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Published: January 18th 2011
Saturday 15th January – we were relieved to find that it was a dry and sunny start to the day. We were a bit slow to get going but I managed to do some washing and hung it out to dry. Then we drove around town to familiarize ourselves with the general layout and found our way to Lake Wendouree where we parked up, went for a stroll and then sat for a while. We ventured onto a small boardwalk and got chatting to a local couple who commented on the depth of the water. It looked a perfectly normal scene to us but they said how wonderful it was to see the lake so full. It seems that, in recent years, there had rarely been any water in the lake. People would walk and even drive across it and at one stage the local council had had to cut the long grass that had grown in it. On another occasion the local fire brigade had had to extinguish a grass fire caused by excessive hot weather. Yet now it looked absolutely splendid. Sadly it wasn’t all good for this couple as they lived at nearby Creswick where there had been
some flooding and their daughter ran the Creswick caravan park which had been washed out.
We drove on round the lake and could then see that it too must have overflowed as there were areas of lying water over the adjacent parkland and parts of the footpaths were still covered. We had lunch in a very nice café overlooking the lake. After that we strolled into the Botanical Gardens that were just over the road. There to greet us was a striking statue of William Wallace and on the plaque a poem by Robbie Burns. Just a few yards along the path was ‘The Statuary House’, in which there was a group of very impressive statues that had been bequeathed to the city by James Russell Thomson. He had determined to do this for Ballarat after Thomas Stoddart had brought numerous sculptures for the Botanical Garden from Italy and presented them to the city in 1884. Walking on, we strolled around the large conservatory which was bursting with beautiful fuchsias, hydrangeas and much more. I wandered around the conservatory while Graham sat and read about the flash floods that had overcome parts of Ballarat only the day before –
the city was very lucky and so were we to find it relatively unscathed! After another short walk we came upon The Adam Lindsay Gordon Craft Cottage which was full of fascinating locally made arts and crafts. We could have bought lots of knick-knacks but resisted most of them in spite of the best efforts of the charming couple on duty.
We walked across the grass and came to ‘Prime Ministers’ Avenue where, in amongst a line of horse chestnut trees are busts of every Australian Prime Minister except the current one. Further around the lake we came across a tram! Had we been transported back to Melbourne? No – in the past horse-drawn trams took people right around the lake and these historic trams are a reminder of those golden days. We didn’t take a ride but drove on to the Olympic Precinct. This area commemorates the rowing events that took place on Lake Wendouree as part of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Over the years there have been many Olympians who hailed from Ballarat and they are all named here. Steve Moneghetti was Graham’s particular favourite especially for his exploits in the marathon. Just down the road
was another special memorial to Australian Prisoners of War. On the marble wall was inscribed the names of thousands who were taken prisoner, mostly in World Wars I and II.
Later on in the day we went to the ‘old’ cemetery – it was huge, well organized and full of wonderful mausoleums. Our friend Gill, who loves such places, would be able to while-away a good few hours there! We found the memorial to the miners who had died on the 3rd December 1854 and then we heard a loud clang – thinking we could be locked in we beat a hasty retreat not wanting to spend the night in a cemetery! Luckily the side gate was still open so we got out while we could.
We found our way back to Wendouree, our favourite spot so far, and watched the sun setting beyond the lake – a fitting way to end the day!
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