The following itinerary describes a range of sites which we plan to visit. At the time of publication (September 2022) most visits had been confirmed. While several are accessible to the public, others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2022.
The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary, together with their tour documents, prior to departure. The tour includes meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.
Hamilton – 3 nights
Day 1: Monday 21 March, Melbourne – Geelong – Camperdown – Hamilton
- Geelong Art Gallery: Introduction to Eugene von Guérard and his travels through the Western District
- Private visit to a Pastoral Homestead, Camperdown: Welcome Lunch and tour of homestead, museum and historic outbuildings
Meeting Point: Armadale/Caulfield (extact address to be confirmed) 8.00am.
We board our private coach at a designated meeting point in Melbourne and drive to Geelong. On arrival we visit the Geelong Art Gallery to view and discuss painted images of Victoria and in particular, the Western District. Accompanied by Senior Curator, Lisa Sullivan, we begin with a tour of the permanent collection which features five works by Eugene von Guérard including View of Geelong (1856) and View from Fritz Wilhelmberg, Herne Hill, Geelong. There is also a fascinating portrait of Mrs Margaret McArthur of Meningoort painted by Robert Dowling in 1856-1857. Following his apprenticeship in saddlery in 1850 Dowling left this career and moved to Geelong where he secured commissions from Western District pastoralists which included services as a professional portrait painter. During the tour we visit a number of homesteads where he painted portraits including Mrs Adolphus Sceales at Merrang Station.
From Geelong, we shall drive to a private pastoral homestead located in the Camperdown district. The property’s aesthetic significance is enhanced by the fact that it was painted by Eugene von Guérard in 1861. Two squatters, Cornishman Nicholas Cole and Scot Peter McArthur, established one of Victoria’s sheep runs in November, 1839. They established a claim to several thousand acres. After three years they split the partnership into two portions with Cole taking the 21,000 northern portion and McArthur took up the 13,000 southern portion. Their descendants remain on both properties, West Cloven Hills and Meningoort. Peter McArthur built a substantial blue stone house and outbuildings in 1851 and in 1886 Melbourne architect, Charles D’Ebro (1850-1920), integrated the original residence into a large Italianate style homestead constructed of basalt with an encircling iron verandah. The homestead has been meticulously maintained in near original 1880s condition externally. Its interior has been sensitively enhanced. Our visit will include a welcome lunch followed by a tour of the homestead, the garden and historic buildings which include a museum, woolshed, coach and racing stables. Note: ASA requests all group members to respect the privacy of the homestead owners. Photography will not be permitted during this visit and we kindly ask that all group members leave their phones and cameras on the coach.
Following this visit we journey west to Hamilton, often referred to as the ‘Wool capital of the world’, which will be our base for the next two days. A light dinner will be served at the hotel. (Overnight Hamilton) LD
Day 2: Tuesday 22 March, Hamilton – Wickliffe – Bornes Hill – Willaura – Tarrington – Hamilton
Today we visit three fine homesteads. We first drive east to Wickliffe where we explore Narrapumelap Homestead, sited on a station settled by a Scottish pastoralist and benefactor, John Dixon Wyselaskie (1818–1883) in 1840. Geelong architects, Alexander Davidson and George Henderson, designed this (surviving) picturesque Gothic Revival, single storied bluestone homestead, which was constructed between 1873 and 1878. This grand house has an asymmetrical plan dominated by a central projecting gabled wing, turret and tower. Its front is framed by bow and bay windows and it has a cast iron veranda. Its eclectic detailing is profuse. The house and its gardens, both of which we shall explore, have been magnificently restored.
After our visit and morning tea at Narrapumlap, we drive to Toora West where we enjoy lunch and tour its glorious Victorian country garden. The garden is structured around eight grand oak trees, with a plenitude of flowers that change its dominant colours with the seasons. Charles and Cass Kimpton have developed this rich garden from the bare paddocks they found when they moved here in 1969. The location of their garden is magnificent as it is set against a deep background of the Grampians, of Mount William, Mount Sturgeon and Mount Abrupt, which are visually ‘captured’ to lend drama to their creation.
In the afternoon we drive to Willaura to visit Yarram Park, one of Victoria’s largest working sheep and cattle stations that has been in the hands of the Baillieu family since 1948. Originally called “Yarram Yarram”, this property was pioneered between 1844 and 1852 by Edward Parker and Robert Muirhead; it is interesting that Muirhead commissioned a landscape of the Grampians and the Victoria Ranges from Mount Rouse by Eugene von Guérard (1861); the painting was thought lost until found recently in Wiltshire. Parker and Muirhead were forced by the government to relinquish their 12,900 hectares in 1860 and in 1864 it was sold to the Robertson brothers, who built the surviving homestead. It was sold again in 1908 and in 1914. In 1948, John Baillieu’s Western District Pastoral Company bought it. The homestead was originally constructed from handmade bricks sourced from material in the property’s creek bed; it has since been rendered. The only other buildings on Yarram Park at that time were an overseer’s cottage, and the shearers quarters, all of which were also constructed from handmade bricks. Yarram Park is also the setting of Sir Arthur Streeton’s versions of the famous Land of the Golden Fleece (NGV; NGA; Private Club, Sydney). Streeton painted the works at Yarram Park during a visit there.
The region surrounding Penshurt is the centre of the ‘Newer Volcanics Province’, a volcanic field spanning Western Victoria. The volcanic field stretches over an area of 15,000 square kilometres and contains over 400 small volcanoes and volcanic vents. Some of the volcanoes in this region include Tower Hill and Mount Noorat which we visit during our tour. By special appointment we make an ‘out-of-hours’ visit to the Penshurst Volcanoes Discovery Centre to attend a powerpoint presentation on the volcanic history of the Western District.
We next drive to Pierrepoint Wines which celebrates the food and wine of the Henty Region. Here we enjoy a light dinner and a wine tasting. (Overnight Hamilton) BLD
Day 3: Wednesday 23 March, Hamilton – Coleraine – Nareen – Warrock – Hamilton
- Nigretta & Wannon Falls, Southern Grampians
- Morning tea at the Catching Pen café, Coleraine
- Nareen Station
- Warrock Homestead incl. Devonshire Tea (to be confirmed)
We begin today by visiting two fine waterfalls, the Nigretta and Wannon Falls. The Wannon Falls were immensely popular with the artists of the day, painted by S. T. Gill, Nicholas Chevalier, Eugéne von Guerard, Louis Buvelot, and several times by Thomas Clark. After morning coffee at the Catching Pen café, we visit Nareen Station.
Nareen is located on the Dundas Plateau in rolling red-gum country, 350 metres above sea level. It was first settled in the 1840s by Charles Lambert Swanston and Edward Willis as part of the larger squatting run, Koolomurt; it occupied the traditional lands of the Jardwadjali people. The property was separated from Koolomurt in 1886 by early Victorian grazier and parliamentarian, James Graham (1819–1898). It then changed hands many times until purchased by the Fraser family in 1946. Already well-known in the wool industry for its fine-wool Merino flock, Nareen became home to the nation’s 22nd prime minister, the late Malcolm Fraser. Semi-retired gardener Les Potter, who has lived at Nareen since 1973, worked with Tamie Fraser on the lush homestead gardens. Nareen is particularly beautiful in spring when the country is green and the camellias and roses are in bloom. Gordon and Alexandra Dickinson and their family purchased Nareen Station in 1996. They “pride ourselves in being environmentally responsible – planting trees every year for stock and landcare. We produce healthy animals in a low stress grazing environment.”
We next drive to Warrock Homestead, an extraordinary complex of more than 30 heritage classified buildings dating back to 1843, when Scottish reformist and philanthropist George Robertson established a pastoral property here; it has been owned by the same family for over 150 years. Originally comprising approximately 57, mostly timber, buildings, the complex, resembling a small village, included a main homestead, workers’ accommodation, woolshed, stables and carriage house. These, and a blacksmith shop, storerooms, dairy workshops made the complex almost self-sufficient. The property’s kennels are famous as home to the first Australian ‘Kelpie’. The complex, which conforms closely to the picturesque farm layout espoused by British theorists such as J. C. Loudon (1783–1843), features mature River Red Gums and a landscape garden with significant (including exotic) 19th-century plantings; it has the earliest private glass greenhouse constructed in Australia. The property retains thousands of household objects and original farm equipment and building tools. (Overnight Hamilton) BLD
Port Fairy – 2 nights
Day 4: Thursday 24 March, Hamilton – Tahara – Merino – Grassdale – Heywood – Port Fairy
We begin this morning visiting Murndal set at the heart of a pastoral run formerly known as ‘Spring Valley’, located on the Wannon River near Merino. The land was taken up in 1838 by Irish pastoralist Samuel Pratt Winter, whose homestead grew gradually from 1845. The original two room stone cottage (c. 1845-50) survives as the library at the centre of the house. The original homestead was increased in size firstly by the bluestone west wing and verandas added to the original cottage in 1856, and then in 1875 by the substantial two storey bluestone east wing incorporating the dining room. In 1906 architects Uusher and Kemp designed charming Elizabethan Revival extensions over the central single storey; the unity of the house was reinforced by the integration of house and station buildings around a rear courtyard. Surviving outbuildings include a two-storey bluestone cool room and a men’s hut, carpenter’s shop and laundry, all built of bricks made on the station. Five generations of the influential Winter Cooke family have occupied the house.
Murndal homestead and station buildings are surrounded by a well-maintained English landscape garden, begun around 1870 in the style of Humphry Repton, with a series of lakes as a feature. A large English Oak known as the ‘Cowthorp Oak’ was planted in 1886 from a seedling of the famous Cowthorp Oak in Yorkshire, mentioned in the Doomsday Book and regarded as the world’s oldest English Oak. A rare Palestine Oak, Quercus calliprinos, was planted in 1916 from acorns collected by Captain William L Winter-Cooke (1892–1979) at Gallipoli.
In early August 1860 the Melbourne Herald reported that ‘Mr Clark, the artist, has just completed two very excellent pictures: one is a sketch of Mr. Winter’s station, in the Portland district, and the other the falls at the Wannon’. Thomas Clark is something of a legendary figure in late colonial art, and remembered as the highly respected teacher of Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin.
From Murndal we travel through ‘Henty Country’. The Henty family were the first Europeans to settle within the Port Phillip district (Victoria). James, Stephen and John Henty sailed to Western Australia in 1829. The rest of their family, led by their father, Thomas Henty, a successful sheep breeder, sailed to Tasmania in 1832. Edward Henty and his brother Francis arrived at Portland Bay in 1834. Their ship, the Thistle, carried bullocks, cows and pigs, along with baskets of tobacco, flour and two ‘casks’ of beef and two of pork. A month later, they brought Victoria’s first Merino sheep to Portland. Stephen Henty, who had remained in Western Australia, joined Edward and Francis in Portland in 1836.
The brothers’ decision to settle in Portland was illegal; at this time the British government forbade settlement that was too far from Sydney. They established a small farm and began whaling at Portland Bay, but moved inland when Major Thomas Mitchell (1792–1855) told them about fertile farming land surrounding the Wannon River. By 1839 the Hentys possessed over 30,000 sheep and 500 head of cattle. The Henty run was called ‘Merino Downs’.
A light lunch will be provided during our visit to Talisker Homestead located just outside the town of Merino. The homestead was built for the grazier, Alexander Magnus McLeod (1846-1910) and his wife Caroline in 1901. The property was a sub-division of ‘Merino Downs’. After Francis Henty’s death, ‘Merino Downs’ was divided into three estates, one for each of his three daughters, Louisa, Caroline and Alice. Caroline Henty (1849-1914) became the owner of Talisker and married A.M. McLeod. They lived together at Talisker from 1901 until his death in 1910. The single-storey homestead, which was designed by Melbourne Architect Charles d’Ebro (1850-1920), is in the Federation style. Its profile is dominated by a highly inventive central three-storey tower graced with an Elizabethan style window and a double curved roof. The house, constructed from ‘Ballarat black’ with red brick bands, has a long, timber posted front verandah and fine gables with excellent Edwardian decoration; the house has a ‘U’ shaped plan. Within, this large, five-bedroom house, has clearly separated public, private and working areas. It has coloured leadlight windows, fine timber work, and even a fascinating Art Nouveau-inspired wall painting.
This afternoon we visit Ardgartan, Grassdale, with a garden retaining the design by Edna Walling (1895–1973); the Youngman family has maintained many of Walling’s original ideas for over 80 years. The name ‘Ardgartan’ derives from the Gaelic, meaning ‘high garden’ or ‘corn on the hill’. Harry and Min Youngman have maintained Edna Walling’s garden plans, designed to complement the 1857 property, as well as many of her ‘signature plants’, including silver birches, Prunus and aspens. Cotoneaster surrounds the garden while camellias are shaded by the house. One classic Edna Walling ‘trademark’ element is a beautifully articulated curved stone wall made from rocks sourced on the property; Walling believed that the stone should be sourced locally, to avoid jarring with the landscape. In the less formal part of the garden, a pretty woodland provides shelter from the cold south-westerly winds.
From Ardgarten we journey south to the historic fishing town of Port Fairy. En route we stop to view the water tower mural at Heywood. Completed in May 2021, the mural which is a tribute to the extraordinary services of Aboriginal ANZACs, depicts Private Herbert Lovett and his three brothers. Tom Day, the great-grandson of Herbert Stahle Lovett collaborated with artists Matt Adnate and Levi Geebung to design the mural. Private Lovett was one of four Gundijmara brothers from the Lake Condah Mission who enlisted and served in both the 1st and 2nd World Wars. During our visit we meet with Troy Lovett who grew up in Heywood. Troy is passionate about local culture and community. He demonstrates this through his dancing and artwork, both of which take inspiration from the Gunditjmara landscape as well as the stories and songlines of his ancestors.
Tonight we dine together at a local restaurant in Port Fairy. (Overnight Port Fairy) BLD
Day 5: Friday 25 March, Port Fairy – Cape Bridgewater – Portland – Port Fairy
- Walk to the Griffiths Island Lighthouse & tour of Port Fairy with historian Marten Syme
- Light lunch at The Oak & Anchor Hotel, Port Fairy
- Blowholes Lookout & Petrified Forest, Cape Bridgewater
- Point Danger Gannet Colony: ranger led tour
Griffiths Island, at Port Fairy, is an isolated volcanic outcrop, now overlain with sand, home to seasonal Short-tailed Shearwaters and a scatter of wallabies. From 1836 about 27 whalers from Launceston hunted the Southern right whales from the Island, until their depredations almost obliterated their quarry. A little later (1843) James Atkinson exercised his Special Survey entitlement to acquire 8 square miles of the west bank of the Moyne river. He offered long-term leases to tenants (and later land sales, to stave off his Sydney banker). He named this venture “Belfast”. With William Rutledge, his erstwhile Parramatta neighbour, establishing a successful pastoral agency business, the town grew rapidly. It became an outlet for wool from the Western District pastoralists and local small farmers and fishermen to the markets, until his banker, jealous of his commercial success, foreclosed and the business became insolvent. The town never regained its economic progress and vitality, so much of the 19th-century built fabric remained in place. Astute visitors in the late 1970s provided new capital to resuscitate the town and its extraordinary collection of buildings (houses, shops, banks, hotels).
The Moyne River retains historic structures along its passage to the sea, guided by its “training walls”, borders Griffiths Island, and provides the connection to the maritime world, as in earlier immigrant times, when the lifeboat offered some surety for the distant arrivals in the event of shipwreck.
In Port Fairy we meet with historian, Marten Syme who is author of the book Port Fairy: The town that kept its character, which details the town’s history from 1835 to 2018. Marten will guide us on a walk to the Port Fairy Lighthouse, built in 1859 on Griffith Island. The light rises 12.5 metres above the high watermark and is visible to seaward some 20 kilometres. During south-westerly gales huge seas crash onto the area, so in the 19th-century a causeway and wall were built to provide safe access to the light. The lighthouse originally used an oil lamp and its whole optical system rotated in order to flash the identification code. Solar power took over in 1987, a wind generator backup being added in June 1996. With each course of blocks in the lighthouse’s wall, a long slab was inserted to protrude towards the centre of the tower creating a staircase that was therefore structurally part of the wall.
Following our walk Marten will take us on a guided tour of historic Port Fairy. Our program includes a visit to the former residence of the Port Fairy Harbour Master, Captain John Mills who lived in a small cottage on Gipps Street from the mid 1850s-1871. The cottage dates back to c 1843, making it possibly one of Victoria’s oldest homes. Our tour ends at the historic Oak & Anchor Hotel, a former departure point for Cobb & Co coaches, where a light lunch will be served.
This afternoon we travel to the beautiful and secluded Cape Bridgewater, considered the second most important coastline in Victoria, after the ‘Twelve Apostles’, along the Great Ocean Road. The bay and adjacent Cape form a partially submerged volcanic caldera. The Cape boasts the highest coastal cliff in Victoria from where southern right whales may be observed during winter and spring, a large blowhole and karst solution pipes.
The area was settled by the Henty family in the 1860s who had settled in nearby Portland in 1834. At the time, Cape Bridgewater was one of the Henty’s six stations in the district. However, the pastures were not good and small profits and production led the Henty’s to move their Bridgewater operation further north. During an expedition to South Australia in 1857 Eugene von Guérard made a number of sketches of the area including Fresh water lake near the coast between the mouth of the Glenelg and Cape Bridgewater and Sandy Coast from the mouth of the Glenelg to Cape Bridgewater, both currently held at the State Library of NSW.
Weather permitting, we visit the Blowholes Lookout and the Petrified Forest. From the Blowholes carpark it is a short 50m walk to the Blowholes Lookout where you may view the blowholes formed from the lava flows of an extinct volcano. The black basalt and purple scorpia rock create spectacular spouts of sea spray during the high seas and the lookout provides panoramic views of the ocean and Discovery Bay with its brilliant white sand dunes. From the Lookout you can take a 10 minute walk along a flat path to the petrified forest formed when a stand of Moonah trees was buried under drifting sand. An outer shell of sandstone formed with moisture and the enveloped trees rotted away. Winds have eroded these structures leaving petrified remains up to 1.5 metres in height. From the Petrified Forest it is a short walk back to the coach.
Following refreshments at the Bridgwater Bay Café, we travel to Portland, the major exporting centre for the produce of south-western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia – principally wool and grain. From 1819 the bay at Portland was used by whalers and sealers. Thomas Mitchell visited Portland Bay in August 1836. He was amazed to find the settlement in existence. Inspired by Mitchell’s reports of good land to the north of Portland, the Henty family moved inland in 1837. The port became the point of export for their produce. On arrival we visit the Point Danger Gannet Colony which we explore with a local ranger. This is the site of Australia’s only mainland rookery of Australasian Gannets; approximately 300 pairs nest and raise their young from July to April.
In the late afternoon we return to Port Fairy where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Port Fairy) BL
Warrnambool – 3 nights
Day 6: Saturday 26 March, Port Fairy – Tower Hill – Warrnambool
- Von Guérard Lookout & Tower Hill Natural History Centre
- Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village: Guided tour by Drs Ron & Carlyn Sproston
- Warrnambool Art Museum incl. the View of Tower Hill 1855 – private tour with the gallery’s director, Vanessa Gerrans
We check-out from our Port Fairy apartments and drive east to Tower Hill, a volcanic formation whose crater, formed around 32,000 years ago, is roughly 3.2 kilometres wide and 80 metres high. Classified as a ‘giant nested maar’ of international geological significance, this low-relief crater was caused by a phreatomagmatic eruption – an explosion which occurs when molten lava encountered a layer of water-bearing rock (tephra). The maar later filled with water to form the lake while further eruptions created the islands and cone shaped hills (tuff ring).
The Dhauwurd Wurrung, also known as the Gunditjmara or Gunditjamara, are the traditional owners of the areas now encompassing Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Woolsthorpe and Portland. Their land includes much of the Budj Bim heritage areas. The Kerrup Jmara, are a clan of the Gunditjmara whose traditional lands are around Lake Condah. The Koroitgundidj (Koroit gundidj) are another clan whose lands are around Tower Hill. Artefacts found in the volcanic ash layers including 5000 year-old Tasmanian Devil bones, and greenstone axe heads, suggest that these clans witnessed the last eruptions of Tower Hill, with some of the oldest oral traditions re-telling the eruption.
We begin with a visit to the Von Guérard Lookout, famous as the viewpoint which Eugene von Guérard chose for his important painting View of Tower Hill (1855). This painting, which depicts the volcano crater lake with inset scoria cones, surrounded by native vegetation, is significant not only as a fine example of the artist’s oeuvre but also because it is so meticulous in depicting plant species that it has been used to bring the vegetation of Tower Hill back to its original state; from the painting botanists have identified grass and ferns on the island, wattles, sheoaks, banksias on the cones and reeds and tussocks in the marshes.
From the lookout we descend into the Tower Hill crater to visit the Natural History Centre which was designed by Robin Boyd in 1962 and completed in 1969. Managed by the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative, the centre has environmental and cultural displays. The shape of the building, which recalls a volcanic cone, affords 360-degree views of the park.
This afternoon we explore the maritime history of what was one of the most treacherous coastlines in the world. Following a light lunch in the Flagstaff Tearooms, we take a guided tour of the Flagstaff Hill Museum and Village which holds Australia’s most significant shipwreck artefact collection. The museum’s greatest treasure is a priceless Minton statue, the Loch Ard Peacock. Valued at $4,000,000 the Peacock was being transported in 1878 to Melbourne aboard the Loch Ard, for display at Melbourne’s Great International Exhibition of 1880. The peacock was washed ashore two days after the Loch Ard wreck. Our tour will be led by Drs Ron and Carlyn Sproston who co-authored The Lost of the Loch Ard: The passengers and Crew and Those They Left Behind published in 2015. Dr Ron Sproston is also author of The Peacock that became a legend: the story of the Loch Ard Peacock (2010). Currently they are studying the history of the men and women from the Moyne region that served in WWII.
At the Warrnambool Art Gallery we meet with the director, Vanessa Gerrans, for a private viewing of Von Guérard’s painting View of Tower Hill as well as other works several of which were collected by local clothes manufacturer Sir Fletcher Jones O.B.E.
We will be based for the next 3 nights in Warrnambool. The port of Warrnambool played a crucial role in the export of Western District wool, but also in the manufacture of woollen clothing, through the famous local Fletcher Jones woollen mill and factory. Warrnambool Bay was first documented by the French explorer, cartographer, naturalist and hydrographer Nicholas Baudin in 1802. From the 1830s whalers and sealers occasionally landed there. In 1836, the explorer Major Mitchell encountered the Henty brothers, who had sailed from Van Dieman’s Land, on the town’s site. Early settlers in the late 1830s included the Bolden and Allan brothers, Thomas Manifold, Henry Foster and Thomas Strong. Superintendent (later lieutenant governor) LaTrobe allocated 250 acres for the town, which took the name ‘Warrnambool’ from a nearby mount. Warrnambool prospered, especially in the 1880s when local architects designed much of its surviving architecture. By 1890 the port, soon to be linked to Melbourne by rail, gained an important breakwater to protect shipping. Its role as a port and agricultural centre was augmented by industries such as a nearby Nestles factory, the Warrnambool Cheese & Butter Factory, and, after World War II the aforementioned Fletcher Jones factory; its eponymous founder contributed an important art collection, named after him, to the Warrnambool Art Gallery.(Overnight Warrnambool) BLD
Day 7: Sunday 27 March, Warrnambool – Darlington – Hexham – Warrnambool
- Stony Point Homestead: Guided tour & Lunch
- Merrang, Hexham incl. talk by renowned bird artist, Richard Weatherly OAM
This morning we visit ‘Stony Point’ near Darlington, which has been home to six generations of the Jamieson family. The house is superbly situated overlooking bends in Mt Emu Creek. Its garden melds the historic and contemporary. From the 1850s, there are established palms and oaks that anchor the garden into the landscape and provide an air of establishment; the understorey planting, in contrast, is exciting and innovative. Sweeps of architectural echiums, bold ornamental angelica, artichokes and iris are interspersed with brilliant masses of hardy valerian and forget-me-nots. These are offset by rounded clipped balls of westringia and other hardy shrubs, which line the drive leading into a huge drift of beautifully rounded clumps of sedum ‘Autumn Joy’. In another long bed, bright yellow hot pokers offset a large lemon tree dripping with masses of coloured fruit. Then there are the stands of white-trunked silver birches complementing the smooth white trunks of the elegant lemon-scented gums. Many trees have been planted to celebrate events such as weddings and birthdays.
After lunch, we visit opulent, National Trust listed Merrang property at Hexham. The early Australian colonial artist Robert Hawker Dowling (1827–1886) painted arguably his most significant painting, Mrs Adolphus Sceales with Black Jimmie on Merrang Station (National Gallery of Australia) at Merrang in 1856.
This run was established in 1839 and bought in 1856 by Scottish settler, Robert Hood, who extended the property by more than 8,900 hectares. In 1859 Hood built a four-room stone cottage from which the present homestead developed. A substantial single storey Italianate style extension with an impressive Ionic entrance portico was begun in 1865. In 1875, the timber-posted verandah of the old cottage was removed and a new cast iron return verandah was erected, that unified the 1859 and 1865 sections of the house. A gatekeeper’s lodge and station outbuildings were also erected in 1875 to a design by Warrnambool architect Andrew Kerr.
The homestead sits high on a rise atop a ha-ha wall that keeps livestock out while allowing picturesque views over a billabong beside the Hopkins River, which flows through the property. The house is surrounded by about .8 hectares of park-like gardens and an Elm grove bordered by stone fences. The bluestone gatekeepers’ cottage, a three-bedroom manager’s residence, six-stand woolshed, bluestone stables, an early cookhouse for workers and the Hood family cemetery are among the property’s highlights. A fire in 1917 reduced the size of the huge original bluestone stables.
Following our tour of Merrang we enjoy a talk by environmentalist and renowned bird artist, Richard Weatherly OAM, who spent his childhood on the sheep and cattle station at Connewarran, Mortlake, founded by his great grandfather.
We return to Warrnambool where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Warrnambool) BL
Day 8: Monday 28 March, Warrnambool – Camperdown – Dalvui – Noorat – Mortlake – Warrnambool
- Camperdown Botanic Gardens & the twin volcanic lakes of Bullen Merri
- Lake Gnotuk and the Wombeetch Puyuun Memorial, Camperdown Cemetery
- Dalvui: Heritage Gardens designed by William Guilfoyle
- Niel Black Memorial Presbyterian Church
- Alan Marshall Walking Track to view the dry crater
- Woolongoon Historic Garden, Mortlake
Today we visit a number of sites associated with one of the Western District’s most famous pioneers, Niel Black. We begin with a visit to the Camperdown Botanic Gardens which command views over the twin volcanic lakes of Bullen Merri and Gnotuk. From the 1850’s this picturesque area was commonly referred to as the ‘Basin Banks’. The public park was established in 1869 following the recommendation of William Guilfoyle, renowned Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
From Camperdown we skirt Lake Gnotuk to visit the Camperdown Cemetery within which lies the Wombeetch Puyuun Memorial. James Dawson, local protector of Aborigines erected a 20 metre obelisk of grey granite to mark the place where he buried Wombeetch Puuyuun (locally known to Europeans as “Camperdown George”) the last member of the local indigenous tribes. In 1881 James Dawson wrote a book entitled Australian Aborigines: The Language and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia. The book “draws on his daughter’s ability to speak the local languages and attempts a balanced description of a culture he considered ill-used and under-appreciated by white settlers. Minute details about clothing, tools, settlement and beliefs combine to depict a complex society that possessed highly ritualised customs deserving of respect. Dawson also included an extensive vocabulary of words in three indigenous languages that he hoped would facilitate further cross-cultural understanding. His work provides valuable source material for modern researchers in anthropology and linguistics”.
The region has a long association with the Djargurd Wurrung, who occupied the country for thousands of years, and is closely entwined with the early settlement period of Camperdown from the 1830s. Due to the region’s picturesque landscape, abundance of rich volcanic soils and well-watered plains, early pastoral settlers in the district jostled one another for a foothold at the coveted Basin Banks. By 1864, the lakes were hemmed in by the holdings of Niel Black & Co on the west, the Manifold brothers on the east, and by Donald McNicol who held the Bullen Merri pre-emptive right on the south.
From the 1850s, the picturesque landscape surrounded the two lakes became the subject of several outstanding paintings by Eugene von Guérard including Basin Banks About Twenty Miles South of Mount Elephant painted in 1857 and The Basin Banks, near Camperdown, also painted in 1857 and currently held at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Nicholas Chevalier also painted the Basin Banks following his visit to the area with Georg von Neumayer’s meteorological expedition of 1859–62.
Next, we explore and enjoy lunch at magnificent Federation style Dalvui House, Terang, a formidable mansion inherited in 1880 by son of pastoralist Niel Black, also called Niel. It is surrounded by a beautiful heritage garden of 1898 originally designed for Black by William Guilfoyle (1840–1912). Guilfoyle designed the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, a number of provincial botanical gardens, and a several private gardens. Dalvui is regarded as one of Australia’s most important private gardens, with lush lawns beneath spectacular mature trees, and curved borders filled with a choice selection of shrubs, perennials and bulbs. It has rockeries and ponds. More recent plantings add further interest to Guilfoyle’s original 1898 design, the characteristics of which include paths that disappear behind trees, garden beds bordered by hedges and other plants, and the use of a variety of different colours and foliage.
The residence itself was designed in 1907 by Melbourne architects Beverley Ussher and Henry Kemp. Their design featured a strong diagonal emphasis focussed on a polygonal candle-snuffer roof. Panels of vertical hanging tiles complement a magnificent Tudor bay window to the garden with banked Gothic lights; stone corbels carry the house’s protruding upper façade. It presents a powerful picturesque ensemble along with Guilfoyle’s garden and the nearby lake. The mansion’s interior features a grand, sweeping staircase, Jacobean plaster ceilings, Art Nouveau detailing and a splendid lift car with a coloured glass roof light.
“Niel Black was a Scot from Argyll shire with extensive farming experience. He came to Australia in 1839 having formed Niel Black & Co with his own capital and that of two Scottish partners, one a first cousin of the future statesman William Ewart Gladstone”. Up Came a Squatter: Niel Black of Glenormiston, 1839-1880 by Maggie Black reflects on how important the wool industry was to Australia for more than a hundred years.
This afternoon we visit St Andrews, the fine Niel Black Memorial Presbyterian Church. It was built in memory of the Hon. Niel Black (1804–1880) by his widow and sons in 1883; it functioned as a village church for the Black family, their servants, and the local farming community, having replaced a timber church that was removed to Glenormiston. The church was designed by architect John Honeyman of Glasgow and erected under the supervision of Alexander Hamilton of Colac. This church is a small single nave bluestone building with a semi-circular apse, a belfry on the eastern elevation and an attractive wooden northern porch. Although Presbyterian, its interior layout is more like that of an Anglican church with a centre aisle with an elevated pulpit on one side and a central communion table, rather than a plain Scottish non-conformist free church whose central focus was the pulpit. It also has a grand period organ atypical for Nonconformist churches of the time.
We next take the new Alan Marshall Memorial Track, dedicated as its name suggests, to the famous local author of I Can Jump Puddles, to view the Mount Noorat crater, one of the best-preserved volcanic craters in Australia. From here, we can view an extensive panorama of the volcanic cones rising from the plain. Noorat’s Eve Black donated the land, significant for both its natural and Indigenous history, to accord with the wishes of her late husband, Niel.
Our final visit today is to magnificent Woolongoon in Mortlake. The Weatherly family have owned Woolongoon since 1895. We shall explore its lovely garden with many flowers and majestic old trees. The garden even has flowering cherries, brought from Japan when the present owner’s grandparents married in 1911. There are 100-year-old plantings of exotic shrubs, historic farm buildings and farm and garden implements. The present garden developed over 115 years from that surrounding the first small house; the circular lawn in front of the present mansion survives from this first garden. There is a vegetable garden, and shrubberies and many narrow winding paths. (Overnight Warrnambool) BLD
Day 9: Tuesday 29 March, Warrnambool – Hexham – Kolora – Melbourne
- Coomete, Hexham
- Wooriwyrite Homestead incl. farewell lunch
Today we return to Melbourne via two magnificent properties. We begin with a visit to Coomete which was selected in 1860 and has never been sold. It was owned by William Bayles and leased to August Bostock from late 1862 until the mid-1890s when the Bayles family took up residence. Extensions designed by Melbourne architects Klingender and Alsop were added to the property in 1910. While Melbourne-born Jack Roxburgh is a fifth generation of his family to own the 1600-hectare farm, he’s the first to live on it and manage it full time.
Wooriwyrite Station has an Italianate homestead built for Thomas Shaw in 1883 by architect Alexander Hamilton of Colac. The Leader newspaper (1886) described the homestead ‘as comfortable a country house as one could wish to live in’. It continued: ‘It stands on a small eminence above the Mount Emu Creek and commands a fairly extensive view… Regarded from an architectural standpoint, Wooriwyrite House is not elaborate or ornate, being plain in design, though substantial in build. The material is bluestone, and the building is two-story, having a verandah running around three sides of it. Inside, the house is a combination of comfort and convenience with elegance and refinement. Gas made on the premises, electric bells, furniture as artistic as it is accommodating, and beautiful decorations all combine to render Mr. Shaw’s country residence quite equal to those of its class found in the centres of civilisation, where conveniences are so much more readily obtained.’ We enjoy a special farewell lunch at Wooriwyrite before driving to Melbourne where our tour concludes. BL
Finishing Point: Armadale approximately 6.00pm