A Window to the Past

A graveyard can be a great place to explore local history and genealogy, or just take a peaceful late winter walk. So let’s grab our coats and cameras and head out to the nearest cemetery to learn about local history!
How to Explore a Graveyard

In a piece called Travel With a Purpose Angela Dollar (Broderick) nostalgically recalls her grandma taking her to cemeteries to play. She recalls how they would “visit our favorite ‘spirits’, reading their birth and death dates on their head stones and making up stories about what their lives had been like living in Washougal, WA way back when.”

It is a semester break from intense university study and while I have been Waiting For Godot to shed some light on how to structure my days,  I have taken to visiting neighbouring cemeteries.  My son and I have fond memories of exploring the Montparnasse Cemetery when we met up in Paris, respectfully sitting by the tombstone of Jean Paul Satre, writing.

Pennyweight Cemetery, here in Castlemaine, is a favourite. It tells a poignant story of Gold Fever Grief. I love the serene Vaughan Cemetery. When I visited recently I took time to remember Margaret Scott.

So you can imagine my delight when I finally found the Fryerstown cemetery. A Cemetery may not be on everyone’s list of top 10 places to visit but this one is particularly special. I thought that it would be a great place to take morning or afternoon tea in a picnic basket. It was there that I wrote the Saddest Lines to mark the tragic deaths of Annie and Henry Clifton.

Angela Dollar’s grandma had a brilliant way of entertaining her grandchildren. In the process she developed their love of story and helped them connect with nature. Apart from the potential of photography   a cemetery is the perfect place to write or draw inspiration for art. My iPhone photos may not be anything spectacular but each visit nurtures a part of me.

For my part I took the time to view the greening that can come from looking in a rear vision mirror.

 

The Gower School Ruins

I have no particular talent! I am only passionately curious
Einstein

In 1912 the Gowar township was gazetted, but little came of it.

Gowar is a rural locality 7 km south-east of Maldon. It was known as Muckleford North until 1880, but one hundred years later Muckleford North has probably become the name more often used. It is thought that Gowar derived from an Aboriginal word meaning big hill.

There were minor gold rushes at Muckleford but nothing permanent eventuated. The Muckleford Creek, however, was a source of permanent water for agriculture, the nearest such source for Maldon. A school for Gowar was opened in the early 1870s and closed in 1908. The stone ruin remains.

Gowar was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:

Any evidence of the town has long gone! All that remains are these ruins!

Forest Creek Diggings

Forest Creek Historic Gold diggings is situated mid-way between Castlemaine and Chewton. This historic mining site is in the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park, and there is to do free of charge. A 400-metre walk allows you to discover how miners won gold from Forest Creek. The walk commences at a small shed below which is a dam.The dam has clean beach and is a great place to learn to pan for gold. At the waters edge you will find gravel which has been put there for you to try your luck at panning.

The Forest Creek Diggings caused quite a stir in 1851. As more and more newcomers pegged their claims, they followed the deposits of gold up the eroded flats and valleys feeding the creek. It soon dawned on the crowd that gold washed into the river flats came from the surrounding rises.

In March of 1852, White Hill was the scene of a rush within a rush, and a month later the adjacent rise known as Red Hill was swarming with hopefuls, some lying stretched out on the ground to secure their eight foot by eight foot claim (about two metres by two metres).

Today, the Forest Creek Gold Diggings occupies the remains of White Hill and Red Hill. There have been nearly 150 years of continuous mining here, and a remarkable range of techniques has been used to extract the alluvial (river deposited) gold. All of these techniques were versions of the panning process, whereby clay and gravel are washed away from the heavier gold, and all have left their traces.

At first, miners of the 1850s dug shafts through the layers of the ancient riverbed, and carried gravel and clay to the creek below to be washed in pans or wooden ‘cradles’.

Sometimes miners digging a shaft would be tricked by a layer of sediment `as hard as the pyramids’, and abandon their shaft before reaching richer deposits below. A number of 1850s shafts remain on White Hill today.

Later mining methods included puddling, a process of washing and working clay to release fine particles of gold. This could either be done by hand in a small trough, or with the help of a horse working a large circular puddling trough. In times of abundant water, surfacing was practised. It was a process of flooding the surface of a hill to remove the gold-bearing topsoil, and directing the flow through a series of barriers, known as a ground sluice, to collect the gold. Source: Friends of Mount Alexander Diggings

The Forest Creek Geo Maze is constructed from eight concentric circles of rocks. The six types of rocks are representative of the main periods of geological activity in the goldfields region. The oldest rocks are placed around the outer circle and the younger rocks are in the centre.

A Nature Fix

Old tree
Giant towering
You
Who saw the rise
Of ancient suns,
Chris Magadaza

I would like to learn or remember how to live. I come to Troll Corner not so much to learn how to live as to learn from this giant yellow box, long separated from any kin. Friends estimate this old man’s age age at around 600 but I am not sure if this is true.

600 years ago the Chachapoyas, a tall, fair-haired, light-skinned race had  one of the more advanced ancient civilisations in the South America. Adept at fighting, they commanded a large kingdom from the year 800 to 1500 that stretched across the Andes.

Joan of Arc was born 600 years ago. Six centuries is a long time to continue to mark the birth of a girl who, according to her family and friends, knew little more than spinning and watching over her father’s flocks.

Everyone in Fiji lived close to the sea from the time of first settlement 3,100 years ago until about 600 years ago —when, suddenly, everything changed profoundly. According to scientists Fiji has experienced climate change at least once. Within a couple of generations, most coastal settlements in Fiji appear to have been abandoned in favor of new ones in upland, inland locations.

Little is written about what was happening here 600 years ago! Many have suggested that this was the ’empty country’ and that the great southern country lay sleeping while the world turned. This is not a very likely scenario! The indigenous people who loved this ancient land have something quite different to say.

It is winter in this quiet corner of the world but the birds still sing and dance here.

Here at troll corner this proud tree stands a silent witness to ancient dawns! If I sit here, Waiting for Godot, gently encouraging this tree to talk, I might learn about who passed by 600 years ago. I don’t expect the tree to speak in the way I speak, or describe its long life in the traditional way. But I know it has stored much knowledge about the past within its bark and roots.

This old yellow box has nothing to say to me about the insanity of the gold fever that bought hoards here and even less about the people who lived in the nearby ruins. But maybe, if I come visiting often enough, he might just reveal something about how to live alone through times of loss and change.

Memories of the Old Country

My car is white and glistening
the frost is on the ground
the only thing thats missing
is the beautiful chirping sound,
Irene Neville

Frost bathing brings back genetic memories of the old country! There is nothing to compare with rolling joyfully and frolicking in the heavy frost.

Just Killing Time

A working dog is a canine working animal, i.e., a type of dog that is not merely a pet but learns and performs tasks to assist and/or entertain its human companions, or a breed of such origin. In Australia and New Zealand, a working dog is one which has been trained to work livestock, irrespective of its breeding. Truffle hunting dogs, for example, are worth their weight in gold to modern farmers. Some dogs in this district make themselves useful sniffing out truffles.

 

This lot are reputed to be skilled at herding reindeer but with few reindeer in these parts they do not have to work – unless you count maintaining vigilant watch of property boundaries as work. No one gets onto the property without me knowing and they do provide companionship and even comfort when they perceive it is needed!

However most of the time these spoiled fluffy hounds get to lounge around, killing time, barking at anything that moves. Alternatively they wait, not always patiently, for their human hunter gatherer to take them out or, preferably, bring back the food.

Crumbling Tennis Courts

“In my beginning is my end. In succession
House rise and fall, crumble, are extended.
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new buildings, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die; there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break a loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field mouse trots….
T.S. Elliot “Four Quartets’

 

On Cemetery Road, Campbell’s Creek, opposite the historic Castlemaine Cemetery, lies crumbling tennis courts. There are quite a few deserted tennis courts around town, a reminder of the days when people played more sport. I have always been partial to romancing ruins! We have had this space in our GPS for some time. Generally we have it to ourselves!

Icy air has engulfed Castlemaine this week as we move into mid winter. The ominous forecast of more bleak weather approaching will curtail sniff mapping. Rather we will be variously sprawled out in front of the fire killing time. I will spend time revisiting Dark Passages and the work of Shaun O’Boyle. Stories lie waiting to be told in each of these places.

For All that has been
And All that is
All that’s to be
Lord, I’m just killing time
And time’s killing me

A Golden Forest

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
John Keats To Autumn

Mount Alexander Regional Park sits magnificently above the Harcourt valley. Called “Lanjanuc” by the Jaara Jaara people, this mountain was important as a sacred ceremonial ground. Rising 746 metres above sea level it was also used as a point of orientation for miners heading towards the goldfields of the 1850’s. In the 1860’s the first quarries opened here and provided stone for the Northern Railway. Stone quarried from this area was also used for buildings in Melbourne and monuments such as the base of the Burke and Wills memorial.

At the foothills of Mount Alexander and within the Mount Alexander Park boundary there is an oak forest which was established by the tanning industry for the acorns. It is a great example of biodiversity, with Algerian oaks, bristle-tipped oaks, cork oaks and English oak trees. Seedling oaks will most likely be crossbreeds as a result from fertilisation of the flowers by wind-blown pollen. It is a popular picnicking area especially in summer and autumn and is also used as a venue for jazz concerts.

Muckleford South Primary School

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is a vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of a child.” Carl Jung

What a find! Akari (the car with a mind of its own that leads mystery tours) talked me into going to Newstead via the Yapeen/Muckleford Road. It was a Eureka moment when we arrived at the Napson and Timmins oval. Arch and Neeky loved exploring this well kept oval and Muckford State School grounds.

This photograph was not taken at the Muckleford School House but the photograph is representative of the time when classes operated here.

Old School House is a stone school erected in 1871 as the South Muckleford State School No 1124. Rectangular in plan the structure is constructed in random course masonry with brick quoins, window and door surrounds. There is a gabled porch non-axially located. The gabled roofs are clad in corrugated iron and there is a finial. A chimnmey, roundel, plinth and multi-pane sashes are other features.

Old School House, Muckleford South, is a fairly typical building in overall form, but is of importance in the history of the district and notable architecturally for the use of stone and unrendered brick details and also for the unusual location of the porch. Stylistically the former school is in a vernacular style typical of much school architecture during the nineteenth century. Old School House is in good condition and is reasonably intact.

School Days Exhibition

The Local – Camp Reserve

 

Within minutes from our home the Camp Reserve, our local, has been well mapped!

The first small village was developed at Chewton, today a suburb of Castlemaine. It  included the Commissioners tent, stores, an office for The Argus newspaper, and an office for the Mount Alexander goldfields own newspaper the Daily Mail.

On 28 January 1852, Gold Commissioner William Henry Wright was one of nearly 200 men who were assigned or affirmed as Territorial Magistrates for Victoria. Not long after, he took control of the Mount Alexander diggings and set up a government camp on Forest Street near the junction of Barker and Forest Creeks (today’s Camp Reserve).

It briefly served as the administrative centre for all the Central Victorian goldfields. By mid-1852, his staff numbered 300. This camp provided the impetus for the emergence of a settlement which served as a supply centre for the local goldfields as they continued to spread out in all directions.