Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail

Linking central Victoria via the old railway line

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.

Signs for Clear Trail Directions

Not being familiar with any trail can sometimes have some users becoming confused or at worst believe that they are lost! A review of the O’Keefe Rail Trail, by Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail members, found certain sections may introduce ‘choices’ or uncertainty for those first time users.

The review’s outcome was then highlighted to the trail’s manager, the City of Greater Bendigo council, who’s staff agreed to assist improve the trail’s wayfinding signage. Members of the Friends group then worked with council staff to create a new wayfinding sign design, specific to the O’Keefe Rail Trail.

New wayfinding signs on O’Keefe Rail Trail. Photo: Rob Jarvis

With the required new signs manufactured and installed at identified locations near Axedale and Heathcote towns, it is expected that visitors and locals will continue to rate this as one of the best rail trails in Victoria …..if not Australia!

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!

History Revealed on Rail Trail

A glimpse back into how railway transport helped develop communities and businesses, aided rural farmers plus gold exploration, can now be seen via new interpretive signs along the O’Keefe Rail Trail. Working closely with the City of Greater Bendigo, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail group have sought to bring elements of history back for the benefits of the rail trail users.

As a result of much research, the outcome has seen 11 interpretive information signs being placed at specific locations along the O’Keefe trail. Such reveals the current trail’s connection to the past, for the Heathcote to Bendigo (Sandhurst) section of the former ‘Wandong, Heathcote, Sandhurst Railway’. The history highlighted covers the period from 1887, for the railway’s construction, to more recent times of rail trail development. Trail users can imagine going back in history, living in a different period, without even leaving the trail!

Greg and Glenda Ralton, Brett Martini, and Paul Ferguson at the signage launch. Photo: Andrew Perryman

At the official launch of the new information signs, the City of Greater Bendigo council’s City Engineering Manager Brett Martini said “The O’Keefe Rail Trail is a wonderful asset for the Greater Bendigo that provides unique opportunities for residents and visitors to walk and cycle the total 49kms between Bendigo and Heathcote.”

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.

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 Illumi nated 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.