Bushwalks of the Central Highlands

June 23rd, 2024Bushwalks of the Central Highlands

Paddy H and I are in luck as Creswick artist and keen bushwalker, Craig Barrett has kindly offered to guide us on one of his favourite local walks.

with Eve Lamb

Creswick Regional Park Walk II: St Georges Lake to Gosgrave Reservoir via the Old Koala Park,
Chinese Plum Orchard, and Eaton’s Dam. 9km return.

Paddy H and I are in luck as Creswick artist and keen bushwalker, Craig Barrett has kindly offered to guide us on one of his favourite local walks.

It will, Craig says, take in the old Creswick Koala Park, relics of the 1860s gold rush era, an old Chinese plum orchard and the notable stone walls of Eaton’s Dam.

“Sounds good,” I say as we plan the walk for Sunday when, the BOM forecasts, a lower chance of rain.

Craig explains that the walk starts from the St Georges Lake smaller, lesser-used south eastern car park, just out of Creswick, off the Melbourne Road. I’m particularly keen to see this Koala Park site that I’ve heard a fair bit about but never actually seen.

Off we set, carrying camera gear, lunches, a proper bushwalking kit including maps, compass, walk guide and first aid kit (in Craig’s case) and plenty of dark chocolate (in mine).

We are in the Creswick Regional Park, part of the traditional lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung People. In part, our walk ahead will follow a small snippet of the Goldfields Walking Trail (Buninyong to Bendigo) and in small part it also overlaps with where Creswick’s new mountain bike track is being built.

In fact there have been reports recently of some overly keen types ripping down protective temporary barriers to get at the new bike trail before it’s deemed ready to go.

Fortunately our prudent guide, Craig, has checked with the relevant authorities to gain approval for our walk today. Later, when I read authoritative warnings on this front, I am pleased he has.

But as we set off and morning sunlight splashes down through tall eucalypts lining our path, my mind is unfettered by officialdom. As soon as we set foot on the walking track headed south straight out of the car park, Paddy H and I can see this is a fantastic little hike.

“You should see it in spring,” Craig says. “Superb wild flowers.”

Gaining gentle elevation, striding through aromatic bushland for just under a kilometre, we soon arrive at the remnant boundary fence of the old koala park. In 1942, forestry students built the koala park by constructing a fence in a section of the forest to be used as a breeding area for koalas.

However, just a tad comically, they failed to adequately acknowledge koala climbing know-how and the furry little fellas swiftly decamped into the surrounding forest.

These days, the literature states, “there is just as much chance to see a koala in the surrounding Creswick State Forest as the old koala park. I look up a fair bit but do not see a koala.

Having finally visited, though, I can now say that the paucity of the much-loved marsupial does nothing to diminish the site’s value as a top walking spot, with a short 2km loop walk around the
entire former koala park another nice option.

Today, we stop here briefly to check out an old metal stile for helping humans, back in the day, to get into and out of the park, then we move on, following the Goldfields Walking Trail to the north of the koala park, running roughly alongside Creswick Creek. The creek used to be called Back Creek on old maps, Craig says.

Further on we pass alongside remains of an old gold mining water race running through the bushland, scars of 1800s picks still fairly evident in places.

Roughly two or so kilometres further along the Goldfields Walking Trail, Craig stops and points out the site of the old Chinese plum orchard, today a grouping of ghostly moss-encrusted fruit trees whose limbs stretch bare against the early winter light.

We take a little detour through this ghostly orchard and historic market garden site. “Black plums,” says Craig, and then recounts the vision of spring blossom that still blooms here all these decades on. It must be a sight.

And slipping back into the past, to a time long before any of us existed, Craig now points toward nearby sites where hotels once stood nearby – “the Springmount Hotel was there,” he says… “and the Munsters Arms Hotel … in that direction.”

We leave the old plum orchard and its ghosts and regain the Goldfields Track, continuing on until we reach the intersection with Jackass Road. Instead of turning left onto the road and continuing to follow the Goldfields Trail north here, we instead simply cross the road and rejoin the walking pad that heads on, eastward toward the historic site of Eaton’s Dam about half a k further on.

Our resourceful guide provides some literature which instructs that Eaton’s Dam is: “a well preserved example of a mining dam built in 1862 on Creswick Creek”.

The site was leased by American brothers Benjamin and Charles Eaton. While the dam was breached in 1933, and after that fell into disuse, there’s still plenty to see here including some pretty remarkable, high stone walls.

“It’s also one of my favourite places for forest bathing,” Craig muses.

In the cold summer sunlight, a mossy outcrop has something of the bushland shrine about it, complete with tiny exquisite wren attendants.

We stop and admire for a while and then Craig suggests we finish up by continuing on for a few hundred metres more to reach the Cosgrave Reservoir.

It proves to be an excellent place for lunch with two wedge tailed eagles circling above. As we sit there munching away, a man rolls up in a vehicle (the reservoir is accessible by car) and hops out brandishing swish Nordic walking poles.

“Where are you off to mate?” Paddy H enquires.

“Just walking around the reservoir,” says the bloke, bidding us all a cheery farewell and setting off.

Once we’re all fully fortified we head back, basically retracing our steps and listening to Craig recount tales of times well spent in France.

“And what do you like most about this walk?” I ask.

Craig pauses for only the briefest moment before replying.

“That there are great wildflowers. And there aren’t many people. I’m definitely a path less travelled type,” our guide says.

We continue on, all up covering roughly 9kms the round trip, and returning to a path more travelled to reflect on all we have seen and learned, over a warming red by the fire. It was a good day.

Words & Images: Eve Lamb

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