May 2019, Harcourt, Vic
Beyond the apple orchards of Harcourt in Central Victoria and down a short stretch of good dirt road you will find the Oak Forest. Stands of oak, conifer, pine and cork were planted here in 1900 for tan bark production and to provide employment at the end of the gold rush era. There are large granite outcrops and fire pits for campers under the tall trees. The Nancy Wake* telemovie was made here because of its similarity to the forests of France.
A dry creek bed runs through the plantation with steep gullies and little bridges. This forest is a highly rated mountain bike trail area and there is a steady stream of cyclists and runners passing by. Here and there in the shade of the trees there are nylon tents and SUV’s just waiting for their athletic owners.
We park beside the pines and there is plenty of level space even for larger vans.
It’s a decent walk across the gully’s hewn granite steps to the long drop but rewarding to see kangaroos and a family of squabbling currawongs on the branch of an oak above.
To ward off the evening chill we light a fire and a full moon rises creating haunting shafts of moonlight through the pines. It’s far enough away from the highway to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. This is what freedom camping is all about.
*Nancy Wake was a New Zealand born French Resistance fighter in the Second World War. Her heroism won her the French Legion of Honour and Croix de Guerre.
Oak Forest Campground
Picnic Gully Rd, Harcourt VIC (only 7kms from historic Castlemaine)
Free of charge, drop toilets, fire pits.