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Essendon Bushwalkers complete the Major Mitchell Trail

It all began with a suggestion by a club member as Essendon Bushwalking Club members sat in the Star Hotel in Yackandandah in September 2016. They were celebrating the finish of the 635km Goldrush Walk which had kept them busy since they left Geelong in early December 2010.

“What should they do now?” was the question. Were these walkers mad, leader Bill Casey thought? After all the physical and psychological blood, sweat and tears they had endured on the Bay to Border (2002-2006), Melbourne to the Murray (2008-2016) and Goldrush Walks, not to mention twenty years of annual marathon walks (42km per day), surely it was time to back off a little and be happy with simple 10 to15 km day walks.

How far was it? How long would it take? Would enough walkers be interested?

In early 2017, armed with “The Major Mitchell Trail” guide published in 1990 by DCE (the predecessor of DELWP), together with copies of Mitchell’s own maps and notes, Bill and partner-in-crime Sue headed for Passage Camp on the Murray a few kilometres downstream from its junction with the Murrumbidgee. This was where Mitchell had crossed into what is now Victoria on 13 June 1836.

They spent a week exploring mainly by car the walking route possibilities from there to south-west of St Arnaud. Apart from a few worrying moments on the rough and muddy vehicle tracks along the Murray River flood plains, the driving was easy, and they were able to drive and explore long distances in short time. Following Mitchell’s track closely would sometimes involve sections of busy highway walking, so where possible they would seek nearby back roads.

A plan evolved to spend 5 consecutive days on the walk, 3 times a year, aiming to cover 90-100km each trip. The fifth day was effectively half a day, leaving the afternoon for travel home, so an average day’s walk was about 20km.

The next task was to select accommodation places for each stage. For stage 1 they discovered a little-known place called Tooleybuc, just across the Murray in NSW, part way along the stage 1 route. Subsequent accommodation spots for the first half of the walk were Swan Hill, Kerang, Boort and St Arnaud.

So the first five stages came and went between August 2017 and May 2019. Distance covered so far was 420km.

Some highlights of this first section were the Murray River, the inland lakes in the Swan Hill and Kerang areas, and the side-trip ascents of Mt Hope and Pyramid Hill, just as Major Mitchell had done. Did someone say the main highlight was the vanilla slices at the Leitchville bakery?

Next exploratory trip was to Horsham to work out a route from St Arnaud to Portland. The relatively flat terrain continued to Harrow, but then they found the deep river valleys which were encountered southwards to Dartmoor, meaning that the walkers would have to work a little harder. Accommodation venues were chosen: Stawell, Horsham, Edenhope, Casterton and Portland.

Stages 6 and 7 went without any major problems and included a side-trip to Mt Arapiles, but then COVID appeared. The caravan park at Edenhope must have been sick of us booking and then cancelling. On the third try in March 2021 they finally completed stage 8, and looked forward to plain sailing on to Portland. However, this was not to be as halfway through stage 9 in May 2021 they were forced to abandon and return home as John had visited a COVID “hot spot” a few days before coming to Casterton.

Further lock-downs meant that they were unable to complete stage 9 (renumbered stage 10) until May 2022. To avoid long walks on the busy Princes Highway between Dartmoor and Heywood, they had to engage in lengthy correspondence with VicTrack and a plantation manager before theywere able to walk through their lands.

The final stage 11 to Portland took place in August 2022. They had planned to keep away from the Princes Highway as much as possible, but flooded and closed minor roads forced us to “run the gauntlet” in single file and in our hi-vis vests – a not pleasant experience.

Highlights/lowlights of the second half included the pleasant walking beside the Wimmera River, the arduous stretches of deep soft sand in hot conditions in Tooan State Park and Konnepra State Forest near Miga Lake, historic Harrow township, many electric and barbed wire fences which had to be negotiated in the old railway reserve near Dartmoor, the “koala epidemic” north of Portland (as it was described by a local farmer), and the final pouring of Murray River water into Portland Bay. They then enjoyed a farewell dinner at Portland’s Royal Hotel.

Four walkers (Sue B, Chris B, John P and Bill) completed all 11 stages of the 880km walk with many more doing at least 90%.

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Melbourne Women’s Walking Club – Centenary Grand Finale at Warburton

Walking into History – Making History

Way back in 1922, October and November were busy months for a small group of Melbourne women, then excluded from established walking clubs, who wanted to start a women’s walking club. On the 15th October, to ‘initially test their walking powers’, 10 intrepid women set out to walk from Warburton to Woori Yallock. In pouring rain only some started but even they quickly returned to shelter with the remaining group to await the train back home! However, this did not deter our amazing forbears for very long.

By the end of November 1922, Melbourne Women’s Walking Club (MWWC) was established with the committee and rules ratified, the Club name adopted (we narrowly avoided being called the Melbourne Ladies’ Walking Club!!) and the first walking program approved.

One hundred years later in mid-November 2022 for our final Centenary celebration, nearly 90 Club members participated in a three-day walking bonanza based at Pallotti College at Millgrove.

Our preparations were not without challenges. In the weeks leading up to the weekend recent storm damage meant that our wonderful walk leaders had to adapt and navigate trying conditions to re-scout and in part modify the planned weekend’s walk program to ensure it could safely take place.

However, the weather gods were on our side, and over the three days we were blessed with a smorgasbord of walking (13 walks in total of varying grades) – without rain and even with some sunshine! River strolls, powerful waterfalls, stunning rainforest, puffing up some hills, discovering the site of our old Club Hut at Britannia Creek, along with patches of snow, towering Mountain Ash, spectacular views, the odd snake and a few leeches successfully given the flick, all added to our experience.

I loved the variety of walks and the way the walks and activities catered for everyone.

My only complaint was that I couldn’t do all the walks that were on offer.

A special ‘Chill out’ program was offered to those members who now have more limited walking capacity or who just wanted a rest day. This program included a trip to the Rainforest Gallery, a picnic overlooking the hills and a wonderful visit to a beautiful local garden.

I was very impressed with the Chill-out program. It showed that the Club has fostered a caring community.

While our days started with meditation or gentle yoga, in the evenings we had fun. We line-danced Friday evening away led by Club members who are also ‘veteran’ line-dancers. Our Saturday evening extravaganza began with a glass of bubbly with pre-dinner nibbles and dining at tables adorned with our Centenary decorations. Organised by MWWC’s wonderful socials’ team, the entertainment included an ‘MWWC history timeline’, a quiz to stretch our grey cells and our Aussie Camino Allstars leading us in an Olivia Newton-John dancing tribute!

All of this was washed down with lovely food, a glass of wine and great conversations. After two years of COVID disruptions, the weekend offered another chance for old and new members to celebrate together, re-connect and strengthen our sense of community.

I loved the opportunity to meet, walk and socialise with lots of members I hadn’t previously met – this was a real highlight for me.

This final Centenary celebration literally finished with a BANG. On our last night the winds blew ferociously, lightning lit up the sky, thunder cracked overhead, and the rain poured down with a massive tree falling and blocking the road. Amazingly the next morning the sun shone, the road had been cleared and we left safely after a simply wonderful weekend.

It was the first time that MWWC had undertaken such an ambitious program, offering a diverse range of walks and activities to so many MWWC participants. It was a huge team effort. We are particularly grateful for the early advice and support of Robyn Shingles from Bushwalking Victoria.

The weekend was a wonderful final celebration of MWWC’s Centenary year and as a first, while we were celebrating our history, we were also making history.

The weekend was wonderful; the venue was perfect with the right mixture of spaces, superb vistas and soulfulness. It was modest and affordable and after three attempts, I finally worked out how to have a good shower!!

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Insurance

National Insurance Scheme for Bushwalking Clubs

Bushwalking Victoria participates in the National Insurance Scheme negotiated and executed by Bushwalking Australia which arranges insurance cover for affiliated clubs and their members.

For the latest information on insurance arrangements, including policy documents, FAQs, claims processes and contact details for the insurance broker, please visit the Bushwalking Australia Insurance and Risk page.

Policies that are available include Public Liability, Associations Liability, and Personal Accident Insurance.

Leisure travel insurance cover for use by club members when participating in club organised domestic and overseas trips is also available through the insurance broker (Marsh) as a separate service.

Not all clubs participate in the Personal Accident insurance scheme arranged through Bushwalking Australia.

For those Clubs that are covered, it is up to the individual member to lodge a claim directly by downloading and submitting the Personal Injury Claims Form.  Clubs are required to sign off the claim form on behalf of their members.

Important Note: Some member clubs have elected on behalf of their members to not participate in the Personal Accident Insurance Scheme for 2022/23. These clubs are:

  • Waverley Bushwalking Club Inc
  • Dandenong Valley Bushwalking Club Inc
  • Bendigo Bushwalking and Outdoor club Inc

For Personal Accident Claims and Enquiries:

Accident and Health International (AHI) is the Underwriter for the Bushwalking Australia Personal Accident policy. Inquiries concerning this policy should be directed to AHI on 02 9251 8700 quoting Policy Number 0012117.

Claims should be submitted as soon as possible following an incident, by completing the Personal Injury Claim Form and submitting it to the insurer, Accident and Health International (details are on the claim form). In the case of major claims (i.e. serious injury or death) please also email the Bushwalking Australia Insurance Contract Manager

For Public Liability and Association Liability Claims and Inquiries:

All inquiries and any potential claims under these policies should be directed to the Bushwalking Australia Insurance Contract Manager or the BWV Secretary.

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Reinstatement of the Mitta Mitta River Walk

For many years, walkers on the Mitta Mitta section of the Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) have been redirected onto a road to avoid an area heavily infested with English Broom. Parks Victoria agreed that reopening that 7km of track would significantly enhance the AAWT experience, allowing spectacular views of the Mitta Mitta River. Twenty Bushwalking Tracks and Conservation (BTAC) volunteers contributed 500 man hours to achieve the track reinstatement. Many of the volunteers were AAWT end-to-end walkers who wished to give something back to the track and the environment.

BTAC, one of the two operational arms of Bushwalking Victoria, has a pool of volunteers who carry out track maintenance and conservation projects in association with Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. Their general philosophy is to offer support in the more remote areas of Victoria, where the local volunteer pool is often limited (or in some cases, non-existent).

You can see further photos and read BTAC project manager Joe van Beek’s full report of the volunteers’ brilliant efforts HERE, along with his suggestions to avoid further spread of English Broom.