Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore rail trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Category Archives: Health and wellbeing

O’Keefe Trail Rated a Winner

Bendigo resident Keith Davenport definitely loves challenging himself, whether it is event running, road cycling in central Victoria, cycling in the French Alps, or jogging along beaches in his previous home country of New Zealand. His cycling interests also have broadened to include off-road gravel bikes that can be ridden along country roads, bush trails and rail trails.

Ride starts at the O’Keefe trail and Bendigo Creek Trail. Photo: K.Davenport 14 Aug 2019

A recent ride beginning and ending in Bendigo saw Keith include the O’Keefe Rail Trail to Heathcote for his first time, and after taking ‘time out’ at a Heathcote bakery, it was then off riding along quite country roads via Redesdale. The day’s total distance was to covered over 100kms. Asked what he thought of the rail trail section, Keith responded “It was actually much better than I thought, should have done it long ago”.

Site of the former Heathcote Railway Station is reached. Photo: K.Davenport 14 Aug 2019

“I really enjoyed riding this trail, it is well maintained and signposted. There is enough variety in terms of terrain and features that it doesn’t become boring in the way that some rail trails can. I really hope that it gets extended right through to Wallan” said Keith, “ as it would be great to be able to ride most of the way from Bendigo to Melbourne on these kind of safe, easy to ride trails.” No doubt Keith will return again, probably with family and friends, to enjoy what the O’Keefe Rail Trail, Axedale and Heathcote have to offer.

Golden Wattles in Bloom along Trail

Spring in the Bendigo bush is just around the corner, which is a great time to experience the local natural bush environment highlighting the seasonal change with its flowers. Such was the ideal time this week for the U3A Bendigo Walking Group, who’s members headed out on a planned walk along the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

O’Keefe Rail Trail water station utilised by U3A Bendigo walkers Photo: Margaret Hanson

With the Golden Wattles (Acacia pycnantha) early blooms creating a splash of bright yellow, such made a lovely setting to enjoy the trail walk. Its no surprise that the enthusiastic members definitely had a chat or two along the way, as well as including a morning tea break.

U3A Bendigo Walking Group members walking the trail with wattles. Photo: Liz Martin 28 Aug 2019

Of course the walkers did need to dress accordingly for the expected cool day out walking the rail trail, as it was the very tail end of formal winter in Victoria!

Trees, Trails and Volunteers

The old saying that “many hands make light work” is often true when it comes to volunteering, and this was the case for the 2019 National Tree Day (NTD). Planning by the City of Greater Bendigo council’s Parks and Open Spaces staff identified the O’Keefe Rail Trail in East Bendigo as one of three Bendigo sites for this annual tree planting activity. Together with council support, the Longlea Landcare Group chose the Axedale River Reserve as a NTD site, which is also closely connected with the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

Volunteers at National Tree Day 2019, Axedale River Reserve. Photo: Longlea Landcare

As with previous local NTD activities involving this rail trail reserve, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members were again keen to be involved along with other community members. With 70 volunteers at Axedale successfully planting 700 trees, and 80 volunteers at the O’Keefe Rail Trail site East Bendigo planting 3000 plants, it was a great community effort.

Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members Rob and Nola Jarvis. Photo: Paul Harrison. 28 July 2019

As world leaders currently attempt to address the issue of large scale burning of Brazil’s Amazon Forest, such concerns are based upon the science that trees and plants provide many environmental benefits like improving air quality. Trees also help to control the heat in cities and urban areas, as well as countless health benefits for individuals such as reducing stress and promoting physical activity.

At a local level, the O’Keefe Rail Trail reserve’s environment will again benefit from the outcomes of the 2019 National Tree Day in the future, not only for trail users yet also helping to improve habitats for native animals and birds.

Enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail

Looking for a place to enjoy a picnic or a quick snack while cycling on the O’Keefe Rail Trail? Need to top up your water bottle, whilst out walking along the trail in the peaceful surroundings of its natural environment?

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail continue to work with the City of Greater Bendigo, to provide important trail user facilities along the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Council’s contractors have recently upgraded access to the trail’s Axe Creek bridge picnic area, providing a new gravel surface whilst also improving the storm-water drainage.

Access upgrade for the rail trail’s Axe Creek picnic area, June 2019. Photo Ken Hanson

The trail’s new water station near Bennetts Rd Junortoun has also seen its access area upgraded with a new gravel surface, which has improved the adjoining picnic table and seats’ immediate area. Not only great facilities for the general public, this section of trail is often used by the likes of SCOPE Loddon Mallee for its Bendigo client’s outings.

New potable water station and picnic area, Bennetts Rd Junortoun, June 2019. Photo: Ken Hanson

A second water station has recently been installed next to the trail’s Bike Repair Station at Axedale Park, providing facilities for both trail users as well as those enjoying the Park.

Historic Forest Ride to Rushworth

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.

Grass Trees in Heathcote-Graytown National Park

Grass Trees in Heathcote-Graytown National Park

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.

Rider’s lunch at Rushworth. Photo Greg Ralton

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.

‘Trails and Ales’ for The O’Keefe Challenge Ride

The ‘Light the Trail’ event is promising to be something special in 2019. Riders will be using the Axedale to Heathcote section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail for event in The O’Keefe Challenge’s weekend of activities, which also includes the iconic Mandalay Resources O’Keefe Marathon and other events.

The Light the Trail ride destination will be Heathcote, with the end of the ride seeing riders roll into Palling Bros. Brewery on High St in Heathcote. This will be a unique experience, with riders cycling from Axedale to Heathcote guided by their bike’s own light, and possibly by the moon also! Riders will be encouraged to also ‘light up’ their bike, as well as themselves!

Light The Trail. Photo: G.Long

Light The Trail. Photo: G.Long

At the event’s finish location, Palling Bros. Brewery, prizes will be awarded for ‘Best Illuminated Outfit’, ‘Best Lit Bike’ plus an ‘Encouragement Award’ for those who have demonstrated the spirit of The O’Keefe Challenge.

Date: Friday, 26 April 2019.

Location: Axedale to Heathcote (26km)

Time: 6:00pm for a 6:30pm start

More details and registrations via this link

Bicycle Network Supports Rail Trail Development

Connecting the Melbourne trail network directly into regional central Victoria, via safe off-road trails proposal has the full support of Bicycle Network. The key missing link is the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail proposal.

Seeing first hand the enthusiastic work by community groups, like Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, Mitchell Bicycle User Group and Bike Bendigo, who are involved with this proposal had Bicycle Network’s CEO Craig Richards amazed. “What this would do for bike riding in Victoria is extraordinary” said Craig, from his recent visit to Bendigo and the O’Keefe Rail Trail. The network linking of the O’Keefe trail, the Goldfields Track, and a proposed Heathcote to Murchison Trail would open up many opportunities to explore wine regions and country hospitality for cyclists and walkers.

BN Logo

Bicycle Network’s newsroom article Friends of the rail trail show the way tells how passionate community groups support improving the health and wellbeing of their communities, as well as small businesses involved with the active tourism market. With the City of Greater Bendigo council and Mitchell Shire council supporting the rail trail proposal, a staged development of this linking trail will depend upon support and funding by the Victorian State government.

U3A Connects with Rail Trail

The O’Keefe Rail Trail attracts all age groups, so it is no surprise that the U3A Bendigo Bushwalking group utilise this popular trail for planned walks. For the unaware, the acronym U3A stands for the University for the Third Age, and it is all about shared learning in mature years.

On 13 December, 15 members of the group gathered at the Axedale Park, although stormy weather was threatening their planned walk on the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Not to be deterred, the members set off to enjoy the natural environment that the trail provides. It wasn’t long before the umbrellas were out, as the walkers neared the former Axedale railway station area on the trail.

Bendigo U3A Walking Group. O'Keefe Rail Trail Axedale. 15 Dec 2018

Bendigo U3A Walking Group. O’Keefe Rail Trail, Axedale. 15 Dec 2018. Photo: Joy Clusker

Here an inspection of the historic railway wagon recalled some past memories, such as standing on similar station platforms waiting for a steam train or observing shunting of such wagons.

U3A member Graeme Balaam inspects the railway wagon. 15 Dec 2018

U3A member Graeme Balaam inspects the railway wagon. 15 Dec 2018. Photo Joy Clusker

With thunder and lightning occurring in the distance, this prompted an unplanned turnaround back to Axedale. Nearing the Park, and having walked for about one hour, it was most likely the thought of a coffee at the Axedale Tavern that quickened the return walking pace!

Even though it had rained, all the members enjoyed the scenery and how well the trail was maintained. The group also came across a couple of cyclists while on the trail, who cheerfully shared the path with the walkers. More information about the U3A Bendigo Inc can be found on their web page.

Trails to Explore in Central Victoria

Thinking about cycling or walking a rail trail, yet wondering which one? Wanting to know what other trail users comments are about a trail that you are considering?

The Uncool Cycling Club is one such reference that shares the experiences of author Helen Dominish, for trails located in most Australian States. The review of the O’Keefe Rail Trail in June 2017, as posted, shows a number of aspects and points of interest of this increasingly popular trail.

O'Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Helen Dominish June 2017

O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Helen Dominish June 2017

As well as this positive trail experience, the Uncool Cycling Club also posts reviews of other trails in the central Victorian area, such as the Castlemaine to Maldon Trail, the Murchison (Waranga) Rail Trail,  Ballarat Skipton Rail Trail, and the Great Victorian Rail Trail. 

Unreviewed trails in the Bendigo city urban area, to be considered for inclusion when selecting trails to explore, are The Bendigo Creek Trail, the Back Creek/Spring Gully Trail, the Long Gully Trail, as well as the Bendigo Bushland Trail and the Goldfields Trail (Victoria). Of course as Victoria has the most rail trails of any Australian state, its not to hard to add other trails to the above options!

NZ Seeks Out Aussie Trails!

Have you seen this man riding in Victoria very recently, or perhaps you will in the coming days? This is Lance from Auckland New Zealand, who has come specifically to ride some of this State’s major trails. Having rode many of NZ’s amazing trails, on both islands, it was time for Lance to do some of the Aussie trails.

Aussie Trail seeking Lance from Auckland NZ. 30 Nov 2018

Aussie Trail seeking Lance, from Auckland NZ, at Axedale. 30 Nov 2018

Arriving at Melbourne Airport, it was Ballarat where Lance started his trail riding adventure, first tackling the Goldfields Track (Victoria) that took him through Creswick, Daylesford, Castlemaine to Bendigo. Not wasting any time, it was straight onto the O’Keefe Rail Trail, where he was later noticed at Axedale seeking breakfast. With his fully loaded mountain bike, Lance’s accommodation is a tent, so what better way to enjoy the natural environment where ever possible! “This O’Keefe Rail Trail is a fantastic experience!” said Lance after having breakfast at the Axedale Tavern, as he was then headed off towards the Campaspe River on the trail, “Perhaps I’ll see a platypus, if I’m lucky!”

Once reaching Heathcote, he would next be riding certain country roads to Tallarook, his starting point for the Great Victorian Rail Trail though to Mansfield. The plan for this outdoor adventurer would be to then cross the Yarra Ranges on roads to Warburton, there linking with the Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail. Once at Lilydale, Lance planned to catch a Metro train, and then onto Melbourne Airport to fly back to NZ, so completing his Aussie (Victorian) trail adventure this time. There was a hint that he just might be back, perhaps after his plans to ride the Trans Canada Trail next!