Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore rail trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

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!

Guest Speakers have an interesting story to tell!

The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail’s Annual General Meeting will be on Tuesday 10th October at the Cycling Rooms, Tom Flood Centre, Water Street Bendigo, commencing at 6:45pm.

The public is welcome to attend the AGM (6:45 – 7:30pm), to hear of the various activities that the Friends’ group has been involved with over the past 12 months. Some of this activity has been associated with the O’Keefe Rail Trail, the proposed Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail, and general involvement to create better cycling opportunities in the Greater Bendigo area. After the AGM supper, there will be a General Meeting held which all are welcome to attend.

Andy Bos and Paula Ewing of Tread Harcourt.

Andy Bos and Paula Ewing of Tread Harcourt.

AGM guest speakers will be Andy Bos and Paula Ewing, sharing information about two interesting topics close to their hearts. The community involvement process in seeking approval and funding to develop a Mt Alexandra Mountain Bike Park, which resulted in positive outcomes now unfolding, and also the developing innovative ‘Tread Harcourt’, a centre for cycling, accommodation, and cycle tours.

Ride Easy Bike Skills

Ride Easy Bike Skills sessions
Want to ride your bike more but lost on where to start, or want to improve your existing skills and confidence?
Sign up for Ride Easy: four practical workshops – social, supportive, fun!

You’ll learn strategies for riding safely on the road, managing intersections and roundabouts, plus how to choose low-stress routes, how to carry stuff, and much more.  Be quick – the course starts Thursday 24 August. Limited places (course now open to general community, all welcome!)

Weekly sessions on Thursdays, 9.30am – 12pm from 24 August to 14 September 2017. Starts from the La Trobe University Bendigo bike hub.

– Session 1 – Thursday 24 August – Basic handling skills and using gears
– Session 2 – Thursday 31 August – Skills for riding in traffic part 1
– Session 3 – Thursday 7 September – Skills for riding in traffic part 2
– Session 4 – Thursday 14 September – Puncture repair and basic maintenance

Contact Nicola to register: / 0438 578 835

About Nicola
It was at uni that I became passionate about getting around on two wheels – and I’ve never stopped! My short rides to uni extended to riding around town, round the country and, eventually, round (bits of) the world. I love the freedom, the environmental, social and health benefits – and not paying for parking or petrol! Over the years, I’ve worked in a bike shop, edited a bike magazine, written Lonely Planet cycling guidebooks and taught workshops. I still ride for transport as much as I can (with or without my three children), and for fun and fitness with a social road-riding bunch.

Bike Bendigo - Ride Easy Bike Skills

Railway Gates Return to Heathcote

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.

Refurbished railway gates arrive in Heathcote. Photo: Ken Hanson

Refurbished railway gates arrive in Heathcote. Photo: Ken Hanson

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.

Railway gates provide access to Heathcote Lions Club's Rail Trail Shelter. Photo: Garry Long

Railway gates provide access to Heathcote Lions Club’s Rail Trail Shelter. Photo: Garry Long

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.

Axedale’s Historical Trail

Looking for something to do after arriving in Axedale, perhaps before heading to the Axedale Tavern or Store for lunch, or a coffee n cake, or some refreshment before heading back on the O’Keefe Rail Trail? The Axedale Historical Trail is there to inform, to enable you to immerse yourself back in another time, to help understand what people may have done in Axedale in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Axedale Historical Trail

To help with your exploring this local trail, there is also a smart device Axedale Historical Trail app that can be downloaded. This app can send you back into a different period of time, with slower transport, ladies in flowing dresses, yet often challenging times for many. So enjoy the experience………….while your family and friends go back in history!

Rail trail reserve helping to retain endangered species

The O’Keefe Rail Trail is the focus of a project to install nest boxes along a section of the trail, for Brush-tailed Phascogales (Tuans) and Sugar Gliders. These new nest boxes, built by students at Catholic College Bendigo, should become homes to these small threatened animals in the trail reserve’s natural environment.

Brush-tailed Phascogale Photo: Jerry Alexander

Brush-tailed Phascogale Photo: Jerry Alexander

The location for these boxes is along the O’Keefe Rail Trail, between Knul-doorong Woodland (Somerset Park Rd) and the Junortoun Flora and Fauna Reserve (Trotting Tce) Junortoun. Funding for the project has been provided by a City of Greater Bendigo Council’s Community Grant, awarded to the Junortoun Community Action Group

The public can witness the boxes being installed, which is to occur on Monday 24th April at 2:15pm at the O’Keefe Rail Trail crossing on Wilkie Road Junortoun.

Media Release by Junortoun Community Action Group.

Wallan to Heathcote Rail Trail Feasibility Study Closing!

The Wallan to Heathcote feasibility study’s community feedback stage is drawing to a close. The final date for feedback is 5pm Monday 10th April, therefore members of the various communities that are likely to benefit from such a trail, or individuals who would like to raise any points of view,  plus general trail users, are all encouraged to complete the feedback form.

This feedback can easily be completed on the Engaging Mitchell web page’s ‘Complete form‘ link.

'Pink Cliffs' cutting, Pyalong. Photo: G Long

‘Pink Cliffs’ cutting, Pyalong. Photo: G Long

Further information can also be obtained from

O’Keefe Rail Trail Supports Disability Users

With the O’Keefe Rail Trail Marathon only 2 weeks away, running the 42kms may be difficult for some yet exciting for others. Marney Lamb and Rohan Lee are definitely excited, as being disabled people they never thought that being involved in a marathon is what they would be doing this month!

Against the odds Rohan Lee, 43 and Marney Lamb, 26 are set to take on the 42km in the O’Keefe Rail Trail Marathon, despite both using wheelchairs full-time. This is all due to two local heroes Dan O’Bree and Travis Edwards and the Loddon Shire Council who have loaned a trail rider – an all terrain wheelchair.

For Rohan and Marney to be able to compete in a marathon in a wheelchair is beyond their expectations. It’s definitely a enormous physical challenge for both Rohan and Marney, as well as for Travis and Dan to manouver the trail rider wheelchair through the natural terrain of the trail. There will certainly be a lot of intense emotions from everyone, when they all cross the finish line!

The O’Keefe attracts cycle tourists

The love of travelling is one of the reasons why Queenslanders Phil and Sheryl Bennett have been exploring parts of Australia.

Following retirement, they found that cycling was another way to explore many areas. With their small motorhome able to carry their bikes, they now make annual journeys to various locations around Australia to also ride off-road trails.

On their current trip to Victoria, Phil and Sheryl explored central Victorian trails, which including the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Having based themselves at a Bendigo caravan park, they explored Bendigo via the Bendigo Creek Trail, then rode the rail trail from Bendigo to Heathcote for an overnight stay.

Sheryl and Phil Bennett enjoy a coffee, riding the O'Keefe Rail Trail. Photo Les Lewis

Sheryl and Phil Bennett enjoy a coffee, riding the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo Les Lewis

Of course the return ride to Bendigo incurred a small diversion to the Axedale Tavern, as Sheryl had heard that the Tavern’s Coffee House made a great coffee! Once their time in Bendigo was over, they planned to travel to Western Victoria exploring other off-road trails.

Since the O’Keefe Rail Trail has been extended and upgraded, it is now attracting the likes of Phil and Sheryl, as cycle tourists who usually stay longer in an area so benefiting the local economy.