Geological Lesson in Castlemaine

 

“This upward facing fold, called an anticline, is a nice example of how the gold-bearing strata in the Victorian goldfields are folded.

The curved stratum, about 50 cm thick, is composed of sandstone and interpreted to have been deposited as a turbidite—an underwater sediment-rich, turbulence deposit. This particular one involved a lot of sand and would have covered a large area.

These turbidites were deposited as the waters of Noah’s Flood were rising, during the Ascending phase of the Flood. It’s likely they were deposited one after the other in quick succession, and all folded soon afterwards, within days or weeks, based on the timing of the sequence of events that took place during the Flood, as documented in Genesis 6 to 9.” Source: Biblicalgeology Blog

Get some play dough out and take the kiddies, or go by yourself, to the Anticlinal Fold in Lyttleton Street for a geology lesson. Take the time to see the local area more deeply. Check out some of the wonders of geology. Make sure to take along art supplies and introduce the whole idea of an art sketch book at the same time.

Who Castlemaine Remembers

“The past does not lie down and decay like a dead animal. It waits for you to find it again and again.”
“The Gilda Stories” ~Jewelle Gomez

This map depicting the journey Burke and Wills is a key part of the monument in Castlemaine

At the time when I was running the Soul Food Cafe I created a number of features which are stored in the Box of Wonderment. One was The Dig Tree which examined the fated journey of Burke and Wills and explored what the creative writer or artist could learn from their expedition.

My great grandfather, George Chale Watson, took a great interest in this expedition. He was in Echuca at the time and was inspired to set off on his own journey of exploration after their departure.

Finding myself in Castlemaine I was intrigued to discover that Castlemaine was the first town to decide to build a monument to Burke and Wills. Initially they wanted to bury Burke at the Castlemaine cemetery.

By May 1862, the citizens of Castlemaine had raised £450 for a memorial from public subscription and donations and on the anniversary of Burke’s death, 1 July 1862, a public holiday was declared. A procession of over 2,000, including John King, John Macadam and Frederick Standish, marched from town to a hill to the east of town where a ceremony was performed and a foundation stone laid by the Sheriff of Castlemaine, Richard Colles.

Why Castlemaine? Why the passion and drive to erect this monument? It appears that Burke, who was born in Ireland in 1820, became the Police Superintendent in Castlemaine in 1858, before being appointed to lead the ill-fated Victorian Exploring Expedition which embarked from Melbourne’s Royal Park on August 20, 1860. Their mission was to become the first expedition of Europeans traversing the interior of Australia from south to north. They traversed successfully but that ultimately this venture would cost Burke and his third-in-command Wills their lives on the return leg. Perhaps if they had connected with the owners of the land they crossed they may have survived.

It is fascinating to check out who Castlemaine likes to remember and offers pride of place to. A visit to the local museum gives one perspective of who the town remembers and equally, chooses to forget.

Out at nearby Guildford a memorial has been created for one of their favourite sons, a Castlemaine born footballer, Ron Barassi

At Chewton there is the Monster Meeting Place where the miners rallied. In pride of place, on a hill overlooking the town, a monument costing a small fortune was erected to remember a fated journey and Robert O’Hara Burke, a policeman who is described as being one of Castlemaine. In actual fact he was an immigrant from Ireland and only lived here for a couple of years. At least Senator Lawson who stands in Lyttleton Street had a long association with Castlemaine.

Personally I would like to know more about what the land remembers; what the land looked like before the European invasion. I would like to know more about the lives of the indigenous people who lived here! Who will you remember and how will you remember them?

Things I Love About Castlemaine

Many years ago, in another life, in a parallel universe, I gave my heart and soul to the creation of the Soul Food Cafe. The Creativity Portal was just one major site that featured the work that I was doing.  Facebook completely changed the online environment and the shift that came with it, along with consecutive losses, silenced me. Ten years ago I walked away from everything I had known, including Soul Food. Eventually I found my way to Castlemaine and settled here.

Reinventing oneself takes time. While Waiting for Godot is a place to wait, a place to reconnect with who I am and what I am passionate about. Now it is enough to sow a new wild garden. The ground is fertile here in Castlemaine and I  know that something will grow. It may be nettle or thistles or roses or carrots or oranges on my citrus trees. If my backyard is any indication something will grow. Fertile ground never remains empty. I am reminded to stay earthed and to attend to my growing ground.

Back in the day Betsy Bayers, “Pinballs’ prompted me to promote list writing. I used the Indian War Bonnet as one way to encourage students to make lists of 28 things they loved, hated, were disappointed about etc. In this instance I will use it to record 28 things I love about living in Castlemaine.

28 Things To Love About Castlemaine

  1. Living within walking distance of the centre of town, the Botanic Gardens and the railway station which provides a regular service to the city.
  2. The host of wonderful spots where I can take my dogs walking – many of which are featured in this blog.
  3. The devoted team who work down at the Botanic Gardens. The gardens are a jewel, something Castlemaine is rightly proud of! I particularly love the woodland area beyond the creek.
  4. The sound of football and cricket matches and sporting teams training at the Camp Reserve.
  5. The comforting sound of the Post Office bell ringing. It brings back memories of my late husband and us staying in an English village.
  6. The sound of the old steam train chugging out to Maldon.
  7. Being able to make full use of a wonderfully stocked, welcoming, library.
  8. Having an electrician respond to an SOS call (the sound of the smoke alarm chirping was impacting on my dogs) and came at 5 on a Saturday afternoon.
  9. Having devoted tradespeople restore my home with loving care.
  10. Having a woodland spring up in my backyard within a couple of years of planting!
  11. Warring with the flocks of sulphur created cockatoos who descend upon my trees. They are hooligans but I cannot help but love those life affirming rascals!
  12. The Pennyweight cemetery is the spiritual place I love to visit.
  13. The exhilarating history of this place! Places like Forest Creek Diggings, the Oak Forest and Specimen Gully Road where history changed.
  14. Good quality book shops.
  15. Turning off the highway and knowing I am almost home.
  16. Proximity to diverse places such as Chewton, Fryerstown, Taradale, Guildford, Newstead, Maldon, Daylesford and Harcourt.
  17. The natural beauty of nearby Mt Alexander and Dog Rocks.
  18. Stunning autumns and spectacular springs.
  19. Looking at old Jack Frost while sitting by my fire.
  20. Enjoying the view across town from the Old Castlemaine Gaol.
  21. Getting a coffee from James and sitting on the platform, deep in conversation, with a friend at the Railway Station.
  22. Knowing my neighbours and knowing how supportive they are.
  23. Waking to the sound of so many birds, knowing my beloved ravens are on the watchtower (neighbouring tall trees) and watching a family of birds take turns bathing in the water in the enamel dish on the back deck.
  24. The community garden at Continuing Ed.
  25. Great supportive friends.
  26. The dog walking community.
  27. Entering my drive, parking the car and walking in the front door after being away.
  28. My home! I give thanks every day for finding it, for being brought to Castlemaine!

Germ of Australian Independence

Much is made of the Eureka Stockade, a rebellion that took place in Ballarat. However, 160 years ago, in 1851, 15,000 protesters gathered on the Forest Creek diggings in central Victoria to object to higher gold license fees. This gathering took place at what has come to be known as the Monster Meeting place at Golden Point. While the Eureka Stockade has a place in Australian history many believe that the Monster Meeting actually started the chain of events. Miners became stronger political force and were stronger and stronger in demanding their rights as citizens as well as miners.

Many of us are guilty of taking hard won rights for granted! Few Australians would think to stop and give thanks to these miners who defied establishment and won democratic rights.

Gratitude is the art of receiving gratefully, of showing appreciation for kindness great and small. It is easy to show gratitude when you receive a gift or an obvious benefit and, alas, just as easy to forget to show gratitude for seemingly less personal benefits.

1. Keep a gratitude journal this month. In honour of the people who met here keep a list of things you are grateful for and things worth fighting for.

2. Each time someone does you a favour make it a practice to look them in the eye and thank them.

3. Think of ways to repay those who have made sacrifices that have been beneficial to your lifestyle. How can you give more than you take? What legacy can you leave? What will your footprints be?

Treasure Hunting in Blanket Gully Road

Ochre was the most important painting material used traditionally by Aboriginal people. It is mined from particular sites and is a crumbly to hard rock heavily coloured by iron oxide. The source material was traded extensively across Australia in the past, with some material traveling many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from where it was mined to where it was used. It comes in a variety of colours from pale yellow to dark reddish-brown.

Follow Blanket Gully Road until it comes to a T intersection and you enter a very different world from the new housing estate, on the outskirts of Campbells Creek, that you pass to get here. This is a corner of the world full of stones, ochres and pigments. It is not the ideal place for the dog or the little people but it is a surreal landscape full of treasure for the artist.

Winter on Mt Franklin (Lalgambook)

Mt Franklin, known as Lalgambook to the Dja Dja Warrung people, is a small volcanic crater that offers ideal place for a picnic set amongst plantings of huge conifers and deciduous trees that create an exotic atmosphere. It offers a fine example of a breached scoria cone. The breach, through which the road now enters the crater, is thought to have been caused by a flow of lava breaking through the crater rim. Lava from Mount Franklin and other volcanoes in the area filled valleys and buried the gold bearing streams that became the renowned ‘deep leads’ of the gold mining era.

 

 

Since I walked away from the city and the life I had known, Mount Franklin has become my point of reference. Up close its size belies its presence on the landscape. It continues to be a marker for me!

Inside the crater of this ancient volcano, once described as a hellish place, it was cold and damp. Other than a solitary camper, huddled for warmth over a fire, we had the place to ourselves. No doubt because pagans have a gathering here, and dare to have a good time, rumours abound about witches inhabiting this place. Bollock to such naysayers! Today I found only welcoming nature spirits, beckoning me to come back, telling me that it is now an idyllic place to retreat to and decompress after a build up of minor annoyances.

Dig out the frisbee, pack a picnic, pile the kids in the car and head out for a nature fix. Allow 30 min max to get to Mt Franklin from Castlemaine. And do pop into the nearby Chocolate Mill for a warm hot chocolate and to replenish the stash you hide from those kids!

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.

Scar Trees and Battle Coats

Scarred trees are trees which have had bark removed by indigenous Australians for the creation of bark canoes, shelters, shields and containers, such as coolamons. They are among the easiest-to-find archaeological sites in Australia.

I have been out and about with the dogs and while they sniff map I am capturing images of some (modified) scar trees. The scars on these trees, as they age, have a poignancy.

I have always been fascinated by Clarissa Pinkola Estes idea of making a full length scapecoat to detail one’s scars in painting, writing, with all manner of things pinned and stitched inside. It is the perfect place to pin all that one has endured, “all the insults, the slurs, all the traumas, all the wounds”. Such a coat is a way of visually portraying one’s endurance and the victory of still standing tall.

I really love what Alice Wellinger has done here. This beautiful piece truly resonates and fuels the desire to do something using a grey coat that I have had hanging, unworn for many years.

If I Do It All Over Again

My shipmates and I liked the sea lions, and envied their lives. They were all either fat or dead; there was no half way. By day they played in the shallows, alone or together, greeting each other and us with great noises of joy, or they took a turn offshore and body-surfed in the breakers, exultant… Everyone joked, often, that when he “came back” he would just as soon do it all over again as a sea lion.
Annie Dillard

I have thought of that if I am called upon to do it all over again I would ask to be a lappie, beamed down to a home where I would be taken out three times a day to run, frolic joyfully and sniff map. But I do understand why Dillard, upon returning to the Galapagos, realised that, rather than returning as a sea lion she would come back as a palo santo tree, standing on the weather side of the island. Standing there she could be “a perfect witness”, able to simply look, be mute, wave her arms a lot and be a source of holy wood.

If I do return it will be a bit like returning after having lived with fairies! Nothing will be as it is now! Everything changes! But that is nothing new! I have not always lived alone with lapphunds! I reinvented myself when multiple deaths changed the world I had known. Perhaps I will come back in a very different form. I might come as an iconic Boab Tree and silently dispense creative bush medicine to those who understand. Of course, unless I end up in some kind of alternative universe, that will not shield me from the loss and grief so much a part of life on this planet.

Who will you be and how will you live if you do come back for another round on planet earth?