Remembering Old Roadside Stops

When travelling long distances which is common in Australia (given the size and isolation of the country) sometimes it’s best just to pull over and have a rest.

 

While waiting for Godot I decided to head out and wander up to Leaganook (Mt Alexander). Coming back on the old highway between Harcourt and Taradale I came across one of those old road stops, in the style that I remember from trips to Melbourne with my parents from Gippsland. It was a long trip to Melbourne and Mum had invariably packed a thermos and her tin with the fruit cake we loved.

As I wandered about a flood of memories rose! I also remembered those carefree days in the early sixties when my parents had their first portable bar-b-que and we stopped at places like this picnic ground at Leanganook  on the slopes of Mt Alexander (Leanganook). I think we mainly had sausages wrapped in white bread with tomato sauce, but somehow it tasted so much better than sausages cooked on the wood burning fire, or under one of the earliest portable, electric cookers at home. Life changed for Mum when she afforded that household luxury.

When I take people out on my mystery writing/art making tours I will remember to include time at places like this.

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.

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.

Global Sniff Mappers

“It perhaps comes down to us locating ourselves in an inconceivably vast universe on one hand, and in our own complicated lives as well.”
Katherine Harmon

Cartography, or mapmaking, has been an integral part of the human history for thousands of years. From cave paintings to ancient maps of Babylon, Greece, and Asia, through the Age of Exploration, and on into the 21st century, people have created and used maps as essential tools to help them define, explain, and navigate their way through the world.

Drawn in England in about 1290 Mappa Mundi (“map of the world”) is the only complete wall map of Earth to have survived from the Middle Ages.

The world is depicted as round and flat. It’s populated with such diverse creatures as Adam and Eve, Noah and his beasts, Emperor Caesar Augustus, a man riding a very unrealistic crocodile, and an imaginary being called a Sciapod who shelters himself from the burning sun with one huge foot. Mythological beasts jostle for space. The 12 winds are named and represented by dragons and grotesque squatting figures.

East, not north, is at the map’s top. Jerusalem is the center of the world. Countries and oceans are squeezed and stretched to fit into the map’s circle. Short descriptions offer such wisdom as, “Here are strong and fierce camels. (From A Medieval Look at Time and Place)

Fast forward to the twenty first century and Katherine Harmon took an inventive approach to mapping. Her book, You Are Here  highlights that maps need not just show continents and oceans: there are maps to heaven and hell; to happiness and despair; maps of moods, matrimony, and mythological places. There are maps to popular culture, from Gulliver’s Island to Gilligan’s Island. There are speculative maps of the world before it was known, and maps to secret places known only to the mapmaker.

Canberra resident: Jesse 8 year old Pomeranian X sniff mapping in Evatt parkland.

Think of the potential of a collective of dogs sniff mapping the globe! It would offer another perspective to the stunning images, taken from space of our home planet.

Jesse, an 8 year old Pomeranian X is certainly up for the challenge. This photo was taken at a parkland area in Evatt ACT. A beautiful area with lots of trees, grass, birds and a creek, it is a place Jesse and her human companion regularly walk.

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 Mount Alexander Gold Rush Started Here

Hargraves revealed his discovery in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 May, 1851. There were extraordinary scenes. Young men tossed aside their clerks’ pens and crossed the Blue Mountains in their hundreds.

The first gold from the Mount Alexander Diggings was found in this gully by Christopher John Peters on the 20th July 1851

Gold was discovered by Christopher Thomas Peters, a shepherd and hut-keeper on the Barker’s Creek, in the service of Dr William Barker on his Mount Alexander run. When the gold was shown in the men’s quarters, Peters was ridiculed for finding fool’s gold, and the gold was thrown away. Barker did not want his workmen to abandon his sheep, but in August they did just that. John Worley, George Robinson and Robert Keen, also in the employ of Barker as shepherds and a bullock driver, immediately teamed with Peters in working the deposits by panning in Specimen Gully where the gold had been found, which they did in relative privacy during the next month.

When Barker sacked them and ran them off his land for trespass, Worley, on behalf of the party “to prevent them getting in trouble”, mailed a letter to The Argus (Melbourne) dated 1 September 1851 announcing this new goldfield with the precise location of their workings. This letter was published on 8 September 1851. This relatively obscure notice ushered to the world the inexhaustible treasures of Mount Alexander, also to become known as the Forest Creek diggings. Within a month there were about 8,000 diggers working the alluvial beds of the creeks near the present day town of Castlemaine, and particularly Forest Creek which runs through Chewton where the first small village was established. By the end of the year there were about 25,000 on the field.

A slate obelisk erected in 1931 commemorates the discovery of gold here. The monument is known as the Mount Alexander Goldfields Monument.

The night too quickly passes
And we are growing old,
So let us fill our glasses
And toast the Days of Gold;
When finds of wondrous treasure
Set all the South ablaze,
And you and I were faithful mates
All through the roaring days.
Henry Lawson,The Roaring Days, 1889

The silence filling this major historic site is almost eerie! There is little to indicate the impact of finding gold at this spot. This discovery shaped Australian history! Few people come this way now! Apart from a kangaroo, who bounded off upon seeing us arrive, we had the place to ourselves. We enjoyed exploring the remnants of the old stone cottage that housed the shepherd who, while working on the original sheep station, owned by Dr Barker, found the gold that heralded the Victorian Gold Rush.

Sniff mapping at St John’s Chewton

This lovely, original old church has a distinctive old bell tower behind it! Services are held at 6pm each Saturday.

Historic Chewton streetscape!

It is a short drive, along the Midland Highway, from Castlemaine to Chewton! Although much has been collected and documented since the gold rush, Chewton’s early history is a story that has never really been told. Edward Stone Parker (Assistant Protector of Aborigines) kept detailed records of how the protectorate worked but that was in the 1850’s and 1860’s after the Europeans arrived and gold had been found. The lives of the local Jaara people, and the natural environment, were reshaped by this contact.

Major Mitchell led an expedition that camped in the Golden Point area (naming Expedition Pass) in September 1836, and his diary describes this area as he explored Expedition Pass to Mt Byng (now Mt Alexander) and to Mt Macedon.

Following Mitchell’s Australia Felix Expedition squatters moved in to the area and established large stations. Dr Barker established a large run covering the Harcourt, Barkers Creek and Faraday areas, including Specimen Gully where early gold discoveries were made in 1851. Reports of these sparked an explosion of activity in the local creeks and gullies with the initial focus on Forest Creek at Golden Point below Expedition Pass. Downstream was a shepherd’s hut, an outstation of the huge Strathloddon Run. This hut was to become a reference point for several early reports, maps and histories of the gold rushes.

Gold Fever Grief

I like the diggings very well I have washed myself about a pennyweight [2 grams] of gold besides a match box full of specimens [gold in quartz]. The other day I went with Mamma and Papa over to the quarry reef. There we saw a gentleman of the name of B Farrell he has one of the richest claimes in the reef He has made thousands of pounds […] You will laugh when I tell you what I have been doing today, making a kennel for a puppy I have not yet got it is a very nice one made of latice. Mr Sundy is going to give me the puppy this week We began school today.

– Lucy Birchall

In 1852, on a barren piece of land that was of no use to gold miners or fossickers, a cemetery for the deceased children of the Castlemaine goldfields was set aside. Located within the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park is Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery. A pennyweight is a very small measure of gold.

Surrounded by grey box gums in a tranquil setting, the Children’s Cemetery tells a silent story about some realities of the goldfields during the 1850s. Many families travelled to the Castlemaine diggings in the early 1850s as word spread about alluvial (surface) gold to be found. Babies and young children were particularly vulnerable to disease and harsh conditions such as a serious lack of clean drinking water, and many died.

 

The children stir from their slumber! We come here often! I am confident that those children who lie here are happy to have some dogs come to visit them!

“During 1852, as the Victorian gold rushes began, children started dying from typhoid and dysentery after drinking tainted creek water during their first goldfields summer. So a cemetery was established on a rocky hill overlooking the area. They were buried on what must have been a sad and exposed hilltop below which locust swarms of new arrivals jostled, blinded to the truth on the hill above them.

In that gold hunting clamour parents would have sat beside those tiny graves mourning a child and wondering whether their decision to come out to this dusty outpost was wise. They, being poor, had placed their children in shallow graves, then piled rocks up to mark the place. Now, one hundred and fifty years later the scene is different and very quiet. The gravestones are scattered and most of the graves are hard to discern, mere mounds, barely visible under the leaf litter. Just a few weathered headstones, fallen or falling suggest the place is a cemetery.

In the eighteenth century Thomas Grey, the English poet, wrote his famous Elegy. Written in a Country Church-yard, a meditation on the life and death of poor people whose graves are forgotten over time. It is also a reminder that death gets everyone and that although the rich may have grander tombs we’re all equal in the end. ‘The paths of glory lead but to the grave,’ he says.

The Pennyweight Flat Children’s cemetery, in a corner of Castlemaine, is plain, very Australian, hard to discern, at risk of vanishing, and valuable. Like most things that ask for quiet and patience, it rewards. (Source: Inside a Dog).”

More about Pennyweight Cemetery

Pennyweight Cemetery

Pennyweight Flat

The Lost Children of Pennyweight

 

Remembering Margaret Scott

Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.
Emily Dickinson

Archie and Neeky do love to add new places to their sniffing GPS! Cemeteries like this give rare, personal glimpses into other ages.

In memory of John Scott the beloved husband of Margaret Scott who died 1879 aged 57. Margaret died 25 years later in 1904

I stopped to talk to Margaret Scott who survived her husband. I explained that my husband had died at 58 and that I wanted to know how her life changed after John’s death at 57! Had she forged a completely different life for herself? Had it been as tough living in this region at this time as I imagined it might be? What did she do while she waited for Godot?

Margaret’s silence suggested that I should talk to the living about such matters.