Overview

The Diggings Tour is a three-part driving or cycling tour that takes you to many sites of the original gold rush, including Chinese cemeteries, sites of political agitation and poignant graveyards. Original music is from folk legends Kate Burke and Michael Kennedy and Chinese music master Wang Zheng Ting.

The full tour is made up of 3 sections. If you are driving, allow at least an hour for each section.

If you are cycling, the round trip is approximately 50 kilometers.

It’s not necessary to do the whole tour in one go. You can take it section at a time, or even cherry pick certain sites and visit them on their own. The 3 sections are:

1. The Gold Rush (Stops 1-5)
Visit the sites of the gold rush proper, the very places it all happened.

Locals gathering for the annual celebration at the site of the Monster Meeting (note world renowned television history presenter, Tony Robinson, in the crowd). Photo: John Ellis

2. The Characters (Stops 6-11)
Travel to the towns beyond the main rush and meet the characters of the times – civilized and otherwise.


                                               Zealous Diggers, by ST Gill

 

3. New Gold Mountain (Stops 11-16)
Learn the stories of the indigenous Jaara people, where geology meets the Dreamtime, and the wonderful tales of the Chinese gold seekers.

Grave in Chinese Graveyard, Castlemaine. Photo: Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky

 

 

Indigenous People

The Jaara are the Indigenous people of this area, and we are honoured to include their stories and music in these tours. And a warning: this audio contains the voice of a Jaara man who has since died.

STOP 1 – MARKET BUILDING

To begin, a welcome song and story from Dja Dja Wurrung elders, Brien and Rick Nelson, and the story how the Mt Alexander gold rush began.

Directions
Go to the old Market Building, now the Information Centre, in Mostyn Street, Castlemaine.

STOP 2 – PENNYWEIGHT FLAT CEMETERY


Also known as the Children’s Cemetery, this is one of the most poignant places you will ever visit, here accompanied by sublime music by Michael Kennedy and vivid word pictures from Robyn Annear.

Child’s grave, Pennyweight Flat – a circle of stones. Photo: Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky

Directions
From the car park at the rear of the Market Building turn left into Forest Street (Pyrenees Highway) and proceed through the roundabout towards Melbourne. Cross Forest Creek and continue to the top of the hill. After you have travelled 1.6km, turn left into Murphy Street (watch for sign to Pennyweight Flat Cemetery on the left side of the road). After another 400 metres, turn left into Colles Road, cross the bridge and continue 500 metres to the Pennyweight Flat Cemetery car park on the left.

STOP 3 – FOREST CREEK DIGGINGS SITE

A complex gold mining site. You can get a gold panning kit from the Information Centre in Castlemaine (old market Building) and pan for gold in the dam. Good luck. 

Directions
From Pennyweight Flat Cemetery, go back the way you have come, cross the bridge and immediately turn left into Farron Street (unsealed road). Travel 600 metres on Farron Street to the intersection with the Pyrenees Highway (road to Melbourne). Forest Creek Diggings Site is directly opposite. Take care crossing the Pyrenees.

STOP 4 – GARFIELD WATER WHEEL SITE

The heroic tale, told gothic style, of how a boy saved a young girl, Ada, the mine manager’s daughter, from getting her head torn off.

Directions
From the Forest Creek Diggings Site, turn right into Pyrenees Highway (road to Melbourne) and drive 1.5 km into Chewton. Turn left into North Street immediately after passing the corner store (directly opposite the sports ground), cross the bridge and travel up the hill for 800 metres. Take the sign-posted branch to the right and 350 metres further on you will come to the car park. It is a short 50-meter walk from the car park to the Garfield Water Wheel.

STOP 5 – MONSTER MEETING SITE

The site where Australian democracy was kick-started with the Monster Meeting of 1851- rowdily re-enacted by local citizens and actors.

For the full info on the Monster Meeting, and to buy the Monster Meeting CD and book, go to : www.monstermeeting.net

Directions
From the Garfield Water Wheel return to Chewton. Turn left at the Pyrenees Hwy and travel through the town for 1.1 km passing the Town Hall and the Red Hill Hotel. Turn left into Golden Point Road (on the right is the Monster Meeting flag and metal sculpture). The Monster Meeting site is 200 metres along Golden Point Rd on the left.

 

The Diggings Tour – Section 2 – The People

STOP 6 – WATTLE GULLY MINE

Listen to true stories of deep shaft mining – the accidents and rescues, taken from oral histories, read here by the dorian of voice actors, John Flaus. 

Directions
From the Monster Meeting site, return the way you have come back to the turn off to the Garfield Waterwheel. This time turn left into Fryers Road (road to Fryerstown), go under the brick railway bridge and travel another 800 metres. Watch for the sign to Wattle Gully Mine, turn right and follow the sealed road 350 metres to the Wattle Gully Mine car park. There is a 200 metre walking track that takes you to a lookout and information area.

STOP 7 – ESCOTT GRAVE

Imagine … a woman on her own, sailing from England to the gold rush, and with her seven children.

Escott Grave. Photo: Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky.

 

Directions
From the Wattle Gully Mine return to Fryers Road. Turn right and travel 1.9 km until you see the sign for Escott Grave on the left side of the road. Park on the side of the road and there is a 150 meter walk along a bush track to the grave site.

STOP 8 – DUKE OF CORNWALL ENGINE HOUSE

A story of two jolly jack tars, the Mosquito Mine and the big businessman – and who succeeded.

Directions
Continue on from Escott Grave towards Fryerstown, ignoring the 41 sign to Spring Gully. After travelling 2 km pull up at the Duke of Cornwall sign and the tall stone engine house is on the opposite side of the road. This site is on private property so please no trespassing.

STOP 9 – FRYERSTOWN & MURDERING FLAT

A Lawson’esque news report on the sordid side of the gold rush, read by actor John Flaus.

Directions
From the Duke of Cornwall engine house, travel another half a kilometre, turning right at the T-junction into Fryerstown. Follow the road through Fryerstown, and after 1 kilometre you will come to the intersection with Campbell’s Creek Road. The river flat area, on your right, below the junction of the two roads is Murdering Flat. You can listen to the story as you travel or wait till you’re there.

STOP 10 – RED KNOB LANDSCAPE

Where the digger’s gold rush turned industrial and re-shaped the land.

After a further 3 km on the road to Vaughan, take the right branch at the Y-intersection. Red Knob lookout is located a further 1 kilometre from here on the right.

STOP 11 – VAUGHAN SPRINGS

At Vaughan Mineral Springs you can swim, picnic, drink the mineral water and listen to a great song from Kate Burke. The Chinese story also begins at Vaughan.

Photo: Kate Burke.

Directions

Travel 700 metres on from Red Knob, and on the left is the turn to Vaughan. Go under the log archway and down the hill to the Loddon River.

STOP 12 – CHINESE BURIAL GROUND

Here we get deeper into the amazing story of the Chinese who came here for gold, and their round shafts … were they really so bad spirits couldn’t hide in the corners? The story told here by Australian-Chinese historian Denis O’Hoy.

Denis O’Hoy, Photo SBS Television

 

Directions
Return up the hill to the Vaughan Springs entrance. On the left, on the junction with the Vaughan road, is a house. The burial ground is a 50 metre walk around the front to the other side of the house.

Chinese leaving Melbourne for the gold fields.

STOP 13 – THE TOWN OF GUILDFORD & THE BIG TREE

Stand under the oldest tree on the goldfields, with ‘fused’ branches marking it as an ancient Dja Dja Wurrung/ Jaara gathering place, and a welcome song from Uncle Ricky Nelson. 

Directions
From Vaughan, follow the road signage to Guildford. At 2.4 km from Vaughan, turn left at the T-intersection. There is a Guildford sign on the right. On arriving in Guildford you will come to the intersection with the Midland Highway. You are at the heart of the town; there is a hotel on your right, and a corner store opposite. The Big Tree is 200 metres past the store.

STOP 14 – GUILDFORD LOOKOUT

Where volcanic geology, Dja Dja Wurrung/Jaara story and Chinese opera all meet in one sweeping landscape, with a re-creation of the Cantonese Opera that took place in the chines village below, from Wang Zheng-Ting. 

Wang Zheng-Ting playing the sheng. Photo: Roger Mitchell

Directions
From the Big Tree return to the Midland Highway. Turn left and drive towards Castlemaine. After 600 metres you will come to the turn off to the Guildford Lookout, signposted on the right. The lookout is a steep 500 metre drive up to the lookout.

Chinese gold mining, Guildford. Photo: Richard Daintree

STOP 15 – CASTLEMAINE CEMETERY

Where many graves tell a story, the ceremonial urn stands over the Chinese graveyard, and where the bodies came back to life in that spooky ABC TV series, Glitch.

Directions
From the Guildford Lookout, return to the Midland Highway, turn right and continue on towards Castlemaine. After 7 km you come into Campbell’s Creek and you will pass the Five Flags Hotel on the right. Immediately around the corner on the left is the sign to the Castlemaine Cemetery, just 500 metres down Alexandra Street.

STOP 16 – RETURN TO CASTLEMAINE

With a philosophical song for the road.

Directions
Travel back along Alexandra St and turn left onto the highway. From there it’s 4 km back to Castlemaine.

Credits

Research David Bannear
Writer/narrator Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky
Editor Lee Fox
Producer The Storyteller’s Guide to the World
Heritage Consultant Dr. Keir Reeves Professor of Australian History, History, Federation University.
Music Kate Burke, Wang Zheng Ting, Michael Kennedy, Jan ‘Yarn’ Wositzky.
Actors James Benedict, Andrew McKenna, John Flaus, Ken Radley, Ian Scott, Gus Reid-Hill , Aisha McEwan, kids from Winter’s Flat Community Class
Interviews Robyn Annear and Dennis O’Hoy
Recording/technical production Mickey Levis & music recording by Daryl Evans and Andrew Skeoch
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