27 June, 2015

Branching out - Coolebarghurk Creek, looking back

Having seen a little of what the Coolebarghurk Creek looks like now, I thought I'd do a little digging and see how it was in the past.
For 40,000 years before European arrival, the Coolebarghurk and surrounding lands were home to the tribes of the Wathaurong people who would hunt, fish and gather plants from along the creek. The remains of stone tools as well as cooking mounds were found in the Police Paddock, reflecting this early occupation of the land. The name Coolebarghurk is believed to be a version of the Wathaurong name Kooly bar ghurk meaning "man's track by the creek".
White settlement came to the upper part of Coolebarghurk Creek in the form of the Scottish-born squatter John Norman McLeod.  In 1837 he sailed from Van Diemen's Land to the Port Phillip District where he landed at Indented Head with stock which he used to establish the run which it is said, he named Borhoneyghurk after Barnighurk the local Wathaurong tribe.
McLeod claimed the squatting rights to some 24,790 acres of land stretching from Moranghurk Station a few kilometres south of Meredith to Bungal Station north of Mt Doran. To the east, the run was bordered by the Moorabool River and to the west it followed Native Hut Creek and shared boundaries with the run of that name as well as the Woodbourne No. 2, Cargerie, Narmbool and Lal Lal runs.
Local sources indicate that the homestead built by McLeod on his run was situated on high ground about 5km north of what would become the township of Meredith and about half that distance to the south west of Morrisons. The house is now in disrepair but can still be seen from a distance.
Ruins of the original Borhoneyghurk homestead, image taken by Margaret Cooper
Borhoneyghurk homestead,  image taken by Margaret Cooper
McLeod remained at Borhoneyghurk, running sheep on the property until about 1849 when he sold his rights and left the district, along with his wife and three eldest children - all of whom were born at Borhoneyghurk.
Rock piles, remains of Borhoneyghurk homestead, image taken by Margaret Cooper
Timber remains of Borhoneyghurk homestead, image taken by Margaret Cooper
With the departure of John Norman McLeod, the Borhoneyghurk run was divided in two - the majority taking the name Borhoneyghurk East and a smaller section renamed as Borhoneyghurk West of about 5,000 acres which passed into the hands of George Frederick Henry Read Jnr. Looking at the relevant survey map, the homestead would appear to have remained with the land acquired by Read. He in turn only held it until 1853 when he sold it to his brother-in-law Capt. Alexander John Smith.
Image believed to be that of George Frederick Henry Read Jnr,
owner of the Borhoneyghurk West run c1851. Image held by the
Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts
Prior to McLeod's departure from Borhoneyghurk, he appears to have administered the run along with Mr G.B. Ball and Mr Sinclair, but by 1852, the larger Boroheyghurk East - including much of Coolebarghurk Creek - was taken up by the Reverend Thomas Nattle Grigg who held it for several years until 1856 when the lease was taken up by the Morrison family.
At some point, a second homestead, this one a stone structure, was built on the Borhoneyghurk East run, along the banks of the Moorabool River to the south east of Morrisons township. It is believed that the Morrison family lived here. During the 20th century, the building was demolished and another built by the Miller family who then owned the land.
Borhoneyghurk East stone house on the banks of the Moorabool River near
Morrisons township. Photo supplied by Margaret Cooper
With the discovery of gold in 1851, everything changed. At this time, the township of Meredith was surveyed on the banks of Coolebarghurk Creek near where the old bullock track from Geelong crossed the creek. Buildings sprang up, hotels were opened. The first of these - Watson's Hotel - was situated on the banks of the creek a little to the north of Dickman's Bridge. At this time land was also gazetted for churches and a school and a tract of about 50 acres was reserved along the banks of the creek for the police force who utilised the land as a base for the mounted troops which escorted gold from the nearby Steiglitz goldfield. The town also became a busy staging point for traffic moving not only between Steiglitz and Geelong but also the goldfields of Ballarat, Buninyong and other nearby diggings.
Nor perhaps were settlers and the authorities the only ones to establish a base of operations along the creek. Local legend has it that one of Victoria's most infamous bushrangers, Francis McCallum (aka Captain Melville), established a hideout along the banks of the creek. Whilst I can find no mention of Melville being in the area during the time of his "reign" in the early 1850s, it is easy enough to imagine that a hideout along the creek would have provided a handy base from which to prey upon the diggers with their gold returning to Geelong along the track from Ballarat.
Since Melville's death in 1857, rumours have abounded about a secret stash hidden by the bushranger in the Dundas Ranges, however local legend suggests another location for the loot. During a recent visit to investigate an historic bluestone house which sits on the east bank of the creek at Meredith, we were told of a previous occupant of the property (John Davies) who spent time in gaol with the Captain.
This bluestone house on the east bank of Coolebarghurk Creek dates to the
early years of the 20th century. During the era of Captain Melville, the
land served as the local pound
Whilst serving out their respective sentences, Melville informed Davies that the stash was in fact hidden near the site of the Meredith Creamery not far from the creek. The legend states that Melville claimed to have hidden his riches beneath a tree, which unlike all the others around it, leaned into the prevailing wind.
Most however, came by their riches more honestly and some even tried their hand along Coolebarghurk Creek. The Lord Kitchener Gold Mine, located on the upper reaches of Coolebarghurk Creek and now part a private property, was another of the sites we visited during our travels. The mine was however, a relative latecomer to the scene dating as far as I can tell, to the early 20th century.
The remains of the mullock heap at Lord Kitchener Mine
Reports in the gazettes and newspapers of the day seem a little sketchy, but the Launceston Daily Telegraph of 1st April, 1910 reported that good rock was being extracted from the mine and that the "formation [was] about 6ft wide, and [carried] gold all through it", however I can find no record of the company existing prior to this. In addition and despite having been around for some time, Government Gazettes show that it was first registered as a no liability company in March, 1912 with 24,000 shares valued at 2 shillings each. The capital of the company, including equipment was valued at £300. The company manager was John Ure McLeish.
During our visit we saw the remains of a mullock heap which is still visible and we were shown the depression where the mine shaft once descended.
The poppet head, Lord Kitchener Mine, image supplied
by Margaret Cooper
Also still visible are the concrete footings of the pumps required to keep the mine from flooding - another indication of the amount of water flowing into what appears an almost dry creek bed - fact (we were informed) which led to the eventual abandonment of the site for mining purposes. Anecdotally, the story is that the mine had two periods of operation, the first and most successful, tunneled  towards the creek whereas a later operation which tunneled from the opposite direction was abandoned due to persistent flooding.
Concrete footings said to have supported the pumps which kept the mine from flooding
This end of the Lord Kitchener Mine and possibly the end for mining on the Coolebarghurk altogether, came in December, 1913 when a deed appeared in the Victorian Government Gazette dissolving the syndicate known as the Lord Kitchener Extended Mining &c. and entitling Fitz Alan Boyd acting as liquidator, to all the books and property held by the company.
This shed, once part of the Lord Kitchener mining operation now stands on the
corner of  McLeod and Russell Streets in Meredith, image supplied by
Margaret Cooper
Whilst the big finds of the gold rush eventually petered out, the township of Meredith did not. Many of those who had tried their hand at mining, were now looking to settle on their own piece of land and by the 1870s, closer settlement acts were being passed by the government to encourage this. Instead of two properties, the Coolebarghurk Creek now flowed through many smaller farms, providing water for stock and crops as well as any remaining native flora and fauna along its banks.
Another boost to the district came with the arrival of the railway in 1862 and the re-alignment of the road from Geelong to that of the present Midland Highway route. This saw the focus of the town shift away from the banks of the creek to the west, but commerce continued and the township survived. So too did the little path by the Coolebarghurk Creek. From Wathaurong trail, to the rutted bullock track of the 19th century, to today's Ken Middleton Walk; thousands of years on, man's track by the creek remains.
The Ken Middleton Walk beside Coolebarghurk Creek. During the 1840s and 50s
bullockies and their wagons followed this track along the creek from
Geelong to Ballarat

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.

06 June, 2015

From paper to paint - putting art through the mill

These days, recycling, re-purposing or even upcycling are all the rage and this can apply to buildings as much as any other obsolete item. Today, I had the chance (along with most of Geelong it seemed) to have a look at an historic building on the Barwon which is very definitely being re-purposed - and not for the first time.
Come one and all!
I speak of course of the paper mill at Buckley Falls. I have written about the history of the mill before here, so I won't go into too much detail, but in short, it opened in 1878 and operated as a paper mill until 1923. After this time, it spent some years in use as an ice factory before being commandeered for the war effort in 1941 as a munitions factory. After sitting idle for some time, the mill was bought fifteen years ago by a man with a plan - Alex Robins.
The Barwon Paper Mill buildings find new life
Over recent years, a number of small businesses have moved into the premises, including a wire fencing company, a mosaic artist and as of today, another art gallery. According to the Geelong Advertiser of 4th June, 2015, the long-term plan is to convert a part of the mill complex into an arts precinct with a function centre, restaurant or maybe even a boutique hotel along with some housing.
New fencing alongside old machinery
Mosaic art at the mill: Mosaic Commissions and Classes - All Things Mosaic
Ubu Gallery, opening of the Infernus exhibition by Cornelia Selover
And today, the mill was open for the public to come and explore. With other commitments for much of the day, I arrived about an hour and a half before closing time, to find dozens of cars still parked along the road as well as within the complex and many more visitors on site, all come to view this grand old structure. Much of the place is still in the condition it was left in all those years ago, with the bluestone carved from nearby quarries and locally-made bricks all very visible from both inside and out.
An interior view of an as yet unrestored section
Exterior stone and brick wall
Not only were the businesses on display, but the millrace was accessible too. It was interesting after so much time spent looking up, to see not only the race at close quarters, but also the view from above, looking down on the river. This end of the race is quite overgrown with ivy and other introduced species, but still holds water and appears structurally sound, 137 years after it first carried it to the mill.
The end of the millrace
The view from the opposite side of the river
The Chimney seen in the picture below, presumably provided venting for some of the coal-powered boilers at the mill. These were used for a variety of purposes, from powering equipment to producing the heat required for various steps in the paper-making process.
Chimney at the mill
Other vast concrete structures can also still be found in some areas. Presumably these also were part of the paper-making process, however I did hear it mentioned that these large vats were used for holding water for the ice-making during that era of the plant's history.
Now, having seen this new initiative for the mill it will be interesting to see how matters progress into the future and can be followed on Facebook.

An underground current

Beneath the streets of Belmont lies a largely-forgotten waterway, but one which bears a name familiar to all Geelong Residents - Kardinia Creek. The name Kardinia has been suggested as having a couple of different meanings although most agree that it is an indigenous word meaning "sunrise".
This little creek was for many years, an open waterway which ran from the high ground near Ceres, across what are now the suburbs of Wandana Heights and Highton to Belmont, where the creek formed the western border between the latter two suburbs. It discharged into the Barwon on the bend at the place Yollinko Aboriginal Park now stands, catching runoff water from around 1050 hectares of land.
An aerial photo of parts of Belomt and Highton prior to development, with
the course of Kardinia Creek marked by arrows. Image from the Highton
Facebook page courtesy of  Ross Rawson
Prior to the suburban sprawl, Kardinia Creek wound its way through open fields, crossing the Barrabool Hills Road (Barrabool Road) near its confluence with the Barwon. Today, vestiges of the creek's course can be seen in some of the surrounding open space such as the Highton Retarding Basin off Thornhill Road
To the Wathaurong people, it was a source of food and water for over 5,000 years. They would camp near the confluence during winter, a fact attested to by a nearby midden where various artifacts have been found. Its sheltered position provided protection from the elements and was within reach of good hunting grounds on the opposite bank of the Barwon.
When European settlers arrived in the region, they too used the area as a meeting place. Initially, the land formed part of Dr Alexander Thomson's property named "Kardinia", then in 1850 Dr Thomson offered a number of allotments for sale as "Belmont Town". They were located between Roslyn and Mt Pleasant Roads. This fledgling town, took its water from a pump located on the south bank of the Barwon, very near the confluence of Kardinia Creek and the Barwon.
Pump on the Barwon used by the early residents of Belmont with the original
Prince Albert Bridge in the background. A 1938 print of an 1860s negative held by
The State Library of Victoria
Not surprisingly, European arrival had a catastrophic effect on the well being of the Wathaurong. Stock introduced by the settlers damaged the surrounding land, with the loss of root crops - which they relied upon for food - contributing to malnutrition followed by disease.
A modern sign marking the position of the pump
the site of the pump
As the population of Belmont and the surrounding districts increased, infrastructure was needed and in 1852 funds became available to establish a roads board in the region. Then, in 1853 the Barrarbool (sic) Roads District (later the Barrabool District Roads Board then the Shire of Barrabool) was established. Some of the funds at the Board's disposal were allocated for the construction of a bridge on Barrabool Road across Kardinia Creek. Tenders were called for and then in 1854 it was reported by the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer that a substantial bridge had been built across the creek to carry traffic on the road heading to Ceres and beyond. An earlier mention of a bridge over the creek in 1852 being in need of repair suggests that this new bridge was not the first on the site, however I can find no further mention of the earlier structure.
With the completion of the bridge in 1854 - and presumably other works in the district - ongoing funding was required by the Roads Board. In this era, much of that funding was supplied by toll roads so by December, 1855, the Barrabool District Roads Board were calling for tenders for a contractor to operate the Kardinia Creek toll gate on Barrabool Road.
Things changed again in 1861 with the opening of the nearby Prince Albert Bridge which provided competition for the tolled Barwon (aka Kardinia) Bridge on Moorabool Street, which was the only bridge at that time and located some distance away near the end of Barrabool Road. Initially, the Prince Albert Bridge did not have a tollgate, however competition between the shires of South Barwon and Newtown and Chilwell saw the bridge first fenced off, then with a tollgate at either end before the situation was eventually resolved. What impact this had on the Kardinia Creek tollgate, is not clear.
View from the original Prince Albert Bridge looking towards Newtown and what
I suspect is the tollgate (centre) erected by the Newtown and Chilwell Council
There was little mention of the creek after the 1870s until 1910, when plans were discussed in the Geelong Advertiser to repair the "footbridge" over the creek at the same time reforming a part of Robert Street (presumably today's Roberts Road). By 1913 the issue was still being discussed, then in 1915 there were claims (and denials of responsibility) that the "wing walls" of the bridge over Kardinia Creek had been damaged by contractors Jas McCoy and Son.
Nor perhaps was the state of the bridge the only problem with Kardinia Creek at that time. A nostalgic look back at the 1850s in December, 1918 by the Geelong Advertiser declared that tree clearing had significantly reduced rainfall in the area, with the result that the creek, which once flowed continuously now had a much reduced flow.
Regardless of flow levels, the creek was - and still is - integral to the drainage of water from the high ground south of the Barwon, up towards Ceres. Until the 1960s it performed this function as an open creek, however early in that decade, the decision was made to move the creek underground to allow for the expansion of the Highton shopping centre and help deal with flooding. Since then, the creek - whose original course ran along Bellvue Avenue - has flowed underground via a series of main drains, fed by catchment points, eventually discharging into the Barwon at a "trash rack" designed to trap litter, near the original confluence.
Outflow of Kardinia Creek
Whilst this may have been useful at the time, it has proven problematic over the years. The age of the drains, population growth and the lack of adequate surface drainage, means that the catchment area is prone to flooding during periods of heavy rain and many local properties suffer damage and erosion as a result.
The above diagram shows the areas of flooding within the Kardinia Creek catchment area. Image
adapted from the Highton Drainage/Flood Study Draft Final Report, commissioned by the City of
Greater Geelong, Prepared by BMT WBM Pty Ltd
A recent study undertaken on behalf of the City of Greater Geelong to consider means of flood mitigation for the area, reached the conclusion that any of the three proposals considered would be prohibitively expensive and of minimal effectiveness. It was suggested instead that a land buy-back scheme along with initiatives to assist individual property owners to minimise their flood-risk would be more useful.
Time will tell if these measures are successful.