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?

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.

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.

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.

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.