Weekend at Castlemaine
Sunday 22nd April 2012
Leader: Les Littlejohn
Second Day – A group of seven ’bushies’ (Angela, Trish, Sheila, Judy, Marg D, Roland and Anna) and our leader, Les, drove off from Castlemaine Station at 8.30am (with a ‘promise’ of a 2pm return) for our second walking day of the weekend. Our first destination was Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery. This small gated enclosure with its scattered rocky markers, both single and formed in circles, many with heartbreaking plaques recording early deaths, was all that remained to remind us of the numerous babies and very young children who died during the gold rush days in what was then a very bleak landscape.
We then collected our packs from the cars and in beautiful sunshine walked down the country road towards the diggings. Les took us via several short cuts through the country hillside, picking up the track, where there was one, leading us higher and higher to a short VERY steep incline. Having struggled up (and then down) we had time to catch our breath before wending our way through a labyrinth of tracks through the bush. Relics of former mining activities are scattered throughout the area and passing rugged rock walls, a ‘Claim’ marker, a ‘puddling’ site and small mountains of spoil we came upon the ‘Welsh village’ – terraces of rocky ruins, now lightly wooded. Always discovering another area the miners had excavated – old shafts, tunnels, open cut mines and building ruins left behind – we gingerly skirted the slate quarry avoiding the numerous deep holes and old mine shafts as we walked the miles and miles (or so it seemed) of water races until we reached the site of the old Garfield Water Wheel – the largest ever built in Victoria. The 24m diameter wheel was erected in 1887 and drove a 23-head quartz stamp battery until 1904 when steam took over. We turned off to explore Expedition Pass Reservoir (named by Major Mitchell in 1836) and then…. Lunch at last! Well fed and energised we were off again at a brisk pace for the last hour or so as we followed the diggings track back to Pennyweight Flat Children’s Cemetery. The heavens decided to open up during the last 15 minutes of the walk but we arrived back at 2pm on the dot (thanks Les!) in good time for our journey back home.
What a great weekend! – thank you Les for organising two great walks and for your always interesting and informative commentary along the way.
Sheila, Trish, Angela, Judy, Marg D.