Travelling Australia - Journal 2010
30 April to 5 May - Beechworth
Nights during our stay in Beechworth were mostly cold with 4°C sometimes reported as the official overnight temperature. The caravan was set up under plane trees which had lost about half their leaves in the autumn weather with plenty more to flutter down on us and lie on the awning and thickly on the ground.

30 April 2010
In the morning we drove around the Gorge scenic drive; very narrow in places but crossing a worthwhile waterfall in Spring Creek. At the end of the drive we passed a bridge built from rock without mortar in the 1875 and now carrying the main road into Beechworth from Wangaratta. Later we went into the Beechworth shopping area to have a look at Beechworth Honey. This was an eye-opener. A "guided tour" of four DVD sequential presentations explaining the honey industry from the viewpoint of a family firm of honey packers. Outside the presentation area, inside the shop, was a working bee hive packaged between glass sheets with a pipe running outside the building so the bees could come and go normally. Weather today was fairly good with a lot of sunshine, although not very hot. Pleasant nevertheless.

1 May 2010
After a cold night the day was sunny and promised to be pleasant. We drove to Bright for the Autumn Festival street markets. We found Bright far busier than on our previous visit and had difficulty finding somewhere to park. Once we had parked we walked to the main street (running off the highway), now blocked off to traffic and crowded with stalls. The market offered a range of mainly imported items; I thought there may be some local hand crafts but, with one exception, they were lacking. We were later told that locals cannot afford to pay for the insurance required to operate a stall at the market; we don't know what insurance costs so cannot comment on that claim.

The coffee shop we use in Bright had a jazz quartet in the walkway outside providing some colour and there were at least two town bands (Wangaratta and Albury) performing in the memorial area and we heard a pipe band.

From Bright we drove to Harrietville to get photographs of the dredge buckets in the main street left from the gold mining days in the Ovens Valley. The buckets are spaced along the main street, painted dull red so photographing them was easy. At the rest area beside the river there was some useful information on the township, on gold prospecting, on crushing batteries, and on the dredges used near Harrietville. The dredges were a major item in the gold mining industry but have now gone from the Ovens Valley; one of the last was sold to a Malaysian buyer.

On the way back to Beechworth we turned off the road at the top of the climb up from the Buckland valley onto a narrow, gravel road to Murmungee Lookout looking south across the Ovens Valley. This lookout is a hang-glider launching place so trees interfering with the view are rigorously pruned because they pose a risk to hang-gliders. A worthwhile lookout.

2 May 2010
A sunny, cool morning. We spent much of the time sitting in the sun outside the caravan drinking coffee and watching aircraft high above flying between Sydney and Melbourne. In the afternoon I went to look at the former government buildings in the Historical Precinct. The courthouse was excellent with heavy emphasis on Ned Kelly. The purpose of each room was explained and visitors could wander around as they wished.

One of the main attraction of the Historical Precinct was the Robert O'Hara Burke museum established after Burke died on the Burke and Wills expedition; he had been police superintendent in Beechworth and residents wanted to do something to commemorate Burke and decided on a museum. The museum has a wide range of Beechworth oriented exhibits as well as some more general displays. One large, floor to ceiling cabinet filled with stuffed birds was explained by the curator as an attempt by Beechworth to establish itself as a world-class museum; if top-level museums had bird collections then Beechworth had one as well.

3 May 2010
A bit of a local tour today driving to Bright, Milewa and Glenrowan. We had lunch at the Cheese Factory at Milewa and bought some wine at Brown Brothers cellar door nearby.

While we were returning to Beechworth from Glenrowan we turned aside to visit Eldorado where we found a gold dredge still floating in its pondage. This dredge is described as the last bucket dredge left in the world. It ceased operating in 1954 and now belongs to the National Trust. There are plans to restore the dredge as a tourist attraction but a lot of money will be needed for that. In the meantime some useful signage has been erected beside the dredge.

4 May 2010
In the morning we drove to Woolshed falls a few kilometres from Beechworth. This was more of a cascade over massive granite boulders and outcrops than a traditional vertical waterfall. The area had been heavily mined during the gold rushes and was more of a mining centre than Beechworth itself.

5 May 2010
In the afternoon I went on the Gold Rush guided walk; I was the only member of the tour which wandered around the creek area and parts of the town talking about the way gold was mined. Interesting stuff. The weather was bitterly cold with cloud nearly all day and brief showers of rain. Later in the afternoon I rolled the awning ready for departure next day; for a while it looked as if the rain might begin falling before I had put everything away.