Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Warrnambool Day 3

Today we went to Tower Hill Lookout in Warrnambool an inactive volcano on the south-West coast of Victoria. Within the crater, the explosion also formed a series of small cones (known as scoria cones) and spheres surrounded by a crater lake. Tower Hill volcano is roughly 4 km wide and 80 m high.

The Koroitgundidj people long inhabited this region of Australia and have lived in the area of Tower Hill since before recorded history. The first confirmed sighting of Tower Hill by Europeans was by French explorers sailing with Captain Baudin aboard Geographe in 1802. Matthew Flinders sailed east along the southern coast of Australia and on 20 April 1802 in the ship's log referred to "Peaked Hill Position uncertain", which may refer to Tower Hill

We then drove into Tower Hill Reserve and went for a walk along Lava Tongue Boardwalk. Tower Hill formed around 30,000 years ago in a violent volcanic eruption. The initial eruption created the outer rim of the volcano, and subsequent smaller eruptions formed the internal hills that can be seen today.

Artefacts found in the volcanic ash layers remind us that Indigenous communities were living in the area at the time of the eruption. The area was a rich source of foods for the Koroitgundidj people, whose descendants retain special links with this country. The fertile soils produced a diverse range of vegetation including Manna Gum, Blackwood, Black Wattle, Swamp Gum and Drooping Sheoak, prompting the area to be declared “Victoria’s First National Park” in 1892. Early settlers cleared much of the area for grazing, cropping and quarrying, and by the 1930s the hills and islands were bare and little wildlife remained.

Tower Hill was declared Victoria’s first national park in 1892 but still the decline continued, and by the 1950s the once-lush vegetation had gone, replaced by bare hillsides. At this point, however, the local community started to draw attention to the poor state of the reserve and investigations started into its suitability as a wildlife reserve. Finally in 1961 Tower Hill was declared a State Game Reserve.

The area has been reforested with native flora, and repopulated with native fauna over the past 40 years. More than 300,000 native trees have been planted over the past two generations. This has created an environment capable of sustaining native animals such as koalas, emus, kangaroos, magpie geese, echidnas, possums, and waterbirds – all of which can be seen within the crater walls of Tower Hill.

Looking back to Tower Hill Lookout


Then it was a short drive to Port Fairy the historic seaside village is a unique example of a well preserved 19th century shipping port. The township has retained its old world character and there are an amazing number of architectural styles represented. Due to little economic development after 1900 the town's old world character has remained.

The walk along the tree-lined streets reveals stone cottages once occupied by whalers, sealers and fishermen. There are also elaborate commercial buildings, bluestone warehouses, timber structures, grand merchants homes and some impressive public buildings showing the towns prosperity in the 19thC.

The first regular European visitors were Bass Strait sealers on seasonal hunting expeditions from Tasmania. These were tough hard working men who had little time to leave written records so the exact dates are uncertain. It was probably around 1828 that Captain Wishart, on a sailing expedition in his cutter “Fairy”, became caught in a storm. Luckily he found shelter for the night in a little bay and to his delight, at daybreak, he found that he was at the mouth of an excellent river. He named the bay “Port Fairy”, in honour of his tiny ship. The meandering Moyne River runs out to meet the sea here in Port Fairy. The Moyne provides a safe anchorage for the commercial fishing fleet and pleasure boats of the river.

The Port Fairy Courthouse is a magnificent bluestone building c. 1860. It is unusually large for a small country town but it was designed for sittings of the Supreme Court, County Court and Magistrates Court. The last Court sitting was in 1988. Since 1992 the building has been the headquarters of the Port Fairy Historical Society.

Believe it or not this is the YHA.

Seacombe House now the Comfort Inn though started in 1847 by Captain John Sanders, it was taken over in the 1850's by Abijah (don't hear that name too often these days!) Brown when it was the town's social centre, a role it played until 1873 when it became a school before utimately it assumed its role of today, that of a guest house.

The former bank of Australasia is a two storey bank and residence constructed of half coursed, rock faced basalt with bracketed eaves, slate roof, emphasized quoin work and pronounced Georgian motif fenestration in what amounts to a fusion of Georgian and Italianate architecture. The architect was Nathaniel Billing. The contractors McKenzie and McGowan erected the structure in 1857.

St John’s Anglican Church in Port Fairy was designed by Nathaniel Billing and was built of bluestone between 1854‐1856. It was supposedly the first church in Victoria with a full chancel. The two largest stained glass windows were made by Ferguson & Urie of North Melbourne.

The Australian Town and Country Journal, NSW, Saturday 5th January 1889, page 26 states
“… the Anglican Church, with its ivy-clad walls, presents a picturesque appearance. The interior is beautified by a splendid stained glass memorial window, representing Faith, Hope, and Charity. This was presented by Mr. A. H. Knight, of Koorongah, in memory of his wife, who died in England in 1886. The chancel window displays most artistic workmanship, and was the gift of Mr. Lydiard. The church is substantially constructed of bluestone, and was erected as a cost of £14,000…”

Victoria's oldest licensed hotel, the Caledonian Inn, which dates back to 1844. Now here is a pub with history. The beauty is that all recent landlords have been mindful of that history and it is well recorded. So, in 1844 this Dormer-windowed hotel was being built when the workers downed tools and headed for the Victorian goldfields, the great rush that gave Australia the kick start it was looking for. There is a part where you can still see the unfinished bit. 

Digressing, Dormer comes from the latin dormire - "to sleep".

Once, a noted novelist of the times, Mr Rolf Boldrewood used to sell horses in the yard situated one block back from the main shopping area.

And here is a photo of the pub in the 1946 flood.

Diamond John Howes acquired land on which Talara stands from James Atkinson in May 1856. The first municipal rate book of 1856-57 shows a house and this is presumably the simple stone cottage at the rear of the main house. The front portion of the house was erected apparently in 1858, it being recorded in the 1858-59 rate book. D J Howes was the first Secretary and Surveyor to the Belfast and District Roads Board in 1853 and subsequently Secretary and Engineer of the Shire of Belfast. Talara is a most distinctive and unusual building, both in the context of Port Fairy and in the State of Victoria. The house has been constructed in a Gothic Revival style and is elaborately decorated, with its gables and eaves decorated with elaborate fret work, finials and pendentives. The house is constructed in bluestone and other features include the projecting bay windows, the symmetrical arrangement of the main facade and the patterned slate roofs.

A short drive west of Port Fairy we found The Crags. The Crags is a wild and scenic section of the coastline with calcified tree roots, jagged outcrops and panoramic views along the coast. The rocky cliffs protect small bays and are rich in wildlife including a significant Silver Gull breeding site on the eastern most island. From the lookout you can see Lady Julia Percy Island offshore. The area contains many aboriginal cultural sites and places and has spiritual connections with Lady Julia Percy Island. The Crags was used over many thousands of years as a gathering, ceremonial and feasting place for Aboriginal people. Its cultural significance is listed under the National Estate of Australia.

Lady Julia Percy Island West of Port Fairy, is Australia’s only submarine volcano. When lava erupts under water a typical type of lava called pillow lava occurs. These are tube like structures where the interaction with water forms a crust on the outside and molten lava continues to flow inside. The lava flows have created an unusual flat top and almost vertical cliffs surround the island. This island is home to the largest colony of fur seals in the Southern Hemisphere and several bird species. These include diving petrel, peregrine falcon, fairy prion and sooty oyster catchers. A number of small but unusual plant species survive in the caves in the cliff walls

St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Port Fairy, was constructed to a design by English Architect Charles Hansom, the construction being supervised by Architect Nathaniel Billing. The foundation stone was laid on the 24th July, 1857. The chancel was added in 1867 to designs by Wardell and Denny. 

St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church is one of a number of Victorian Churches designed by English Architect Charles Joseph Hansom, the most important of which are St Patrick's Cathedral, Ballarat and parish Churches in Kyneton and Kilmore. The Port Fairy Church is a characteristic example of his work and a notable and substantial Early English Gothic Style Church in Western Victoria. The Church remains little altered from the date of construction.

Views of the coastline from The Passage at Port Fairy.

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