It was the last day of winter, as cyclists gathered for the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Tail’s ‘Last Wednesday of the Month’ social ride. Selecting the 17.7km Castlemaine Maldon Trail for this ride, this is a trail that weaves its way through stunning natural surroundings while always within view of the historic Victorian Goldfields Railway.
Starting at the Castlemaine Railway station in cool conditions, the meandering Campbells Creek Trail linked the riders with the start of the Castlemaine Maldon Trail. Heading towards Maldon, elements of the railway’s infrastructure including the Muckleford Creek timber pile bridge and the Muckleford railway station were seen. Following recent heavy rainfall, there were a few challenges had along the way while navigating sections of water and soft trail conditions.
After a quick look around the station, it was back on the bikes heading for Maldon’s Kangaroo Hotel where lunch had been arranged. Cycling past the heritage Maldon railway station, the former Beehive Mine’s chimney and viewing the historic town’s street scapes, it was a country pub lunch that was next to be enjoyed by the six riders.
The return to Castlemaine ride plan had the options of either riding back along the trail or putting bikes on the steam loco hauled train to be immersed in early 20th century heritage travel. Some of the more energetic riders from Bendigo chose another option, and rode from Maldon on roads back to Bendigo via Lockwood South.
Representing a number of regional communities, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail together with the Mitchell Bicycle Users Group call upon the Victorian State Government to prioritise future funding for the Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail project, in accordance with Bicycle Network’s submission to the State Government’s 2022/23 budget.
2.1 Extend the O’Keefe Rail Trail (Submission extract from pages 9&10)
Bicycle Network recommends a funding commitment to extend Central Victoria’s O’Keefe Rail Trail from Heathcote to Wallan…….
A 2017 feasibility study outlined the strategic merit for advancing the WHRT project, concluding that the economic benefits ($23.1 million) outweigh the costs…….
Bicycle Network views the O’Keefe Rail Trail extension as an exciting enhancement of the O’Keefe Rail Trail which will pave the way for a number of exciting opportunities:…..
We strongly encourage the Victorian Government to support local businesses, historical societies, and the general bike riding public by providing the $17.18 million in funding to complete the extension.
While unfortunately the approved State Government’s 2022/23 budget did not included funding for this project, the President of the Friends of the Bendigo Kilmore Rail Trail Colin Scott said “It’s time for more investment in developing cycling and walking infrastructure in regional areas. Such investment will assist small tourist related businesses to employ and stimulate local economies.”
In 2021, the Victorian Government took action to support regional sectors by launching the ‘Stay Close, Go Further’ campaign, encouraging Victorians to get out and explore their backyard. “Rail trails do just this!” Mr Scott said, “Offering Victorians and visitors the chance to explore and spend in regional communities, whilst getting active.” With significant community support for ongoing investment in regional rail trails, the State government is encouraged to place such development as a priority in future budgets.
With Victoria hosting the 2026 Commonwealth Games, and Bendigo being one of four regional hubs selected to hold a number of the events, such a proposed trail link between Craigieburn and Heathcote (and Bendigo) would open up a high value regional trail network of international significance to compliment the Melbourne metro trail network. This web of trails would also provide regional active links with the public transport hubs of Southern Cross Station and the Melbourne Airport.
Like to have your input into regional trail developments for future State budget allocations, as well as investment in the 2026 Commonwealth Games to provide lasting infrastructure legacies beyond the competition period for regional Victoria? Then you could contact and email –
Minister for Commonwealth Games Delivery, Hon. Jacinta Allan
While the Victorian winter weather can be both challenging and difficult to predict, the monthly bike ride in July by the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail was lucky enough to pick a perfect day to enjoy.
Not only is the ‘Last Wednesday of the Month’ ride a chance for a social gathering while exercising, this particular ride also was lucky enough to have a former Huntly resident Lindsay Clay to inform all who participated about the history of Huntly as well as experiencing some of the surrounding local tracks.
The next Friends monthly ride is planned for 31 August, with details to be forwarded to Friends members. Prospective members are welcomed to join these rides, which are usually planned to be held along local off-road trails and tracks.
The Knowsley Forest’s Smart Track Day Visitor Area has recently had new facilities installed for users arriving in this forest enclosed environment. With this area just 800metres from the crossing point of the forest’s Smart Track with the O’Keefe Rail Trail, it is an easy wayfinding signed connection for trail users to walk or cycle to this visitor area.
To complement existing facilities such as the toilets, a gas BBQ under shelter, and various seating/tables that were installed in late 2021 adjacent to the water dam, there has been new stainless steel designer bike racks installed.
Also installed is an impressive new interpretive sign provided by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP). The outcome of the sign, with its focus on the O’Keefe Rail Trail, has been a collaborative effort between DELWP and Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group.
The Friends group contributed historical and informative content for the signage, while DELWP worked with a graphic artist and metal fabrication specialist to create an interesting metal art sculpture that integrates elements of the O’Keefe Rail Trail’s branding.
To also enable visitors in motor vehicles to share the space with trail users at this Smart Track Day Visitor Area, directional signs have been installed at the forest’s McIvor Highway entrances to enable easy access to enjoy this natural yet managed forest environment. The area’s users are reminded to take with them all items and any rubbish upon leaving, hence allowing others to also enjoy this forest and its facilities.
Friends, cyclists and community members came together at Café Essence in Bendigo to wish Rob and Bron Nelson well for the next chapter in their lives. Rob and Bron’s involvement in the Bendigo community over the past 11 years has been significant, in particular with cycling in the TT Riders group and various roles in the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group for Rob, and singing in Women of Note for Bron.
Rob had also volunteered as a Youth Advocate in Bendigo, and as such was called upon at any time of the day or night to sit in on Police interviews with young people who didn’t otherwise have adult representation. With Bron and Rob’s daughter and her family living in Broome WA, a decision was made to sell their Lockwood property and relocate to Broome thereby bringing the family closer together, especially with their only granddaughter.
Part of the farewell function included a special poem written and read by Geoffrey Graham (link to the poem) as well as presenting Rob and Bron with a locally made gift manufactured partly from railway dog spikes. Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail president Colin Scott reflected on the Nelson couple’s time in Bendigo, including recent health challenges that Rob has endured. On behalf of those present and the Friends group, Colin wished them both all the best for the future, safe traveling and stated that they will be missed by all their friends in the Bendigo area.
With a temperature of just one-degree Celsius providing a cold winter’s morning start, volunteer members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail community group came together for a working bee at the O’Keefe Rail Trail in Heathcote.
The work location was at Pink Cliffs Rd, where a previous working bee had relocated a gate and fence from a nearby location along the trail. The work plan was to plant tube stock trees that would both enhance the surrounding natural landscape in the future, as well as provide an extended barrier to the installed fence. Having plenty to do, the group were soon organised and most quickly forgot about the cold temperature conditions! To help the future success of the planting, metal mesh tree guards were assembled in the hope of these discouraging the plentiful numbers of local kangaroos from trying to eat the new plants.
The success of the day’s efforts saw about 45 trees being planted, mulched, and staked guards erected, all with the assistance of planning by council’s Park and Natural Reserves staff. While reflecting on the success of day’s outcomes, those involved later shared their rail trail experiences and proposed future O’Keefe Rail Trail extension plans over coffees at the local bakery.
What better way to attend a formal daytime meeting, by cycling using the O’Keefe Rail Trail! The Axedale Tavern was the venue for the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail’s June General Meeting, with members and guests attending having options as to how they would get to the Axedale Tavern. With about 20 people attending the meeting, some choosing ‘active transport’ by riding the rail trail from Bendigo, some cycled from Heathcote, while others arrived by car.
Guest speaker at the meeting was the Axedale Tavern’s co-owner, Garry Van Wynen. Garry highlighted the benefits that the O’Keefe Rail Trail had brought to the Tavern’s business, most notably since the Friends group had become involved with the trail’s development. The specific increase in business was attributed to trail-related cyclists and walkers, who visited the Tavern either for coffee and cake, or stayed longer for lunch. In particular, it was noted that a significant number of visitors were coming from Metropolitan Melbourne, as well as interstate.
President of the Friends of the Great Victorian Rail Trail (GVRT), Ross Vaughan, was also a guest at the meeting. Ross mentioned the recent activities that had occurred on the GVRT such as athlete running events, which included a marathon, together with two separate fundraising cycling events. Challenges to improve and promote the trail were still being encountered by their community-based Friends group, in particular with regard to seeking specific support from the trail’s associated local government councils.
Members and guests enjoyed the conviviality of the Axedale Tavern, whilst at the same time being focused on General Meeting matters. It is expected that some future meetings of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail will be scheduled at different locations linked to the O’Keefe Rail Trail, as well as the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail.
It’s easy to be a regular user of the O’Keefe Rail Trail and assume that nothing new has been happening for this popular 50km trail! Reality can be quite different; yet can those changes be easy to spot?
Members of the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail have a keen focus on ensuring that the O’Keefe Rail Trail remains safe and attractive for use, with any identified issues or minor improvements required provided to the City of Greater Bendigo council staff for assessment. From such input, recently council contractors have been upgrading sections of the trail’s older surfaces in the Junortoun and Heathcote areas.
To assist council with trail improvements, members of the Friends group recently held a working bee. Due to the trail’s adjoining private land having a new access road constructed in Heathcote, it was decided to shift a trail gate and fence from within the former railway’s cutting behind the Heathcote hospital.
The new location for the gate and fence was to be at the trail’s current formal eastern most point, at Pink Cliffs Rd Heathcote.
With a new ‘Whistle Post’ trail sign having recently been installed at Pink Cliffs Rd site by the Friends’ members, this relocated gate and fence will now help add trail identity as well as provide a noticeable barrier for non-conforming vehicle access.
It is the ambition of this community representative Friends group that from this Pink Cliffs Rd location, the trail will be extended further eastwards along the former railway reserve and become part of the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail in the future, once funding is secured.
Community determination and fund raising efforts has paid dividends, with the Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail being the beneficiary of a feasibility report grant. The Victorian government’s Enabling Tourism Fund will invest $120,000, adding to locally committed funds, to enable an investigation into the proposed 55km rail trail.
Both the Mount Alexander Shire and Central Goldfields Shire had both previously committed study funding for this proposed trail located within both municipalities, which was then matched by the on-line fund raising efforts driven by the community group Friends of the Castlemaine-Maryborough Rail Trail.
With the proposed trail to connect the towns of Castlemaine, Campbells Creek, Guildford, Newstead, Carisbrook and Maryborough, the economic tourism benefits for those town’s businesses will be one of the feasibility study’s critical matters to be investigated. The popularity of walking and cycling by local community members, as well as the growing active tourist market being attracted to regional areas, are both positive factors in favour of this rail trail’s development.
Exciting times are ahead for this proposed trail, which can be attributed to the continuing efforts of key individuals being supported by the local councils and communities.
Getting up close to inspiring old timber railway bridges and enjoying a country pub lunch were just some of the experiences that riders had, while on the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group’s monthly ride for May.
Not only did the Tooborac to Pyalong ride’s route include sections of the former railway alignment that the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail may utilise, it also had the riders walking up ‘Gut Busters Hill’ on Basin Hill Road. Yes they walked, as it was so steep that no one managed to ride all the way to the top!! Ride leader Lindsay Clay summarised that achievement by commenting “What a beautiful view it is from here!”
Some of the other many points of interest experienced along the way were the impressive Mollison Creek ‘trestle’ railway bridge, the deep railway cutting with its pink cliffs south of Mollison Ck, and the Hayes Ck timber railway bridge just south of Pyalong.
Former Mitchell Shire councillor David Atkinson was one of the riders enjoying this ride and commented on the Hayes Creek bridge. “Most of us had never seen that amazing bridge before, as it is so hidden from the Northern Hwy” said David.
The riders re-fuelled at the Pyalong Hotel for lunch, and shared stories with publican Scott about how fantastic the ride from Tooborac to Pyalong had been, and what important attractions Pyalong has with those two historic timber railway bridges. Scotty didn’t take up the chance to join the ride back to Tooborac, yet for the others there was the Tooborac Hotel and Brewery as the optional next experience!!