56kms Jamieson to Wood’s Point
The Yea butcher had recommended that we see ‘the valley’, especially the Kevington Pub. We go in search of The Kevington Hotel and find that it is only 3kms from our camp ground. We drive on as far as Gaffney’s Creek following the Goulburn River all the way. The scenery is breathtaking on every bend. Each property is manicured and all have masses of rhododendron ‘trees’ in full bloom. To us it is reminiscent of New Zealand. Further on the road becomes unsealed but is very good and the farms have given way to virgin bushland and there is the smell of eucalyptus in the air. There are about eight well maintained camp grounds along the way each as good as Skipworth Reserve The Garden of Eden where we are camped. The best of these appears to be Knopwood at Gaffney’s Creek. The roadsides are a blaze of yellow and brown ‘egg & bacon’ flowers. Gaffney’s Creek “The little town with a big heart” is a collection of miner’s cottages and a lot of well built dry stone walls. During the gold rush the Norwegians saw a need for good stone walls in this narrow steep valley thus they plied their trade. A small stream called Raspberry Creek meanders through the town. The creek of course is lined with raspberry canes.
We continue on up the valley to the A1 Mine settlement which is little more than the mine. It is the longest running gold mine in the country having commenced operation in 1861. The road becomes narrow and steep as we climb the mountain to Frenchman’s Gap. A fire has come up this ridge in recent times and the trees are nothing but hundreds of blackened poles. From here we wind back down to the township of Woods Point.
Nestled in a narrow valley with the Goulburn River gurgling through it, Woods Point bears some resemblance to Walhalla but without the tourists. The population is 31 adults and 1 child. We are told that the 5 year old child is driven down to school every Monday presumably in Jamieson and back home every Friday. There are tiny miner’s cottages with lawns sweeping down to the river. The hillsides are crisscrossed with more dry stone walls.
The Commercial Hotel is a large 1930’s design, probably because the town was destroyed in the 1939 Black Friday bushfires. Needless to say that the pub is a beauty and the walls are covered with mining paraphernalia, hunting trophies and photos. Above the bar there is a guitar, a banjo, a stuffed eagle and a fox wearing a hat (wear the fox hat). The photos pretty well sum up the town’s history: mining, bushfires and snow. We learn that the residents sheltered from the 1939 fires down a mine tunnel right in the heart of town. The publican must have been blessed with a good sense of humour and one of the best examples is “The Losers Shooting Trophy” awarded to Ken Shaw in 1994 for missing a samba deer at 10ft and a dingo at 15feet. Sitting in the sunny beer garden is one of life’s pleasures and as the garden is cut into the rather steep hillside there are some straggling cottage garden plants and an Austin A40 planted beside the agapanthus. The Austin has an old iron cemetery grave marker jammed in its bonnet.
Outside there are the remains of an old petrol station, a fascinating museum and the resident policeman who is breathalysing every driver, which is not a difficult task as there are so few people in town. You’d be hard pressed if you got ‘pinged’ in such a remote place.
There are lots of deciduous trees, cottage gardens bloom in the spring sun and dry stone walls are aplenty. This town is so, so pretty and those Norwegians, well they must have been very busy.
We return to Gaffney’s Creek and call into the Community Shed for a drink and a chat on the lawn in the sun beside Raspberry Creek. The volunteer barman is actually in the Merchant Marine in his ‘other life’ and retreats to the peace of the bush on his off weeks. He swears that he is the only voter in the town of 13 although they are all politically vocal. He shows us photos from the old days and of the team of horses that pulled the old steam boiler into the valley for one of the gold mines. The boiler lies rusting in the long grass like so many other pieces of equipment that once would have cost a small fortune.
There is an elephant in the room in this idyllic setting. Dominating the sunny back lawn is a very tall metal communications tower held erect by many steel cables. The publican tells us that this is a $10,000 telephone repeater tower but someone erected it at the bottom of the valley instead at the top of the mountain. It has never worked and never will. Thus the whole valley from Skipworth Reserve to Woods Point has no mobile phone or internet reception. Because of this Telstra has had to ensure that each little hamlet has a public phone box! If that isn’t bad enough, every house has been fitted with an electricity smart meter which cannot transmit, so someone has to go out and manually read each meter.