21 May, 2018

...to the Ocean

So with Mountain to Mouth 2018 underway (see Friday's walk here) and after a few hours rest, we once again gathered at Johnstone Park in darkness for the short stretch to the next station near the boat sheds on the Barwon River. This station is always a little different from the others as Canoe is timed to arrive in darkness, meaning the art installation on this occasion involved a display of lights.
An "eel" at Station 6, just as dawn was breaking
Within minutes of our arrival however, we found ourselves in daylight. It always surprises me how quickly the sun comes up. At this point, there was just enough time for a quick coffee before beginning the long slog up the hill to Leopold and Station 7.
"Coral Consequences" invited participants to consider the effect of climate
change on coral reefs in Queensland which are the spawning ground for the
Short-finned Eels which inhabit the Barwon River
Upon arrival we were greeted by more artworks, incorporated in the permanent walking circle located in parkland at Christie's Rd. The theme of this piece was the "Borron Birds", highlighting the role of birds in the environment.
Birds on canvas, Christie's Rd, Leopold
Walkers were encouraged to leave a leaf (and a wish for the planet) in a "nest", to be burnt with Canoe in the final ceremony.
Take a leaf and make a wish
From here, it was a relatively gentle walk to Station 8 at Drysdale where we were greeted by "Sounds from the Earth" performed by local singers and children beating stones in time. Also present were two large gowns, representing local pioneering women of the 1840s and '50s, Anne Drysdale and Caroline Newcombe, after whom the town and suburb were named.
Echoes of the past: Anne Drysdale and Caroline Newcombe
From Drysdale, walkers and Canoe faced the longest, driest section of the walk. With almost 50km already completed, this was probably the hardest stretch to walk. A second coffee at the Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre was more than welcome as we were entertained by the tramways re-enactment group and took in the concepts of "The Caretaker is in - the grounding" which looked at the concept of care between strangers and invited participants to write about a care or concern.
Station 9
With the arrival of Canoe, it was back on the track for a short and - by contrast with the previous section - pleasant walk around the waterfront.
Performance art on the sand
 Our destination was Station 10 at Point Lonsdale where "In Motion" - a sculptural piece brought together land and sea and our tram conductors provided us with tickets for the next stage of our journey.
"In Motion", Point Lonsdale foreshore
In contrast to the previous two Mountain to Mouth walks in 2016 and 2014, this section involved only a short walk to the lighthouse car park, followed by a bus ride (for both Canoe and the walkers) to Ocean Grove. In previous years, we instead walked around 6km on the beach to Station 11 at Ocean Grove, on this occasion however, high tide prevented any beach access, so we had to settle for a short walk behind the dunes to the Surf Life Saving Club where Station 11 awaited us and we were treated to the small-scale but quite stunning "Blue Gold" installation featuring hanging ice drops melting into the sea.
Ice, sea and sand
Then finally, it was time for the last - mercifully short - stage into Barwon Heads.

Performance on the bridge
Once there, and with the final page in our "passport" stamped to confirm our completion of the journey, we awaited the spectacular fire on water ceremony.
This year, performers on the shoreline were bathed in lights whilst indigenous elders made their way back across the bridge.
Sound and lights on the foreshore at Barwon Heads
As in previous years, the Gathering of the Elements Ceremony, culminated with Canoe which had accompanied us the entire way, set alight and drifting out to sea and into the darkness.

Canoe's final journey

09 May, 2018

From the mountain...

Last Friday and Saturday for the third time, I participated in the Mountain to Mouth Extreme Arts Walk. Within minutes of the Gathering of the Elders Ceremony at Big Rock in the You Yangs, the rain stopped and the sky cleared.
Performance art, Big Rock, May 2018
 The official business of "welcome to country" by members of the Wathaurong community was followed by the collection of water which - as in previous years - was to be carried in "Canoe" to the mouth of the Barwon River at Barwon Heads.
Barry Gilson, Gathering of the Elders Ceremony, Big Rock
Uncle Bryon Powell
Indigenous dancers performing in the dance circle
After an array of speeches by various political representatives from federal, state and local governments, we were accompanied on our way by a forceful wind which pushed us onward to the second station at Lara.
Canoe ready to depart
On the road to Lara with the CFA
This time around we started earlier and Canoe rested for longer at each station, meaning that there was ample time to take advantage of a sausage sizzle provided by the RSL and examine the artwork.
The slower time schedule did not suit everyone, with some walkers finding they were keen to depart each station sometimes even in advance of Canoe's arrival.
Station 2: Sol Yantra, a mandala of harvest produce

Canoe resting at Lara
After departing Lara we followed the now familiar route beside Hovell's Creek and wound our way to Limeburner's Lagoon where we were treated to more displays of performance art and a rest at the third station where participants were encouraged to get involved in a tree planting.
Performing lagoon-side

Station 3: "Earthship base camp"
Once again, after an extended break - and in my case, a change of shoes - we were underway, walking beside Limeburner's Lagoon as the sun set.
On the road to town
By the time we reached station 4, darkness had fallen and so had the temperature, making the extended break rather chilly. As several took the opportunity to eat, we were entertained by recitals from Wathaurong man Brian Gilson and a local choir group as we waited for the arrival of Canoe.
Station 4: The Midden of Earthly Delights, Moorpanyal Park, North Shore
By 7:30pm and in complete darkness, representatives from Deakin University took up the challenge of conveying Canoe to its resting place for the evening at Johnstone Park.

Deakin leading the charge
Along the way, we were regaled by more performance artists popping out of the night, including at one stage a pair of opera singers in full voice and full costume!
Opera in the dark
Finally, in rather chilly conditions, walkers assembled with Canoe and we processed into Johnstone Park (Station 5) for a lap of honour before taking a front row seat to watch the spectacle of the Gathering of the City.
Indigenous performers taking centre stage

At some point after 10pm it all wound up and we headed off to rest for a few hours before convening once again in the pre-dawn for the walk to Barwon Heads.

31 March, 2018


The subject of my previous post was a short walk with a small group of interested individuals along the Moorabool River downstream of the Slate Quarry Road Bridge a short distance to the north east of Meredith. Following European settlement, this section of the Moorabool formed part of the boundary between the squatting runs of Durdidwarrah - established by Robert von Stieglitz - and Borhoneyghurk - first claimed by John Norman McLeod. As I have already written about each of these properties, I thought I would have a look a little further upriver at a third run, much smaller in size than the other two and sharing boundaries with both: 'Moreep'.
The earliest mention of 'Moreep' in the newspapers of the Port Phillip District as the area was then known, is in an 1848 listing of applications for squatting leases (Geelong Advertiser, 29th April, 1848). The applicant was J N McLeod. This was John Norman McLeod, leaseholder of 'Borhoneyghurk'. According to Victorian Squatters (Spreadborough & Hough, 1983) however, McLeod originally took up the 'Moreep' lease in October, 1837 which was about the same time at which he took up the Borhoneyghurk lease.
At an estimated 4,300 acres (Melbourne Daily News, 13th February, 1849) 'Moreep' was less than a quarter of the size of the 24,700 acre Borhoneyghurk run It was estimated that the land was capable of grazing 2,000 sheep. By January, 1850, McLeod had transferred the licences for both the Borhoneyghurk and Moreep runs to Messrs Ball and Sinclair (The Argus, 22nd January, 1850) who continued to occupy the Moreep run - populated with 4,000 sheep - until 1853 (Victorian Government Gazette No 8, 16 February 1853, 205--page 220). By February, 1854 however, the lease had passed to the Rev. Thomas Nattle Grigg (Victorian Government Gazette No 13, 14 February 1854, 327 - page 418)  who had also taken up the lease for the larger portion of 'Borhoneyghurk' which had by that time been subdivided.
Grigg's tenure however appears to have been fleeting with Hugh Morrison installed as licensee by 4th April the same year (Portland Guardian & Normanby General Advertiser, 7th May, 1854). Whilst Morrison also occupied the run for a relatively brief time, he remained in the district throughout his life. Survey maps for the Parish of Ballark show that on 7th June, 1856 he was the first to purchase the pre-emptive selection for the Moreep run - a 640 acre block a little to the east of the Moorabool River and somewhat west of the Meredith-Ballan Rd. Today, most of that block is planted with pine trees but the nearby settlement of Morrisons is a reminder of his tenure.
During the time of Morrison's occupancy, the gold rush was in full swing and an extension of what was called the Morrison's Lead, ran through 'Moreep'. Speaking in retrospect, Mr DM Morrison, son of Hugh, recalled the following (Geelong Advertiser, 4th May, 1907):
The northern extension of the lead through Moreep on the north side of the Moorabool gave a party of 20 for about 20 years a dividend of about £25 per man per week. Mr. Silas Hoyle, one of this party is still to the fore, enjoying the good things of this life upon his farm at Morrisons. 
Before the close of 1856 however, Morrison had also sold up, moving to the neighbouring Borhoneyghurk run which he occupied for the remainder of his life. Morrison died at his Geelong residence in Pevensey Crescent in 1871 and was buried with other family members at the Eastern Cemetery (Geelong Advertiser, 4th September, 1871).
The Morrison family grave in the Old Presbyterian Section, Grave 77 at the
 Eastern Cemetery, March 2018
'Moreep' meanwhile, passed to Thomas and Joseph Bray in partnership with James Wood. Between them, they were running 10 horses, 40 cattle and 500 sheep on their property and parish survey maps show that on 24th June, 1856 they expanded the extent of their holdings with the purchase of a 518 acre block of land which connected their original block `to the Moorabool River as well as two smaller blocks to the east of about 142 acres, which provided frontage to the Meredith-Ballan Rd.
Wood did not remain long in the partnership, leaving the Bray brothers to run the property alone which they did until 1861 when they were forced to declare their insolvency (Victorian Government Gazette No 177, 3 December 1861, 2325--page 2352). Originally, the pair were drapers who had been resident in Geelong since the 1840s (Geelong Advertiser, 25th June, 1849), where they ran their business in the Market Square. Like many at the time it would seem they decided to try their hand as pastoralists, apparently with disastrous financial results.
Following their failed venture at 'Moreep', the pair moved back to Geelong where Joseph returned to the trade he knew best, operating a drapery store (Geelong Advertiser, 22nd December, 1869), a business he successfully pursued for many years.
An image of Moorabool St, Geelong 1852 looking south west. "Bray's Drapery
Warehouse" is the light coloured building left of centre. Image held by the
State Library of Victoria. Click to enlarge
By 1872, his brother Thomas had moved to Sebastopol near Ballarat where he entered into community life, serving as a Justice of the Peace. In 1871 he was elected mayor of the Borough of Sebastopol and held the position until 1873. By the 1880s however, Thomas had moved to Corowa in New South Wales where he owned a grocery and drapery store (Weekly Times, 29th June, 1929) and also a vineyard - Mossgiel - where he lived until his death in 1907 (Melbourne Leader, 2nd July, 1898).
Joseph died at his Laurel Bank Parade home in Geelong at the age of 93 in 1919 (Geelong Advertiser, 11th January, 1919) and was buried at the Eastern Cemetery.
During their tenure at 'Moreep', it is clear that Thomas resided on the property with his wife and children as family notices show that two of his children died on the property in 1860 - one a stillborn baby (Geelong Advertiser, 30th January, 1860), followed later that year by his five year old son Thomas Charles who contracted diphtheria (Geelong Advertiser, 24th November, 1860). The child's body was returned to Geelong for burial at the Eastern Cemetery.
With the departure of the Brays, the next tenant to occupy 'Moreep' was Charles Samuel Morrow who by that time was also the licensee at nearby 'Bungal' and like others his tenure at 'Moreep' was short-lived.  By 1863, he was selling up and in May that year it was reported  that Morrow had sold the property for the sum of £10,000 to George Bassnett and John Bennett Evans, stationers from Ballarat turned graziers (Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser, 8th May 1863). The brothers however had seriously overcapitalised and were declared insolvent by 1864, having paid only £2,500 of the purchase price (The Argus, 14th April, 1864).
The Evans Brothers' substantial printers and stationers store in Lydiard St
Ballarat, 1861. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
And so, by early 1864 'Moreep' was on the market once again (Ballarat Star, 17th February, 1864). It was advertised as consisting of 2,030 acres of freehold land and a further 3,000 acres of land leased from the Crown. A house consisting of six rooms plus various outbuildings stood in in a ten acre garden which was planted with fruit trees and vines. Facilities for stock, including a wool shed and draughting yards for both sheep and cattle had been constructed and the titled land was fenced.
The next owner of 'Moreep' was a Scotsman by the name of Donald McKinnon from the Isle of Skye who had moved from South Australia with his daughters and wife Elizabeth. However, his tenure was also brief as he died at the property later that same year. Despite this, his family remained at 'Moreep' for many years until 3rd March, 1898 when disaster struck. At around 4am Elizabeth who was living there with one of her daughters awoke to find their home (by now an eight-roomed timber structure) on fire. With no water to hand and no help nearby, the house burnt to the ground. It was suspected that a spark from the kitchen started the blaze (Geelong Advertiser, 5th March, 1898). After this time, Elizabeth leased the property out and moved to St Kilda where she died at her home some five years later on the 26th September, 1903 (The Argus, 28th September, 1903). She was buried with her husband Donald at the Meredith Cemetery.
The next chapter for 'Moreep' saw the property purchased from the McKinnon daughters in 1911 by Mr William Rhodes. The sale included a homestead which presumably had been rebuilt after the fire (Hamilton Spectator, 9th March, 1911). Whilst Rhodes and his family retained ownership of the station for many years, they chose to base themselves at 'Bungeeltap' which they purchased in 1922, instead installing a manager - Rodolph Paulden - at 'Moreep'. The Paulden family were still in residence on the property at the time of Rodolph's death in 1952 (The Argus, 11th December, 1952).
After this time, I can find little information about the property but do know that by October, 1970 it was on the market once again (The Age, 24th October, 1970). More recently, according to the Australian Government Business Register, the Parsons Moreep Pastoral Trust held an Australian Business Number (ABN) which was cancelled in 2016, however it seems that much, if not all, of the property is in the hands of a Colac-based company by the name of Australian Kiln Dried Softwoods (AKD Softwoods) who from the mid 2000s began planting the property out with pine trees to supply their various timber products.
'Moreep' as seen on Google Earth today. The map shows the approximate extent
of the original squatting lease (red) as well as the 640 acres of the pre-emptive
right (green) and the current holding (yellow)
Today, 'Moreep' is covered almost entirely by pine trees (see above) which continue to mature. The venture however is not without its risks as the company newsletter Splinter illustrated when its February/March edition for 2014 described the loss of 3.2 hectares of trees during a fire started by lightning strike in hot summer conditions.

24 February, 2018

Branching out: a walk along the Moorabool

Recently I had the opportunity to view a section of the Moorabool River which I had not seen before. At the invitation of Cameron Steele - co-ordinator of the community group People for a Living Moorabool or PALM as they are known - I accompanied a small group of interested walkers along a short section (a little over 3km) of the river heading downstream from Slate Quarry Road where it crosses the Moorabool to the north east of Meredith. The bridge of the same name which crosses the river at this point dates, I believe to 1922, and may be the topic of a future post.
Slate Quarry Bridge, February, 2018
Over the course of several hours we made our way along the riverbank, sometimes walking easily, sometimes rock-hopping and scrambling, sometimes climbing up the occasional steep incline.
A small gravel island mid-stream

The geology of the river through this section varies significantly. In some places, sections of the slate for which the nearby bridge and quarry were named can be seen whilst in others, aeons old granite is visible. The relatively newer basalt which flowed from nearby volcanoes active within the last few million years, now covers sections of the older landscape and in places, these relatively recent lava flows have even changed the course of the river, filling the original river valley and forcing the river to find a new course through the rocks.

Somehow, the eucalypts manage to gain a toehold in the rocky soil

In a number of places, large rocky outcrops such as this dramatic example
tower over the river below
In places along the length of the river, refuge pools - some of them measured at over 8m deep - provide protection for aquatic life during periods of low river flow and in drought conditions. At the time of our walk, water levels were falling after the release of an environmental flow or "summer fresh" designed to mimic the variable seasonal water flow of the river prior to European settlement.

An elevated view of a natural "beach" formed along the riverbank
With the combined knowledge of the group we were able to observe a variety of native plant species such as cherry ballart - a native species of sandalwood - banksia and of course a multitude of eucalypts. Unfortunately, in addition to the native species, we also observed a number of invasive weeds in the form of willows, thistles, gorse bushes and some sizeable stands of blackberry.

A small stand of silver banksia finding purchase up the bank
Finally, we completed our walk by removing our footwear and wading across a shallow, rock-lined section of the river; a pleasantly cool experience on a warm summer's day. From there, it was a short walk up an access track to where Cameron's trusty Land Rover was waiting to return us to our starting point.
River crossing at the end of our walk
Whilst access to large sections of the river are at present limited, PALM are currently consulting with various agencies - including local landowners and the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CCMA) to investigate ways in which interested members of the public can access and interact with the river at various places with a view to increasing public involvement and support for what has been described as Victoria's most stressed river system.
More details on the Moorabool, its flora and fauna, cultural significance, maintenance and recreational opportunities can be found on the CCMA's  Living Moorabool Project pages.

30 January, 2018

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race: 4th edition

Across the recent Australia Day long weekend the cycling once again rolled into town in the form of the fourth edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. The women raced on Saturday in warm sunny conditions however, the men's race on Sunday was contested in temperatures which rapidly approached 40°C.
As I have done in previous years, I headed out onto the course to snap a few photos at various locations along the Barwon:
The Deakin University Elite Women's Race crossing the Barwon at Breakwater

The breakaway in the Elite Men's Road Race about to tackle Challambra Cres
hill climb for the first time

The peloton about to tackle Challambra Cres

...and then there were 3...the remains of the breakaway cross the Barwon at
Queen's Park on the first full lap of the circuit through town

The peloton crossing Queen's Park Bridge

Heading up Barrabool Rd on the final lap

By the final lap the temperature had reached the high 30s

The tail end of the race