Day 3, Wednesday 8th Jan 2014 Moonambel – St Arnaud
We wake to a warm clear summer morning. The town is tiny, there is a small pub and a general store. We really should have walked to the pub last night. Although we were camped on our own the van would have been quite safe here. Being the Victorian home of Petanque, the town has three pistes in the village common, they do take the game seriously. There is a fabulous ‘manual’ sundial in the park where one must raise one’s arms to make a shadow and it is accurate. The instructions say that if it is cloudy just enjoy the view of the mountains and use your watch!
At the pretty little town of Stuart Mill we turn off to visit the free camp at Teddington Reservoir before continuing. The inspiration for this trip is to find some information about my family’s past so we go in search of the Carapooee area and find the pebble church that my great grandfather and his fellow miners helped to build. We find the site of the Carapooee school but can only guess at the location of the family farm and the diggings.
St Arnaud has a pretty town centre with botanic gardens and some grand buildings. A lot of buildings are now empty. Cars these days make it easier for people to drive to the regional centres like Bendigo. The information centre gives me a list of funeral records for the local cemetery and the lady is most helpful. We have the best country rissoles and gravy at the Botanical Hotel then check into the local caravan park. The park is spartan but only charges $22 and it is built high on a mullock heap overlooking the town. In fact, it has a fabulous view of the old buildings.
The folks at the historical society bend over backwards to help me and give me maps that enable me to locate the family graves even the unmarked ones. They aren’t familiar with my name but when they ask for my contact details they get excited because they have a lot of information on Woody’s family name and have a lot of them in the town. I doubt that they are Woody’s direct family though. While Woody has a walk around the town in the heat, I set off in search of family graves in the dusty sun-baked cemetery. At least being so old they are easy to find as they are near the front gate. There is little to see but a rough patch of ground with no markers and just an old date palm and in this spot there are buried my great great grandfather Abraham Williams and five children belonging to my great grandparents. Four of whom died in a period of six weeks back in 1878, probably from diphtheria.
Emotionally drained I return to the park where Woody is watching the cricket in air-conditioned comfort. We see an ad on TV for the Girgarre Moosic Muster and decide to head over that way tomorrow. After dinner, we stroll around the very quiet town. Although it is hot, we sleep very well.
Towing Kms: 50Kms
2022 Note: Time and again we hear from locals that their populations are dwindling. The main reason seems to be that a property needs to be larger to be profitable and modern equipment reduces the labour requirement. Thus, farms double as neighbours retire without the need to double the workforce. This effect then flows on to the surrounding towns as they can’t survive without the custom. Regional cities grow larger and country towns die unless they provide an attraction to draw visitors.