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Published: February 27th 2012
February – Happy Birthday to my cousin Colin in St Albans, UK. We hope you had a special day.
Often during our travels, particularly in Victoria, we were made aware of a camping area called Sheepyard Flat. Sarah and Darryl spent some time there, it’s a regular escape for the Reeves family and even nephew Bertie in Melbourne spoke of it as a special place to camp. We had thought that, while we were in Mansfield, we might be able to spend a night there in the tent so that we could return to the UK having had at least one night in the tent and having done some “free” camping. Unfortunately, our time in Mansfield was too limited but, so that we could actually see what the fuss was about, Mark had it in mind to take us there to explore the area during the day and to have a barbecue - “free camp” style - ie, over an open fire. Today was the day identified for this experience and we were to be accompanied by (eccentric) Tony and Spotty the dog. Tony arrived at Blue Range Road a little later than our planned 9:00am departure but
we were soon on the road and heading for Timbertop Mountain, an area where Prince Charles once spent some of his school days at the exclusive Timbertop College. Much of the 40 kilometers or so was on gravel roads but Mark’s top of the range Land Cruiser made easy work of it. He had packed all of the things we required for our barbecue – food, camp oven, a billy can, a barbecue stand, an “esky” with water. We provided some seats and some salad to accompany the barbecue. First, though, we were given a guided tour of the vast area in which there are several recognized camping areas and several “huts” which were traditional homes in by-gone days. Tony showed us some photos of his hut which is not dissimilar to those at Sheepyard. A major creek containing the Howqua River runs through the area and most of the prime camping spots are alongside the creek. Gold prospecting took place in the late 1800s and some remains of the developments are still to be seen. Graham, Tony and I enjoyed a 2 kilometer walk alongside the river while Mark drove ahead to prepare his billy-can for some tea. We
met up with Mark and enjoyed a lovely cuppa and were joined by an acquaintance of Mark’s, Nick, who happened to be camping nearby. Mark told him of our barbecue plans which he was invited to join in with, and in return he agreed to go back to where he was camped, alongside the creek, and to resurrect his fire so that we didn’t have to light one.
Mark worked out that we would just about have time to visit a special area before returning to Nick’s camp for lunch and he took us to a place called Tunnel Bend. This was a hand-hewn tunnel designed to filter off water from the creek and to run it to one of the gold-prospecting areas to drive a water-wheel which was part of the mining process. It was a very successful innovation and, since the demise of the mining, the tunnel has become a bit of an “adventure” spot. It’s possible to clamber through the 100 meter tunnel but it is long, dark, narrow and low and invariably there is about 6 inches of water in it. It was no different today as, armed with a couple of torches, we stumbled
through the tunnel until we reached the source of the water flow – the Howqua River. It was an amazing experience although, had we been on our own it is unlikely we would have gone all the way through. But with Mark’s encouragement and Tony’s enthusiasm (he had never been to this area) we succeeded in completing the venture. We all had wet feet except Tony who developed a type of “spider walk” using his elbows against the sides of the tunnel to keep his feet above the water line. At the far end of the tunnel was a magnificent water hole and a swim was very tempting but we were conscious of having to get to Nick’s camp for our barbie.
We found Nick’s camp and, sure enough, he had a great fire going and Mark was able immediately to set up his camp barbecue equipment while Tony and Nick discussed the merits of “hut” dwelling. Pretty soon a splendid meal was produced including sausages, eggs, bacon, onions, potatoes and plenty of salad – brilliant. Mark is a “dab hand” at this camp cooking lark and, as quickly as he had set it all up, he had cleaned
'Fry's Hut' - built by Fred Fry in the 1940s
still used as an overnight shelter by walkers
it all up and packed it all back into his car. Our time was a little restricted as we had to collect Ken from school and take him to cricket practice and then to be home before the girls made it there on the bus. Ken was to walk to his grandmother’s house, just along the road from the cricket, from where Simone picked him up to bring home. It all worked out perfectly and we were soon reflecting on what a great experience it had been, what a great day we had had and what a splendid camping area Sheepyard Flat is.
Much later, after I had gone to bed, I was woken by Graham shouting as he spotted a HUGE (the biggest we have seen) Huntsman Spider speeding over the draining board and down by the side of the fridge. Fortunately it stopped there which gave us (Graham) time to think what to do. We certainly didn’t fancy a night in the caravan with this giant roaming around, even though they are relatively harmless to humans. Because the gap was too narrow to use a catching devise, sadly the only answer was to kill it which Graham
did with the end of our broom. The broom handle didn’t come out of the tussle too well so that, too, is no more. It remains a mystery as to how and when the spider got inside the caravan but we’re hoping it hasn’t left a family behind! Needless to say, it took us both a while to get to sleep after that.
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