Walk with Jack

Our friend Jack was visiting for one precious day so we took him for an early morning walk around Chewton on one of our favourite tracks.

First we crossed the highway and slipped down Ottery Street to Forest Creek, now dry except for a stinky waterhole of stagnant water.  In September 2016, we had so much rain that this dry creek bed was a raging torrent 25 metres wide. Pumpkin, now off lead raced ahead and came back to us wet from a plunge in aforementioned stinky waterhole.

Jack and I know each other from the time in the 90s when we had adjoining offices in Toowoomba Queensland. We walked and we talked about shared memories and new ones.

We took the track that follows the creek bed westwards, stirring up the guard dog at the property behind the willows and the outdoor farm equipment museum, attracting the lovely pale horse to come to the fence for a chat. Pumpkin fears horses: the first time he met one years ago, it was roaming freely amongst we humans at a BBQ. Everythime the horse came near, Pumpkin turned his back. I guess it was just too large too comprehend and if he couldn’t see it, it didn’t exist. A very human trait as well.  Now he just lunges and barks at them in his fear: another very human trait.

Jack was originally from a cattle and sheep property near Benalla and had all the right moves to enchant the horse.

Jack horse whispering.

We continued down the track, over the little bridge to Archbold street, then over the creek to Walker street. Another waterhole and another dip for P.

I always enjoy seeing the constructed stone wall on the edge of the creek here: I wonder when it was built? Obviously some time ago when craftsmanship and pride in work was paramount. Unlike what I presume is a much later attempt to stabilise the opposite edge of the creek – a sloppy pour of concrete over the rocks: an eyesore and an insult to the stonemasons of the past whose work has stayed strong and undiminished by the many floods it has prevented from washing away the banks.

Jack carries a small oval stone in his pocket, painted by his nephews as the cartoon penguin Pingu. He takes great delight in placing Pingu in the various places he visits and sends pics back to the kids as a challenge to find Pingu in the pic. Pingu came out for photo opportunities several times on our walk.

Pingu was photographed at the old ruined cottage in Walker Street.

The days have been very hot lately, but this morning is overcast and cool. Jack was a pilot for most of his life and, like me, enjoys the skyscape this morning: grey lumpy clouds that I hoped would develope to rain. And they did: about 6 drops… I counted them.

As we walked down Walker Street (now that’s a nice coincidence), we stopped to snap pics of the old mine shafts (the miners must have been tiny to fit in there!), the stand of ancient eucalypts under which we envisaged miners camping in the goldrush, and in those trees the nesting boxes provided by Connecting Country.  These boxes have been designed specifically for use by the threatened Brush-tailed Phascogale (also known as the Tuan), which is a nocturnal hollow-dependent marsupial that occurs in the local area.  I notice that the blackberries are not ripe yet – I’ll keep an eye on them and come back to fill a bowl when they are plump and black, if they don’t dessicate in this heat wave first.

At the end of Walker Street, Pumpkin is leashed once again as we turn left into North Street.  We pass by the collection of double decker buses encrusted with the graphics and positive affirmations of the Goldenhope Foundation. I have never seen these buses on the road, but maybe I’m not there at the right time. (Note to self – get in touch with this organisation to find out more).

We stop to photograph the buses, and then rejoin the highway next to the Chewton Store – the only shop in town. We cross the road and, ignoring Pumpkin’s pull to visit the oval again today, turn left to introduce Jack to the portable police lock-up dated to the 1860s. This tiny building, next to the Chewton Town Hall, has a frame of iron rods which pass through the heavy wooden planks of the walls, floor and ceiling. In the days it was in use, it could be dismantled, loaded onto a dray and reassembled where needed.

We pass the historic Town Hall and Post Office, dated 1860 and 1870 – 1885 respectively  (both kept alive by the wonderful Chewton Domain Society). They are both included in the State Historic Buildings Register.

Now on the homeward run along Main Street (aka the Pyrenees Highway), we pass our mate Brendan’s place – the converted Independent Chapel (1857). Brendan opens his chapel to guests for occasional fundraising art soirees for the local community radio station, MainFM

Brendan has been worried about the health of his many elm trees and I notice the fallen and chewed leaves.

Chewton was once a much more thriving place than it is now, catering to the masses of people who came rushing to fill their pockets with gold in the 1850s. The 2016 census puts the population at 1,313. An account of Chewton (then known as Forest Creek) in the Australian Handbook of 1875 puts the population at about 2,500, with a branch of the Oriental Bank, nine hotels and others not named, a quartz crushing mill, a brewery and a tannery.  Now we have one pub, the Red Hill (now under new management and soon to have a new chef) and one operational church – St John’s in Fryer’s Road.  But I love this quiet corner of the world, now settled  into a sedate village after the turmoil of its origins.

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