26 May, 2014

Branching out - Mout Doran

From the rich reefs at Steiglitz on Sutherland's Creek to the deep gravel leads at Morrisons on the Moorabool River West Branch or Dolly's and Tea Tree Creeks, there was plenty of gold to be found for those who were willing to work for it during the Victorian gold rush.
And plenty were.
Of course, it wasn't just on the river and the larger creeks that the prospectors tried their luck. Every little gully and streamlet was scoured in search of gold-bearing soil and rocks, so as claims were taken up at Dolly's Creek, Tea Tree Creek and other nearby diggings, prospectors began to look further afield. One of the places they looked to was Mount Doran, a few miles to the north of Dolly's Creek and now part of the Lal Lal State Forest.
The workings around Mount Doran date back to 1858 and were most active throughout the 1860s. Recently I had the opportunity to investigate some of the area - in particular, a disused mine about 1.5km south of Bungal Dam. Our route in took us along rutted 4WD tracks, past the crumbling remains of a chimney, whose original purpose I have not be able to determine, but which I assume belonged to an early settler.
Chimney ruins
By the side of the track and scattered throughout the bush through which we passed were the overgrown remains of mullock heaps and shafts surrounded by scattered debris.
Abandoned mineshaft entrance

More diggings
The mine of interest on this occasion consisted of a series of tunnels which extend into the side of a gully near Champions Hill and I suspect it is typical of the type of "cemented lead" which was excavated in the area. Entry is via a small opening which has silted up over time. Several trees have also grown up near the entrance.
Mine entrance
As mentioned above, gold-containing soil and rocks would have been hewn from the tunnels by hand, carried out and then sluiced or puddled to extract the gold. Whether this was done onsite or the raw material was carted elsewhere for washing, I could not tell. The gully in which the mine is located was steep and in wet weather may well have some water, especially if it were dammed, however it is not a creek and certainly there was no water flowing when we were there. This along with other gullies in the area drain into the west branch of the Moorabool, less than a kilometre away.

Gully running past the mine
As there were several passages branching off the main tunnel and even a ventilation shaft which extended up several metres from the roof at one point, I can only assume that the mine yielded enough workable material to make the miners' efforts worthwhile.
Main branch of the tunnel

Deeper inside the tunnel

From local descriptions, such a mine would have been worked by a small group of men, possibly taking shifts and working by hand to dig and extract the rocks and soil. The number of branches off the main tunnel indicate that the miners were able to follow the lead in several different directions back into the hillside, stopping as the gold ran out.
Dead end branch
In some places there was timber although whether it was used for structural purposes or perhaps as part of a trolley system I couldn't tell. Clearly the mine has not been in use for many decades - probably more than a century - however people have remained aware of its existence right to the present day. This is attested to by the graffiti on the walls of one branch of the tunnel which dates back to 1928 and was for me, one of the most surprising features of the mine.

The earliest graffiti I could find from Jan 7th 1928
C Birkett Lal Lal, K Fisher Geelong, J Davis Geelong, Jan 27 1933
A quick Google search indicates that the Birkett name has been associated with Lal Lal since at least the earliest years of the 20th century when a Clive Birkett was born there 1903. Whether one and the same, I know not.

Who were the Bounds?
Once again, a quick Google search turns up the Bound family in Lal Lal as early as 1914 when Alfred Charles Bound was born there. Even today there is a Bound Lane in the town and looking at the handwriting above I suspect we are looking at generations of the Bound family visiting the mine.
In addition to these examples there are names from 1945, 1980 and even one from 2014, creating what is possibly one of the most obscure genealogical records I have found to date.

24 May, 2014

Branching out - Dolly's Creek

In contrast to the big company mines in the Steiglitz area, gold digging further up the Moorabool Valley was less lucrative and was centred on working alluvial drifts rather than quartz reefs. This was certainly true of the diggings at places such as Morrison's, Dolly's Creek, Tea Tree Creek and Mount Doran.

Worked ground at Dolly's Creek
The Morrison's diggings took place initially on the west bank of the Moorabool River where miners followed leads under the more geologically-recent flows of basalt, extracting auriferous gravels which were then worked using sluicing boxes and puddling machines to extract the gold.
Miners using a sluice
Nearby Dolly's Creek - a tributary of the west branch of the Moorabool River which ran into the river above what is now the township of Morrison's - was also worked in this fashion by the late 1850s.

workings at Dolly's Creek

The diggings at Dolly's Creek were known as a "Poor man's field". Yields provided a steady wage for hard work but no great riches. As a consequence, Dolly's Creek attracted Chinese miners who by the 1860s were the dominant workforce in the area.  Opium cans found at the Dolly's Creek diggings attest to their presence.
Quartz-containing rock, Dolly's Creek
Even today, there is interest in Dolly's Creek and any gold which might still be there, with recreational prospectors still working the creek bed and surrounds on a regular basis. During my wander along the section of the creek near Forest Road - which is currently completely dry with the exception of a few puddles - there was evidence of recent working.
Looking along the watercourse with a hole indicating signs of modern prospecting
 Then as now, access to water was a big issue in the area. Enough so that claims were abandoned sometimes not for lack of gold, but rather for lack of water to wash the soil to extract the gold. To this end, in the early 1860s a dam was built on Lal Lal Creek about a mile and a half above the falls of the same name. Water from the dam was then carried via a channel some 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep to the diggings. The channel was operated by the Moorabool Waterworks Company (aka the Lal Lal Waterworks Company) and initially carried water only as far as Dolly's Creek, where it entered a holding dam before being diverted into several smaller races, directing water to where it was most needed. By 1863 the channel had been extended to reach the diggings at Morrison's and Tea Tree Creek as well.
Dolly's Creek
To reach the diggings, it was necessary for the channel to cross the Ballarat-Geelong Railway line (built 1862) first at Lal Lal and then again near Mt Doran to the south. It was also necessary to tunnel through about 300m of rock to the south of Lal Lal township, to complete the project.  Remains of the channel may still be seen in the vicinity of Lal Lal today but according to one source, whilst the tunnel still stands, both ends have collapsed preventing access.
At this stage, I have not investigated the channel and have only spent a small amount of time at Dolly's Creek, but am keen to take another trip to see what I can discover.

21 May, 2014

Branching out - GOLD! GOLD! GOLD!

There's gold in them thar hills! Well, in the Moorabool Valley to be precise - at Morrison's and Steiglitz on land which originally formed part of the squatting runs of Moranghurk, Durdidwarrah and Borhoneyghurk.
Gold was first discovered in the area in small quantities in 1851 but was not considered workable. In 1853, the squatter Andrew Love and George Morton found alluvial gold which resulted in a small flurry of activity, but it was not until late 1855 when William Hooley and Joseph Davis discovered the first of several gold reefs at Steiglitz on the banks of Sutherland's Creek near the bottom of the main street that the rush really started.
Timber bridge over Sutherland's Creek, Steiglitz
The table below gives a timeline of the development of gold mining along the Moorabool and it's tributaries - most notably Sutherland's Creek, Tea Tree Creek (which runs into the west bank of the Moorabool West Branch between Elaine and Morrison's) and Dolly's Creek (which also joins the west branch of the Moorabool from the same direction but further to the north).
Type of mining
Morrison’s Station
Dolly’s Creek
Hooley & Davis discover reef at Sutherland’s Creek, Stieglitz
Sutherland’s Creek
Yankee Gully
Late 1850s
Morrison’s Diggings
Dolly’s Creek
Tea Tree Creek
Stony Rises
Stony Rises
More gold at Stieglitz

This first rush in the area at Steiglitz involved alluvial mining, however reefs - the richest in the country - were also discovered and through the 1860s and 1870s deep lead mining of quartz veins became the norm. It was one of the first areas in the country where reef mining took place and in the very early days, the lack of quartz crushing facilities posed a problem so it was suggested that quartz be carted off site either to Geelong or back to England for crushing! This situation was soon rectified in 1856 when the first public crushing plant opened in Steiglitz and by 1862, fifteen quartz batteries were operating there.
Remains of a mullock heap at Steiglitz
As they were discovered and worked, the reefs were given names to differentiate them. The best known was perhaps New Chum, but others included Gibraltar, Tam-O-Shanter, Ironbark, New Years, Cooper's, Dreadnought, Yankee Smith,  Hanover, Boxing, Mayday, Sailors, Victoria, Clifton, Portuguese, Commissioners, Scotchman's, Birmingham, New Lode, Satchwell's, Garlick's, Durham and Italian.
The long term nature of reef mining and the requirement for heavy equipment meant that the settlement at Steiglitz was more permanent than many goldfields and by the late 1850s the town boasted four churches, five schools, four hotels and a police magistrate to maintain good order.
By 1859 Steiglitz boasted two bridges "paved with gold", specks of which could be seen in the quartz tailings from the worked out Italian Reef which were used as road base.
As the mining operations at Steiglitz began to shift from alluvial to reef mining, smaller claims were amalgamated and larger companies moved in, meaning miners were paid a wage rather than working their own claim. Some older reefs were also reworked as cheaper, more efficient methods of quartz crushing became available. By 1862, forty leads were being worked and 15 quartz crushers were operating. The majority  however were still involved in alluvial mining up and down Sutherland's Creek.
Sutherland's Creek just west of Steiglitz township
This was also the year in which the Geelong-Ballarat railway line opened, providing reliable transport to the goldfields which was connected from the station at Meredith by coach.  By the 1870s, there was also a public library, racecourse and the new brick courthouse which was built in 1875.
The courthouse at Steiglitz
By 1879 however, as the gold supply began to dwindle, the number of miners fell to about 100. The last crushing plant had closed a couple of years prior. People moved on and the population likewise dwindled.
As I discussed in one of my previous Woodbourne Creek posts, the 1860s saw changes in the law which opened up land for selection and closer settlement by small farmers. In the case of the Steiglitz area, many of these selectors had first tried their hand at mining but instead turned to the land to support their families. It was this pressure which saw the land east of the Moorabool River which had been part of the Moranghurk Estate, carved up into smaller properties when the squatting licence for the run was revoked in 1870.
Then, in the early 1890s, new gold deposits were discovered at Steiglitz and the miners began to return once again. The population sprang up to 2,000, trades and services returned, clubs and societies flourished to entertain the population. The boom was back.

Steiglitz township during the gold rush
However it was relatively short-lived and as yields dropped in the late 1890s, the population once again began to decline. People moved away, taking their business - and in many cases even their houses - with them.
Mining licences continued to be issued in small numbers over the years until 1941 when the last mine closed. From this time, public buildings were moved away and services relocated to other towns. Those who remained, looked to other industries to earn a living.
In 1951, the centenary celebrations marking the discovery of gold in the district saw the erection of a commemorative cairn. The central stone at the bottom was taken from the home of William Sharpe and those to the right and left from the original von Stieglitz home. They are topped by pieces of quartz from the abandoned mines.
Commemorative cairn at Steiglitz

16 May, 2014

M~M 2014: fire on water

We'd made it! Over 24 hours, 80km, 12 walking circles and uncountable blisters, but we'd walked from Big Rock in the You Yangs to the mouth of the Barwon River at Barwon Heads.
The walk itself is described in these three previous posts:
M~M 2014: the journey begins
M~M 2014: across The Bellarine
M~M 2014: the end is nigh
Some had walked the entire distance (about 30 of us I heard), others had walked sections, but now, about 1,000 people had assembled for the closing ceremony. As we had walked the final circle and taken our positions for the closing ceremony, darkness had fallen. The canoe which had travelled the entire distance with us, was now loaded with straw and there was a strong smell of diesel in the air.
Then, with a rising tide lapping at our toes we lined the beach, the walls and any available vantage point to watch the show.
Amidst an array of lights, the bird-like creatures from the opening ceremony reappeared and were joined by an array of dancers:

"Birds" from the opening ceremony at Big Rock
Dancers on the pier
 The Mayor was presented by each of the ward councillors with an item which was indiscernible at our distance but may well have been the bottles of water carried from Big Rock. Finally, the canoe was placed a specially designed vessel and lowered into the water.

The canoe in position
A flame was introduced and within moments, the whole vessel was alight.
Introducing the flame
The weather conditions were perfect. The river surface had barely a ripple and there was hardly a breath of wind as the flames took hold.

And then, before the pier also went up in flames, the now flaming canoe was towed slowly out into the mouth of the Barwon.

Towed into the night
Receding into darkness
And with that, our journey was complete and another chapter had been added to storyline of the region.

15 May, 2014

M~M 2014: the end is nigh

On Friday and Saturday the 9th and 10th of May, I participated in the 2014 Mountain to Mouth extreme arts walk from the You Yangs to Barwon Heads. Parts 1 and 2 of the journey are described here:
M~M 2014: the journey begins
M~M 2014: across The Bellarine
Having endured the rain and the blisters, enjoyed the sunshine, listened to the music, seen the displays and walked the first 10 circles, we were nearly at our journey's end. A mere 11.5km or thereabouts remained. Nothing really, considering the distance we had already travelled. Right? Well, except that 8 of those kilometres were across sand.
After a brief stop at Point Lonsdale, we formed up once again and trooped out in the direction of the Point Lonsdale Surf Lifesaving Club. After a short walk along the road behind the dunes, it was up and over for our assault on the beach.
The flag-bearers departing Point Lonsdale
Throughout the journey I had heard murmurings from the walkers about tide levels, concern that it would be too high to walk and mutterings from the organisers that those who fell behind would be bussed to the next station (something I was determined to avoid by this stage). Fortunately, everything went to plan, we stayed on schedule and hit the beach with enough sand to walk on albeit with a clearly rising tide.
Heading to Ocean Grove
By this time, an 8km slog over a semi-solid surface was challenging to say the least, but we soldiered on. The weather remained picture perfect as sunset began to approach but whilst some of the travellers may have struggled with the sand, one did not:

The canoe getting a lift
On a custom-designed trailer, the canoe made its way across the sand towed behind a surf rescue vehicle, with its bottles of water from the wells at Big Rock still safely intact. And then finally, we had reached Ocean Grove.
The flag-bearers passed through the circle and I was greeted by my family who had arrived in time to walk the final section with the group.
Centre piece of the Ocean Grove walking circle
 We also walked the circle and had our "passports" stamped to mark our presence, after which I glanced around only to discover that the flags and the canoe were nowhere to be seen!

The canoe passes through the walking circle
A quick scramble - it could hardly be called a jog at that stage - ensued before I once again had the canoe and flags firmly back in my sights. I hadn't walked 77km only to miss the big arrival!
The final approach across the William Buckley Bridge at Barwon Heads
The final stage was a short one over firm ground and with a definite air of elation we crossed the William Buckley Bridge at Barwon Heads to be greeted by around 1,000 spectators who had come to join the festivities and watch the closing ceremony which was tipped to be a belter!

Flag-bearers walk the final circle at Barwon Heads as darkness descends
So, with darkness now upon us, we also walked the final circle and then took up position for the grand finale.

13 May, 2014

M~M 2014: across The Bellarine

Part 1 of the adventure: M~M 2014: the journey begins
On Friday evening we had arrived at our overnight destination in mild, clear conditions. Not so the following morning when the walkers reconvened to begin the final day of our adventure - a 50km walk through Geelong, down the Bellarine Rail Trail and along the beach to Barwon Heads.
In the pre-dawn darkness and with rain falling steadily, we gathered at the Waterfront before setting off at 6am on the shortest leg of our journey; a 2.7km trek up Moorabool Street to the banks of the Barwon where breakfast was available for those who needed it.

Walking circle at the Barwon River, Geelong
As we formed up again and headed out along the river, dawn was just beginning to sneak in. The rain continued to fall and coats and pack covers were a must.

The Barwon a dawn
This was one of the longest stages of the walk, covering over 10km up the hill from Geelong to Christies Road in Leopold along the Bellarine Rail Trail. By the time we arrived, the weather had finally cleared and the Leopold Football Club had the snags on the barbie so I had a sausage in bread and sat down to attend to the crop of blisters I was already cultivating on my feet.
The living walking circle at Leopold
The next step was to make my way through the walking circle - which I did at each of the twelve stations on the journey. The circle at Leopold is a permanent one, built in to the garden which can be walked at any time. The canoe arrived a little after I did and was handed over to a group of scouts who were to carry it to the next station.
Scouts who carried the canoe from Leopold to Drysdale
From Leopold, we covered the 7 or so kilometres to Drysdale where another walking circle awaited us in the form of an amazing display of local produce.
Drysdale walking circle

Centre piece of the Drysdale walking circle
 This was a brief stop and we were soon on our way to Queenscliff - the longest stage of our journey. Whilst the rail trail is a great path to follow and I have run and ridden this section on many occasions and love its views and scenery, as a walker, I found it dragged. My blisters were gaining some serious momentum and we just seemed to take forever to get to the ninth station at the Marine Discovery Centre in Queenscliff.
Walking circle at the Marine Discovery Centre, Queenscliff

Once there however, there was time to dress my blisters once again - a process which it seemed was of interest to at least two photographers!
And then we were off again. This time the canoe was being carried by a group of crossing supervisors - the only group I am aware of who came with a name.

Lollipop Lollipop carrying the canoe to Point Lonsdale
This section from Queenscliff to Point Lonsdale I have to say, was a treat. Possibly my favourite part of the whole walk. Maybe that was because it was short, or because the weather by this stage was sparkling and the views are expansive.
The mayor of the Borough of Queenscliffe and flag-bearers heading to Point Lonsdale
However, it seemed like no time before we were at Point Lonsdale where the crossing supervisors handed over to lifesavers and we stopped to regroup and I was able to see perhaps the most unique of all the walking circles.

Surf lifesavers prepare to escort the canoe to Ocean Grove
This one was on a different scale altogether and with around 11km to go, it was just what I needed - a circle which you walked with your finger!
Point Lonsdale walking circle
This miniature walking circle we were informed, was carved from limestone quarried at Fyansford and a close examination would reveal fossils still embedded in the stone. But once again, having stamped our "passport" to prove we had been there and done that, it was off to Ocean Grove...

12 May, 2014

M~M 2014: the journey begins

Over the two days of the 9th and 10th of May I participated in an amazing community event which took place across the region from the You Yangs to the mouth of the Barwon River: the Mountain to Mouth extreme arts walk. To do it justice requires a couple of posts at least. This is the first.
Following on from the original M~M in 2009, this event traced a path from Big Rock at the You Yangs to the river mouth at Barwon Heads. This time the M~M got underway with a "Gathering of the Elders" ceremony at Big Rock, conducted by Elder Bryon Powell.
Elder Bryon Powell
Elder Bryon Powell carries smoke to performers and the ceremonial canoe
during the opening ceremony
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the mayors of Geelong and the Borough of Queenscliff along with ward councillors wound their way through the first of twelve walking circles followed by walkers and other community members.
The mayors and councillors walk the circle beneath the You Yangs
The formalities concluded and Mayor Darren Lyons led the flags representing each of the council wards and their bearers as they started their journey to Barwon Heads. They were followed by the canoe which accompanied the walkers throughout our journey, carried by various community groups, beginning with the CFA.
The ceremonial canoe leaving for the walk, carried by CFA members and
bearing twelve bottles of water (one for each ward) from the well on
Big Rock - to be carried to the river mouth at Barwon Heads
Mayor Lyons leading the canoe through the flags of the 12 wards of the municipality
From the You Yangs, we wound our way via Serendip Sanctuary to Lara, the second station on the journey, arriving just on sunset.
The walking circle at Lara
Then, following a short dinner break, it was time to walk beside Hovell's Creek to the shores of Limeburner's Lagoon on Corio Bay where the third station awaited. With darkness now completely descended we took time to walk the circle before following the shoreline to the industrial heart of Geelong, passing Shell, Pivot, Ford and other significant industrial sites.
Our fourth station was at Moorpanyal Park where the walking circle was a glowing arrangement of crocheted coral and ceramic shells.
Crocheted coral in the walking circle at Moorpanyal Park
At this point, after several changes, academics from Deakin University took on the task of carrying the canoe to the Waterfront. Of course, as those carrying the canoe changed, likewise the flags were passed from group to group. Walkers came and went too doing stages here and there but some (myself included) aimed to make it all the way to Barwon Heads.
Representatives from Deakin University prepare to carry the canoe
From this station to the Waterfront was our final leg for the evening and the arrival of the canoe and the walkers at Steampacket Gardens (the fifth station) was timed to coincide with the end of the Geelong After Dark event.
The walking circle at the Geelong Waterfront

The centre piece of the Waterfront walking circle
By this stage we had walked 30km to reach the Waterfront where a resting ceremony was performed before we all adjourned for the evening, in preparation for a 6am start the following morning.
The canoe in position for a light display at the Waterfront

To be continued: M~M 2014: across The Bellarine.