Hungry for adventure and keen to explore the Waanyarra Recreation Site, we were hoping to find the elusive site of the Waanyarra Historic Cemetery. Going off rough hand-drawn maps we found on the internet, we located the turn off 7 kilometres between Tarnagulla and Dunolly on the Bridgewater-Dunolly Road within the bounds of the Dunolly State Forest. At the time we were unsure of the road name, but driving from Tarnagulla towards Dunolly there is a green Parks Victoria sign saying, "Waanyarra Recreation Site" that marks the start of Mortons Lane on which the Waanyarra Historic Cemetery is located.
Waanyarra Historic Cemetery circa 1850 to 1990 depicting the rare Double Waxflower that was local to the area.
The Waanyarra Historic Cemetery has an old wrought iron gate and a well looked after white picket fence with post and rail fencing to mark the boundaries. Three rocks at the entrance have memorial plaques on them listing the names of those people that are buried there, but whose respective graves were not marked by a headstone or grave marker.
The three different types of grave markers we saw were wood, sandstone, and marble.
There are three different types of graves to be seen in this cemetery, with some graves having wooden grave markers, some with marble and wrought iron fence surrounds, some with plaques on stones, and some that just have the sandstone markers placed on them by the Families and Friends of Waanyarra group (FAFOW). The terrain in the cemetery is slightly uphill, with rough ground, and an abundance of overgrown plants. It would not be suitable for people in wheelchairs, but for those who get around with a walking stick or frame, it would be relatively easy to navigate through the plots.
Sadly, nature is starting to reclaim some of the plots.
Deciding to drive deeper into the Dunolly State Forest along Mortons Lane to see what else the area had to reveal, we discovered another well-tended grave outside of the cemetery fence line. With no headstone to say when the person died, we can only assume the person was buried there before the official cemetery was established in 1850.
Further along Mortons Lane, we came across an old stone building called Mortons Welcome Inn. The sign attached to the building reveals it was built by a Michael Morton, whose grave we had come across earlier in the cemetery. The building served as a home for his family of eight as well as a supply store for the miners and a public bar. Made of local stone, it is starting to crumble in parts and there is another sign warning not to enter as the building is unstable.
Another pub with no beer, or patrons anymore is Mortons Welcome Inn.
It is hard to imagine this building was big enough to store mining provisions, a large family and act as the local watering hole for the hundreds of miners that rushed to the area when gold was discovered in 1853.
Not so welcoming with its crumbling walls is Mortons Welcome Inn
While our rather haphazard exploring technique may not be to everyone's taste, we quite enjoyed the less trodden track so to speak. As always, when venturing into the Australian bush be on the lookout for snakes, wear sturdy footwear, take plenty of energy snacks, adequate water, take any rubbish you bring home with you, and particularly when wandering around the Waanyarra bushland be mindful that the area was well known for its gold and there may be old mine shafts present.