10 April, 2017

Things that go bump at 'The Heights'

Over the years, my most popular blog post has transpired to be one in which I looked at ghosts. In "...landlord to a ghost..." I took a look at which of the old houses along the Barwon were believed to be haunted. As it happens, most of the oldest buildings claim to have acquired a ghost or two over the years. 'The Heights" in Newtown is no exception and it was there on a recent Saturday evening that I was invited to act as a volunteer whilst 'The Heights' played host to a "paranormal investigation".
We arrived just on dusk and along with a further four volunteers proceeded to get things ready for the arrival of the living guests.
Our hosts for the evening - Paranormal X-Files - also arrived to set up an array of electronic equipment including infrared cameras, digital thermometers, spirit boxes, an Ovilus and REM pods. If you don't know what this equipment is or how it claims to work, a quick check on Google will set you straight.
A REM-POD similar to that used at 'The Heights'
Eventually, as darkness descended and with all the guests in attendance, we were divided into two groups and set off to investigate. Our group remained in the house where our investigation took us from room to room in search of spirits. At various points the equipment glowed as various coloured lights flashed and an array of electronic noises issued forth. After 3/4 of an hour the group concluded that they may have made contact with a spirit called "Ian" and some guests indicated that they had "felt" a temperature change, a "presence" or been "touched". Two unaccountable knocks were heard in reply to the investigators three knocks and the word "white" was also heard.
At this point, we exchanged places with the other group and all trooped outside to investigate the cold room under the water tower and the stables. Once again the equipment flashed and screeched and people reported temperature changes. Whereas the other group claimed to have been told to "GET OUT!" of the stables, we were not.
The night ended with a joint discussion of what had been seen, heard and felt and the guests were escorted through the darkness to the gate.
So, if ghosts really were present at 'The Heights' who were they? So far I have been unable to find anyone named "Ian" who had an association with the property however the word "white" is a little mcore interesting when one considers the history of the place.
'The Heights' is a pre-fabricated timber building which was purpose made in Germany, shipped to Australia and assembled at "Newtown Hill" for local woolbroker, merchant and pastoralist Charles Ibbotson in 1854. I have mentioned both Ibbotson and the property not only in the post about ghosts mentioned above, but also speculated that the European landscape painter Eugene von Guerard may have paid a visit to Ibbotson and 'The Heights' during its construction whilst he was staying with Frederick Bauer - owner of 'Fritzwilhelmberg House' (now 'Raith') - not far away in Newtown. It was Bauer, a German ironmonger who ran a business in Ryrie St, who was responsible for the erection of 'The Heights'.
The original building erected by Bauer consisted of 14 rooms. Verandas were also added then stables (1855), a groom's cottage (1856-7), water tower (c1860) a bluestone stable complex (1862) and in 1875, a billiard room. Towards the end of the 19th century, a dovecote was also built. According to the National Trust who now own the property, the original garden was designed by Scottish gardener Robert Hughes in the 1860s.
'The Heights' 1866, image held by the State Library of Victoria
'The Heights'' first owner, Charles Ibbotson was an Englishman, born in Derbyshire, England who migrated to Sydney in the 1830s. He and his wife Maryanne Dickens were married in Sydney in 1850 and moved to Geelong not long after. Whilst 'The Heights' was erected in 1854, the surrounding land was not purchased by Ibbotson until the mid-1860s. The original purchaser was Duncan Hoyle who bought allotment 3, Section 10 of the Parish of Moorpanyal at a government land sale in July, 1847 (Geelong Advertiser and Squatters' Advocate, 23rd July, 1847), allotment 5, Section 10 in December, 1847 (Port Phillip Gazette and Settlers' Journal, 11th December, 1847) and may well have purchased the neighbouring allotment 2 the previous year (Sydney Morning Herald, 6th February, 1846) as he is listed on survey maps as the original purchaser. 'The Heights' sits in the middle of allotment 2 but appears to have been built on around 2 acres of land already owned by Ibbotson at the time.
In addition to his business interests in Dalgety & Co. Woolstores, Ibbotson sat on a number of boards and committees including the council of the Borough of Newtown and Chilwell, where he served a term as mayor. He was supportive of efforts to bring the railway to Geelong and was a member on the committee of management of the Botanic Gardens. On 16th December, 1863, he chaired the meeting which established the Geelong branch of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, whose aim was to introduce familiar and productive species of plants and animals from around the world to the Colony of Victoria (Geelong Advertiser, 17th December, 1863). On 22nd July, 1867 it was reported in The Argus that a shipment containing "a number of larks, thrushes, sparrows, chaffinches, and other birds" had arrived for Ibbotson who is widely attributed with having introduced several such species to Victoria, releasing them from 'The Heights'.
Towards the end of 1866, not long after purchasing the surrounding land from Duncan Hoyle, Ibbotson - then the mayor of Newtown and Chilwell - hosted members of the council and the press to a meal at 'The Heights', showing off his newly-acquired land and outlining his plans to develop it (Geelong Advertiser, 22nd November, 1866). This included planting the slopes stretching down to the river with vines, fruits and vegetables.
In 1882, Ibbotson's wife Maryanne died after an extended illness and was buried at the Western Cemetery, then, after also suffering a long health battle Ibbotson died the following year on 20th October and was buried with his wife.
The Ibbotson grave in the Church of England Section, Row 1. grave 1515
His estate was divided amongst his two sons and four daughters, with 'The Heights' passing to his youngest daughter Minna Elizabeth.
Although the Victorian birth, death and marriage records do not appear to show it, the Geelong Advertiser recorded on 4th November, 1887 that Minna married James Burnett. It did not indicate where the ceremony took place. The marriage however was short-lived as James died at the Grand Hotel, Spring St, in Melbourne on 6th January, 1888 at the age of 39.
By June that year, Minna had placed 'The Heights' on the market. Advertisements throughout May and June indicate that "upwards of 80 acres" of the property was to be offered for sale by tender (Geelong Advertiser, 1st June, 1888). According to a later report in the Geelong Advertiser of 16th June, the property was snapped up amidst keen interest by a Melbourne syndicate who intended to subdivide the property. Although it is not made clear, the land sale presumably did not include the house and land immediately surrounding it as this remained in the possession of the family for decades to come, with significant areas sold to the Geelong College and St Joseph's College in later years.
Not long after the death of her husband, Minna must have travelled to London as it was here on 28th September, 1889 that she married her second husband (The Argus, 31st December, 1889). Not long after, they returned to live at 'The Heights'.
This gentleman went by the name of Louis Australia WHYTE ...

19 March, 2017

Paddling the Barwon - Part 2

In the first part of this post, I gave brief descriptions of the sections of the river which I have paddled up to this point in time.
On the Barwon, January, 2013

Below is a table giving details of the various points along the river from which it is possible to launch small water craft such as kayaks and the type of access involved. I have also included links to a photo of each location.

Access Points
Approximate GPS Co-ordinates
Distance to next access
Bell’s Bridge, Inverleigh-Winchelsea Rd, Inverleigh

S38 º 6.792’
E144 º 3.787’


Access from the north bank via dirt track about 200m downstream of Bell’s Bridge
Hamilton Hwy, Murgheboluc

S38 º 6.654’
E144 º 8.459’

Steep bank access. Entry via 400m grassed laneway to the north bank behind “please shut the gate” sign opposite Murgheboluc Public Reserve, Hamilton Hwy, Murgheboluc
Pollocksford Rd, Gnarwarre

S38 º 8.627’
E144 º 11.206’

Access from the east bank via a rutted track to a small weir about 150m north of the bridge
Dear’s Lane, Stonehaven

S38 º 8.427’
E144 º 14.713’

Steep bank access via dirt track from the end of Dear’s Lane, Stonehaven
Merrawarp Rd, Barrabool (Ceres)

S38 º 8.496’
E144 º 15.750’

Steep access to the south bank adjacent to the west side of the bridge via rough access track (approx. 200m)
Track off Gully Rd, Ceres

S38 º 8.749’
E144 º 16.081’

Access via shallow bank. Entry via 550m gravel track from Gully Rd, however permission is required
Cnr Cyril Synot Dve and Degoldi’s Rd, Fyansford.

S38 º 8.946’
E144 º 17.995’

Access via 200m gravel track to parking area. River entry from concrete-paved slipway or timber deck
Moorabool River west bank, Fyansford Common, Fyansford

S38 º 8.672’
E144 º 18.691’

Access to the Moorabool about 450m upstream from the confluence with the Barwon via a paved slipway. Portage of around 150m required from nearest parking
Fyans Park boat ramp, Cnr Gairloch and West Fyans St

S38 º 9.389’
E144 º 19.280’

Concrete ramp access adjacent to parking
Marnockvale Rd, Newtown

S38 º 9.893’
E144 º 19.970’

Access via timber deck adjacent to the Geelong Canoe Club facilities
South Geelong

S38 º 9.930’
E144 º 21.261’

Access either from the deck at the rowing sheds (north bank) or ramp access from opposite bank (access via Barrabool Rd)
Gun Dog Lane, Breakwater

S38 º 10.906’
E144 º 21.861’

Upstream access from timber deck adjacent to road bridge (west bank). Downstream access from the west bank below the bridge
Wilson’s Rd, St Alban’s Park

S38 º 12.076’
E144 º 23.140’

Access from the bank adjacent to the Geelong Water Ski Club at the end of Wilson’s Rd
Lake Connewarre

S38 º 14.217’
E144 º 25.776’

S38 º 12.927’
E144 º 28.922’


(5.2km from Tait’s Point)
Access via concrete-paved boat ramp or pontoon, end of Stacey’s Rd

Shallow bank access via steep track from the end of Brinsmead’s Lane
Barwon Heads

S38 º 15.922’
E144 º 29.795’

S38 º 15.774’
E144 º 30.475’

S38 º 16.884’
E144 º 29.682’

Access via boat ramp, River Parade on the west bank

 Boat ramp access from carpark

Beach access from either side of the river at Barwon Heads/Ocean Grove

Of course, there are other locations from which it is possible to launch small craft, however they either do not have close enough vehicle access, are on private property or there is another suitable access point with better facilities nearby. For example, it is possible to launch from the decks near the bridge at Queen's Park, but the boat ramp at Fyans Park is within 1km of the bridge and provides easier access to the river.
River access points plotted o Google Earth. Click to enlarge

The first part of this post can be found at Paddling the Barwon - Part 1Happy paddling everyone!

Paddling the Barwon - Part 1

Several times over the years, I have been asked for advice on paddling on the Barwon; what are the conditions like? Where are the best spots to paddle? Where to launch? How deep/shallow is the water? So I thought it might be a good idea to give a brief description of the sections I have paddled to date and to add a few photos for demonstration purposes.
Before paddling however, it is worth knowing what conditions are like on the day. Below is a table listing some potentially helpful websites:

paddling conditions (Inverleigh to Barwon Heads)
rapid grades (if any)
current river heights
some river access points
safety information including weather conditions, fire danger
estimated paddle times*
tips on safe paddling practises
Weather information and river heights
Event details and river closures
Event details and river closures
Barwon Heads tide times
Victorian duck hunting dates and locations
* paddling times may vary depending on river height in some sections

Over the past four years at one time or another I have paddled most sections of the river from about 1km upstream of Bell's Bridge, Inverleigh, downstream to Barwon Heads. At this point, I have not attempted to paddle further upstream and am not sure how far the river remains navigable by kayak. Below is a brief description of each section I paddled as I have found it at the time.
Inverleigh to Pollocksford
From Bell's Bridge for about 2km downstream to a small weir the river is relatively clear of obstructions and easy to paddle with no rapids.
Above the weir, November, 2014
Below the weir conditions vary, with rocky, reed-lined sections interspersed with long stretches of clear water. During periods of low flow, regular portage is necessary, sometimes for a few hundred metres.
April, 2016
We did not encounter any significant rapids. Higher water levels would reduce the portage required but increase the number and size of rapids encountered (grade II to III according to the Waterways Guide). The guide also estimates a travel time of around 4-5 hours. With low water levels (April, 2016) we took 6 hours to cover the distance from Bell's Bridge to Murgheboluc - around 8km short of Pollocksford.
With the exception of a vaguely-remembered paddle around 30 years ago, I have not paddled the section between Murgheboluc and Pollocksford, but expect it would be similar to the section immediately upstream.
The surrounding countryside is privately-owned farmland with a fringe of eucalypts lining the river.
Pollocksford to Merrawarp Rd
We paddled this section of the river - also with low water levels - in early 2013. Once again there were minimal to no rapids, however there were significant obstructions in the form of several dozen fallen trees which either impeded our progress or required us to carry the 'yaks either over or around them, significantly slowing our pace.
Low water levels downstream of Pollocksford, February, 2013
With higher water levels, many of the trees would be submerged, making for easier paddling, but I imagine some portage would still be required. Water levels varied between ankle-deep shallows and deep sections which were easy to paddle.
Lots of obstructions, February, 2013
I have regularly paddled the lower 2.5km of this section which is an easy paddle with minimal obstructions at any time of year. A further kilometre or more upstream of this is also a relatively easy
paddle, however low water levels do increase the number of obstructions. On the occasion we paddled this stretch we took about six hours to complete the trip.
February, 2013
During periods of low water flow, the river surface at some points can become clogged with Azolla, a surface-growing species of water fern, which can impede paddling. As with the previous section, the surrounding land is privately-owned land which has been cleared for farming purposes.
Azolla bloom above Merrawarp Rd, March, 2015
Merrawarp Rd to Baum's Weir
I have paddled this section of the river many times. Even when the river height is low, this section provides easy paddling with minimal obstructions in the form of fallen trees and branches - many of which are submerged. No portage is required at any stage.
Below Merrawarp Rd, February, 2015
Once again, during periods of low water flow Azolla blooms covering several hundred metres or more may slow paddling speed. As a general rule, I would take about an hour to paddle between the weir and the bridge.
It is not uncommon to see people fishing either from the bank or from kayaks on this section of the river and for some distance upstream of the Merrawarp Rd Bridge. Once again, the land to either side is mostly given to farming, with the Barrabool Hills rising above the south bank as you approach the Geoff Thom Bridge on the Geelong Ring Road.
Under the Barrabool Hills, September, 2014
From this point, the river enters the outskirts of Geelong and bare hills give way to houses and parkland.
Baum's Weir to Fyansford
Between the weir and Fyansford, the river flows over a basalt (bluestone) base and is generally shallow and rocky for a distance of about 1.5km. Much of the water is diverted into the water race constructed for the Barwon Paper Mill in the 1870s. Whilst the mill no longer uses it as a power supply, the water still runs via the race making levels on the river bed too low for convenient paddling at most times.
Bunyip Pool looking upstream, November, 2013
The exception is during periods of flooding when more experienced paddlers often brave the torrent which pours down over the weir and through Buckley Falls in order to ride the rapids. A second smaller weir also dams the flow of the river immediately upstream of the Bunyip Pool.
In flood. Looking upriver from the Bunyip Pool, January, 2011
I have not currently tackled this section, in part because there is pedestrian access along both banks throughout this section which is predominantly parkland.
Fyansford to Breakwater
This section of the river is wide and free of obstructions, its water level being regulated by the breakwater. Above Queen's Park there is little traffic however, below this point and particularly through the "rowing mile" the river is heavily used during much of the year for rowing, water skiing, dragon boating, canoeing and of course kayaking.
The Barwon above Queen's Park, September, 2014
During the summer months the river though Geelong is often closed to the public so that competitive water sports can be conducted. It is advisable to check opening times before paddling to avoid disappointment.

The "rowing mile" September, 2014
I would generally take around 1.5 hours to cover this distance. The land to either side is public property with a walking/cycling track forming a continuous circuit (about 18.5km) around this section of the river. In some sections houses and in others some industrial buildings overlook the river.
Breakwater to Tait's Point
Continuing downriver, portage is necessary to cross the breakwater  or it may be a convenient point to start or finish a paddle. About 1.75km downstream of the break is Goat Island where the river divides briefly around a small piece of land about 250m in length. The island is crossed by the Ovoid Sewer Aqueduct. Built between 1913 and 1916 to carry Geelong's sewage to an outfall at Black Rock, the now decommissioned pipe is in a dangerous state of disrepair and passage underneath - either on land or water - is prohibited, with buoy lines crossing both river channels either side of the aqueduct.
Near the Geelong Water Ski Club, January, 2013
A further 1.75km below the aqueduct are the club rooms of the Geelong Water Ski Club who hold events on this section of the river which may therefore also be subject to closure at certain times.
About 8km downstream of the breakwater is a second break, commonly called the Lower Breakwater for obvious reasons. Portage is necessary here also, however access to the west bank is relatively easy both above and below the break through gaps in the reeds at the river's edge.
River above the Lower Breakwater, January, 2013
From the Lower Break, the river continues through a formed channel for almost 2km before flowing into a branch at the western end of Lake Connewarre. Whilst finding the lake is easy when paddling down river, I recommend using a GPS and marking a waypoint or two at the mouth of the river channel (I do this at home using Google Earth as a guide), to make sure you can find the channel again coming back upstream. There are numerous nooks and crannies which can make finding the river channel quite tricky when heading upriver.
The Lower Breakwater, January, 2013
By this point, the river which at Breakwater flowed through light industrial and semi-rural farmland has become both tidal and saline. The tree cover found above Geelong is mostly absent and thanks to the breakwaters, the river is wider and deeper. Downstream of St Alban's Park, the river channel becomes mostly lined with reeds which block much of the view of the banks to either side. To the left is Reedy Lake which is not naturally accessible from the river and to the right is more farmland.
Below the Lower Break, the river channel is completely reed-lined with swamp to either side.
After entering the channel and the reeds, it is less than a kilometre across the narrow western-most branch of the lake to Tait's Point. The water level in the lake is naturally quite shallow in places depending on tides, meaning some portage through shallow water may be unavoidable. The lake bed is soft and muddy which further complicates the issue. I have it on good authority however, that a seal was seen as far upriver as the Lower Break, meaning that it is - under some circumstances at least - possible to cross the lake without resorting to lugging your vessel. In total I take about 3 hours to paddle this section.
Approaching Tait's Point, February, 2015
This part of the river also includes both the Lake Connewarre Wildlife Reserve and the Lake Connewarre State Game Reserve, meaning that game hunting is allowed along some parts of the river, Reedy Lake, Hospital Swamp and Lake Connewarre during duck hunting season (generally from the 3rd Saturday in March to the 3rd Saturday in June).
Tait's Point to Barwon Heads
The lowest section of the Barwon is quite different to the upper reaches, being a marine environment, with quite different bird life in evidence. Between Tait's Point and the river channel at the south east corner of the lake, the water level continues to be quite shallow in places.
Lake Connewarre, February, 2015
Where the lake flows once again into the river, there are numerous sandbars and small channels which make it difficult at ground level to see which is the correct path to take. Once again I would suggest pre-loading some waypoints into a GPS device to make it easier to find the river mouth at the bottom end of the lake.
Sandbar near the bottom of Lake Connewarre, February, 2015
Once back in the channel, the land to either side is flat, swampy and saline and the banks are increasingly lined with mangroves, however there are no obstructions and the water level is suitable for paddling. See also the above comments about duck hunting season.
Mangroves on the bank, October, 2014
More of a concern along this length of the river can be tide and wind conditions which can make paddling in either direction hard work. Check weather reports prior to going out.
Closer to Barwon Heads, there will be increased traffic as this part of the river is popular with those fishing from small motor boats and with occasional jet skiers. Once past the boat ramp on River Parade, there are channel markers along the river for the boating traffic. Outside the channel, the river rapidly becomes too shallow even for kayaks, with sandbars and mudflats blocking passage, particularly at low tide.
Once at Barwon Heads (a trip of around 2.75 hours), whilst it is possible to paddle past the bridge, caution should be exercised as the current can be strong, particularly with an outgoing tide. As you approach the river mouth, the water can also be quite choppy in windy weather.
Barwon Heads Bridge, October, 2014
In the second part to this post is a list of access points from which small craft such as kayaks and canoes can be launched. The post can be found at Paddling the Barwon - Part 2.