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Gold Heritage Walk, Warrandyte

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by Lucy Graham (subscribe)
I'm a Melbourne based freelance writer with a diverse portfolio including performing arts articles and reviews, human interest stories, and social comment. Visit my blog for an overview
Published September 22nd 2020
Climb a hill, ford a stream, find mine shafts and tunnels
Fourth Hill, Warrandyte State Park
Surprises await at the summit of Fourth Hill

It's a little-known fact that Warrandyte is the site of the first gold discovery in Victoria. Gold Heritage Walk at Fourth Hill in Warrandyte State Park commemorates the event in little more than an understated whisper. Here you can wander bushland to the soundtrack of native birds, peer into old mine shafts, consider gnarly old trees and former dwellings while pondering the uncertain prospects of the early colonial gold diggers.

Tree on Fourth Hill, Warrandyte
Old growth provides sanctuary for wildlife

Warrandyte State Park lies within coo-ee of Melbourne's CBD and nestles well within its metropolitan boundary. While the gold-credentials of Ballarat and Bendigo are well-touted, the location of the first gold discovery site in Australia is off-the-beaten-track, little-visited and easily missed.

Tree at Fourth Hill, Andersons Creek
Take a moment or two to stop and look

Gold Heritage Trail can be reached by turning west into Husseys Lane from the Warrandyte-Ringwood Road, and then taking the fork to the right at Andersons Creek Road. The carpark is on your right approximately 1km from the fork.

Fourth Hill, Warrandyte State Park
Fourth Hill, Warrandyte State Park

Begin the walk at the carpark on Andersons Creek road. Take the 100m trail to the left along the creek to the site of the initial discovery.

Gold Memorial Site, Fourth Hill, Warrandyte
Begin your walk by taking the bush track to the memorial cairn

This is hardly a path at all, but a narrow bush track. It's quite a muddy prospect after rain, but therein lies its charm.

Andersons Creek
A narrow dirt trail meanders along Andersons Creek

The track leads to a cairn, erected in 1935, commemorating the discovery of Victoria's first publicly acknowledged gold in 1851 by Louis John Michel and William Habberlin. Michel regarded the find to have stemmed the tide of emmigration to NSW, although the pickings were ultimately insignificant.

Gold Trail cairn Fourth Hill Warrandyte
Gold Trail cairn at the base of Fourth Hill

Andersons Creek itself is worthy of a close look. River trees benefit from the water supply, but it can also signal their demise. Take a moment or two to stop. The old-growth in this area is ecologically important and worth reflection.

Andersons Creek, a tributary of the Yarra River, was for tens of thousands of years a food and tool source for the Wurundjeri people, Indigenous Australians of the Kulin nation, who spoke variations of the Woiwurrung language group.

Andersons Creek is home to notable native species
Platypus make a home in Andersons Creek

Beginning in the hills north of Ringwood, Andersons Creek flows for 23 km through Park Orchards and approximately 4 km through Warrandyte before intersecting with the Yarra River. The creek occasionally floods after heavy rain, and is home to platypus, rakali, koalas, powerful owls, rufous night herons, white-winged choughs and yellow-tailed black cockatoos. Gold can still be found in the creek and panning is permitted in a small section of the creek near the state park.

Tree on Andersons Creek
River trees live and die at the whim of water flow

Return to the carpark to begin the next part of your visit, on the other side of the water. And hey, look, there's no bridge!

Look! No bridge!
But wait, no bridge!

Luckily the creek is shallow enough most of the time to allow crossing by river stones.

Anderson Creek crossing
Cross the creek on stepping stones

Having crossed successfully, climb the long steady gradient of the firebreak, passing by the little wooden walkway on your left which you'll cross over on your return route.

Native plants colour your way
Native shrubs colour your way

Most of the vegetation seen today has regrown since the gold rush era, when upwards of 250 miners worked shafts on Fourth Hill.

Fourth Hill, Warrandyte State Park
Regeneration on Fourth Hill after the gold rush era

Smooth-barked Manna Gums and Silver Wattles, Box Eucalypts and other Wattles abound in the open, forested country of Warrandyte State Park, with an under-storey of native grasses, creepers, orchids and wildflowers.

Firebreak on Fourth Hill
Climb the steady gradient of the firebreak

Nearing the summit of Fourth Hill you will come across Geraghty's Tunnel, on a bend on the track. This 400m tunnel was dug and blasted into solid rock in the search for a gold quartz reef. It was the first of the large scale mining operations on Fourth Hill, dating from 1859.

Geraghty's Tunnel, Fourth Hill, Warrandyte
Geraghty's Tunnel was the first large scale mine on Fourth Hill

Just around the next bend, you will reach an intersection of several tracks. To continue on the Gold Heritage Trail, head around to the left and continue along the firebreak to the summit of Fourth Hill. Watch your feet here as the path gets a little bit funky.

Watch your feet on this funky track
Watch your feet on this funky track!

Signage here is not particularly helpful and the track is rough and ungraded and unsuitable for any kind of wheels. Various trails lead off the firebreak, however, walkers should be wary about following all but the best-worn paths as this is a mine-shaft country and not to be messed with.

Summit tracks on Fourth Hill, Warrandyte
Pause to meander on the summit

Once on the summit, you will discover there was once and water trust dam and fire tower here. If you are prepared to pause and meander on the summit you will be rewarded with some bush shelters.

Bush shelters, Fourth Hill, Warrandyte
Check out the bush shelters on the summit

Retrace your steps back down the hill along the firebreak, a short way to the Betton Track.

Betton Track
Turn off the firebreak onto Betton Track

Here your walk becomes increasingly confined as you begin the gradual descent, with some fairly steep sections. Right through this area, you will be able to peer down some abandoned shaft mines and tunnels. You can also visit an old corrugated mining hut.

Mining hut, Fourth Hill
Hidden in the trees spot the mining shanty

It's wise to stay on the designated tracks here as historical digs were prolific and the land may be unstable.

Shaft mine, Fourth Hill
Peer into old mining shafts
Mining tunnel, Fourth Hill
More than 250 miners worked Fourth Hill for gold

Continue along the Betton Track, winding your way back down the hill face. Towards the bottom of the hill, you will cross the wooden walkway you passed at the start of your climb. Turn right once you rejoin the firebreak. This will now take you back down to your river stones crossing and the carpark.

Wattle at Fourth Hill
Native flora is bouncing back

Gold Heritage Walk is a moderately challenging bushwalk, with some steep sections and unmade trails. After wet weather, it can be quite muddy and slippery. There are no toilet facilities here, and dogs are not allowed into Warrandyte State Park, but there is a picnic table. Bring your own water and snacks and take your litter home with you.

Fourth Hill map
The biggest challenge is the signage, but this map may assist you.

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Where: Fourth Hill, Warrandyte State Park
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Your Comment
There's some truly beautiful scenery and I love the little bush shelters somebody has made.
by Gayle Beveridge-Marien (score: 4|10118) 800 days ago
by Neil Follett on 21/02/2019
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