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Linking central Victoria via the old railway line
What to do on cool yet sunny autumn Sunday in central Victoria? Well ten riders from the Mitchell Bicycle Users Group (MBUG) and ten riders from the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail headed out to ride all or part of a route between Heathcote and Rushworth.
The riders were able to experience the Heathcote-Graytown National Park, pass by Mt Ida, Mt Camel, and the Gobarup Nature Conservation Reserve, as well as through the Whroo Nature Conservation Reserve. As the planned morning tea location, the major attraction of the Whroo Historical Area is the significant Balaclava Mine, which is an open-cut mine in the now Australian ‘ghost town’ of Whroo. Mining in this open cut ceased in the 1920’s, yet the site remains a visual reminder of the former gold rush era.
Due to a timing issue (was it a head wind, or distractions on route?), unfortunately the two groups did not meet as planned to share a cuppa and Anzac biscuits at the Whroo Historical Area, yet Rushworth businesses definitely benefited as the group members enjoyed lunch at either the MotoFinish Cafe or the Rushworth Bakery in Rushworth.
A good coffee and some home-cooked food was a great way to finish exploring this part of a proposed Heathcote to Murchison Trail, for which the Campaspe Shire Council is currently seeking funding for completing the current open section of the Waranga Rail Trail.
Travelling as a cycle tourist was the theme at the Friends’ AGM held on 16 October, presented by Melbourne based guest speakers Margie Joyce and Neil McKinnon.
Relating their experiences on various touring rides through Europe, more recently in Canada, or within Australia, planning for cycle friendly routes with good signage are of paramount importance. Whether visiting small villages or large cities, the bike computer for navigation and mobile phone web searches for accommodation and meals are key tools. Tips were also highlighted for local tourism operators, seeking to attract the cycling tourist market.
President Garry Long’s annual report outlined the many significant activities in which members had participated, the achievements to upgrade the O’Keefe Rail Trail, and made reference to the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail proposal’s progress.
The Executive Office bearers for 2018-19 are President Garry Long, Vice President Kevin Thiele, Secretary Paul Ferguson, and Treasurer Colin Campbell.
What does it mean to be a cycle tourist, how do business tourism operators attract a bigger slice of the fast growing cycle tourism segment? The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail’s upcoming AGM guest speakers will present their personal knowledge on this topic, which will be a chance opportunity to hear of their experiences.
Melbourne based Margie Joyce and Neil McKinnon will share their love of cycling adventurers and what cycle tourists look for, both during the planning stage and whilst on the adventure. Having cycle toured Tasmania, France, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, the United Kingdom and Eastern Canada, Margie and Neil are well qualified to convey the needs and experiences of a cycle tourist.
The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail AGM will be held on 16th October, 6:45pm start at the Cycling Clubrooms, Tom Flood Centre, Water St Bendigo.
From grandparents to grandchildren, community volunteer participation was the highlight for the 2018 National Tree Day event held at Axedale on Sunday 29 July. This site event was coordinated by Longlea and District Landcare, with support from the City of Greater Bendigo.
Approximately 70 volunteers planted out about 1600 native trees and grasses at the selected Campaspe River Reserve area. National Tree Day and Schools Tree Day combine to make Australia’s largest community tree planting event. aiming to inspire, educate and recruit Australians to actively care for this unique land.
With the O’Keefe Rail Trail passing close by the event site, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members assisted other community groups, local school children and individuals for the planting activity. Of course the socially engaging event finished off with a tasty BBQ lunch to be remembered. This new planted area is expected to enhance this river environment, to be enjoyed by rail trail users, fishermen and local walkers in the future years. This may also have a positive impact on the local bird and platypus populations too!
The former Wallan to Bendigo railway had trains carrying passengers and goods for most of the 70 years for the Bendigo – Heathcote section, between 1888 and 1958. The O’Keefe Rail Trail has been located on sections of this former railway reserve since 1992.
An initiative of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group was to create another link between the rail trail and that former railway, with an historic static display of a 20th century railway wagon. The location for this display was to be the former Axedale Railway Station site, where a replica platform had recently been constructed by the group. Not only is this an historic link with a past means of transport, it is also expected to be an educational opportunity for school children and younger adults.
This project has just recently taken another step forward from the planning stage, with the delivery of a former Victorian Railways ‘GY’ 4-wheel wagon. Also as an added historic link to the Bendigo area, this particular wagon was one of a number manufactured at the VR North Bendigo Railway Workshops between 1955 and 1957.
The transportation of the wagon to Axedale was made possible by a community grant provided by the Fosterville Gold Mine and Kirkland Lake Gold. This grant has been very much appreciated by the group, as was the assistance provided by local transport company A2B Move It. The project’s next stage will see the refurbishment of the wagon for public display.
The City of Greater Bendigo council thanked its volunteers with a special morning tea held at Bendigo’s Ulumbarra Theatre on 24 May, as part of National Volunteer Week.
In 2018, the City has more than 500 volunteers who contribute around 30,000 hours per year to assist delivering important services to the community and the local region.
Some of the enthusiastic Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members joined with others to hear the Mayor Cr Margaret O’Rourke extend a big “Thank You” to all who were present as well as those who were unable to attend. It was also an opportunity for attendees to meet other volunteers, to hear of their positive contributions being made not only to benefit the local community yet also adding to the experience of visitors to the region.
The National Ride to School day event for the Axedale Primary School each year involves one of their school’s favourite adopted ‘school facility’, the O’Keefe Rail Trail. This National activity provides an opportunity for students, parents and teachers to try riding, walking, skating or scooting to school as well as celebrating the regular walkers and riders. And Axedale school community really does get behind this National initiative.
From this small rural school, students from all age groups were involved as well as teachers and parents plus the ride being assisted by Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members. At the early morning start time of 7:30am, from the designated Longlea Lane start point, this saw an excited bunch of older students ready to share the whole experience on the rail trail. As the ride group rode closer towards the school, the younger age students and parents joined the group at various points along the trail.
The ‘official’ 2018 photo was taken at the recently constructed replica Axedale Railway Station platform on the O’Keefe Rail Trail, where the student’s enthusiasm for the morning’s ride overflowed!
One of the attractions of the O’Keefe Rail Trail is it provides an escape into a natural environment, a reserve that can be close to urban areas, be within forests, stretching across a lake, or adjoining farming properties. The landscape through which the trail passes is quite varied, which creates a special ‘formula’ that makes such trails popular and enjoyable.
Over a number of years, both the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail and the Longlea Landcare group have assisted to re-vegetate sections of the former railway reserve that had lost most of the native trees and grasses. For the 2017 National Tree Day, a section of trail close to the McIvor Hwy in Junortoun was selected to be re-vegetated with tube stock plants. The City of Greater Bendigo’s Parks staff supported the project, by deep ripping the soil in preparation and also providing 1000 trees and grasses.
While storm clouds drifted past in the distance, volunteers armed with shovels turned up to ‘get their hands dirty’ on the day, as well as enjoying some socialising with others. Thankfully the rain storm held off, and after just a few hours of effort, viewing a sea of tree guards protecting the new plants was a very satisfying sight for all those present.
With occasional care, the area will become a new section of natural ‘bush’, to be enjoyed by the local community and trail users. This will also provide native birds and animals with an area to breed, feed, and shelter in, part of a continuous natural corridor. Through the willingness of these volunteers on one day, their efforts will create a ‘win win’ situation for all!
It’s not that long ago when motorists often faced wooden railway gates at road crossings within Melbourne’s metro train network, closed by VR staff to prevent motor vehicles proceeding when trains were scheduled.
Yet who would have guessed that most early regional Victorian Railway (VR) lines also had such gates at many relatively low traffic rural road crossings in the late 19th century. This was so for the original Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst line, built 1888-1890. At that time, each gate installation had a permanent Gate Keeper plus a railway house as well. One such Gate Keeper’s house still remains in Heathcote. Most rural railway gates were removed during the early part of the 20th century.
Seeking to reinstate elements of former railway historical infrastructure, on the now O’Keefe Rail Trail, Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members were keen to obtain a set of original railway gates. After a long search, an old set of stored gates in a poor state were finally located in Melbourne, and then subsequently approved for allocation to the group by PTV. With a City of Greater Bendigo Community Grant awarded, and assistance from Semi Trailer Sales Pty Ltd, Friends member Ken Hanson set about leading a project to rebuild these gates in Bendigo.
With additional assistance from Powercor, Council, Lions Club of Heathcote, and painter John Mead, the 6-metre-long gates were installed with their final coat of paint being applied at Heathcote. This siting was close to an original gates location at Herriot St, near the former Heathcote Railway Station.
The gates now provide a ‘safe’ pathway for trail users into the Lions Club’s rail trail shelter area, a great place to meet people, and enjoy what the O’Keefe Rail Trail now has to offer.
Some of Santa’s Helpers were spotted riding along on the O’Keefe Rail Trail this past weekend in East Bendigo! The five riders, dressed in red and white plus matching hats ,were full of laughter and heading from Bendigo to Strathfieldsaye.
Unsure whether Santa on his sleigh (non motorised!) was also expected to be using the trail, yet his helpers were definitely happy not to be mixing their trip (or drinks!!) with the busy pre-Christmas road traffic.
The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail wish their many followers and supporters a safe, happy Christmas and New Year. May you enjoy some ‘escape’ time exploring trails, meeting new friends, spending trail time with family, tasting local wines or produce, perhaps even ‘getting lost’ enjoying the Australian natural bush over the festive holiday season!