29 March, 2015

Branching out - Chinaman's Lagoon

The little town of Teesdale is situated on Native Hut Creek - a tributary of the Barwon - and was mentioned in one of my previous posts. The history of the area dates back 40,000 years to a time when the progenitors of the Wathaurong clan lived along the creek, harvesting root vegetables and catching fish from the creek.
In 1837, things changed forever when European settlement in the form of Thomas and Somerville Learmonth arrived in the district. Under the auspices of the Derwent company, they established three squatting runs along Native Hut Creek, each named for the creek and numbered 1, 2 and 3 respectively. Rough maps showing modern roads overlaid with the extent of the various squatting runs indicate that what became the town of Teesdale was located on Native Hut Creek No. 2 run which later became known as the Woolbrook Estate.

The gate to Woolbrook today
The Learmonths did not remain long in the district and the estate soon passed to Joseph Tolson. He was followed by Francis Ormond in 1848, Jeremiah Ware in that same year and then only a few years later in 1851, Peter Sharp took up the lease and the following year applied for the pre-emptive right to 640 acres of the property, paying 20 shillings per acre.
By 1854, the property was in the hands of a consortium of three squatters but by 1856 John Bell was the sole owner of the freehold. The following year, he built a three-roomed bluestone house on the property for his brother James, who lived there with his family until 1900.
Woolbrook homestead, early 1900s. Photo held by the State Library of Victoria
As the squatters opened up the land in the district to grazing, other settlers followed in their wake and townships began to spring up. One such on the Native Hut Creek No. 2 run was surveyed in September, 1851 and given the name Teesdale.
Of course, one of the primary concerns for any new establishment is a water supply and Teesdale was no different in this respect. Initially settlers took water directly from the creek which is fed by a series of natural springs. Water was also taken from a small lagoon just to the west of what is now Turtle Bend. Today, this is a small dam which is currently empty, however at that time, it was more extensive than today, extending across where the road now runs and towards Turtle Bend. It was also fed by an underground spring.
The currently dry lagoon near Turtle Bend
In those early days, a pump and a standpipe were placed at the lagoon to provide water for the residents and the local women would do their weekly washing in the freshwater springs nearby. During dry periods however the water would become brackish and eventually, by the 1870s salinity was a permanent problem. A new water supply was required.
Initially, it was envisaged that Teesdale would take its water from a dam built at Black Gully in 1874, located between Teesdale and Inverleigh and would share supply with that town. (It should be noted that the shire engineer for that project was one C.A.C. Wilson of Leigh Grand Junction Bridge fame.) However, significant flooding in 1880 - the largest recorded in the state at that time - damaged the dam wall and it was deemed too expensive to repair. In the meantime, a second dam was being built at Todd's Gully, closer to town. The land had been reserved for the purpose of supplying water in June, 1878 and construction was soon underway.

Building Chinaman's Lagoon c1878-1879. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
However, whilst the land was suitable, the site of the dam was somewhat removed from the township and access was via a council road which had been fenced in by a settler (Alex Munro) as part of his selection. In the end, it was decided that the easiest solution was to lay a pipe from the dam to the Mechanic's Institute in town where a standpipe would provide water to the town's population as well as servicing passing travellers - many of whom were headed to the Ballarat Goldfields.
Chinaman's Lagoon today
In February, 1883, three contracts were entered into. A quote of £99 was accepted from one Quin Yung for 7.5 chains (approximately 150m) of tunnel, a second for £79.10.0 from D. Munro for digging trenches and laying 32 chains (approximately 640m) of pipe and the final was for John Danks to supply 2112 feet (about 640m) of galvanised iron pipe at a cost of £96.15.0. The work was completed in a matter of weeks and by April, 1883 water from the dam was flowing through the newly-installed pipe to the town.
That same month, it was moved at a council meeting that a trough should be installed at the standpipe, however I am unsure whether this plan came to pass.
Original well built by Quin Yung beside Chinaman's Lagoon

Whilst the names of the contractors may have been forgotten over the years, the fact that one was Chinese was not and today the dam is known as Chinaman's Lagoon. Whilst no longer providing Teesdale's water, the lagoon still provides a habitat for native flora and fauna and is accessible to the public via walking tracks in the area.
The dam did however continue to served the population of Teesdale until 1974. At this time, the She Oaks Diversion Weir and the Moorabool Water Treatment Plant were completed - as described in my post Branching out - a diverting lesson, bringing to fruition a project begun two years earlier in 1972, with the completion of the Bungal Dam on the Moorabool River at Lal Lal. During construction of the dam, the Bannockburn and District Waterworks Trust contributed financially to its building and as a result was entitled to a  91Ml share of water annually for the towns of Bannockburn, Inverleigh, Shelford, Teesdale, Lethbridge and Meredith. It is this allocation of water which today flows via the She Oaks Diversion Weir before being piped to Teesdale and the other towns mentioned, providing mains water for the community.
More details of Teesdale's water supply across the years can be found in Dianne Hughes' 2011 publication "From Native Creek to Teesdale: 1837-1900" (ISBN: 9780980715989) as well as "Living By Water: a history of Barwon Water and its predecessors" (Leigh Edmonds, 2005; ISBN: 0959491953).

24 March, 2015

A load of old rubbish!

Recently I have been getting out on the river to paddle as often as I can while the weather holds and several of my recent posts reflect this. What they do not reflect however, is the amount of rubbish I see floating in the river.
I looked at the topic of pollution in this post over three years ago but at that stage I didn't have the kayak and so was only able to view from the bank. Now however, I can get out amongst it and see for myself. In general, it doesn't look too bad - especially out of town, however there is still a significant amount of junk which seems to be ending up (either deliberately or by chance) in the Barwon.
Near Princes Bridge, 2013. I doubt this was unintentional
Recently, when I do paddle, I have taken as I am heading back to my starting point (I usually paddle out and back), to grabbing a few pieces of rubbish and tossing them in the back of the kayak to be disposed of in a handy bin once I am back on land. It's not much, but I figure it's better than nothing and it has occurred to me recently to wonder whether others could be convinced to do likewise, either on the water or along the riverbanks as they walk, ride or paddle.
Nor is it only the Barwon which suffers. The photo below is an example of rubbish collected from the banks of the Moorabool River at Fyansford over the space of an hour or so by a couple of dozen enthusiastic geocachers in late 2013.
Junk collected from the banks of the Moorabool River at Fyansford
The type and size of the rubbish seems to depend to some extent on where on the river I am. Through town - particularly at the bottom of the rowing mile, plastic water bottles and reusable drink bottles are quite common whilst up towards Queen's Park, balls and plastic bottles are the thing. I can only assume that some of the Newtown/Highton fur babies are not quite as keen to retrieve balls from the river as their owners feel they should be.
Above Baum's Weir, the junk takes on a slightly differTent composition. The area around Merrawarp Road Bridge can at various times be a hangout for drug users (as the graffiti attests). Perhaps it is not surprising then that the junk around this area and further downstream often includes glass bottles - generally beer or spirits. Somewhat strangely, it also seems to be a collecting point for lone shoes. I've found several up to now.
Bottles, shoes and plastic
I am unsure whether there is a direct connection between the bottles and the shoes - perhaps, once the bottles are empty, the owners become less concerned about the welfare of their shoes, resulting in several shoe drownings. There are also a few larger items up this way which are too big for me to dispose of using the kayak. These include a milk crate, a bed roll/yoga mat, several 44 gallon drums (which used to belong to a raft which featured on an earlier post in this blog) and somewhat strangely, a large gas bottle of the type used to supply houses not connected to the mains. The latter I was pleased to note on Sunday, had been removed onto the bank at the bottom of Gully Road.
44 gallon drums, once part of a raft
Currently, back near the weir are a pillow and a child's foam couch. On one occasion I spotted a metallic suitcase on the bottom of the river. It has since disappeared.
On my most recent paddle, I was feeling enthusiastic, so came back with quite a load. This time it included the usual bottles - both plastic and glass -, polystyrene chunks, a waterlogged soccer ball, a tennis ball and a large wad of Target catalogues which it seems were delivered en masse into the Barwon instead of their intended destination.
Sunday's haul
I also noticed during a recent ride that several large pieces of rubbish have been dumped at the Breakwater and at that time, the only action taken was to put tape across the various items declaring that they were illegally dumped rubbish. I have also noticed in recent years since the authorities removed several smaller bins and replaced them with more centrally-located larger bins that a number of dog-walkers deem it okay to bag their dog's droppings and leave the bags in a pile where the old bins used to be. I suspect this act of rebellion - if that is what it is - is lost on the authorities.
Meanwhile, I will continue to grab what I can and who knows, maybe the idea will catch on...

23 March, 2015

Now there's something you don't see every day!

In fact, during my paddle from Baum's Weir up above Merrawarp Road on Sunday, I saw several things I don't see every day. The weather was perfect for a paddle, sunny but not too hot with only a very light breeze. I headed off at about midday, snapping photos here and there as I went.
Not surprisingly given the weather, I passed several other paddlers. First was a fisherman who I suspect I've seen before, followed by another two pairs of kayakers. As I headed around the bend above the Merrawarp Road Bridge, I spotted a number of brightly coloured canoes "parked" on the bank. I'd been expecting to find these guys as I'd heard that one of the local scouting groups would be out on this part of the river.
Scouts practising their moves later in the day
Sent on my way with a big wave from one of the kids I knew, I paddled on up to what I like to refer to as the point of no return. At this point, there is a small island in the middle of the river which quickly becomes very shallow. A little further up, a tree completely obstructs access (unless you are prepared to do some climbing). As I blogged here about two years ago, I have paddled the section from Pollocksford down to Merrawarp Road, but above this point, the river is much shallower and obstructions are frequent.
From this point on, things get much trickier
On this occasion I stopped for lunch in the shade. As I manoeuvred into position, I spotted movement on the bank - a fox. Definitely not something I see every day, however I do occasionally see them on the riverbank when I'm paddling. Generally, they disappear before I can get my camera out. This guy however, hung around for a few moments, but made sure he was conveniently screened by the surrounding bushes, so I have a great photo of an orange blur and a bunch of bushes.
Oh well, I finished lunch and began the paddle back. I hadn't gone too far when I came across something else I definitely don't see every day. There, on the bank above me was a sizeable Wedge-tailed Eagle. I have seen them on the wing over this part of the river before, but not on the ground. As I grabbed for my camera I saw its mate take off, but this one seemed happy enough just to watch while I attempted to get a decent shot of it. After posing for a few shots, it took off to a tree on the opposite bank which had me staring straight into the sun so after unsuccessfully attempting to get some more photos, I reluctantly headed off.
Wedge-tailed Eagle on the riverbank
Once again, I hadn't paddled too far when I spotted another beastie - a Murray River Turtle. This is the third I have seen since late last year and like both the others, this guy was basking on a log protruding from the water. As I've said before, I'm not sure whether these guys found their own way here or whether they have bred from escaped pets. This one was a little camera shy and didn't let me get too close before it plopped of its log and disappeared beneath the surface of the water.
Murray River Turtle - a long way from home

Finally, a little further still downriver, I came across my fourth surprise for the afternoon, although in retrospect I should not have been surprised as I think I have seen these guys before. I rounded a slight bend, close to the bank and found myself face to face with a pair of alpacas.

Watching me watching you...
I couldn't see any of the sheep who were their probable charges, but I did wonder if they knew about the fox I'd seen upriver a little and hoped that they were doing their job!
The rest of the trip back passed uneventfully with no further surprises on what may be one of the few sunny days left for paddling this year.

17 March, 2015

Ducking down to Barwon Heads

Yesterday, I headed down to Barwon Heads for the culmination of the 6 day long Barwon Heads Festival  of the Sea - a showcase of local food, art, craft, environmental initiatives, music, native culture, street performances and of course the Barwon Heads Duck Race.

Art exhibits at the Festival of the Sea
We arrived an hour or so before start time and wandered around the stalls and art displays, listening to the live music issuing from the nearby stage.
Art exhibits at the Festival of the Sea
As race time neared, I took the plunge and invested $10 for the purpose of adopting a duck for the duration of the race. Mine was duck number 880 and seemed a relatively handsome example of the species.
With only minutes remaining before my duck was due at the start line (the top of the William Buckley foot bridge), there was no time for the pre-season training suggested in the list of terms and conditions, so my little yellow buddy (duck number 880) was whisked off to the marshalling area with several hundred other eager competitors.
All quiet at the starting line
While we waited, I grabbed a coffee and the boys had ice-creams - our contribution to supporting the local economy - and took up position with the crowds of eager spectators on the riverbank, a short distance up from the start line. There was just enough time to read the terms and conditions of the adoption agreement I had entered into, which made it clear that performance-enhancing modifications (genetic or otherwise) were prohibited, as was any form of duck mutilation such as painting or body piercing. An examination prior to the race start was mandatory and random drug-testing of competitors would - it was claimed - be undertaken.
The competitors were to be launched from the bridge in a random fashion to "swim" upriver on an incoming tide to the Ozone Jetty. The winner would be the first duck deemed to have reached the jetty in under 40 minutes, or failing that, the duck nearest to this point at that time. Any duck beached prior to the finish line would be re-entered into the race as per an AFL throw in.
And so we waited, however it didn't take long before, with a distinct  lack of fanfare and no sign of a starter's gun, there was a low rumble as several hundred little yellow ducks were launched (tipped out of a wheelie bin) into the Barwon River.
Off and racing!
Race conditions were perfect for a course record, with the tide well and truly rising and a stiff tail wind propelling the competitors towards their goal. It soon became clear that the ducks were setting a cracking pace and there was a mass movement of spectators along the riverbank towards the jetty - myself included. One woman I passed declared confidently to a friend:
"See that duck out in front? That's mine!"
Hmmm...more likely it was duck number 880, I thought! As the field approached, I took up a prime position at the end of the jetty, ready to capture the winners crossing the finish line.
Marshals waiting as the field approaches
I didn't have long to wait before the race leaders were upon us, surging away from the pack in their dash for the line. Interestingly, it seemed that a form of sidestroke was the preferred method of propulsion as all competitors appeared to adopt what for ducks, might be seen as a rather unusual technique. It did however, make duck-identification through the lens of a camera somewhat easier for the spectators.
Ducks can do sidestroke - who knew?
And so, in a matter of minutes, the lead ducks were upon us and a loud cheer went up as the leaders crossed the finish line. Officials were quickly on the scene and the winners were plucked from the water (no doubt to be taken off for some routine drug testing), before the adoptive owners were notified of the success of their charges.

As the excitement began to wain, the final ducks crossed the line and the milling crowd slowly began to disperse, all no doubt waiting for that text message which would inform them of their success.
The post-race crowd begins to disperse
Alas for me, the text never came, so it would seem that the lack of training or perhaps the mental pressure induced by my last minute decision to enter Duck 880 in the big race, took its toll. Duck 880 did not finish in the top ten, but I am sure, still put in a gutsy performance. No doubt a strict winter training regimen followed by some strong pre-season practise (perhaps the Shelford Duck Race may be an option?) will see a better result next year.

Add caption
Finally, as the crowds began to drift off, the marshals set to work rounding up the competitors, all of whom they have indicated will be returning in 2016. Whilst a number of the ducks seemed keen to stretch their distance a little past the finish line, the officials were quick to put an end to their efforts - probably a wise idea given that next Saturday sees the opening of duck hunting season only a few kilometres further up the river.

05 March, 2015

Branching out: a Moorabool paddle - rushing around

The final part of Saturday's expedition was less of a paddle and more of a hike - towing the kayaks up and down the rather steep banks of the Moorabool River at this point. After a rocky start to our paddle (described here) from Batesford Bridge followed by a relatively easy 3km section in which we traversed the re-routed section of the river around Batesford Quarry as described in my previous "changing course" post, we exited the formed channel and almost immediately found ourselves confronted by an almost impenetrable wall of reeds.
Into the reeds
There had been a few patches upstream which we'd worked through and around and we did the same here. Once on the other side we found a wide pool and some easy paddling, however as the river narrowed only a short distance away, we were confronted by more reeds. Once again we proceeded to plough our way through, emerging into a small cleared section - much to the surprise of two fishermen standing on the bank.
Pool in the Moorabool below the Ring Road
We gave them a wave and on we went. Another clear section appeared as we approached the remains of the old trestle bridge - part of the Fyansford Cement Works railway which ran between 1924 and 1966 to carry limestone from the Batesford Quarry to the works.
Overlooking the site of the trestle bridge, part of the Fyansford Cement Works
private railway, with the Geelong Ring Road on the rise beyond 
Here however, we could go no further so we hauled the kayaks up the bank and, seeing more trouble ahead, cut across a bend, dropping back to the river once again in another clear section, however, after another short paddle we were out again and then once again.
A pretty little pocket amongst the reeds
This time, we followed the river some 500m past a number of reed-choked sections to the remains of the conveyor belt which carried limestone between quarry and works after the closure of the railway.
From here we were once again able to get on the water and with only a couple of short sections requiring us to haul the kayaks until by early evening we found ourselves paddling under the Lewis Bandt Bridge on the Ring Road.
Lewis Bandt Bridge, Geelong Ring Road
I have looked at this bridge in passing in a previous post and talked briefly about the man himself who was responsible for designing that iconic Australian vehicle - the ute, so I won't elaborate further here.
The places junk can end up!
From this point onwards it was (fortunately) a relatively simple paddle back to Fyansford. Sadly, most of the river through this section is overgrown with exotic plantings and the water quality does not appear as good as further upriver - but this is just my observation. It is also worth noting however, that community activity in the form of weed removal and native revegetation is beginning to occur along the river banks near town.
Then finally, we were faced with one final hurdle - a log jam created I suspect from the dead branches of the woody weeds we had been passing over the last few hundred metres, so for one final time, we dragged the kayaks up the bank, around the logs and dropped back into the water for the paddle to our finishing point - the historic Monier bridge at Fyansford, built in 1900.
Old Monier bridge at Fyansford with the current bridge just visible behind
And so after five hours of rocks, prickles, boxthorn, ants, bees, rushes, reeds, barbed wire and leeches we were finally done. Not exactly a "paddle" I would recommend, however a very interesting part of the Moorabool to have seen at close quarters.

03 March, 2015

Branching out: a Moorabool paddle - changing course

After negotiating the rocks, weed and fallen branches in the section of the Moorabool directly below Batesford during our "paddle" on Saturday, we emerged to find ourselves confronted instead by a manmade obstacle. On the bank above us was a handrail following what looked like a pathway. In the river were large chunks of broken concrete and a little further downstream, the bank was lined with concrete and bluestone.
Apparent pathway with handrail and large chunks of concrete breaking down
What we had arrived at was the beginning of a section of the river which was diverted from its original course.
River bank to the right lined with concrete and bluestone
The reason for the diversion however, dates back millions of years to the Miocene period when much of the surrounding land was covered by seawater. As a result, large deposits of limestone built up, formed from the shells of millions of sea creatures, some of which are still found in fossilised form today. European settlers arriving in the 19th century were quick to realise the potential of these deposits and in 1880, Peter McCann (whose descendants still own much of the surrounding land) registered the Australian Portland Cement Co Ltd and commenced production at nearby Fyansford. Struggling to make a profit in the face of cheap imports and using inefficient production methods, the company went into liquidation in 1895 and again in 1904. Peter died in 1908, leaving the nucleus of a profitable enterprise which, under his youngest son Wesley B McCann who acted as manager, was modernised and overhauled. By 1911 the company came under the control of a group of investors and in July, 1912 as part of the move to modernise the company, a ropeway constructed to carry limestone from the quarry to the cement works (then located at the bottom of the deviation). It was officially opened by the Premier on 12th July, replacing horse-drawn wagons and a section of horse-drawn tramway.
Initially, lime used in the production of cement at the works was quarried from a site just north of the Moorabool River (by my reckoning on a line roughly south of Pennsylvania Ave in Batesford). Lime was crushed on the quarry floor and transported to the works via the ropeway.

Concrete-lined channel above the site of the first quarry
In 1924 the ropeway was replaced by a privately-owned 3'6" gauge railway line which ran from the site of the original quarry, crossing the Moorabool twice on wooden trestle bridges, back to the plant.
Image of the Vulcan Engine #4 crossing the trestle bridge 28th November, 1964.
Image from Weston Langford Railway Photography
In 1931, operations were moved to a second quarry site, which had been developed south of the Moorabool. This is the quarry which is still in use today. To service the new facility, a second section of line was constructed, including a branch which allowed for the dumping of overburden and a 1.3km tunnel - the longest in Victoria until the Melbourne city loop was built - which followed a curving path up from the quarry floor to join the original line west of the second river crossing.
Remains of pylons which supported the trestle bridge
All that can be seen of the second trestle bridge today are some wooden stumps, sticking up above the river's surface. I saw no sign of the more northerly bridge.
Following the closure of the original quarry a section of the river was redirected through the old excavations, away from the face of the new quarry. I don't know for sure, but the concrete lining the river upstream of the present quarry (as shown in the photos above) may date to this period.

Diagram showing the rough layout of railway line running between the quarries and the cement works, taken from Light Railways, vol 120, April 1993 which also contains a more comprehensive history of the quarries.
In 1925 the Australian Portland Cement Company was floated on the stock exchange as Australian Cement Ltd and continued to grow, acquiring a number of other companies over the years, to become Australia's largest cement producer, with production rising to 500,000 tons per annum by 1961 when Wesley McCann retired. The railway operated throughout this time, with one diesel and eleven steam engines either shunting on the quarry floor or hauling trucks up and down the 5.6 km line. At the time of its decommissioning in 1966, the diesel and six of the steam locomotives were still in use. All six of these remaining steam engines were preserved and can now be found at the Bellarine Railway whilst the diesel was also preserved but is housed elsewhere.

The floor of the new quarry, showing the diesel and one of the Vulcan engines
as well as the entrance to the tunnel
With the closure of the line, a new method of carting the limestone was needed. To this end, a limestone crusher was installed on the quarry floor with the crushed rock then transferred to a conveyor belt which carried it to the works above. The remains of the conveyor cross the river about 1km south west of the old train bridge and can be seen in passing from the Ring Road.
Remains of the conveyor belt crossing the Moorabool River with the
cement works in the background
In 1980 a bid to extend both the life of the quarry and the supply of lime for the cement works, a proposal was put forward by the company to divert a 4km section of the Moorabool River which was overlying part of the limestone deposit. Moving the river, would add a further 50 years to the lifespan of the quarry, however report by the Ministry for Conservation stated that the increase in lime production would also increase the salinity of the groundwater (which at that time was being returned to the Moorabool) to unacceptable levels.
In the end, a 2.6km diversion of the Moorabool was created with - the company claimed - due consultation as to the needs of flora, fauna and water quality and included measures such as natural curves, tree plantings and pools which would provide habitat for platypus. With these measures in place, the diversion went ahead and to the present day, the river runs through a concrete-lined channel in varying states of repair, along its new course and it was this section of the river which we now found ourselves paddling through in relative comfort. In some places the river was a shallow trickle over a concrete bed, in others, the concrete had broken and fallen away in chunks and there were occasional patches which seemed to have returned to a more natural state.
A section where the concrete appears to have broken away, with an unlined
pool behind, close to the site of the original quarry.
This persisted until we reached a more formed section of the channel which begins at the outflow point from the Batesford Quarry. As far as I can tell, the chute through which the water is returned to the river was constructed at the same time as the realignment took place. Only water which did not exceed acceptable levels of salinity was returned to the river with the remainder pumped to Corio Bay. Google Earth shows water flowing through the chute in January, 2010, but dry as early as 2004 and as late as 2013, either side of this date.
Outflow chute from the nearby quarry
Now, however, it is flowing and in use as a result of an environmental win for the Moorabool which occurred in 2011 when the then Victorian Coalition Government reached an agreement with various water and environmental authorities and the current quarry owner Adelaide Brighton Cement Ltd (ABCL), to return ground water pumped from the quarry, to the Moorabool instead of the bay. The agreement allowed for a return of about 8 mega litres per day (around 3,000 mega litres per year) to the lower Moorabool River, helping to improve environmental flow levels below that point for both the Moorabool and the Barwon Rivers.
Immediately below the outflow, the channel is much more formed, with high walls rising to at least a couple of metres - giving the impression of paddling through a drain - for several hundred metres before returning to lower, concrete-lined banks.

High-walled channel
Paddling down the channel
Every few hundred metres from the outflow until the end of the realignment are little weirs which presumably regulate the flow of water as it travels down a fall of about 12m to the end of the channel. At this point, the diversion ends and the river returns to its natural state and original course, passing only a few hundred metres below the Ring Road.

A series of five small weirs in the channel below the walled section
Below this point are the remains of both the trestle bridge and the conveyor belt shown above.
I will finish this post at the end of the channel and with the end of an era. In 2001, the owners of the Fyansford Cement Works (by that time, Adelaide Brighton Cement Ltd) decided to close the plant. But what to do with the quarry? Operating for over 100 years and with more than 100 million tonnes of limestone and overburden extracted by 2001, there remained enough limestone to keep the quarry operational for at least another thirty years.
Other markets had to be found, so Adelaide Brighton Ltd in conjunction with the McCann family developed new products and sourced new buyers. Today, according to their website, they supply a range of lime products both for construction and agricultural purposes and have also taken the opportunity to develop a range of crushed rock toppings and several fine sand products, which come from a layer of sand underlying the limestone which was not previously utilised during the cement works era.

01 March, 2015

Branching out: a Moorabool paddle - on the rocks

On Saturday I decided to investigate a section of the Moorabool River which I had not yet seen - by kayak. I knew there would be obstacles, rocky sections and probably fallen trees and that at this time of year, water levels would be low. Boy, was I right! But that was only the beginning.
The section in question was the 10km stretch of river between Batesford and Fyansford which in recent decades has had an interesting history which I wasn't fully aware of before we began our paddle.
Old Batesford Bridge beside the Midland Highway
Starting from the back of the Batesford Hotel in Batesford, the first part of our paddle took us past farms and beneath the Moorabool River Reserve off Dog Rocks Road which I have walked before. The river alternated between deeper pools or short stretches of water and shallows which required some manoeuvring to negotiate, not to mention the masses of azolla which is currently choking the river through this section.
Azolla carpeting the surface of the river near the Moorabool River Reserve
At one point we discovered this pretty (but environmentally inappropriate) little pool, formed partly by a man-made rock weir and surrounded by exotic plantings such as willow and ash:

Small weir below Batesford
As we passed beneath the Dog Rocks Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, owned by the Belcher family since the 1850s, we encountered our first rocky obstacle, which required us to exit the kayaks and clamber around. No problem. A couple of photos and we were on our way again...
The first of many...
...only to be confronted by another rock pile, and another, and another as we slowly worked our way downstream. None of them were insurmountable and the water was relatively shallow however, it did make for slow progress and I was soon convinced that there would be no returning the way we had come. Of course, added water flow at other times of the year may change the situation, but whether increased flow would make continuous passage easier or just create further difficulties when hauling over rocks, I don't know.
In addition to the rocks, previous flooding events have also ensured that there was also the occasional large bank of driftwood to be negotiated too:
Log and rock jam
So, we continued in this fashion, paddling short sections and then exiting the kayaks to pick our way through, around or over various obstacles. At some points, the river is little more than a rocky creek bed making paddling impossible, however we pressed on and eventually, the rocks came to an end.
Paddling really wasn't an option here
 And that is where I intend to finish this post. The next instalment of the journey is an interesting one which will require some historical background and a bit of research before I post it, but the next 3-4km stretch of our paddle took us through a section of the river which didn't exist more than a few decades ago.