27 August, 2012

The eye of the garden

This is another of those posts which draws a rather long bow when it comes to relevance. I might add however, that some of those "less relevant" blogs continue to be quite popular.
On Tuesday, the weather was reasonable (if a little blowy) and the usual bike ride was in the offing. The only problem was of course, that my (off road) cycling route to pretty much everywhere in town was under several feet of water in quite a few places. So, not feeling quite up to swimming the Troop Loop, the next best option was to head for the Bay. It had been a while since we'd ridden that way and in any case, there was a little project I'd been meaning to check out for a while.
Ready to go, we jumped on the Swanston Street bike lane which runs only a couple of hundred metres from my front door and headed north instead of south. With the sun out and the bay sparkling, we were compelled to stop for a coffee and enjoy the view.
Eastern Beach
Morning tea complete, we rode up into Eastern Gardens to investigate a new lake which is under construction. I have been reading about this latest addition to the gardens in the local media for some time but somehow had not managed to go for a look. What we found when we arrived will soon be a pretty little lake which lies in the natural contours of land on what was an under-utilised oval near Holt Road. It twists cleverly between existing established trees, both native and non-native, giving the appearance that it has been present for longer than you might think.
And this, as it turns out, it may almost have been the case. The following description of the project provided on the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) website indicates that in 1925 a lake which was present on the site was filled in to form a cricket oval.
Lake in Eastern Gardens with treatment station to the left
A walking path has been built which runs around the edge of the lake and at present, the whole is surrounded by temporary fencing which will be removed when the works are finished. I believe that there will be more planting around the banks to encourage the local fauna, some of whom - in the form of a couple of Pacific Black Ducks - were already testing the waters while we were there.
And this too is what the contractors are doing. Initial works began in late December, 2011. They were largely completed a few months ago and with the autumn rain, the lake filled. At this point, however it was drained and checked for leakage. All was discovered to be well and the lake is once again filling and expected to be at or near its seven million litre capacity by spring.
New Eastern Gardens lake
And now perhaps, it is time for a few statistics. The lake is more than just ornamental. When it is fully functional, it will serve the important purpose of providing an estimated ninety percent of the water requirements of both the Botanic and Eastern Gardens, reducing their reliance upon the drinking water supply by almost 30 million litres per year. It may also be used to water nearby sports grounds.
View across the lake looking north west
The water which supplies the lake is collected from local storm water runoff from a residential area of East Geelong. The water previously flowed directly into Corio Bay but will now be collected and treated before entering the lake using a combination of physical barriers (litter trap and sand filter) and ultraviolet light. The newly installed indigenous vegetation will also help to reduce nutrient levels.  It is estimated that the water in the lake will replenish itself around twenty times per year, helping avoid stagnation. It will be monitored for mosquito activity, but it is believed that water depth will be too great for breeding.
Funding for the lake, which will cost in the vicinity of $930 million was provided jointly by the CoGG and the Federal Government as part of the council's Sustainable Water Use Plan.

25 August, 2012

Another piece of the puzzle

In yesterday's Advertiser I noticed an article which was of immediate interest, concerning the walking/riding track which follows Waurn Ponds Creek over to the shopping centre and beyond. The creek which I have blogged about before, flows from Waurn Ponds, through Grovedale and Marshall and meets the Barwon a little south of the Breakwater bridges.
Waurn Ponds Creek, Grovedale
About this time last year, the pedestrian bridge which crosses Waurn Ponds Creek next to the road bridge on Pioneer Road in Grovedale was deemed unsuitable and removed. As a result, pedestrians wanting to access the Leisure Link facility from the east have been required to cross under Pioneer Road, use the pedestrian bridge on that side, then cross back to the opposite side of Pioneer Road using the traffic lights to complete their trip.
So this is the plan...
It has taken until now for the old timber bridge to be replaced with a new, steel structure which was dropped into place by a crane on Thursday afternoon. Not surprisingly, the Addy was on site to witness the installation and yesterday's paper ran an article under the somewhat corny headline of "Pedestrian solution to growth".
Having seen this, naturally enough, I had to go and take some shots of my own. So, in weather conditions that saw birds flying sideways and rain squalls doing much the same thing, I headed over to have a look.
The new beside the site of the old
Not only did I find the bridge in place (although not yet completed or open to public access), but I also discovered entire road plant which I believe is in the process of completing a much needed upgrade of the Pioneer Road/Princes Highway intersection. These works also include some asphalt laying on the approaches to the bridge and path leading to Leisure Link and presumably also to the traffic lights which allow access to the remainder of the track round to the Ring Road.

The new bridge from the opposite side

And then, on the way home I happened to take the new Breakwater Bridge. As I was making the crossing, I noticed some newly laid bitumen and so headed down to have a look. A short walk through a small amount of mud in inappropriate footwear and I was at the base of the new bridge on the west bank. Sure enough, there was a new path leading off away from the river towards Barwon Heads Road.
New path from the river to Barwon Heads Road
So, back in the car to have a look at the other end and I discover that the now closed off section of old Breakwater Road has some new fencing and traffic controls and has been included in this new section of track which links the Barwon River Trail to the South Barwon Reserve and the Waurn Ponds Trail .
Now all they need is some decent signage indicating where the trail takes you and a whole heap of landscaping and revegetation on the empty section of land left after the Geelong Motocross Club vacated the site making way for the new bridge in 2007.
Looking west towards the new bridge across the old Motocross Club site
And then another piece of the puzzle which is Geelong's trail network will be complete.

UPDATE: as of Tuesday, 11th September work on the bridge is complete and tradesmen are working on pouring concrete for the paths leading to and from the new bridge. A quick question to one of the workmen suggested the work may be complete within the next week or two.

24 August, 2012

Read All About It!

And indeed we can! The Mt Brandon - Draft Landscape Plan is now available for viewing either in person at the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) customer service centres or can be downloaded as a series of pdf files via the CoGG website by following the "Have Your Say" link and choosing the link to the Mt Brandon report. It will be open for public comment until 24th September, 2012.
As a reminder, the area in question is a significant strip of land extending from the current Buckley Falls Park, along the south bank of the Barwon as far as the Geelong Ring Road. At the present time it looks something like this...
...although perhaps with slightly less water. Looking south across the base of
Mt Brandon Peninsula towards Rivergum Dve, during flooding on 16th January, 2011
From the top of Mt Brandon Peninsula looking towards the Ring Road in the
distance. The land to the left will include part of the new parkland development
Looking at Mt Brandon Peninsula across "gully 1" (see council plans).
Development on Rivergum Dve can be seen to the left

And the view south from the base of Mt Brandon Peninsula
So...in brief, the plan is...to provide public recreation facilities, open spaces, both formal and informal walking tracks, habitat regeneration and - perhaps most excitingly for me - a pedestrian bridge near the Ring Road bridge which would provide a loop connection to the trail on the opposite bank which will also receive some needed attention.
The Ring Road (Geoff Thom) Bridge from the north bank and the site of
a future path and pedestrian bridge
The option of adding a few extra kms to my runs/rides/walks is an enticing prospect, however the downside of all this - especially for those who are as impatient as I am - is that the plan is to be implemented in six stages and is, at least in part, dependent on State Government funding. In addition, with the latter stages not due to be implemented until such time as urban growth extends to the area near the Ring Road, I may be more interested in wheel chair access than running tracks by the time it is complete! Nor did I see anything which even hinted at a potential time line for all these works.
In the short term and assuming the plan is implemented, the initial stages appear to involve revegetation in addition to that which is already being undertaken by the Friends of Buckley Falls group, ongoing weed control and the construction of some walking tracks at the Bunyip Pool end of the precinct.
As for the rest, I guess we'll just have to wait and see, but the prospect of this extension to the river trail, combined with the plans for nearby Batesford South and the Moorabool are an exciting prospect for the future of the Barwon River Parklands project, especially when combined with the prospect of trail extensions beyond Breakwater and the upgrade of park facilities further downriver at sites such as Tait's Point, Ash Road in Leopold and other works in Barwon Heads. More details on the Barwon River Parklands project is available on the Parks Victoria website.

20 August, 2012

Many drops make a flood...

Once again the river is up and as usual the Google searches have begun. That being the case, I thought I'd better get some photos up of the latest flood event - such as it is. Over Friday night and into Saturday, in the vicinity of 70mm of rain fell in the upper reaches of the Barwon catchment. In other circumstances this may not have had much of an impact, but after a wet winter and with the ground already saturated, any rain was going to raise the river height.
And rise it did. Rickett's Marsh on the upper Barwon quickly reached moderate flood level, the Batesford gauge on the Moorabool peaked at the minor flood level and by Sunday night the usual sections of the path around Barwon through Geelong were going under.
Barwon through Geelong, 5:30pm Sunday, 19th August, 2012
Barwon through Geelong, 9am Monday, 20th August, 2012
Matters continued to develop overnight. The Rickett's Marsh gauge fell but Geelong continued to rise and is currently (8:30pm Monday) at a peak around the minor flood level.
As usual when the river floods, I didn't have time today to do more than whip around the same old inner-suburban locations, so below are a few shots from various points:
Old Breakwater Bridge, 9am Monday
Hmmm...perhaps they'll wash away and solve the problem..., 1pm Monday
Looking at Queen's Park from Windmill Reserve, 1:30pm

Bunyip Pool or Whirlpool?
Rock detail at the Bunyip Pool
Next time I will hopefully make it further afield.
I did also attempt to upload a video or two of the water flow to give some idea of the volume and the noise, however Blogger didn't want to oblige. Another aspect it can't convey is the smell of a flood. At the Bunyip Pool where the water is aerated, the smell of muddy water is quite marked. When the water recedes, I know from experience that the paths will all smell of mud...but that is something for next week...

19 August, 2012

Grand designs

It is easy enough to look at the history of the Barwon - particularly since European arrival - or to observe what is happening at the present time, but what of the future? Are there plans in place which will determine what will happen to the river, its resources and its surrounding environment?
Well yes, and as far as the section of the river through Geelong is concerned quite a bit of information is available on-line and through the media. Most obvious perhaps is the Barwon (through Geelong) Management plan which has been much cited of late in relation to those controversial ash and elm trees along the river at Fyans Park, as does the  Barwon & Moorabool River Reserves Masterplan & Management Plan.

The Barwon near Queen's Park
Something which attracted my attention several weeks back was an advertisement/article in the paper which lead me to a website I can no longer locate. It seemed however, to be largely based around details which can be found in the G21 Regional Growth Plan. Whilst the time frame under consideration is in the order of 20 years, the document provides a tantalising glimpse of what might be possible once the Batesford Quarry is decommissioned and the area transformed into a mixed residential and employment zone capable of housing up to 30,000 residents. The area I believe is designated as Batesford South and includes the Moorabool River between Batesford and Fyansford as well as the Barwon out as far as Friend In Hand Road.
View across the Moorabool Valley including the Ring Road and part of the
area proposed for development
Of specific relevance to this blog are the plans which would see the Moorabool through this area become a parkland within a 200m green zone including the ultimate conversion of the quarry itself into a large lake.
View of the Batesford Quarry across the Midland Highway near Ring Road
Also included in the larger scheme of things is the currently stalled Fyansford Green project which is on hold pending a buyer after a part of the Moltoni Group who owned the land met with financial difficulties.
The view from "Cementies" hill looking out over the Fyansford Green site
An extension of this project would also see a clean up and rehabilitation of the now disused CSR Quarry on the west bank of the river. I have no idea how current it is, but I did find a link to the following diagram which shows the layout of what the future quarry development would look like.
On the other edge of this proposed development is of course, the Barwon. I have mentioned in previous posts that there have been proposals to extend the river trail further up and downstream. I was under the impression that the track past Baum's Weir would be extended up to the Ring Road, however I have so far seen no sign of this.
Informal track beside the Barwon below Mt Brandon Peninsula
On the opposite side of the river however, at Mt Brandon Peninsula, it seems that things may be afoot. This week, a media release reported that a draft proposal by the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) for the Mount Brandon Landscape Plan is being put out for public comment. On the agenda are a raft of changes including the usual infrastructure of paths, picnic facilities, public toilets, carparking and so on. What it doesn't mention is the time frame involved or an expected start date...or who exactly is providing the cash.
Remains of the the water race which fed the Barrabool
Four Mill on Mount Brandon Peninsula, dating to the 1850s
As I write this blog, the CoGG Community Update for August, 2012 has just landed in my mailbox and lo and behold, the entire front page and several subsequent pages have been given over to promoting what's new along the Barwon through Geelong and much of it can also be found on the CoGG website following the "Leisure" then "Paths, trails and tracks" links. Another useful document under the "Projects, plans and studies" links is the "Greater Geelong Cycle Strategy" which incorporates information about the cycle trails around the river and ideas for future development. The main drawback here however, is that the document was produced in 2008 and some of the plans do not reflect the current situation.
Ovoid sewer aqueduct at Breakwater
At the Breakwater end of the river for instance, I have seen tantalising glimpses of what might be. At various times there has been talk of paths extending along the riverbank (on one side or the other) as far as the aqueduct and beyond. The cycle strategy document mentioned above shows a "proposed" trail all the way along the river to Barwon Heads, however we know from a recent comment sent my way by a Parks Victoria representative that it "ain't gunna happen". What would be really useful is an up to date, straightforward outline of what "is gunna happen" or perhaps even what "might happen" given funding issues and environmental concerns along the lower reaches of the river.

17 August, 2012

Up the garden path

 On 12th July I blogged about a section of the recently opened Troop Loop being closed for resurfacing. I am pleased to report that the works now appear to be finished and the path is once again open for business. Furthermore, the first signs of spring are starting to appear with the prunus trees bursting into bloom along the newly sealed section of the path, giving the impression of walking through a garden.

Prunus in bloom
This section of the track has always been one of my favourites at this time of year and in times past I have made a point of heading down with the camera. This year, due to the track resurfacing things look a little different. The character of this end of the trail has changed somewhat. I always liked the fact that this end of the river trail with its unsealed, gravel path and industrial backdrop felt less urban than other parts of the river through town, but with the opening of the new Breakwater Bridge (resulting in a significant increase in traffic noise) and the newly-laid bitumen, I suspect that this atmosphere has been somewhat diminished.
The track in September, 2010
The track in August, 2012
In addition to the changes to the track itself, it is interesting to note the difference a month can make to the plant life. In the 2010 photo, the pink flowering prunus in the foreground has already dropped its petals and leaves have appeared whilst the white flowering tree behind is in full bloom. In the 2012 photo I took last week, the pink prunus is in bloom with the white tree yet to flower so it looks like I will have to make a return trip in a month or so to take some progress shots. There also appears to have been some pruning of the native trees in the foreground in the intervening years.
A close up.
In the meantime, here is a detail shot of a nearby prunus I took during a quick return visit today during a rain shower.

16 August, 2012

What's news?

Over the last week or so for one reason or another the Barwon seems to have been in the news.
Recent articles reported first on the opening of the "new" Troop Loop running track at the beginning of July. At about the same time it was announced that the controversial "William Buckley" pedestrian bridge over the river at Barwon Heads had won an award at the Victorian Architecture Awards. A decision which still causes disagreement amongst the local community. And then there was a flurry of media interest in the proposed removal of elm and ash trees along the river at Fyans Park, which continues to the present with an article posted yesterday - 14th August,  2012 - describing the adverse effects of so called "woody weeds" on our river systems. Today the Geelong News featured a letter  titled "River is no place for ash trees" and the Geelong Times carried an article featuring Councillor Strech Kontelj and John Bampfield, a former parks officer involved with planting the trees in the late 1950s. Its headline  "Let the tees grow, says their grower" gives an indication of the article's leaning. Directly beneath it is a letter to the editor pleading the opposite viewpoint.
On 7th August a small article appeared in the Geelong Advertiser with the headline Trail tracks way to cycle safety. The article concerned the "opening" of a new section of track providing an off-road path for pedestrians and cyclists between Barrabool Road and the boat ramp opposite the rowing sheds. Prior to its construction this cyclists and pedestrians shared the roadway with motor vehicles, so it is definitely an improvement.
Partially completed track under the Moorabool St Bridge in April, 2012
I was however, a little surprised that this small section of track required an official "opening", especially considering it had been to all appearances completed and available for public use since some time in early May if my memory serves me correctly. The article also made the interesting claim that this new section of track takes pedestrians and cyclists off "the busy Moorabool Street Bridge". Given that the track and the roadway it removes traffic from run under the bridge in question, I fail to see how this provides an alternative to crossing the bridge itself. In fact, the new track also provides sealed access to the top of the bridge where pedestrians and cyclists can use the perfectly safe, purpose-designed path which was added to the bridge for exactly this purpose in time for the World Cycling Championships back in September 2010.
The finished product, looking upstream under the Moorabool St, James
Harrison and McIntyre Bridges
The next mention of the Barwon in the news was this Monday 13th August, 2012 when the Advertiser declared: Man rescued from Barwon when it appears that a man in his 60s slipped after crossing the weir at Buckley Falls - despite signage indicating that the weir should not be used for crossing the river - whilst attempting to retrieve a remote-controlled boat. The man was carried downstream and become stranded on a rock. All ended well however, with his rescue about two hours later by the SES.

14 August, 2012

I feel the need...

Like most bloggers, I tend to keep an eye on my blog stats - which posts are most popular, how many hits I get in a day, week, month, that sort of thing. I am also able to get some idea of the type of search terms which lead people to my blog.
Some subjects arise fairly commonly - the presence of ghosts in historic buildings along the Barwon for example is often queried (strangely enough as I type this, the term "Buckley Falls haunted" has appeared - but as far as I'm aware, no it's not) whilst bunyips and murder also attract attention. Other topics are of interest at or for a particular time period - the recent furor over the impending axing of the ash trees along the river at Fyans Park is currently popular whilst there is always a rush of searches for pictures of the Barwon during the 1995 flood* whenever the river rises.
Another search which has cropped up a bit of late includes the term "the distance between" followed by the names of various bridges along the Barwon. That being the case, I thought it was time to answer the question for those of us who walk, run and ride along the Barwon River paths and want to know how far we've travelled.
Looking upstream at the Moorabool St, James Harrison and McIntyre Bridges
I have decided to take two approaches to the topic which may provide an interesting comparison. Firstly, today with a few spare hours I headed down to the river to walk the full circuit from Breakwater to Fyansford and back. In order to keep track of the kilometres I cover either whilst out running or on the netball court (hopefully somewhere over 50km/week), I use a Nike+ Sportband. This clever little device measures distance via a piezoelectric sensor in my shoe which transmits to a USB device on my wrist. Once finished, the data from the run/game is uploaded to the Nike website which keeps a record of my distance, pace and various other statistics. For a piece of equipment which costs around $90 and does not rely on GPS technology, it is remarkably accurate.
Today, for the sake of convenience, I started my walk at the end of Swanston Street which is roughly the closest point to my house. From there I headed towards Fyansford, crossed both rivers, made my way back down to Breakwater and from there back to Landy Field. Each time I passed under or crossed over a bridge, I noted the distance I had travelled. All up, a distance of about 18.5km.
Below is a table showing the distance between each of the bridges along the river trail as measured by my Sportband:


Total distance (km) from Landy Field

Distance (km) from previous bridge
Landy Field
Moorabool St Bridge
James Harrison Bridge
McIntyre Bridge
Princes Bridge (Shannon Ave)
Queen’s Park Bridge
(Intersection with track to “Cementies hill”)
Foot bridge across Moorabool River
Foot bridge across anabranch
Foot bridge across Barwon River
Queen’s Park Bridge
Princes Bridge (Shannon Ave)
McIntyre Bridge
James Harrison Bridge
Moorabool Street Bridge
New Breakwater Bridge
Old Breakwater Bridge
New Breakwater Bridge
Landy Field

In each case, the measurement was taken from the middle of whichever bridge I was passing under or crossing over. So now everyone can work out the distance of their chosen route give or take a few metres. Remember also to allow a couple of hundred metres when crossing Moorabool Street, Princes, Queen's Park or McIntyre Bridges as I didn't cross these on my walk today so their distances are not included in the charts.
Also, for quick reference, here are the approximate distances for a few of the commonly used loops not including the bridge crossings mentioned above:

Distance (km)
Moorabool St Bridge - Old Breakwater Bridge
Princes Bridge - Old Breakwater Bridge (covers most of the 10km Troop Loop)
Queen's Park Bridge-Old Breakwater Bridge
McIntyre Bridge-Old Breakwater Bridge (slightly further than the 6km Troop Loop)
Moorabool Street Bridge-Princes Bridge
Moorabool Street Bridge-Queen’s Park Bridge
Moorabool Street Bridge-Fyansford
Princes Bridge-Queen’s Park Bridge
Princes Bridge-Fyansford
Queen’s Park Bridge-Fyansford

Secondly, having done it the hard way, when I got home I cranked up Google Earth and made a few virtual measurements. Allowing for the fact that the Google Earth images were taken in 2008, well before the new Breakwater Bridge was built - resulting in a few changes to the walking track at that end - and also accounting for the fact that the exact route of the path is a little unclear in places due to tree cover, a measured distance of 18.57km is remarkably similar to that measured by the Sportband.
So, now we have a reasonable idea of the distances involved, however if you are out on the path without a handy blog post to help and want a rough idea of the distances involved, remember, the Geelong Half Marathon run by the Geelong Cross Country Association have kilometre markers most of the way round the track - they are the yellow numbers painted on the path.

Half marathon marker
You will not find markers for 1, 2 and 14km as the route for the half deviates off the track at these points, the marker for 5km has not yet been added to the newly sealed section of track and 7km is hiding behind the shed belonging to the Barwon Rowing Club, but does exist. The 21km marker whilst present for the event tends to disappear due to wear and tear throughout the year. In any case, these km markers can be used for a rough estimate of distance. And finally, the newly installed posts for the Troop Loop can also be used to calculate distance if you are running that section of the track.

*For the record, I happened to be in Geelong at the time, but being young and foolish, I didn't take any photos of the event. If anyone has any pictures of the '95 flood which they would like me to include in this blog please feel free to contact me and I will put them up. I'm sure there will be many who are interested!