Overview

In the 1850s the Eureka Reef was a thriving, noisy, gold mining village. Today the site is a peaceful walk in the bush, where the story of the people who lived and worked at Eureka is etched into the landscape.

This walking tour brings these archeological remains to life, with your guide Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky and special guests relating and singing the stories of the original Jaara people and of the miners, with their stone houses, cacophonic stamping batteries and puddling machines. Today all is quiet, with the birds singing in the trees around, and a story written in the land.

Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park

Please respect the artefacts. There’s a half a million dollar fine for anything you may pinch, even a brick, because the Eureka Reef is part of the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park, a cultural landscape that’s on the National Heritage list – for this is the only place on the planet where the 1950s gold rush is still etched into the landscape.

Travel

You drive to the Eureka Reef car park (see map) and from there the walk is a round trip of about 1.5 ks. It will take about an hour. It’s an easy walk for a reasonably fit person. However if you want a shorter 15-minute walk, you can return after stop 9. Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky will let you know when we get to that fork in the road.

Have fun, take a bottle of water and wear a hat. You could even take a picnic lunch.

 

The Tour

 

STOP 1 – EUREKA REEF ITSELF

After an introduction from Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky, from the car park take the track across the creek bed. About 50 metres along the track you’ll come to the reef itself – on the left.  There’s a fence and a marker with the number 1 on it.

STOP 2 – JAARA WATER WELLS

About 50 metres along the track on the left, you’ll find two ancient Aboriginal wells – like basins in the large, flat rock – and Dja Dja Wurrung elder Uncle Brien Nelson (1940 – 2019) will tell you about their significance, and his son Uncle Ricky Nelson sings a Jaara welcome song.

And a warning: this track contains the voice of Uncle Brien Nelson who has since passed away.

Photo: Uncle Brien Nelson. (Parks Victoria)

STOP 3 – ALLUVIAL REMAINS

The surface diggings of the first miners are another 50 metres along the track, strewn on the rise above. As with the remains of the puddling machine (Stop 4), you’ll need to absorb the landscape and use your imagination.

STOP 4 – REMAINS OF PUDDLING MACHINE

Another 50 metres around the bend is the place where horses slaved all day, tethered to a puddling machine.

STOP 5 – COPPICED TREE

Walk 50 metres on to the fork in the track.  A few steps down the right hand track is a classic example of re-growth following the ecological catastrophe of the gold rush and subsequent land clearing.

STOP 6 – WATER RACE

The water race on the bridge about 60 metres along the track – a piece of astonishing engineering.

STOP 7 – MINE MANAGER’S HOUSE

The ruins of the mine manager’s house is next at stop 7 – you can see it from the bridge.

Ruins of manager’s house. Photo: Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky

STOP 8 – TRAMCAR LINE

From the Mine Manager’s house, the remains of the tramcar line embankment begins about 20 metres on from the Mine Manager’s house.

STOP 9 – THE EUREKA CONSOLIDATED BATTERY

The remains of this battery are 50 metres along the track, on the bend, from when organised companies took over from the digger with his pick and shovel.

STOP 10 – TO THE TAILINGS (OR END OF SHORT WALK)

You’re now at the place where the short tour ends. For those who are returning it’s the same way back to the car park, and if you go to track 21 there’s some music to walk with, and something to visit, right at the end. If you’re in for the full circle, next is stop 10, the tailings, about 50 metres down and around the bend.

STOP 11 – THE DAM

An old dam about 50 metres up on your left.

STOP 12 – THE RIDGE

We’re going to go to the top of the ridge now, about 100 metres up the track. On the way the ecological story of this area, and from Brien Nelson the Dja Dja Wurrung stories of the trade in stone axes and a Dja Dja Wurrung welcome song.

STOP 13 – THE SOUTH ARM OF POVERTY GULLY

The south arm of Poverty Gully is another 150 metres –  the creek at the bottom of the hill. There Jan will help you to see the complex mix of mining here, and the impact on the landscape.

STOP 14 – THE CYANIDE TANKS

(Graphic: Cyanide poisoning)

Cross the bridge and go around to the topside of the tanks – from when miners came back in the 20th Century.

(Graphic courtesy of Medicosis Perfectionalis)

STOP 15 – THE CORNISH CHIMNEY

The brilliant Cornish chimney made by Joseph Blight is 70 metres up the track on the right.

STOP 16 – BLIGHT’S BATTERY

This battery site is less than 50 metres along the track.

STOP 17 – HARRIS BATTERY

This battery adjoins stop 16, and the viewing platform is less than 50 metres on.

STOP 18 – THE LOCATION OF STAMPING BATTERY

Another 50 metres up the track to a relic from mining in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

STOP 19 – THE TUNNEL AND SHAFT

They’re about 80 metres on around the bend – where they tried to tunnel under the reef – and created a sanctuary for Yarran Milliwit, the bat who shows you the way home.

STOP 20 – AN OLD MINER’S COTTAGE

Follow the track about 200 metres. You’ll find the ruins on the left, just before the coppiced Red Ironbark we saw earlier on the walk.

STOP 21 – RETURN TO CAR PARK

From here we return to the beginning. You take the track that goes right at the coppiced tree we looked at earlier, and follow back the way you came.

When you get back to the car park you’ll see a large steel platform. That covers an old mine shaft, dug by Eureka Consolidated to get to a lower level of the Eureka Reef. There’s a hole in that platform, big enough to drop a small stone inside. Just grab a pebble and drop it in – then listen… for it’s along way to the bottom.

Credits

Research David Bannear
Writer/narrator Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky
Producer The Storyteller’s Guide to the World
Heritage Consultant Dr. Keir Reeves Professor of Australian History, History, Federation University
Music Kate Burke, Danny Spooner, Growling Dogs, Ricky Nelson, Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky
Actors James Benedict, Andrew McKenna, John Flaus
Interview Dja Dja Wurrung elder, the late Brien Nelson
Recording/ production Mickey Levis, additional recording by Daryl Evans
Eureka Reef Walking Tour The Diggings Tour Castlemaine Town Tour Bendigo City Tour