22 June, 2015

Branching out - a look at Coolebarghurk Creek

Coolebarghurk Creek is one of the many tributaries which flows into the Moorabool River. It is neither the longest nor - I think I can safely say - the best-known however it has its own unique place in the landscape and in the history of the region. It also continues to be very important to those who live along its course as I had cause to discover when I was recently invited to walk along several parts of the creek.
The Coolebarghurk Creek rises to the south east of the town of Elaine and to the north of Griffiths Road - its course shallow and barely discernable at some points. As it winds its way towards Meredith, it collects runoff water from surrounding farmland.
Near the top of the creek, looking north
Looking to the south near the head of the creek
Looking downstream
Like many creeks in the district, this is not a permanently flowing watercourse, however as it approaches Gargan Road, it is fed by several natural springs which ensure that even in the driest times there are still pockets and pools of water along its course which provide important habitat for local fauna. Where water was present we saw a number of different species of waterbirds. We were told that the introduced Redfin are plentiful here as are Short-finned Eel, hundreds of which make their home in the creek, from the juvenile (elvers) to the mature adults - a process which can take 15 to 30 years and see them travel thousands of kilometres. There is also believed to be significant underground water flow.
This section of the creek is fed by springs nearby
The nearest neighbour to Gargan Road described the natural springs which feed the creek and the runoff which occurs during wet periods. Whilst we could cross the creek without getting wet feet when we were there, we were asked to imagine the surrounding area to either side covered with water some tens of metres wide and at a height which would have seen us submerged. The bridge on Gargan Road we were informed was elevated after one such flood which almost saw it swamped.
The bridge on Gargan Road
From here, the creek swings south and flows through the township of Meredith which prides itself on having the distinction of being the only town through which the creek passes. Our expedition took us to two points in town. One was the "Path of the Ibis", a recreational area on the Ken Middleton Walk along the banks of the creek, which in part follows the route of the old bullock track from Geelong to Ballarat.
The path of the Ibis
It features a shelter and artwork produced by children from the nearby Meredith State School and other community members. Along this section of the creek native revegetation is occurring, however there are also older, exotic plantings. I believe that moves are also afoot to further improve the health of the creek through this area.
Artwork at the shelter
Artwork at the shelter
Not too much further downstream, is Meredith's Police Paddock - another stop on our tour. Here, the creek has transformed from a barely visible dip in the landscape, to a dramatic channel, carved from the rocks. Like the Middleton Walk, this area has a circuit track which provides views of the creek along with signage explaining the significance of the area. One notable point is that the lack of development in this area has allowed for the survival of much flora native to the area which is now being nurtured and enhanced by propagation of local plants and revegetation.
The Police Paddock looking upstream
The view from the Police Paddock looking downstream
From this point, the creek flows on through open farmland beside the Midland Highway, crossing Taylor's Road, before changing direction once again and swinging back to the east to make its final descent through a hilly pocket of the Moorabool Valley.
Above the confluence
By this point, the land around is wooded and scattered with rock, steep and presumably unsuitable for farming. The creek's channel is deep and relatively narrow as it descends to its confluence with the Moorabool river several hundred metres upstream of the Sharps Road Bridge.
The Creek just above the confluence
Coolebarghurk Creek meets the Moorabool River
In all, a distance of about 19 km from start to finish. Only a short distance, but one with quite a bit of history, which will be the subject of my next post.

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