Sunday, February 17, 2019

Expedition Pass Reservoir & The Welsh Village, Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park - February 2019

The historic Garfield Water Wheel.
I had two good walks planned for this weekend, neither of them were to Expedition Pass Reservoir though. My first walk was an ‘off the normal walking radar’ type of Feral stroll, up in the remote northern section of Wilsons Prom. As it’s a fair drive from home I figured that I’d jump onto the Parks Vic site a few days prior to heading off to make sure everything was OK. It was lucky that I did as the northern section of the Prom was closed due to a bushfire. The fire was on the eastern side of the access road and I was planning on heading west but after chatting to the rangers I decided to put that walk off for another time. My plan B was meant to be a hard walk out at Lerderderg starting near Mt Blackwood, once again I jumped onto the Parks Vic site and bugger me they had closed the park in the vicinity of Mt Blackwood due to a bushfire and were evacuating any walkers in there, hmmm.
It was an early start this morning.
Casting around for a plan 'C' I settled on Expedition Pass Reservoir. With the temperature predicted to hit the mid 30˚s I was keen to head somewhere that I could have a dip, with Expedition Pass Reservoir being close to the halfway mark of this walk it looked like it would fit the bill. Even though I was pretty confident that I would be able to cool down halfway around the walk, I still wanted to get the walk done before the real sting of the afternoon heat would arrive, so I was up and away pretty early today. After grabbing a couple of toasties at the Calder Park Maccas, I cruised up the Calder Highway as the sun rose through a bushfire smoke tinged sky, the hazy red sky having a bit of an ‘end of days’ feel about it (I’m not too sure when I’ll actually get this post up so I suppose I should mention that apart from the two fires I mentioned, there were also big, out of control fires at Grantville, Moe, Thomson Dam, and a really big one in East Gippsland), things as they say were pretty crook in Tallarook.
Heading out of Chewton along North Street.
Pulling up in Chewton I was on my way before 8am this morning. I wasn’t expecting too many issues on this stroll as it’s one that I’ve done once or twice before and shuffling my way out of town along the sealed North Street everything was indeed pretty straight forward. After crossing Forest Creek I climbed fairly gently through the outskirts of Chewton before heading into Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park. There were big mobs of Roos around here this morning I’m assuming that they are being drawn closer to town due to the shortage of water in the bush. Picking up a track on the right (signposted) I contour around a dry hill to arrive at the very impressive Garfield Water Wheel
There were a lot of Roo's close to town, I'm guessing because it's so dry out in the bush.
Early mornings are definitely the best time for walking in summer. I'm approaching the Garfield Water Wheel here. 
The Garfield Water Wheel.
The Garfield Water Wheel is a relic left over from the gold mining days, the water to turn this 22 m diameter wheel came from the nearby Expedition Pass Reservoir. The wheel was built in 1887 and the wheel is now long gone, the support structures for the wheel are still largely intact though and they make an impressive site sitting out here in the dry bush. You can drive to this place and I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the area who is interested in the old mining history. After mucking around trying to get a half decent photo of the old water wheel I climbed up the hill for a few minutes to pick up a water race, navigation now being even easier as I was on the long distance Goldfields Track.
The Garfield Water Wheel.
I was now following the Goldfields Track for awhile.
Zigging and zagging a bit I eventually topped out on a track along the top of a ridge, the elevated position allowing for a few gentle zephyrs to cool me down a bit on what was already a pretty warm morning. Now I said earlier that I wasn’t anticipating too many issues, but there is one thing up here that requires a little concentration and that’s navigating, the myriad of tracks through the dry forest require a close eye on the map. If you are on the Goldfields Walk everything is very well signposted, but once off that track then things can get pretty cryptic, pretty quickly. After leaving my ridge top track (4wd track) I dropped down a dry gully on a walking track and arrived at the grand sounding Welsh Street. Welsh Street is a rough 4wd track and it marked the spot that I’d leave the Goldfields Track for awhile.
I got a bit of a breeze from the top of the ridge.
Easy ridge top walking.
Turning left I followed another old 4wd track through an area that had obviously been heavily mined back in the day. There are a lot of tracks meandering through these old diggings and I’m thinking that so long as you keep heading north you should eventually arrive at Nimrod Hill, well that was the theory that I was using this morning anyway. Not only are there a lot of tracks but there is also evidence of gold mining everywhere in the form of mullock heaps, mine shafts, sluicing gullies, and even a big open cut mine. Needless to say with so many unfenced mine shafts around you need to be a little cautious when you are exploring. After climbing over Nimrod Hill I dropped down through the dry forest to arrive at the Welsh Village.
Once on Welsh Street I headed left and then veered right at this track junction.
There is a lot of old mining history around here.
Climbing Nimrod Hill.
It pays to be careful if you wander around off track up here.
There is a large open cut old mine on Nimrod Hill.....
....with plenty of interesting rock formations....
....and some more mine shafts.
The Welsh Village is situated on Golden Gully and is the site of an old gold mining village that in had 17 dwellings by 1864. Quite a few of these old ruins, which were constructed in the same manor as the traditional Welsh worker cottages, are still visible along Golden Gully and this is a great place to explore for awhile. I headed down the gully and around a spur where there appears to be greatest numbers of the old stone buildings. The name the Welsh Village is a fairly recent thing and it’s thought that the settlement might have been called Golden Gully back in the day. After poking around the old village for awhile I decided that it was time to head off for a swim and so I retraced my walk back out to Welsh Street.
The Welsh Village.
One of the best ways to locate these spots in the bush can be to look for the introduced trees.
The Welsh Village dates back to the 1860's. It's thought that the location was called Golden Gully back in the day.
Retracing my route back to Welsh Street over Nimrod Hill.
The old open cut on Nimrod Hill.
Cleared land down on Golden Point Road....I was heading down there next.
Once back at Welsh Street I again re-joined the Goldfields Track for awhile as I followed the dirt road down towards Forest Creek. Approaching Forest Creek I started to pass through rural land, the grass parched yellow and tinder dry now. Reaching Chapel Street I followed it north beside the valley of Forest Creek for a few hundred metres before crossing the creek and then picking up a walking pad heading north along the eastern bank of the creek. Almost as soon as I started along the walking track I could see the grassy bank that is the retaining wall for Expedition Pass Reservoir through the open forest. After climbing up onto the retaining wall right next to the spillway I headed right over the wall to Golden Point Road to check out the cairn celebrating Major Mitchell’s 1836 expedition of which the reservoir is named.
With the scrub looking a bit parched I was looking for anything with a bit of colour to photograph.
Chapel Street
After crossing over Forest Creek I headed left up this pad to Expedition Pass Reservoir.
The Major Mitchell Cairn at Expedition Pass Reservoir. Major Mitchell passed through here back in 1836.
This'll do me!
Now you can swim where the Golden Point Road passes the lake but being right beside a sealed road I was looking for somewhere a little quieter. Retracing my steps back over the retaining wall I crossed over the dry spillway and found a nice little spot under a big pine tree, this’ll do me! After dropping my sweaty gear I eased my way into the refreshing water and floated out into the lake, ‘ah yeah now this is the life!’ As you’ve probably guessed the reservoir was also built back in the gold mining age (1868) to supply the gold miners with water in what is fairly dry country. Whatever it’s history it makes for a great place for a swim now days with plenty of trees around and enough openings to allow reasonably easy access to the water, it was a nice spot to float around on my back, watching the fluffy white clouds in then blue sky above me.
There is a small beach next to Golden Point Road.
I headed back across the spillway to this more secluded spot.
A cool swim in fresh water on a walk on a hot day. It's the simple things that make for a great day out.
Expedition Pass Reservoir 
I'm in my natural habitat!
All good things come to an end though and I eventually emerged from the refreshing water to drip dry for a bit, before pulling all my sweaty gear back on and setting off back to the ute. Crossing back over the spillway I retraced my route back out to Chapel Street but instead of following Chapel Street across Forest Creek I picked up a walking pad heading south along the creek flats on the eastern side of the creek. This next couple of kilometres along Forest Creek was probably the best walking of the day as the track meandered it’s way downstream along the grassy flats, passing though numerous old diggings on it’s journey. Actually there is so much mining history along here that it would be pretty hard to get a photo of the bush without the landscape having been altered in some way by man.
Crossing back over the spillway I dropped back down to Forest Creek.
I took this un-signposted track to the left, off Chapel Street.
The track along Chapel Street is more your traditional bushwalking track.
Forest Creek
Heading along Forest Creek, the country is looking very dry at the moment.
There is mining history everywhere you look along Forest Creek.
Arriving at Chinamans Point Road I resumed the 4wd track type of walking. Things get very vague along here, after following Ammans Road for a 100 metres or so I picked up a lesser, un-signposted 4wd track climbing west (away from the farmland). It’s fairly important to identify this track and then stay on it as it snakes its way past even more old diggings. The old 4wd track eventually climbs up onto a ridge crest and after another few hundred metres I re-joined my outward route on the Goldfields Track.
Approaching Chinamans Point Road.
Don't miss this spot. I left Ammans Road here and headed back into Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park along the old track on the right.
After a couple of switchbacks I arrived at the top of a ridge.
By now it was almost midday and the day was starting to get a little warm so I didn’t muck around as I retraced my mornings route, only really stopping to get a few more photos of the Garfield Water Wheel as I passed it. Wandering back down North Street I was soon back at Chewton and the ute, after taking off my sweaty boots and throwing my gear in the tray I jumped in and cranked up the air con. The ambient temperature was only reading 33˚ so it wasn’t super hot, I was still pretty happy to be finishing fairly early in the day though, especially as I drove home listening to all the 'watch and act' bushfire alerts on the radio.
Following the ridge crest north I soon met my outward Goldfields Track route (the yellow post).
With the sun a bit higher in the sky I used the opportunity to get another photo of the Garfield Water Wheel.
Dropping back into Chewton along North Street,  the walk was quickly coming to it's conclusion.
The Dirt.
I walked around 12 kilometres and climbed around 250 metres over the course of this Easy-Medium grade walk I’m guessing. As you can see from my map the stats that I got off that are fairly meaningless again today. I’ve jumped online and it seems that it isn’t uncommon for certain models of Garmin’s to lose satellites after a few hours, unfortunately the only fix that I can see is to save my track every two or three hours and then up load the various layers onto my map. I’ve had another go at editing my track but I’m still trying to nut that out, although for someone who has bugger all spare time and no technical ability it would be better if my GPS didn’t drop out every few hours....anyway….

This is a nice walk, the open forest and numerous historical gold mining relics add to the charm but for me the swim in Expedition Pass Reservoir was the highlight of the day. There are a few spots to access the water but I went in on the north side of the spillway. There are a couple of things to be a bit careful of up here though, the first is the multitude of tracks heading of at random intervals into the scrub, some are signposted and mapped but may are not. The other issue to be careful of is all the unfenced mine shafts scattered around. I used Glenn Tempest's notes out of his Victoria's Goldfields Walks book, it's walk number 13 in the book. Mr Thomas and Mr & Mrs Chapman have all written walks up around here I'm thinking. Parks Vic will also have some free stuff online no doubt.

Relevant Posts.
Castlemaine Gold, Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park, 2018.
Cobaw Forest Walk, Cobaw State Forest, 2018.
Maldon, 2014.

I arrived back at the ute just after lunch time so I beat the worst of the heat. It was still hot enough though!

Sorry about the dodgy map, I'm still trying to nut out the editing process.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Point Impossible, Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve - January 2019

Point Impossible
Finding myself stuck on the opposite side of Melbourne late one afternoon, I was looking for a short walk to eat up an hour or so before attempting the whole cross city drive thing. I’d never heard of this walk before but seeing as my notes suggested that the walk was only around 4.5 kilometres long I figured that I’d drop in and check it out. It turned out finding the start of the walk was the hardest navigational challenge of the day though. I set my Sat Nav for Point Impossible Road, Breamlea and ended up near enough to the start of the walk but stuck on the wrong side of Thompson Creek. After another look at my map and notes I keyed in Impossible Road and after a big loop back inland around the Thompson Creek Wetlands I arrived at my start point, just past the bridge on the dirt Impossible Road beside Thompson Creek.
I started my stroll just over the bridge on Impossible Road next to Thomson Creek.
Locking the ute, I left the small deserted car park and immediately dropped down onto the hard sand beside Thompson Creek, turned right and headed for the ocean. The late afternoon sky was fairly overcast today so my photos are a little ordinary and I really think I would of needed everything going for me to get great photos on this stroll. It was only a few hundred metres along the hard sand beside the creek until I arrived at the ocean, the short stroll featuring an old WW2 concrete gun battlement to check out on the way. The old gun emplacement has been undercut by erosion and doesn’t look the safest spot to explore so I was content this afternoon to photograph it from the outside.
Looking out towards Bass Strait along Thompson Creek. 
The old WW2 gun emplacement.
Arriving on the coast I started a fairly easy rock hop around part of Point Impossible, the rocks and rock shelfs making progress pretty easy even accounting for the fact that the tide was a fair way in. After a few minutes of rock hopping I arrived at one of the access tracks up to the Point Impossible car park and headed up. Unlike a lot of the nearby Surf Coast we are not talking huge cliffs at Point Impossible, the climb from the rocks to the car park probably gaining only five metres I’m thinking.
It was a pretty short and easy rock hop around Point Impossible before I climbed up to the car park.
Once in the Point Impossible car park I picked up the start of the long(ish) distance Surf Coast Walk and headed off west. This section of the Surf Coast Walk has to be the least inspiring section of the SCW walk I’m thinking, as the dirt track headed west bordered on one side by coastal dunes and on the other by Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve. Being in the middle of summer the wetlands in the reserve where pretty well dry now so there wasn’t a lot in the way of birds or animals to check out, so I basically just kept plodding my way west until I arrived at the dirt access road for Point Impossible Beach.
The Surf Coast Walk starts (or ends) here.
I'm not sure that this is the most inspiring section of the Surf Coast Walk.
Things were looking pretty dry out over the Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve.
Point Impossible Beach is a clothing optional job and after dropping down the beach access track I had a bit of a problem. I was now going to follow the beach back up to Point Impossible and complete the circuit part of this short stroll, however with the tide a long way in the beach was pretty narrow and it was a complete sausage fest, it appears that every middle aged bloke in the area had descended on the beach for a bit of free balling. Now that's all well and good if that’s what floats your boat, but it was going to make it hard to get a family friendly photo of the beach. Somewhat self consciously I snapped a photo from the access track and then had to trudge my way through the crowd as I headed east looking for clear sand. The good news here though was that it appears that my naturalist mates don’t like walking anymore than my 4wd mates as after 500 metres or so the punters had dropped off and I largely had myself a deserted beach.
Dropping down the access track to Point Impossible Beach I had to get a little creative with the photos.
Point Impossible Beach near high tide.
Point Impossible Beach
Point Impossible Beach at high tide meant that I was slogging my way through some fairly soft sand, although with the distance from the beach access track to Point Impossible only around a kilometre it was hardly onerous. Soon enough rocks started to appear on the narrow beach and I was once again approaching Point Impossible. According to my notes Point Impossible is a famous surf break for longboarders although with the choppy conditions this afternoon I had to use a lot of imagination. After a very easy rock hop around Point Impossible I again found myself beside Thompson Creek and retraced my footsteps along the hard sand back to the ute.
Point Impossible Beach
Heading towards Point Impossible. That's Buckleys Bay in the distance, probably named after a certain William Buckley who kicked around here with the local indigenous back in early 1800's for around thirty years.
Point Impossible
The Dirt.
According to the GPS I walked 4.3 kilometres and climbed 56 metres on this easy stroll. I’m thinking that this walk might be better on clear day in winter when Thomson Creek and the wetlands in Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve might have a bit more water. The beach section of this walk is also pretty soft although the walk along Thompson Creek was on firm sand. Like I mentioned earlier Point Impossible Beach is clothing optional so if that offends maybe give this walk a miss, it was a little cold for me to strip off and jump in this afternoon….maybe next time? Navigation is all pretty easy on this walk and I got by with my GPS map and the walk notes out of Julie Mundy’s book Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine & the Brisbane Ranges.

Relevant Posts.
Easy rock hopping around Point Impossible.
Heading back down Thompson Creek.