Daylesford

Leaders Tony Gartland, Kiki Schwartz

This walk had two false starts. The first attempt had to be abandoned because of extreme fire risk. The second, because a “wrath of God” storm brought down giant trees, floodwaters destroyed tracks and smashed down strong steel bridges. Peter Gartland, our local guide, Kiki Schwartz and I, then devised an alternative walk which avoided the tourist crowds and gave an insight to the colourful history of Daylesford. Except for the mineral springs we saw very few people on the walks themselves.

Twenty members including five visitors, turned up at Jubilee Lake at 10 am, on one of those golden blue days that bless Spring. We paid our respects to the traditional owners, the Dja Dja Warung who, decimated by smallpox and measles, saw their yam gardens on the river flats appropriated by settlers and then destroyed by the frenzied search for alluvial gold. They called the area “the upside-down place” for obvious reasons.

Amblers, ramblers, and scramblers set off for a circular stroll through Wombat Forest along the Great dividing trail. The track took us down through a deep cutting made for the former Daylesford -Ballarat line which closed in 1951. We walked through area of large mullock heaps left by deep mining of the quartz reefs onto Specimen Hill Road. We only glanced at the heritage timber mill with its wonderful collection of steam tractors.

A visit to the mineral springs at the end of Lake Jubilee surprised us with the purity of the water. “Like champagne” someone said. We walked along the northern edge of the lake to the historic railway over Wombat falls and returned to the lake edge for lunch.

In the afternoon, everybody elected to go on the circular walk of Cornish Hill heritage area, crossing the trestle bridge and climbing up into a deep railway cutting. In 1884, 50 000 passengers travelled on this line and if you listened closely, you could the hiss of steam and the long-drawn-out hooting of the smoky steam engines as the chuffed toward the great tourist destination of Jubilee Lake. Most walkers, however, were preoccupied with keeping the muddy waters from creeping over the top of their shoes. Most emerged with very muddy feet, but Meg Lee demonstrated her ability to walk above the ground. Her shoes were spotless.

Cornish Hill Afternoon Walk

 Cornish Hill has many closed mines, mullock heaps and old water races. We stood on the steel grate above a 1000-foot shaft. Many tunnels radiate from the Argus mine for long distances. The swimming pool disappeared into one, luckily at night. And recently, four expensive town houses ready for occupancy were found to be above a tunnel near the Daylesford Lake mine- a multi-million-dollar legal bunfight looming over their uninhabitable status.

The track wandered over slopes covered with prickly gorse with yellow flowers and lovely strands of large cypresses and gums. We reached Thomas Lookout and viewed a panoramic view of Daylesford and great dividing ranges. We continued along the track, past beautiful masses of spring daffodils back towards the 800 metres of mud. Fortunately, Kiki and our local guide Emily Gartland found a side track that was a steep scramble down to the Wombat creek walk and we had a gentle return to Jubilee Lake, having seen a part of Daylesford that is rarely seen by tourists. It was a good day.

Thank you Emily for the photographs.

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