Walks of the Central Highlands

February 17th, 2024Walks of the Central Highlands

If there’s just one walk to take visitors on while in the Creswick area, this would have to be it.

With Eve Lamb

Creswick Heritage Walk

If there’s just one walk to take visitors on while in the Creswick area, this would have to be it.

The Creswick Heritage Walk is a little beauty, chock full with points of interest and diversity despite its comparative brevity at just 8.5ks. It’s supposed to take three hours to complete but, lingering indulgently along the way, it took us about five.

It takes in the University of Melbourne’s historic Creswick Campus grounds, and the rich history of pioneering forester, arbourist and conservationist John La Gerche, incorporating the leafy La Gerche Trail with its established trees, including oaks and conifers, that were among the many species La Gerche trialled here in the late 1800s.

We set off one fine Saturday, late summer. A cracker of a day to hit the trail, equipped with the Creswick Heritage Walk map (easily obtained online courtesy of the Great Dividing Trail Network) a picnic lunch, and a sense of adventure.

The walk sets off from the town’s central Visitor Information Centre, crosses the main drag, Albert Street, and follows Victoria Street past the Creswick Water Splash Park on your left and the IGA supermarket on your right, across the Creswick Creek footbridge.

Then there’s a short stroll, to the right along Moore Street, to reach the starting point – the wrought iron gates of the University of Melbourne’s Creswick campus, formerly the School of Forestry, established 1910.

We enter the gates, admiring the park-like setting, and follow yellow-topped Goldfields Track posts heading diagonally through the campus, past the heritage- listed Victorian splendour of Tremearne House near the entrance, and past the imposing white historic façade of the former Creswick hospital, a fetching habitat for ghosts. If they existed.

The campus grounds here host some splendid old significant trees, established as part of an arboretum (grab a pamphlet from the Visitor Centre). Following the markers, we reach a sealed roadway and turn to the left to pick up the trail markers on the opposite side of the road and link with the Landcare trail, now on Parks Victoria land.

For a short stint now the trail features colourful tiles with environmental messages made by school students, and takes us to the start of the 2km long La Gerche trail winding through a diversity of conifers and the extensive Oak Gully, established more than 135yrs ago as a state nursery for rehabilitating the mined moonscape of the era.

This is a superb slice of arboreal heritage, and the great significance of La Gerche and Creswick’s role in the state’s forestry and conservation heritage is detailed on plaques, markers and monuments along the way.

As it’s getting on lunch time we take a good moment here to soak in the cool ambience and appreciate this special place, its history and its living presence.

The sandwiches and home-baked black forest cake that Paddy H thoughtfully packed go down a treat in the depths of the Oak Gully, but eventually it’s time to move on as we’ve got a walk to finish.

It’s easy to find the right place to turn off and leave the forested La Gerche trail, as the correct point to do so is well marked with signage boards. Look out for them in the Oak Gully and you can’t miss ‘em.

Leaving the leafy La Gerche legacy, we diverge from the Oak Gully (point 5 on the map) forging due south uphill through a re-establishing young radiata pine plantation to the lookout on Brackenbury Hill.

Appreciating the sense of isolation here, we gain elevation following the sandy track uphill, brushing through tall native grasses. Views behind us open up to Spring Hill a few kilometres to the north, north east. Dramatic against the season’s blue sky.

Gaining elevation further, we reach the lookout point (1757 foot) where a stone cairn marker, a historic gift from the yesteryear Creswick Old Boys, helpfully provides a 360 degree pointer to various landmarks unfolded before us in a sun splashed geographic pastiche.

After pausing to admire it all, we wend our way downhill and onwards toward St Georges Lake. I’m fairly glad, around about here, that my ever-watchful walking accomplice is tuned in so we don’t actually miss the (unobtrusively marked) right hand veer that comes up quicker than expected, as you begin descending, diverting you quite abruptly to St Georges Lake. Its watery expanse makes for a lush reward on a hot day. Note to self: Pack swimmers for next time!

Arriving at its glistening edge, we first take a quick little turn to the left simply to join the lakeside track that then leads Creswick Heritage Walkers to the right, hugging the pine-fringed northern shoreline.

We follow the green Parks Victoria posts leading to the concrete spillway and then to the inviting lawned bbq area that’s alluringly visible across the water towards the south side of the lake.

Today, there are plenty of kayaks, picnickers and swimmers and it’s all pretty scenic. So we opt for a lakeside chocolate and coffee reviver with a good view to the spillway just beyond the craggy remains of a disused jetty where kayakers now frolic.

Moving on, we next traverse the spillway, reaching that lawned picnic area which today is offering a concise demonstration in what fruit salad days are made of.

We’re now back in civilisation and at the car park’s west end, locate a yellow- topped marker and from here follow the Goldfields Track posts of the Eureka Track back into town with Creswick Creek a stealthy companion on our right.

We finish this fairly excellent day with a brew at one of the town’s two pubs and a sense of satisfaction at having completed this top little hike. It delivers an insight- rich crash course on the area’s unique historic significance, with captivating features around pretty much every turn.

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