Western Victoria – Prime Grazing Country

Our travels yesterday took us through the very western part of Victoria which are a prime sheep and beef grazing region. We stayed there night in the little town of Coleraine.

This is the place where Louis Buvelot, a Swiss immigrant and early Australian Painter competed his work of a water pool near the town. Those were there days when European painters had still not mastered the art of painting gum (Eucalyptus) trees. They painted them in the fashion of European trees rather than thinking of them as their brasches being like a lot of broccoli florets. This painting now hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria.

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It was a cool day with strong cold winds from the south and frequent rain squalls. There were some nice sunny spells in between but we spent a lot of the day sheltering from the rain. This weather is more like autumn than almost summer.

We began by driving to the city of Portland which has a very active harbour. It exports wool, wood chips from nearby forests and is famous (infamous?) for its live sheep trace to the Middle East. There were two large ships in port and an enormous pile of wood chips that are sent to Asia for manufacturing building materials and paper making.

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Beyond Portland is the National Park at Cape Bridgewater. One of the features of this park is the ‘Petrified Forest’. Whist the formations may look like trees, these cylindrical columns are actually formed by water dripping into the limestone rock and calcifying it into cylindrical shapes that are then exposed by the weather. No doubt, they have tricked many people.

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Along this wild coastline are a number of places where the waves pound onto the cliffs causing huge columns of spray.  This was the second attraction on this very exposed Cape. With strong winds and large seas, the waves were almost constantly pounding the shore with enormous displays of foam and spray.

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Travelling north, we stopped in the town of Heyfield for lunch, sheltering in a picnic shelter constructed by the local Lions Club. It wasn’t very pleasant but we made the most of our time with a sandwich and a cup of hot coffee. Heyfield is noted for its timber industry with a large numbers of managed hardwood plantations. Many of these provide feed stock for the wood chip industry while poles and posts are made from the nearby pine plantations.

Every country town needs to have three things to keep local people occupied – a bike / skateboarding area, tennis courts and a swimming pool. Near the swimming pool is a high water tower that has recently been painted and forms a new addition to the Victorian Silo Art Trail. It features five local Aboriginal men who served in the Australian Army between WW1 and the Korean War.

We had an Aboriginal soldier (Engineer) in Vietnam who went by the name of ‘Nugget’. I doubt that would be an appropriate name nowadays. He was obviously not a local as his name was not listed on this local memorial. In fact. I don’t even know his real name – he was always just called  ‘Nugget’.

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We are at the point furthest west in which we can travel in Victoria without crossing the border into South Australia. That state’s Covid regulations do not allow Victorians to enter without quarantining for 14 days on arrival. We certainly do not want to end up in a South Australian quarantine centre in order to do a coupe of hours of sight seeing.

There are a number of little towns along the road to Casterton, our next navigation point – Digby and Merino, for example.. They have all seen better days and this photo shows almost the entire town of Digby. Most community facilities, such as the local bank,  left here in the 1960’s.

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We made an interesting discovery at Casterton. It is the birthplace of the Kelpie, Australia’s famous sheep dog. This dog is capable of mustering and droving with little or no guidance. It is a medium-sized dog and comes in a variety of colours. The Kelpie has been exported throughout the world and is used to muster livestock, primarily sheep, cattle and goats.

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At the bottom of a hilll in Casterton is the old railway station. The station was built,  and opened in 1886. A mixed passenger–goods train operated on the Casterton Line until 1949 when the passenger service was withdrawn. In 1954, a rail–car service between Branxholme and Casterton was started on a basis of seeing whether it would be profitable or not. This service was cancelled later that year. The station was never demolished, and following a period of restoration by the community it now forms the centre piece of a local park.

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Our final stop for the day was in the nearby town of Coleraine. This is another place that is slow decay. Most shops are closed, including the two pubs. Only our B&B at the Black Horse Inn and the milk bar across the road were open when we arrived on a Sunday afternoon. 

Every town seems to have a special ‘claim to fame’.Coleraine’s is that it boasts the second oldest continually running cricket club in the world. Second only to England’s MCC. Sadly it folded last year. Cricket was obviously a sport in this area. About 50km away is the little town of Harrow. That town produced the first all-Aboriginal cricket team to tour England in the mid 1800’s. 

The most photographed building in the main street od Coleraine is this old blacksmith’s shop. It dates from 1888 when it was built by Matthew Cooke to replace a previous blacksmith’s which was destroyed by a storm. It remained in the family until the 1980s and retains its original equipment. This timber workshop has a gabled roof and a skillion attached on the east side. The large doors of the skillion were for the access of horse-drawn vehicles and other equipment. The roof is corrugated iron with a ventilated ridge and the floor is earthen.

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I could just get my camera lens to poke though a small gap in the door and indeed, most of its original fixtures and fittings do still  remain.

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After a restful night. At the Black Horse Inn, we are heading to the Grampians and Halls Gap.

2 thoughts on “Western Victoria – Prime Grazing Country

  1. If you’re going through Hamilton, I believe there is a new exhibition in the Museum.Something to do with an ancient Tapestry. cant remember all the details, heard about it on ABC when I was driving through a rain storm and was more concentrated on the road. As always, a great commentary . Safe travels.

  2. We had a couple of boarders from Coleraine, from rather large properties (sheep) when I was at school. Some lovely country . God bless The Kelpie. Was the Inn licensed, I always need a drink at night.

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