Daily Archives: April 25, 2018

A couple of days in the Wimmera Part II

Dusk was falling as we turned into our accommodation for the next two nights: a fantastic pastoral homestead at Wallup called Glenwillan. The date on the front of the homestead references 1888, the date that the three McRae brothers – Duncan, John and Farquahar- selected this property in the Mallee. It was cleared and sown with wheat and oats, as well as running sheep.  Glenwillan was constructed in 1912 using bricks from Stawell at the cost of £1500. It is now owned by the great-grandson of Farquahar McCrae. At first I was very excited, thinking that it was Georgiana McCrae‘s brother-in-law Farquahar, but it’s a different branch of the family.

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We had the whole place to ourselves! What fun I had, checking out the photographs and paintings of McCraes long passed on the walls and admiring the original furniture- especially the huge dining table which was larger than original envisaged because the furniture maker could not bear to cut up such a beautiful length of wood.  The 1950s kitchen felt just like a Nana’s Kitchen.  At the back of the homestead were thatched stables, which were amazingly dry.

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Our bedroom

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The hallway.  As a notable local, Farquahar McCrae and his wife attended the Proclamation of Federation at the Exhibition building in 1901, and there was a lot of memorabilia from that occasion.

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Just look at that table! Just beautiful

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The sort of kitchen that should have the smell of scones cooking wafting from the oven

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Next time I come up this way – and I will, just for Glenwillan itself – I’m going to make sure that the Murtoa Stick Shed is open. [Check out the link- it shows the inside] It’s open on the first Sunday of each month between 10.00 and 2.00.  It’s HUGE. It was built in 1941 to accommodate the wheat harvest during the war, and unlike other sheds of its type, it had a concrete floor.  It’s on the National Heritage Register. It’s so big that I couldn’t fit it into the one shot.

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The whole impetus for this little trip to the Wimmera was to see the Silo Art Trail. This fantastic tourist initiative has funded artists to paint the disused wheat silos along the railway sidings in the Mallee area.  I notice that other towns (e.g. Benalla most recently) are also funding silo art. These ones in the Wimmera are a celebration of farming men and women, and to a lesser extent a nod to the continuing indigenous presence in the area.  The silos were built during the 1930s, and are between 28 and 50 kilometres apart. Some are on the outskirts of town; others are just on the siding with nothing else there. What a brilliant idea.

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Rapanyup, Artist: Julia Volchkova, featuring two Rapanyup young people, in their netball and Aussie Rules attire.

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Sheep Hills, Artist: Adnate. His mural depicts Wergaia Elder Uncle Ron Marks and Motjobaluk Elder Aunty Regina Hood, along with two young children.

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Brim, Artist: Guido van Helten.  The first of the silo murals, it was completed in 2016 and depicts an anonymous, multi-generational quartet of male and female farmers.  And yes, that’s me standing at the bottom, along with anonymous photo-bomber (who was very apologetic!)

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Rosebery, Artist: Kaff-eine. Completed in late 2017, it captures a young female farmer and a contemporary horseman.

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Patchewollock, Artist: Fintan Magee.  Completed in late 2016, this is a portrait of Nick ‘Noodle’ Hulland, a local farmer.  [Just as well that pipe isn’t located any higher!] An interesting ‘flaking’ effect in the painting – at least, I hope it IS an effect and not the real thing.

I mentioned in Part I that I felt that the Grampians/Gariwerd were resting on their touristic laurels a bit.  That certainly couldn’t be said of the Silo Art Trail.  I was really impressed with the little town of Minyip, where the local historical society had developed a trail of plaques up and down the largely deserted main street.  Minyip was used as the set for filming The Flying Doctors television series, and the only cafe in town was named ‘Emma’s place’ for one of the characters in the series.  I think that the whole idea is a wonderful tourist feature that entices city folk like us to an otherwise pretty remote area.

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One of the plaques on, in this case, the disused Commercial Bank building.

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We stopped off at Warracknabeal on the way home where, once again, we were lucky enough to find the historical society open.  This time, it was located in the old State Bank Branch.  When the bank closed, it was handed over to the Historical Society ‘as is’, complete with all the internal banking furniture.  It is a wonderful time capsule of a time when tellers wrote in your passbook, and there was a bank manager who actually knew you. Upstairs, in the bank manager’s quarters, there is a good display of a wide range of Warracknabeal artefacts, including the contents of the pharmacist’s shop. Really worth stopping off to visit, for the banking chamber alone.

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We returned home to Glenwillan,  where we sat on the front porch with our books before returning to the very good Creekside pub at Warracknabeal some twenty kilometres away.  That night we turned off all the lights and stood in the back yard of the homestead, gaping at the stars in the vast sky.  Just think of it – they’re there every night but we just can’t see them in the city.

And so, eventually, we turned for home. We seemed to pack a lot into just three nights. It was great.

A couple of days in the Wimmera: Part I

In our retired state, we are no longer restricted to school holidays for trips away but we seem to have found new shackles: the U3A timetable! Steve conducts classes in beginner French at our local U3A so he prefers not to miss classes. Fortunately, our U3A terms do not start until the week after school returns, to give members who’ve been minding their grandchildren for a fortnight a bit of breathing space.  So, now that school is back, off to the Wimmera we headed for a couple of days. For those not familiar with the Wimmera, it’s located to the northwest of Melbourne, near the border of South Australia, and it’s a flat, arid dryland farming area.

We spent our first night at Horsham, the main population centre of the Wimmera, some 300 kms from Melbourne. We got there in time to visit the Regional Art Gallery, and a very fine gallery it is too. It was constructed in 1938-9 and is quite reminiscent of Heidelberg Town Hall.  A recent refurbishment really enhances its art deco features.

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It has a terrific collection, largely based on the gift of its major benefactor, Mack Jost. There’s most of the Australian artists you know represented there, with a strong emphasis on modernist work,  but I hadn’t seen any of them before. Well worth a look.

I really don’t like motel rooms much, so when we saw that the Royal Hotel had accommodation, we thought that might be fun.  Once the cast iron balcony came down in the 1960s, it lost a lot of its charm.

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Hey- at only $60.00 a night, you can’t expect the Hilton.  The bed was comfortable, the hot water was hot and the Parma Night excellent. And it has a certain rustic charm.

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Shared bathroom

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The small but functional lounge

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On Wednesday we backtracked a bit to the Grampians – or rather, Gariwerd- to see the aboriginal rockart in the National Park.  The area was hit by bushfires in 2014. It has grown back well, especially in comparison with Marysville which seems to have taken longer to revegetate, but I don’t know….I feel as if  Gariwerd /the Grampians have dropped the tourist ball a bit.  Their signage at the rock art sites was poor, with signs defaced or faded to the point of illegibility.   It’s an important part of Gariwerd – dammit, I’m going to use the indigenous name, even if they won’t – with its approximately 200 rock art sites comprising 80% of the Southern Victorian rock art. Five of them are open to the public, and we saw three of them.

First, Gulgurn Manja. It’s in a cave in a rocky outcrop, overlooking the valley. The handprints were made by children.

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Then a bit further on to Ngamadjidj Shelter. Actually, a lot further because we got lost. Again, a bit of decent signage wouldn’t have gone astray.  This art has sixteen white figures, which is unusual because figures were usually painted in ochre. No one knows exactly what it means, because the traditional lifestyle of the  Jarwadjali people had been destroyed before it would be documented.

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Finally, Bunjil’s Shelter, near Stawell. This site is very significant because it’s the only depiction of Bunjil, the creator of the land, the people, the plants, the animals and the law.   You can see the presence of burnt trees around the site. Shame about the cage protecting it, but it’s necessary unfortunately.

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Actually, I hadn’t realized how well the sculptor Bruce Armstrong had referenced the stone above the Bunjil drawing when he created the Bunjil statue in central Melbourne that is rapidly disappearing amidst all the high-rises near Southern Cross (always Spencer Street) station.

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We called at Zumsteins Picnic Area.  It, too, was burnt out in 2014.  It was quite disorienting because it looked nothing like the way I remember it, with deciduous trees and kangaroos everywhere.  This article from 2013 shows how it was prior to the fire.  The signage was damaged here too,  with images torn from the information boards, exemplifying what I mean by ‘dropping the tourist ball’.  I wouldn’t have thought that it would take four years to replace.

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There was a similar sense of dislocation when we visited Brambuk Cultural Centre. When I was there years ago, the distinctive curved roofline of the Brambuk Centre stood out, but it is now surrounded by trees, and obscured completely by a rather ordinary National Park centre.  Unless you knew otherwise, you wouldn’t even be aware that Brambuk was behind the National Parks building. It seems that plenty of money has been lavished on the National Park building, but the displays at Brambuk itself could do with some care.  On the top level the information boards from the excellent Koorie display are arranged in a haphazard way, and they are looking rather tired and worn. Are local politics at play here? Methinks they are.

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The distinctive roof of Brambuk Cultural Centre

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The National Park Centre

The afternoon drawing to a close, we just managed to catch the Stawell Historical Society while it was still open. It is located in the old Pleasant Creek courthouse, as is my own Heidelberg Historical Society, but through a combination of a generous bequest and council and government funding, the administrative offices and records of the Society are in a brilliant new office building adjoining the court house. They have extensive records of families and newspapers, and very impressive temperature controlled store rooms.  The courthouse holds various honour boards from local organizations, a good photograph display from the 1860s -so early!- and a modelled streetscape.

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It was past the closing time for the Historical Society, and so we headed for our accommodation for the night. $60.00 a night at the pub in Horsham last night…what will tonight bring?