This week we had the pleasure of taking Cathy and her girls away for four nights to the new RACV resort at Creswick. This was previously a Novotel property with a golf course and all the associated amenities of this type of resort. It’s very nice, although it did lack a few facilities for children, even though there were many family groups staying there.
Creswick has a population of 3000 people. Its broad and curved main street is lined with buildings that owe their existence to the original wealth of the region – gold. The town is just 16kms north of Ballarat and it, and the neighbouring towns, were all established as part of the 1850’s gold rush. All these little towns (now mostly sad and forgotten) have grand hotels with wide verandahs, solidly built bank buildings (that are long since shut) and a street of shops covered fronted with curved verandahs. Creswick is also the birthplace of our 14th Prime Minister, John Curtin. Other early citizens include Norman Lindsay, the famous artist. The town also has a (largely historic) woollen mill since sheep growing became the mainstay of the local economy after the gold ran out. It now has a great shop that sells high quality wool and natural fibre products. Unfortunately, most of the wool processing and manufacturing is now done in China.
On our first day, we had a very pleasant time touring the nearby towns of Clunes and Maryborough. Clunes is another old gold town with a very grand town hall building. Its main street is wide enough to be able to turn a bullock dray – an essential requirement in the 1800’s. Many of the shops were empty but along the main street I could see that the hairdresser’s business was operating out of a shop that once was the ‘Clunes Boot Palace’ and the Newsagent was in what was once the the old barber’s shop.
A little further up the road, the town of Maryborough has quite a number of gold rush era buildings. The discovery of gold in 1854 kicked off the town. The bricks and mortar reminders are still obvious. The old town hall, post office and court house are wrapped around a square at the top of town, while the remarkable 1890 station flanks the other side of the town. The station building included 25 rooms and a clock tower. In 1895, Mark Twain visited Maryborough, and he is reported as saying that this is “A railway station with a town attached”. The station closed in 1993 when the trains stopped running but in 2006/07 it was restored, with repairs to the towers, clock, facade, portico, roof and guttering. Trains now run again to Melbourne via Ballarat.
Our second day away was very hot. The temperature reached 41C and we planned to spend most of the day indoors. We did start in Ballarat before the morning became too hot with a visit to the Botanical Gardens. The gardens are one of Australia’s most significant cool climate gardens, containing a remarkable collection of mature trees and marble statues set among colourful bedding displays. The conservatory is the central feature of a begonia festival every March but at other times it has a beautiful display of other flowers.
The girls found the craft cottage which is in a relocated cottage where the famous author and poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, once lived. It took forever for them to come out again, so I resigned myself to just sit on a bench in the park and enjoy the views. Eventually, they found the exit door with both Audrey and Violet very happy with some headbands that they had found. They obviously liked them as they wore them all the time for the next three days.
To get out of the heat, we headed to the relatively new Museum of Australian Democracy. This is located on the site of the original Eureka Stockade. Based on the concept of explaining and illustrating democracy, it is clearly oriented toward adults rather than children, although the girls did enjoy some of the large interactive screens that told the story of the miner’s revolt against the tough government regime that required licenses to dig for gold, along with the corruption and over-zealous enforcement by its officials.
Back at the resort, the girls headed for the pool (along with every other guest at the resort). It was obviously a very hot day as the pool was very popular and they couldn’t keep up the supply of pool towels.
On our third day, we decided to go to Daylesford and meet up with some of my family who live nearby. As it turned out, all of my brother Colin’s family came to join us. We had a very nice morning tea in Wombat Hill Cafe in the gardens and then went for a stroll along the main street. This day was an exact opposite from the previous day. The temperature was only 14C and we were freezing (not helped by a brisk southerly wind that further reduced the temperature). Daylesford (and the nearby town of Hepburn) are now so popular that it is hard to find a car park anywhere along the main street. The town has a very large Gay population and as a result the town has become fill of quirky clothing, antique and interior decoration stores. It’s a very interesting place.
After a quick look at the mineral spa at Hepburn Springs, Jill and I left Cathy who wanted to get straight back to the warmth of the resort. We headed off to sample some off the mineral springs that abound in the area and found ourselves driving back to Creswick in a most circuitous way through the forest until we found the main road again.
On our final day, we headed home via a lavender farm at Shepherds Flat (nothing but a crossroads) named Lavendula. It was established by an Italian family who couldn’t make a go of it in the gold rush. They built some Swiss-Italian style buildings and started growing lavender. It’s now, after a few generations, a thriving business selling lavender and associated products. While walking around the grounds, I could have been forgiven for thinking that I was in Italy or France. The stone buildings were very rustic and at one stage, I was even chased by a Goose and his accompanying harem of females. I have to admit that lavender flavoured lemonade and lavender scones do take a bit of getting used to.
From there, it was on to another little town of Trentham where we had lunch at a sourdough bakery and then head back home to Melbourne.