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Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges

Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges

Hi everyone

Just a quick post to let you know that the 2nd print run of Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges is now available and in stock at Woodslane Press, so your local bookseller should be able to order it. Yay!  Also, at the upcoming Melbourne Dog Lovers Show, on the first weekend in May, you’ll be able to pick up ‘Melbourne for Dogs’ at the show’s book shop, run by Avenue Bookstore. Amidst all that excitement, time for me to focus on the final write up of Best Walks of the Great Ocean Road, before my long-suffering co-author, Neil Fahey, over at Bushwalking Blog, falls asleep in disgust!  Should be out mid year.

Meantime, I am excited about my forthcoming birthday walk – 6 days on the Larapinta Trail – in central Australia. I love, love, LOVE deserts and one of my all time favourite travel moments was 4 days in the deserts of Wadi Rum in Jordan when I was doing that backpacker thang.

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Well, here’s a bit of excitement (for me at least!).  My next guidebook, Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges (Woodslane Press) was finally sent off to the printers on the 19th October and should be in stores by mid-December, ready for you to plan some lovely Christmas walks.  It will retail for $29.95 and has 40 terrific walks to suit all sorts of abilities and interests. A big thank you to my terrific editors at Woodslane Press, and to my patient friends who joined me on many of the walks (Karen, Deb, Di and Fred – legends all!). Here’s a sneak preview of the cover, so you know what to look out for. Hope you enjoy the walks as much as I did!

Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges
JP Mundy (2012), Woodslane Press

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ImageI had an unexpectedly interesting walk yesterday in Geelong, along the banks of the Barwon River – I was anticipating a straightforward, shady riverside walk, but ended up with much more: grand Victorian villas and red brick industrial heritage factories, a lesson in 30 million year old geology with vistas to boot from Seaview park, and a close up commune with a pelican at the adjoining Balyang sanctuary.  The Barwon River Reserves cover both banks of the Barwon River for almost its entire urban length, with excellent cycle/walking paths, and are full of hidden surprises.  Who knew, for example, that the world’s first ice making machine was invented by newspaperman, James Harrison on the banks of the Barwon in 1854!!

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Flowering gum at Deakin University Waurn Ponds (Geelong) Campus

I did a nice easy walk today around the walking track and grounds of Deakin University’s Waurn Ponds campus.  In Melbourne’s Best Bush Bay and City Walks book, I also included a walk around the historic halls and colleges of Melbourne University.  Deakin couldn’t be more different – modern in every way and sited in a spacious, regenerated bushland setting on the southern outskirts of Geelong. Like all universities, Deakin sits on federal land, and is therefore publicly accessible. I would encourage people to visit and explore these centres of learning – the architecture is interesting and the grounds and facilities really pleasant, including good cafes and peaceful lakes for quiet contemplation. No dogs are allowed on campus, but as you can see, this gave me time to slow down and photograph the flowering gums in all their glory.

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Buckley Falls, Geelong

Well, my publishers, Woodslane Press, have kindly sent me through a very impressive Garmin exTrex GPS to use on all the new walks, as we ‘go digital’ and get ready for e-books, apps and all things digital. So I headed back out to Steiglitz with my trusty assistants: my son and our dog, Indie, to re-walk the path I had just done, as I needed to check a bit of it where the track was indistinct – and it was a beautiful day, so gave us a great excuse to get out.  On the plus side, the GPS was ridiculously easy to use (even for me) so allowed for lots of enjoyment of the rock-hopping through the Sutherland Creek gorge along Deadman’s Loop and the continuing display of monarch butterflies.  On the negative side, I am not sure I like the idea of being tracked by 4 different satellites to within 4 metres – felt a bit creepy!  Isn’t the point of getting out in the bush being about getting away from it all?! Well, the Luddite in me will have to embrace the technology so that the walk waypoints are as accurate as possible for you, and available to you in a variety of formats – but yes, I still use old fashioned paper maps to cross-check at the same time!  On the way back, we took a quick peek at Buckley Falls on the outskirts of Geelong, which I am also writing up for the Geelong book – after all the recent rain, it was looking spectacular, as you can see! And a bonus for dog-owners – both walks are OK for dogs on leads.

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Sutherlands Creek Gorge, From Deadman's Track

Yesterday, I went for a really interesting and varied walk in and around the historic gold mining town of Steiglitz, on the edge of the Brisbane Ranges, just 40km from Geelong.  Steiglitz was once a thriving gold rush town of more than 2000 people, a newspaper, 3 pubs (and many more ‘sly grog’ tents), all built to service the miners who flocked to what was once the richest quartz reef goldfield in Australia.  All that remains today is a few buildings, including the magnificently restored courthouse, crumbling ruins which are explained well on interpretive signage, and relics of mining including huge mullock heaps.  Many of the bush walking tracks around Steiglitz follow the routes of the old streets, which gives you an idea of the scale of the original town. Today, the beautiful surrounding bushland has all but reclaimed the land, though it remains littered with old diggings and mines and no doubt quite a few ghosts!   The walking is rugged in places, but very rewarding with rocky gorges, grass tree covered hillsides and yesterday, an unexpected treat after the rain: thousands upon thousands of orange monarch butterflies – though they wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to take a photo!

Mr Suggs, The Blacksmiths, Steiglitz Township

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Old pier, Clifton Springs, Bellarine Peninsula

A recent walk took me to the quiet township of Clifton Springs, near Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula. The town is perched on the edge of red sand cliffs looking north-west across Port Phillip Bay, and I found a pretty little loop up from the marina, along the edge of the cliffs in front of houses with views-to-die-for, up alongside a ravine and then back down onto the lovely white sand beach. From here you can see the remnants of a number of the old piers which stretch far out into the shallow waters of the bay.  This photo, taken from Clifton Beach, shows the You Yangs in the distance, across the water.  A lovely late afternoon walk.  On Sunday I will leave behind the gentle gradients of the Bellarine Peninsula to tackle the 7 day Overland Track in Tasmania, from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Claire – a classic long distance Australian walk I have wanted to do for years.  Apparently it has stopped snowing (and you thought Melbourne weather was unpredictable!) – for the moment!  Needless to say I will be packing for all sorts of contingencies!!

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A friendly echidna beside Branding Yard Track, You Yangs Regional Park, near Geelong

On Sunday afternoon we took off to the You Yang mountains, just north of Geelong.  Seemingly plonked in the middle of the plain, these knobbly hills of huge granite boulders and quiet bush are really worth a visit.  We started with the short 3km Big Rock walk, which takes in – no surprise here – some REALLY BIG rocks and sweeping views across Port Phillip Bay.  We then headed up the mountain to join the 5km Branding Yard Track, which dips to a quiet part of the park, out of the westerly wind, and passes by beautiful and varied bushland, the enormous Bunjil Geoglyph rock sculpture and extensive waterholes.  The highlight though, was most definitely this wonderful echidna, which was feasting on ants beside the track and seemed not at all bothered by us – walking right up to just a few feet from us before eventually losing interest and heading off in search of more tucker!

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Samphire grasses on the salt marshes at Kirk Point, near Geelong

Well, I have just had a huge and fantastic weekend of intensive walking for the Geelong and Bellarine book  – the cloud cover and warm-but-not-hot weather we are experiencing at the moment is just perfect for getting out in the summer. On Saturday, I explored the saltmarshes and inter-tidal mud flats on the bay around Geelong.  My first, early-morning walk took me to tiny Kirk Point, near the bird-watching mecca of Pt Wilson, for a really out of the way short stroll along the shoreline with views straight across to the Mornington Peninsula – a perfect stretch out for walkers with dogs, though they need to stay on-lead.

Next I went for a drive past the quirky beach shack community on Avalon Beach, behind Avalon airport.  The newly born mosquito population (which numbered in the trillion billions at least!) kept me at bay there, but with plans to secure a permit to walk through the extensive salt pans managed by Cheetham Salt ….. in the non-mosquito season!

I then headed out to the Hovell Creek walking track in North Geelong.  This well-made combined bike/walking path goes all the way from the northern tip of Corio Bay, which is known as Limeburner’s Bay, through to the small town of Lara, and has the height to provide good views back across Corio Bay to Geelong.  While very exposed, there is a treed picnic rest point from where you walk down onto the Conservation Area saltmarshes via a delightful boardwalk, which takes you right out into the mangroves at water’s edge.  The track is not signposted from the main trail, so it was a real delight to stumble upon. I continued on to Lara and lucked onto the lovely Lara Lakelands Reserve – which is an absolute oasis for waterbirds in the middle of the harsh plain landscape: there were Royal Spoonbills, purple swamp-hens, coots and even two huge nesting herons – right in the middle of the town!

Inspired by the Limeburner’s Bay name, I finally drove into Geelong and past Eastern Beach to Limeburner’s Point to try and find the elusive Limeburner’s Kilns. Luckily, it was low tide, and a passing gent walking his dog helped me find them (thanks, Peter!), buried in under the cliffs beneath the golf club.  They are such an important national heritage treasure, and still in excellent condition, so I do hope the City of Geelong will get involved in upgrading access to them. Off to the You Yangs tomorrow!

Boardwalk into Limeburner's Bay Conservation Area, via Hovell's Creek Trail, near Geelong

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