The scene portrayed was a narrow waterfall beside an elevated road, upon which two loaded drays were travelling. The first clue as to the fall's location came from von Guerard's own notes which indicated that the scene was the "Moorabool Valley and new [road] to Ballarat near Fyansford. 14 March. Geelong." (My translator was unsure of the 5th word and from context the year was 1855.)
So, this spot was near Fyansford on the Moorabool River, not the Barwon. But where? I had never seen such a fall along the lower reaches of the Moorabool. I was aware that a section of several kilometres along the river had been diverted during the 1980s to facilitate works at the Batesford Quarry. Could the waterfall have been in this section? Perhaps. I had only ever seen the newer diversion, not the original watercourse.
|von Guerard sketch of the Moorabool Valley|
So, was there a road near the Moorabool at Fyansford which would have been considered new in 1855 when the sketch was made? Well, yes. There was. In 1854 the first bridge at Fyansford was built across the Moorabool River. It was erected several hundred metres downstream from the original ford and at the time of its construction, the road leading out of the valley on either side of the river was redirected to the new crossing point and upgraded - a new road near Fyansford. A road furthermore, which was heavily plied by diggers heading to the goldfields of Ballarat or the pastures of the Western District.
It was probably no co-incidence that it was this same section of road to the west of the river which immediately came to mind when I first saw the sketch. I envisaged von Guerard positioned with his back to the river and looking up to the road rising out of the valley to the west.
But where was the waterfall? Could the site have been a gully running into the river beside the road at this point, rather than a fall on the river itself? An initial visit to the cutting did not immediately reveal the likely site of a gully, but much has changed since 1855. Both the Monier Bridge (1900) and the current bridge (1970) were built on sites downstream of the original bridge. By the 1920s, the land to the south of the Hamilton Hwy was Nichterlein's bluestone quarry and the Lower Papermills Rd had been built in the 1870s, a narrow gully could easily have become the victim of 160 years of development.
|Modern cutting on the Hamilton Hwy at Fyansford, June, 2016|
I then discovered that in 1854 this road passed by a dangerous drop which according to The Argus of 27th April, 1855 (a mere five weeks after von Guerard made his sketch) was the scene of an accident which saw a horse and dray, along with its driver, plunge down a "precipice some twenty feet deep" next to the "new road" which was "not fenced in on either side, and [was] very narrow".
So, I now knew that the road out of the Moorabool Valley at Fyansford had passed by a steep drop of about 20 feet (or 6 metres), however as indicated during my conversations with George Hook, the height of the falls as estimated from the sketch may have been closer to 8m - perhaps even 10m. All this however was academic if the falls themselves could not be found. Imagine my excitement then when, on a subsequent visit, about 100m up the old line of road I heard the sound of trickling water!
Upon investigating the source of the noise, I discovered a channel - no more than a drain today - which ran beside the highway for some distance before dropping a short distance to a rocky crevice through which water was flowing.
|Rocky channel from above the crevice|
|Drain in a corner of the old quarry|
To cut a long story short, I was - reluctantly - allowed access to look at the site from below with just enough time to snap a few photos and ask a couple of questions. No, the manager didn't know when the drain was built, but assumed it was done when the site was a quarry and when OH&S and environmental concerns were unheard of. The pipe leading from the drain ran underground to the front of the property where, as he later showed me, it emptied into a culvert which runs under Lower Papermills Rd and drains into the river.
|The extent of the fall today, viewed from the top of the bluestone wall|
|von Guerard's sketch and a photo taken from inside the quarry for comparison|