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The Tipperary Track: Trail Update

Wombat Creek Foot-bridge
Karen on the Tipperary Track
Winter on the Tipperary Track, Daylesford. Hepburn Regional Park.

It was a miserable wet and cold mid-winter’s morning when Karen and I dragged ourselves out of the warmth of a Daylesford Cafe and started out along the Tipperary Track. For the first kilometre or so we debated as to whether this was such a good idea. Maybe we are getting soft but the thought of another round of tea and toast was almost too much to resist. Eventually the drizzle moved off elsewhere (probably to Trentham!) and small daubs of watery blue sky appeared between the low cloud. We had decided to brave the elements to GPS the Tipperary Track for our next Goldfields walking guidebook. I was also keen on updating some of the details, which have recently changed.

Wombat Creek Foot-bridge
Wombat Creek Foot-bridge still waiting to be built.

Since the floods in early 2011 some sections of the Tipperary Track have been closed. Almost all of the bridges had been damaged or washed away, which prevented walkers using the western side of Sailors Creek and therefore reducing any loop-walk opportunities. This has been a real shame as it’s one of the best and most popular walking areas within the Goldfields region. Recently Parks Victoria reopened The Blowhole area so that walkers can access the full length of the trail, which is also part of the now very popular Goldfields Track. Three foot-bridges are still to be either finished or built. The two foot-bridges spanning Wombat Creek and Sailors Creek at Twin Bridges have concrete foundations but still no steelwork. The third bridge is located at Tipperary Springs and although closed it looked very close to finished. Probably the most solid and flood-proof of all of the bridges is the massive new stepping stones across to Bryces Flat. To me this appears to be the best and cheapest way to build bridges, especially in country that regularly sees alternating periods of drought and flood.

The Blowhole
The Blowhole. The Tipperary Track, Daylesford. Hepburn Regional Park.

According to Parks Victoria the foot-bridges will be ready by this spring. Let’s hope so. If you are intending to walk the Tipperary Track right now though, you should be aware that without the bridge over Wombat Creek you will need to continue walking down the water-race on its southern side to cross the Midland Highway before entering the picnic area at Twin Bridges. It’s not a real hassle but just watch out for the traffic when you cross the bridge.

We arrived at The Blowhole just as the day was warming up (it must have been all of 8 degrees) and were now enjoying ourselves. The Blowhole was gushing with water and made for a fairly impressive sight. We continued on through Breakneck Gorge, which for me is the best part of the walk. The creek tumbled over it’s stony bed and the gorge’s narrow walls glistened with green moss. Every now and then a ray of sunshine penetrated the cloud and slid over a tree or a rock.

Isn't it about time Parks Victoria dragged this wreck from Breakneck Gorge?
Isn’t it about time Parks Victoria dragged this wreck from Breakneck Gorge?

Finally we left Sailors Creek behind and walked up along Spring Creek, again following a wide water-race overlooking the willow-infested creek. Somewhere down there was Liberty Spring, now no longer maintained. Not far along we reached Golden Spring, which is unfortunately still capped, although there are plans to repair it it some point. By the time we reached Jacksons Lookout it was getting late in the day. The steel and timber tower was very rundown and because of the surrounding trees there are no real views to enjoy. Jacksons Tower was something of a disappointing climax. Half an hour later and we were at Hepburn Springs Reserve. We had covered almost 17km in just over 4 hours. The cafe was shut and it was almost dark. A quick phone call and the taxi arrived a few minutes later. Soon we were back at the car at Daylesford Lake. We pulled out of the carpark just as it started to rain again.

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Tarilta Creek Gorge Burned by DSE

Tarilta Creek Gorge (Jan 2012) from Glenn Tempest on Vimeo.

Friends of the Box-Ironbarks Forests (FOBIF) have just posted a critical assessment of the recent DSE burning operations of Tarilta Creek Gorge in the Upper Loddon State Forest. You can read their blog and view some images at Tarilta Gorge: burned off, washed away. Essentially the DSE burn (CAS 0051, Limestone Track) was supposed to have created ‘a mosaic burn coverage appropriate to meet requirements of localised EVC’s [ecological vegetation classes] and to reduce the spread of fire.’ It’s in Zone 3 Ecological Management Zone (EMZ). According to FOBIF a DSE briefing last September indicated that in such a zone it would be expected that about one third of the area would be burned. This hasn’t been the case as it appears that a great deal of destruction has been inflicted upon this once beautiful location. There has also been a substantial loss of top-soils, which have washed into the creek and created large siltings (most of it ended up blocking Limestone Track Bridge).

Only a month ago my friends and I walked Tarilta Creek Gorge as we wanted to create a GPS of the route and take some new images. The walk is to be included in our forthcoming Goldfields Walks, which is due out in spring. You can read about our walk on my blog here. The short video (above) makes an interesting and disturbing comparison to the images shown at at Tarilta Gorge: burned off, washed away.

 

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Tarilta Creek Gorge

Michelle, Marriot and Greg in Tarilta Creek Gorge
Jumping for joy over Michelle's newly repaired 'gaffa' boots.
Leaf litter and quartz stones in Tarilta Creek.
Eucalypt leaves in Upper Loddon State Forest.
Marriot and Karen in Tarilta Creek Gorge.

Karen and I joined a few friends (Greg, Michelle and Marriot) on Saturday to walk the lovely Tarilta Creek Gorge just south of Mt Franklin in the Upper Loddon State Forest. I was keen to GPS the circuit for our forthcoming Goldfields guide and see what effect the recent bushfire (early January 2012) had on the park. The fire had started on nearby private property as a grassfire and had burned through some of the forest along Sawpit Gully Road. We left the car (parked on Porcupine Ridge Road) at about 2pm, which would normally be quite a late start, but on a daylight-saving mid-summers day it was going to be no problem at all. A southerly breeze kept the temperature down and there was barely a cloud in the sky.

Our first real issue was Michelle’s walking boots. Apparently she had not used them for some time and immediately after pulling them on the rubber soles decided to part company with the uppers. Greg’s skills with a roll of gaffa tape and five minutes later the problem was (at least temporarily) solved.

My original walk description in Daywalks Around Melbourne was still fairly accurate and it was apparent that the fire had only touched the edge of the state forest. Unfortunately some of the old 4WD tracks had been recently widened and ‘improved’ with the use of a bulldozer, which meant that some of the walking wasn’t quite as attractive as normal. There were also a few new dozer tracks constructed, which made was a bit confusing. I was definitely going to have to update the walk map. At one junction we even took a wrong turn, a mistake that cost us an extra 2.5km of walking. This just strengthened my view that all published walks need to be re-walked and checked on a regular basis.

Once we reached Tarilta Creek Gorge the nature of the walk changed completely. Suddenly we felt a million miles from anywhere. Understandably, for this time of year, the creek had stopped flowing and only a few small pools were left, providing a safe haven for the yabbies, frogs and common galaxias (native fish). The river flats that only a couple of months ago were lush green were now thigh-deep in dry golden grass. Swamp wallabies watched us from the rocky bluffs, eastern grey kangaroos eyed us suspiciously and colourful eastern rosellas darted between the trees.

About six years ago Greg and I ran through this tiny gorge (again checking the walk details) and there had been little sign of other visitations. This time around we were surprised to find that a fairly good walking trail had been established. Since the release of Daywalks Around Melbourne(the second edition was published in 2005) this walk had obviously become much more popular. The walking trail definitely makes negotiating the gorge a whole lot easier. Someone, perhaps a walking club or commercial group, have even inserted small posts along the way to indicate the various creek crossings.

We finished the walk by following the off-trail variation linking Limestone Track with Porcupine Ridge Road. This really is the best way to complete this walk but you need to be reasonably confident in your off-trail navigation skills. We got back to the car at about 6.30pm and half an hour later we were drinking pints at the Holgate Brewhouse in Woodend. If you haven’t already done this walk then definitely put it on your list. My recommendations would be to do it in winter or spring, plan on a picnic lunch and keep in mind that Tarilta Creek is prone to flooding, which would make the creek crossings much more difficult.

 

 

 

 

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Mt Beckworth Walking Trails

The Lollipop Tree was planted on the 634m summit in 1918.

We visited Mt Blackwood Scenic Reserve last weekend to check out the local walks and finalise the relevant GPS data and details. We are featuring one of the park’s walks in our forthcoming walking guide to The Goldfields. The park has only recently reopened after the storm damage that occurred in January 2011 and Parks Victoria had indicated (on their web site) that it was only open to 4WDs. I visit Mt Blackwood fairly regularly (both as a walker and rockclimber) and was expecting that a lot the rehabilitation work would have been completed. Unfortunately this was not to be the case. The vehicle tracks are still in a terrible condition (sections of which are still closed). However, it was the poor standard of the walking trails which really caught my attention (and which could not be attributed to just storm damage).

Someone must have found this sign threatening so shotgunned it to death.

Back in 2001 we released Daywalks Around Melbourne, which featured a couple of walks in the Mt Beckworth Scenic Reserve. At the time I was critical about the quality of the walking trails which were in various states of disrepair. Over the intervening 10 years it would appear that little or no maintenance has been carried out. The result is a network of walking trails that are at the point of no return. The standard of the trails are so bad that in places erosion has completely destroyed the surface. Fallen trees are common and some trail sections vanish altogether. Yellow Box Track (which is clearly marked on Park Victoria’s Free Park Notes), has simply vanished. Short sections of the trail can still be seen but most people will eventually lose their way. What makes all of this worse is the almost complete lack of trail markers and directional signs. In just a couple of more years the once lovely walking trails of Mt Beckworth Scenic Reserve will probably be just memories and the park will be a lesser place because of it.

This tree has collapsed over the trail, which is now almost impossible to locate.
Even the newest signs in the reserve are falling to bits.

 

Ok. It’s now April 2015 and one of our regular readers (and users of our walking guides), David Sidwell, recently posted an article on his website regarding some upgrades to the signage and walking trails around Mt Beckworth. You can read his piece here.

 

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Goldfield Chimneys

Over the last few months I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the bush checking details for our forthcoming walking guide, The Goldfields. Having now walked several hundred kilometres of trails I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the 150-year-old stone chimneys which litter much of the region. These crumbling structures appear in the most unlikely places, often a couple of hours walk from the nearest road. I’ve come to value sitting next to these chimneys and letting myself wonder as to those who long ago sat in this very place, warming themselves by the flames, perhaps cooking a kangaroo or mutton stew. In most cases these chimneys had been constructed by gold miners and perhaps much of their talk had centred around the hope that tomorrow would be the day that they would finally strike it rich. And maybe these fireplaces had also seen the reflections of gold nuggets, caressed by the calloused hands of happy diggers. The original timber buildings that enveloped these chimneys long ago vanished, having almost certainly fallen victim to the periodical bushfires that swept the area. Or maybe they just collapsed and were swallowed up by the forest from where they had originated. But the chimneys, constructed from local sandstone, still stand, defiant against the unfolding years and with only the memories of the dead to keep them company.

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Three Lost Children Walk

One of the walks we are writing up for our forthcoming walking guide to the Goldfields is the route followed by three children that went missing from Daylesford on the on the last day of June in 1867. William Graham (6), his brother Thomas (4) and Alfred Burman (5) decided to look for wild goats in the forest beyond Wombat Creek. Despite a massive search of the area their bodies were not found until three months later. The two younger boys were huddled together inside the hollow of a large tree and the remains of the older boy were just outside. For the people of Daylesford it was a heart rending-tragedy, one that still sears into the consciousness of the town.

The walk leaves from Table Hill just west of the town centre and finishes at Wombat Creek just underneath Wheelers Hill where the children were later found. The walk is 15.5km long and is marked with distinctive Three Lost Children Walk marker posts. The distance travelled by the children will never be accurately measured but, considering their age and circumstance, it is amazing they walked as far as they did.

Here is a newspaper report from Perth Gazette and W.A. Times, dated August 16th, 1867. The children had still not been found and their mysterious disappearance was still being reported in the national newspapers.

Late on Sunday night, the 30th of last June, the Daylesford police were told a sad story of missing children. At 10 o’clock that morning three boys, William Graham, aged 7; Thomas Graham, aged 4; and Arthur (sic) Burman, aged 5 years, the sons of respectable persons, started from their homes, in Connell’s Gully, to search for wild goats. They did not come back to dinner, and the fathers, somewhat alarmed, started with some neighbours to look for them. By some means or other it was ascertained that they had gone towards the junction of two creeks, but all traces were lost on the ranges between Sailor’s Creek and Blanket-flat. Night set in, and the anxious fathers spoke to the police, three of whom turned out at once and joined the parents and Blanket-flat police in a search which lasted till one o’clock in the morning. The night was cold and dark, and as no good could be done by looking, further operations were suspended till the morning. Then further inquiries elicited that a storekeeper named Mutch had seen the children four miles on the Ballan-road, and had directed them to follow the telegraph wires back to Daylesford. They must have been afterwards led astray by the beaten track to Specimen-hill, on which, about dusk, they met a boy named Quinn, who told them that they were going from Connell’s Gully instead of to it. The eldest boy did not seem at all alarmed; but since Quinn left them they have been lost. This information was the result of Monday’s search, in which they were joined by the men on the Corinella mine, the Telegraph saw-mills, and Clarke’s mills, and nearly all the splitters in the terrible forest. The weather was boisterously wet and cold, but though it obliterated tracks it did not deter the zealous searchers, who at last found impressions of two different-sized children’s shoes, two miles from Specimen-hill, and in the direction of the source of the Werribee River. This is all Bullarook forest, and a nearly impenetrable region, the scrub growing high and abundantly, so that a man might securely hide from his pursuers a very few feet from them. Even the searchers themselves got bewildered, and when night set in the task was abandoned in despair. The party returned to Daylesford on Tuesday evening; but so violent was the ebullition of public feeling at this want of success, that a public meeting at Bleackley’s Hotel was called that very night. The town crier went round, the fire-bell rung, and at eight p.m. the large room of the inn was filled to suffocation. The mayor presided, and with one voice it was agreed that business should be utterly suspended next day, that the search might be prosecuted by the inhabitants and the police, who had obtained the service of black trackers. The rendezvous was fixed at the specimen-hill works, the manager of which kept the whistle, which could be heard two miles, sounding till nightfall. The fire-bell was also rung at given hours, and all day long the work continued under the guidance of experienced bushmen, who carried bread and wine for the revival of the lost ones if found. Altogether, 600 or 700 persons joined in the search. Though all was in vain, the labor of love was not suspended. Next day the shops were still kept shut, 500 persons went out, and in the evening £70 was collected and offered as a reward for the recovery of the lost children. The reward was subsequently increased to £200; and the Government offered a reward of £100 more, but this was for the encouragement of bushmen and others, not the people of Daylesford and neighbourhood, who continued their exertions all through the week with such utter selfishness that it was only to remove a great public inconvenience that shops were partially opened on Friday. All was still in vain, however, and a month has elapsed without furnishing the faintest clue to the fate of these poor children. The two fathers, Graham and Burnan, have written to a local paper to express their sincere and heart-felt thanks to the inhabitants of Daylesford, and their satisfaction that all that human aid could do has been done. The children cannot possibly have survived, although they were accustomed to travel about the ranges, were familiar with their father’s stores of camping in the bush when he was a trader among the Caffres, and the eldest one had often talked of what he would do if benighted in the bush. The pecuniary sacrifice made by the people of Daylesford, beside their offer of reward, cannot be less than £2,500. Melancholy as this story is, it has a bright side in its exhibition of an unselfish public spirit, which we are convinced is not confined to Daylesford, and of which we as Victorians have good reason to be proud.

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Mt Kooyoora

Karen making her way up through the open woodland to the summit of Mt Kooyoora

One of the 36 walks we are featuring in our soon to be released Daywalks Around Victoria will be a traverse across the summit ridge of Mt Kooyoora, the most northerly mountain in the central Victorian goldfields area. Mt Kooyoora State Park is a real gem and is located 220km northwest of Melbourne, about 35min drive from Bendigo. The walk we are covering leaves White Swan Mine and climbs to the summit of Mt Kooyoora itself. The walk then continues along the West Ridge to Mount Kooyoora Track and returns along quiet vehicle tracks back to the carpark. This 10km circuit involves some off trail walking but it is very easy to navigate. Mt Kooyoora and its exposed ridge is covered with lots of granite outcrops, slabs and boulders and offers the best views in the region. A great walk to do in Autumn, winter or spring.

Mt Kooyoora and its north-facing granite slabs are an imposing sight.

 

Glenn walking along the West Ridge in a park-like setting.
There are lots of attractive old yellow box in the park.
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Razorback Spur – Lerderderg Gorge SP

Last Sunday Karen and I teamed up with friend Stuart Imer to check out yet another circuit walk in the Lerderderg State Park. Joining us were NZ couple Nic Learmonth and her partner Chris, who have just recently moved to Melbourne. Right now the river is flowing so it was a good opportunity to see just how difficult walking along the river was going to be in these conditions. Usually, when the river is dry, walking down the middle of the riverbed is fairly straightforward. We followed Razorback Track down into the gorge and was surprised to discover that it is possibly the easiest and most enjoyable access spur into what is regarded as the most remote central section of the gorge. Walking down the river was also easier than I expected as good foot pads existed along the rivers occasionally vegetated banks. Rocky bluffs forced us to cross and recross the river at least a dozen times but it was all very manageable (and a lot of fun). The only drawback was the gorse, a prickly introduced bush which has unfortunately invaded the length of the gorge. A gourmet lunch at McKenzies Campsite was followed by another hour walking downstream. At Ah Kow Ruin we left the river and climbed up the very steep Ah Kow Track. It was a big climb – a direct contrast to the gentle Razorback Track. Eventually we reached Blackwood Ranges Track on top of the range, crossed under Mt Blackwood and made our way up to its grassy summit area. We soaked up the last views of the day and walked on down Mt Blackwood Road back to our car at the start of Square Bottle Track.  My GPS indicated a total distance of 13.5km.

Stuart, Chris, Karen and Nic making our way down the Lerderderg River
Stuart, Chris, Karen and Nic making our way down the Lerderderg River
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Bears Head Circuit – Lerderderg Gorge SP

It’s hard to believe that so close to Melbourne exists such a gem of a park. The Lerderderg State Park offers a plethora of walk choices. We chose the Bears Head Circuit, a 15+k walk that keeps you interested from start to end. As all great walk stories must include, the weather was perfect. Starting off on what looked a little like the small village roads you see in the UK, we were surprised and pleased, to see an old Red Rattler on one of the side properties. Although in a state of disrepair, it didn’t fail to ignite the wanderings down memory lane. After about 10 minutes of childhood memories, we were eager to continue on and headed into the bushland proper. From the steep descent down the gorge, we were then greeted by a river which was far from a trickle. Our initial plans of walking up the river bed dry were abandoned. Rather than bush bash along some of the heavily vegetated banks we opted for walking up the river bed wet. What a great choice! The water was refreshing and allowed us to (carefully) traverse from one side to the other visiting the disused mining areas that were built along the banks. Dry stoneworked water races allowed us an even walking surface before once again heading off track for a bit of an explore or another dip of the toes, and legs, into the river. An exciting rock scramble up the Bears Head Ridge gave us amazing views of the park and beyond. Made all the more interesting by the fact that the the sense of remoteness we were experiencing was offset by the sight of Melbourne city not too far in the distance.

I had a brilliant day, it kept my interest up the whole time. Great little lunch and snack spots, history trips back in time and some very definite ideas about overnight camps.

bears_head_range
Wading down the Lerderderg River
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Lerderderg Gorge Emergency Markers

IMPORTANT UPDATE: All of the original EMERGENCY SIGNPOSTS in the gorge have been replaced with new EMERGENCY MARKERS by ESTA (Emergency Services and Telecommunications Authority). Of major concern, however, is that the original numbering has been changed. The old (original) numbering is still in use in a number of available publications, including two of our own books and in the very popular Lerderderg and Werribee Gorges Meridian map. Walkers using our guides and the Meridian map must not confuse the original numbering with the new numbering.

Please download the following PDF which spells out all of the changes and even includes the Emergency Markers GPS co-ordinates:

LERDERDERG STATE PARK EMERGENCY MARKERS