What did you do on Friday 13th, perhaps nothing if you are superstitious! Yet six members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, plus one member from the Junortoun Community Action Group, were out on the O’Keefe Rail Trail on 13 Nov, installing place name signs.
With four public bushland reserves directly connected to the O’Keefe Rail Trail in the Junortoun and Axedale areas, most trail users would not know that such reserves existed. Those areas might have looked like a ‘bush block’, yet were they private property or public reserves?
The Friends group approached the City of Greater Bendigo, highlighting the situation and seeking to have the council’s standard place name signs placed facing the rail trail at those public nature reserves. After consideration and investigation, the request was agreed to and the signs provided for installation. The signs were placed at the trail’s ‘Strathfieldsaye Station’ area, for the Junortoun Nature Reserve, at the Knul-doorong Woodland reserve (near Binks Rd and Somerset Park Rd), the Bennetts Rd Flora Reserve, and the trail’s ‘Axedale Station’ area of the Axedale Nature Conservation Reserve. With trail users now being well informed, its expected that these nature reserves are more likely to be explored and enjoyed.
A piece of forgotten land within the industrial East Bendigo area and adjacent to the O’Keefe Rail Trail, which had consisted of an informal drain and non-native plants due partly to the impacts of the 19th century gold mining era, is now being transformed into a natural reserve environment.
As a consequence of damage caused by a fire earlier in 2020, rehabilitation of the area is being undertaken by the City of Greater Bendigo’s Parks and Natural Reserve unit staff. The landscaping has included removal of pampas grass remnants, as well as shifting and contouring tonnes of soil to create ponds and waterways for frogs and other native animals.
Earthworks have created ponds and connecting waterways.Photo: Paul Ferguson
Recent planting of hundreds of native trees and shrubs, by State Government funded unemployment scheme (related to the current pandemic), has occurred between the O’Keefe Rail Trail and the Bendigo Railway Workshops (BRW). The plantings and mulching should see a significant change to this steep embankment area adjacent to the rail trail, having seen land use changes by the former Victorian Railways Workshops built in 1917.
Tree plantings along the embankment adjacent the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Paul Ferguson
While the rail trail users can still experience local historical points of interest, like going through the 1863 brick railway culvert or observing two amazing 1888’s railway related red brick lined drains, the transformation of the area will both encourage a return of native animals as well as be enjoyed by the public into the future.
Thinking about visiting Heathcote, Victoria for a day or weekend, yet wondering if there are enough opportunities locally to cycle or walk? Well if you are looking for some serious challenges, then choose the access road to Mount Ida to cycle up, take in the views, and then do the down hill ride! Or put the boots on to do a spot of bush walking in the same area, capped off with panoramic views.
Apart from the many forest tracks in the One Eye Forest or Heathcote-Graytown National Park, perhaps you are looking for something a little more relaxing, closer to a brewery, a winery cellar door, a cafe or a bakery? Then there are five (5) local close-to-town trails, which are provided with helpful way-finding signage.
Heathcote’s Trail Map, at the O’Keefe Rail Trail head, Herriot St. Photo: G.Long
Can’t decide whether to do the Liquid Amber Trail, the McIvor Creek Trail, the Pink Cliffs Trail, the Viewing Rock Trail, or the O’Keefe Rail Trail (doing a local section, or further to Lake Eppalock/Axedale/Bendigo)? Then do them all within one visit, or the return trip to Heathcote! Details and directions related to these trails can be viewed on street located maps (e.g. at the rail trail head in Herriot St, or in High St), otherwise chat to the friendly staff at the Visitor Information Centres in Heathcote and Bendigo.
The local communities along the O’Keefe Rail Trail have embraced the use of this trail during the current COVID19 restrictions. Both individuals, friends and families have been observed cycling, walking and running at various sections of the trail while maintaining ‘social distancing’.
Cyclists and walkers using the O’Keefe Rail Trail, Junortoun. 22 May Photo: G.Long
Whether accessing the trail from other linked trails, such as the Bendigo Creek Trail, or driving to one of the trail’s various carparks, people have been out exercising away from the ‘stay at home’ restrictions imposed. Local bike retailers have been swamped with bike repairs and new sales, such seeing family members out enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail in a natural environment and away from motor vehicle road traffic .
A family out enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail. 22 May Photo: G.Long
Trail traffic counters located on Bendigo area trails have seen an average of 100-120% increase in recent usage. Specifically, the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s cycling traffic count for March 2020 had seen an increase of 1000 cycle users (up 150%) on March 2019, and an even higher 190% increase for cycling during April 2020 compared with April 2019. With some users indicating that they were only aware of this rail trail for the very first time, it is expected that the increases in use of the trail will continue for both recreational exercise or commuting.
The Greater Bendigo area has many formal trails that await to be explored. While some of these trails are great for sharing a short walk or brief bike ride within urban areas, ie the Mulga Bill Trail, Back Creek Trail, there are other trails that allow for more challenging exercise over a greater distance i.e. O’Keefe Rail Trail or the Goldfields Track.
Back Creek Trail’s bridge art, Bendigo. Photo: Mar 2018 Garry Long
If an all-weather asphalt surfaced trail is the priority, then the Bendigo Creek Trail, Long Gully Trail, Back Creek Trail and Spring Gully Trail are some of the options available. Not only do many urban trails reveal ‘hidden’ points of interest, like under-bridge public art not able to be easily seen from urban streets, some trails enable a close connection with local lakes/reservoirs. The Grassy Flat Creek Trail, the Bendigo Creek Trail and Mulga Bill Trail link directly with local water recreational locations.
Grassy Flat Creek Trail, Kennington Reservoir, Strathdale. Photo: Feb 2020 Garry Long
Imagine an off-road trail running all the way from Melbourne to Bendigo, through towns like Wallan, Heathcote Junction, Kilmore, Pyalong, Tooborac, Heathcote, Axedale and including the now O’Keefe Rail Trail. How can you help to have this development occur?
One way is to make a ‘Give Now’ donation right now, to assist community efforts in lobbying Local, State and Federal governments, as your donation will help to put this trail ‘on their front page for funding’. Your donation will assist highlighting what the development of this linking trail will do, to build healthier communities and stronger local economies.
Regional Victoria seeks more rail trail cycle and walking tourism
Have you been out enjoying the O’Keefe Rail Trail this Aussie Day long weekend, or recently, and would like to tell the world how good it was? Well if not the world, at least tell those who care and want to make this trail even better than many other rail trails in Victoria!
One Eye Forest, Derrinal-Heathcote section, O’Keefe Rail Trail
Perhaps there were little things that need a tweak, an improvement, so that your family and friends will enjoy this trail and its towns even more when they get the chance?
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.
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!
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.