Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

Category Archives: Natural environment

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 More Than Just a Rail Trail

What was going to hold the interest of four girlfriends’ heading out for a planned two day country escape away on bikes? Would central Victoria’s O’Keefe Rail Trail provide the spark to keep the momentum happening, create a level of excitement to be remembered, plus along the way deliver surprises both on and off the trail?

Ready to Ride the O’Keefe Rail Trail Photo: Allison Stephens

Well one of those cyclists Allison Stephens visually captured such an ‘escape’ earlier this year, while out there cycling and enjoying an O’Keefe trail ride with three of her friends. They cycling from Bendigo via Axedale to Heathcote, and then returned later the next day to catch a V/Line train back to Melbourne.

 

It was all about a “100km of trail, 2 flat tires, a few beers, a mob of roo’s and a dog named Lexie! (Allison Stephens)

Checking out Rifle Butts platform, on the O’Keefe Rail Trail Photo: Allison Stephens

This off-road trail and its connected towns just have to be one of Victoria’s best kept secrets……and its open 24/7 every month of the year in regional Australia!

Trail Ride and Heritage Train

While dressed for a cool Victorian winter’s day, clear blue skies saw members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail (FBKRT) heading out to ride the Castlemaine to Maldon Trail. This 18km trail was opened in 2017, and shares the railway easement with the historic goldfields branch line still used by the Victorian Goldfields Railway (VGR).

The ride arrives at Muckleford Station, as did a VGR train. Photo: Paul Ferguson

While there is an annual event ‘Race The Train’ held, such was not the plan by FBKRT members enjoying the natural environment and observed historic timber railway bridges while riding at a slower pace. After arriving at the Muckleford station, the trail’s mid-point, the group were delighted to observe a family of Spotted Pardalotes near the station seemingly not concerned by a passing tourist steam train.

VGR train to depart Muckleford station for Castlemaine. Photo: Christine Scott

The planned destination of the historic Maldon was reached by the ride group for a well-earned coffee, with lunch had at the historic Kangaroo Hotel while observing the vistas of Victoria’s first notable town. It was then a short ride to the Maldon station to load the bikes onto the VGR steam loco hauled train, for the return trip to Castlemaine. It was agreed the trail was achievable for most riders on MTB or similar gravel bikes, the day really enjoyed and definitely a ride to be repeated.

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.

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!

 

National Tree Day at Axedale

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.

Rail Trail volunteers Zeke, Maika and Mal Ward, Nancy Jarvis, Ken Hanson, and Rob Jarvis

Rail Trail volunteers Zeke, Maika and Mal Ward, Nola Jarvis, Ken Hanson, and Rob Jarvis

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!

Trail Riders had a Goal!

It was just after sunrise that some volunteers began mulching around new plants along a section of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, so as to beat working in the heat of the day. These were members of the Longlea and District Landcare plus Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, all helping to restore a section of the trail’s natural environment in Junortoun.

Volunteers mulch new plants for the summer period. Photo: G. Long

Volunteers mulch new plants on O’Keefe Rail Trail, for the summer period. Photo: G. Long

Just as this work was nearing completion, a cycling group of mainly female members from a Bridgewater and Newbridge ‘spin class’ were assembling on the O’Keefe Rail Trail. The group had travelled to Bendigo for this planned outing, ‘escaping’ their usual gym class room. Of course as well as enjoying the social company, there had to be a goal for those involved, and this may not have been just to complete the round trip of about 30kms. Apparently the attraction for some was the mid-point lunch booking, at the Axedale Tavern!

The ride begins along the O'Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: G. Long

The ride for the group begins, along the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: G. Long

Restoring a natural environment, improved a community’s health and wellbeing, and adding benefits to the local economy were just some of the day’s outcomes on the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

Volunteers create a future natural environment trail corridor

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.

Volunteers planting and mulching on O'Keefe Rail Trail, Junortoun.

Volunteers planting and mulching along the O’Keefe Rail Trail, Junortoun.

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!