After leaving Halls Gap, we travelled north to the city of Stawell and then east across the old central Victorian goldfields to Creswick where are spending the two final nights of this road at the RACV Resort there.
We pottered around the city of Stawell for some time yesterday morning. This is where Jill lived as a young child. Her father was then the ES&A bank manager in the town and she spent about five yers of her childhood there.
Central Park in Stawell is famous around the world as the site of the Stawell Gift professional running race. The signage at the oval explains: “Known as the Cricket Ground in the 1860s, this area was the scene of many matches between local Pleasant Creek teams with nearby Ararat. The Stawell Athletic Club was formed in 1878 and the Easter foot running races moved from the Botanical Reserve to this site in 1898 and have been run here ever since”.
This photo shows the main grandstand which was built in 1898 after the first Easter Gift race. The contractor took less than three months to build this grandstand at a cost of £593. It was ready for the 1899 Easter event. This stand was subsequently restored in 1990-1991 at a cost of $80,000 – around eighty times its original construction cost!
We have a photo of Jill’s dad walking down the street from the bank to the sports ground, in around 1950, wearing a suit and tie, and carrying a Gladstone Bag containing all the prize money for the race. No security or a police escort – just him walking along as though he was going for a stroll!
Jill’s education began at Stawell Primary School No 582- an historically significant school. It has a current enrolment of 280 pupils, with students drawn from both the town and surrounding rural districts. It was clearly designed by a more creative government architect than the one who designed the Port Fairy Police Station that I wrote about in a previous blog post.
Travelling north from Stawell, we had passed from the extensive grazing country of Victoria’s Western District into vast fields of wheat crops. It must have been a good season for growing wheat with all the rain that we have had. I’m sure that these farmers will be praying for dry weather now to allow their crops to fully ripen and harvest without any fungal infection as a result of damp weather and high humidity.
Sometimes, our travel highlights are simple things hat we come across without any planning. We found this decorated tree along the roadside between Stawell and Avoca. I’m not sure which story character may have lived here but it was a charming feature by the side of the road. Maybe Pooh Bear, or perhaps some other children’s story character.
We stopped for lunch in Avoca. I’m embarrassed to say that in my 73 years, this is the first time that I have been ti this town. The mainstream is about 70 metres wide – large enough for the pioneers to have been able to turn a bullock drawn wagon. It is wide enough to fit a park and a war memorial into the centre of the road.
The town has a pharmacy known as the ‘Prescription Depot’. It is apparently the longest continually operating pharmacy in the state being founded in 1854. It still has old style shelving which once held bottles and potions.
Avoca also has recently joined the Victorian Art Silo Trail with its single silo painted with an image of an owl.
Further along the road, we paused the old town of Moonambel. It now consists of just a few old buildings but during the gold rush of the mid 1800’s it had a population of 20,000 people. I was fascinated to read some of the signs by the original police lockup that described the criminal history of the early folks in this area.
James Peacock, for erxample, was quite the recidivist. In 1894, at the age of 34, was convicted of four counts of assault and then two charges of lunacy. This latter charge caused him to spend six months on each charge in the local lunatic asylum. At the age of 39, he was further convicted of multiple accounts of vagrancy, each of which earned him six months in prison. Thank goodness we now see things in a different light!
The nearby town of Talbot is one of Victoria’s best kept gold towns. The town’s website describes it as “a living ghost town”. Certainly time has stood still in this place. Located about 1.5 km out of town is the Aboriginal Maternity Tree – a giant River Red Gum, estimated to be about 700 years old. It has a 15 metre girth with a hollowed out centre. It is an important part of local Aboriginal culture as it was used as a shelter by Dja Dja Wurrung women giving birth. It is recorded as a significant tree on the Register of the National Trust.”
Before arriving in Creswick, we passed through another goldfields town – Clunes. It is regarded as the best preserved 19th century historic town in the country. It is a feast of historic buildings and full of 19th-century shops with original store-fronts and distinctive verandas. Historically it can fairly claim that it was the site of Victoria’s first gold strike. The town is located in a wide valley surrounded by hills which are all extinct volcanoes, it is known for its antique and collectable stores, its vineyards, its pleasant walks and its charming collection of sandstone, bluestone and brick buildings. The Town Hall was built between 1872 and 1873 and is one of the most distinctive Town Halls in Victoria.
Creswick, where we are staying for a couple of nights is another gold town with many old buildings..
Today, we drove from Creswick up to the historic town of Maldon. It was the first Victorian town to be classified by the National Trust. The town’s genuinely historic feel is quite overwhelming. Every building could tell a tale or two about its past. It is very well preserved and very charming.
The settlement was initially known as Tarrangower. A townsite was surveyed here in 1854 but the location was rejected and ignored by locals. Consequently the de facto township established by the diggers was surveyed in 1856. It was named Maldon after Maldon in Essex, England.
A tourist steam train still operates every Wednesday from the local station to the city of Castlemaine, about 19 kilometres away.
This is the final stop on our road trip. We have traveled nearly 2000 kilometres through a wide variety of country – from magnificent coastal scenery to prime grazing country and now in the dry and wooded Central Victorian Goldfields.
Tomorrow, we return to normality. However since our state has today reached a fully vaccinated level against Covid of 90% of the population, our restrictions have been almost completely removed and our ‘normal’ will be more relaxed and free that of the last two years!