Freelance writer living in Melbourne. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe to my articles. I try to find fun, rewarding and usually free adventures for you in your home town.
Published June 3rd 2012
The 12km Industrial Heritage Track along the Barwon River, is a blast from the industrial past.
Geelong's prime position on Corio Bay and on the cusp of the fertile agricultural and pastoral Western district made it the perfect place for the wool trade, wheat, shipping and other industries. Many of these industries developed along the Barwon River - factories producing rope for sailing ships, flour and paper mills and noxious trades including tallow factories, tanneries and meatworks.
The best place to start the walk or cycle is at Baum Weir (built in 1851). The weir created a constant level for the river enabling water to flow along two bluestone races and generate power for the Barwon Paper Mill.
You can still see the old bluestone mill (1844) looking like the cover off George Elliot's The Mill and the Floss.
Nearby in Upper Papermill Road lies a cluster of quaint worker's bluestone terraces - huddled together in English correctness despite being surrounded by vast tracts of open fields. Built in 1878-79, they are the earliest known surviving example of company house in Victoria.
Now walk past the quarries, where the bluestone was hewn for the mill and other Geelong buildings.
The Barwon River has many moods and here it surges through the stone walled gorge. Ducks shoot the rapids as if in their own personal water slide park.
The large drop, where rapids race off the boulders, is called Buckley Falls and named after William Buckley, the convict who escaped from his guards in 1803 and lived with local Aboriginals for over 33 years.
Take the path to the township of Fyansford named after Captain Foster Fyans Geelong's first magistrate of 1837.
The upper breakwater later on your journey was Fyan's brainchild. Built by convict labour, way back in 1839-40, it prevented tidal salt water moving upstream and the fresh water above became the town's water supply. Pretty ingenious thinking even by today's standards.
Fyansford is a quaint spot with antique shop and the Fyansford Hotel (1854) a Colonial Georgian style pub which serves hearty pub meals in its dining room. Old photos of the area's industrial sites are worth looking at on the walls.
Back on your walk and you will find the raging river now becoming svelte and curvaceous, and meanders through Queens Park.
On the hillside some of Geelong's best real estate looks down on the industrial valley below. The most famous is the bluestone home Barwon Grange (1855-56), a Gothic mansion owned and operated by the National Trust and open to the public.
Further along is Rock Point where Scottish born James Harrison (1816-1893) pioneered the building of the world's first mechanical refrigeration machine in 1855. Picture for a moment our hot summers, rancid meat and blowflies and you will have an inkling of the extraordinary importance of this project to Australian industry.
Further along is the old Geelong Tannery (1869). It was one of the Colony's largest tanneries processing 15 000 hides and 52 000 kangaroo skins per annum.
There is also the site of the Victorian Woollen Mill the first mills in Victoria - built for scouring, dyeing, spinning and weaving wool. Both were located upstream of Fyan's Breakwater and caused a public outcry by discharging noxious waste into the town's water supply.
Ironically one of the most beautiful sites on this part of the river is the Ovoid Sewer Aqueduct. This much photographed phenomena has 14 undulating spans, and looks like a sleek Loch Ness Monster serpentining across the flood plains.
Decommissioned sewer aqueduct - Geelong, Victoria, Australia
It is registered both on the National Estate and the Victorian Heritage Register as one of Australia's most significant concrete structure. Rebuilt in 1913-16, it was designed to carry sewage to an ocean outfall at Black Rock. The designers Stone and Siddeley were renowned for their work with large -scale structures of reinforced concrete steel.
The structure also reinforces the most important point about the Barwon Heritage Walk --- things once tainted are now being heralded as having a beauty all their own.