which is a pity as it would be a nice walk to the pub for refreshments!
The start of the trail is adjacent to the Dog Rocks Flora and Fauna Sanctuary - an area of 83ha which has been preserved in its natural state by the Belcher family who bought the land in 1856. The sanctuary has river frontage to the Moorabool and is home to a wide variety of natve plant and animal life. The sanctuary is holding an open day within the next couple of weeks on 19th November, 2011. Details are on the above website.
After making my way along the river path and back in perfect, sunny weather, I headed back round to Batesford where I stopped at the pub and investigated the old bridge (I do love an old bridge!).
Batesford is named for the brothers Alfred and John Bates who settled in the district in 1837 at this site where the river could be forded, although the township (first surveyed in 1854) was originally named Hopeton for George Hope who then owned the land.
1859 bluestone bridge at Batesford
This impressive bluestone structure was built in 1859 to replace an earlier timber bridge, located a little above the ford which was built in 1846, destroyed the following year and then replaced in 1848. This structure was also damaged during the floods of 1852. The bluestone bridge is still in use today as part of a service road whilst the newer concrete and steel structure built in 1972 carries traffic on the Midland Highway immediately adjacent to the older structure.
The river is presently flowing along its length due to the rainfall of the past 12 months, however this has not always been the case, especially during the recent drought. For now however, it is lush, green and not too muddy.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jo, love your work. I was wondering if you would be interested in a painting I bought today in an op shop in Cairns yesterday. I was immediately drawn to it because I knew it was Buckley country when I saw it. It reminded me of a drawing by Wedge, a surveyor friend of John Batman and with whom he travelled this land with Buckley. The painting is called Horse Shoe Bend, shire of south bar won. It was painted in October 1974 by Myrtle A Lemin of Areluen Parade Belmont and was sold at an exhibition. My great great great grandfather, Fred Locke owned land along the Moorobool in 18770s and also had a hotel called the Separation Inn or Hotel in Batesford in 1862. He was a convict from the last convict ship into Victoria, the Eden.
    I think your blog is fantastic and you do it really well. I founded the friends of William Buckley and did a lot of research into his travels and story, which is why this painting hit a chord with me. I was wondering if you would like to see it and then find out where it was painted and maybe more about the artist. Take a photo of now to compare to then. There is also a wonderful old photo of the mooroabool river in 1880 in google images by Fred Kruger. Cheers for now
    My email is sjkeys@bigpond.com
    Ps I live in cairns now. However I will be down in Geelong next month as my mum lives at St Leonarsds.