The Ben Cruachan Walking Club helps with maintenance

Five members of the Ben Cruachan Walking Club (BCWC) assisted Parks Victoria with maintenance work on a large section of the McMillans Walking Track within the Grant Historic District on 9 August.

The section is a tabletop track, leaves the Brewery Creek Track not far from Talbotville and then follows an old water racing bridge to the Wongungarra River. As with much of the McMillans walking trail, it was constructed in the gold rush era of the 1860s.

These tracks were constructed to specifications requiring a minimum width of four feet (1.2 m) and a constant gradient to facilitate movement of miners with their horses or on foot pushing a wheelbarrow. To obtain the minimum width, it was necessary in some places to dig into the rock and build up the outer edge with dry stone walls. There is still sufficient evidence of these construction works along this 1.9 km section of the track.

This section of track is also important in the history of gold mining in Victoria. In 1864, a member of McMillan’s track-cutting party found gold-bearing quartz at the point where the trail leaves the Brewery Creek Track. Macmillan recorded in his diary: “Tuesday 12th April. He stayed in the camp. “Some guys find quartz reefs that look very rich… Most of them leave.”

MacMillan named the reef “Major” after his favorite horse. While the alluvial gold mining rush in the Crooked River Goldfield in 1861 was initiated by Howitt’s discovery of payable gold in Good Luck Creek, about 9 km upstream, this event at Pioneer Reef launched the quartz mining rush in 1864, which It was to last much longer than the alluvial works on the Crooked River.

Unfortunately, after the March 2019 wildfires in this area, blackberries have returned in abundance. When BTAC cleared the track in March 2022, the section of track along the old water race was in places completely obscured by blackberries. The pedestrians could not find their way. We hope that a regular spraying and disinfection program will help preserve this historic section of trail.

The Ben Cruachan Walking Club has been busy, along with Parks Victoria, carrying out works on the popular McMillans Walking Track. Photos: contributed

It was a cold and foggy start on August 9 when the team met at the warehouse in Dargo, but the day quickly became a perfect work day as they made their way through Grant and Talbotville to the start of the track. With little recent rain, crossing the Crooked River was easy. Armed with a chainsaw, brush cutter, hedge trimmers, shears and a fire starter, the team cleared a basic route across the Wongungarra River and then returned and began attacking blackberries in earnest.

The work undertaken by the BCWC and Parks Victoria team included cutting blackberries and other plants from the trail as well as removing stumps and fallen trees to ensure the trail was suitable for walkers. An amazing amount of work was accomplished in the short work day they had. Parks Victoria organized the day in collaboration with BCWC members. This work will enable pedestrians to enjoy crossing this part of the path with greater safety and comfort.

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