|Looking towards Mt Buninyong from the approximate location of Scott's Swamp|
Reaching the top of the final rise, the diggers would no doubt have been very relieved to see the land falling away before them with the track meandering down the slope, roughly along the course of today's Learmonth St, joined along its length by a number of other tracks from outlying areas, all converging on the little collection of buildings which at that time constituted Buninyong township.
Prior to August, 1851 the town was already set to become a thriving hub. For ten years it had supplied the squatting runs of the district, provided a gathering place for sawyers working in the area and of course, was a postal town (the first in inland Victoria) and staging point on the mail route from Portland Bay to Melbourne and Geelong. It boasted a blacksmith (Thomas Hiscock), a doctor, a Presbyterian church with associated school, a couple of stores and of course, a post office.
With the announcement in early July that gold had been discovered at Clunes, followed only a month later by news of a much closer find at Hiscock's Gully (one of the many creeks and gullies which fed into the Yarrowee River), Buninyong took on a new significance.
For a short time at least, it became the destination of hundreds of diggers. It is possible to imagine the sense of anticipation as they topped the rise and caught their first glimpse of their goal, however things around Buninyong were somewhat different to what they had been only a few months earlier. At this time, the newly-declared state of Victoria was still recovering from the devastating Black Thursday Bushfire of 6th February, 1851 in which about one quarter of the state (around five million hectares) was burnt. Amongst the areas to feel the effects of the fires was the Buninyong Forest which is reported to have burnt for days. Some six months on, the impact of the flames would still have been evident, even as the surrounding vegetation began to spring back to life. The fire is said to have burnt right up to the Geelong-Buninyong track, coming from the north which would presumably also have impacted a number of the other tracks leading to and from the town.
|Fire damage in the region of the old "Burnt Bridge" settlement on the Midland|
Highway following the recent (December, 2015) bushfire at Scotsburn
|Google Earth image overlaid with an 1855 survey map. Red lines show tracks|
marked on the map. Blue lines indicate those marked on an 1856 map. Areas of
overlap may indicate the same track. Click to enlarge
Whilst none of the sources I have located mention it, the direct track down Learmonth St may not have been the only approach to Buninyong from Geelong. The above survey map also shows a second track, branching off the main route to the left near the intersection of the Highway and Yendon Number 2 Rd, well before the branches near Lal Lal St. This alternate track followed a lower line, crossing the southern end of Lal Lal St before swinging north west and travelling roughly along today's Caffrey and then Herriott Streets before joining the track from the south.
Ultimately, which ever track the diggers followed, they reached an important intersection, situated on the site of what would become Buninyong's first permanent post office and telegraph building in 1873.
|Old Buninyong post office, closed 2000|
It was at this intersection, strategically located to take in the passing trade, that the town's only hotel was located: the place the diggers had been told lay at the end of their journey, where they could have a hot meal and - if they were lucky - a bed for the night. Here then, was the fabled "Mother Jamieson's".