The Archdale Bridge …

Out on the boundary of the Central Goldfields Shire there is a spot on the map labelled Archdale. Oddly it’s easier to find on Facebook than it is on the ground. And you learn from Facebook that there is no recommended place eat, no recommended place to stay, no recommended place to drink and nothing to see. The reason is very simple. Apart from the odd farm-house there are no buildings. You wonder why they bothered to give the place a name.

I drove through the area some time ago. I was on my way to check out the Dalynong Flora and Fauna Reserve which I had heard was a good chunk of not too badly disturbed woodland habitat. I noticed an old wooden bridge and made a note to come back and photograph it one day.

It’s not an easy spot to photograph, there is a new bridge parallel to it and it is surrounded by River Red Gum woodland. From most angles you either can’t see it or you have a modern concrete structure intruding on the ambience. It’s just a sad old bridge crumbling slowly into the Avoca River. There are no sign posts leading you there. Facebook doesn’t love it.

I wanted to catch it in the evening light so I spent some time poking around. I was rewarded by a pair of Rakali chasing each other’s tails in the water.

Rakali, Hydromys chrysogaster

The bridge was built in 1863 and is the oldest wooden bridge in the State of Victoria and one of only two to survive the great floods of 1870. It is heritage listed and from the statement of significance we learn that …

Archdale Bridge is technically significant for its humped timber deck, designed to permit the ready flow of flood waters. Humped bridges were not uncommon in an era of horse-drawn vehicles, but were impractical with motorized vehicles; very few survive.
Archdale bridge is one of very few timber river bridges surviving in Victoria to possess large squared-timber pier ‘caps’, combining with squared and shaped corbels. Those heavy caps, over ten metres long, are cantilevered beyond the outer piles and fixed to the pile tops by mortis-and-tenon construction. They represent very rare examples of early bridge-carpentering traditions.

I think Facebook is wrong. There’s plenty to see in Archdale. This bridge is beautiful and deserves a bit of love.

Emerging from the bush …

A happy new year to all and sundry. I am full of optimism, it can’t be anywhere near as disastrous as Tim Blair predicts

I woke up to 2015 in Victoria’s Sunset country not far from this sign …

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This is the part of Australia that achieved fame when Apple Maps was launched. Version one directed people going to Mildura into the wilderness. The press made much of the prospect of people dying of thirst or succumbing to snake bite. I did neither but I did make an excellent start to my 2015 bird list.

A couple of people have taken on the challenge of the Calendar Game. I will post my progress from time to time, hopefully they will inform us all of their progress in comments. So far this year I have seen 110 species, so I’m safe until April 20th.

Summer is harsh. Weather is always a topic of conversation in Victoria because it changes frequently. The cycle runs from a hot north wind through a cold change from the west, a couple of cooler days then the wind turns northerly and things hot up again. The dramatic moment is the change itself, it can drop the temperature 15 degrees in half an hour. In summer that’s usually very welcome.

When it’s very hot and windy the fire risk is high. Fires tend to start during the northerly, all too often because some nutbag deliberately lights it. Initially the fire front travels south, burning embers often travel ahead on the wind, starting spot fires that make firebreaks ineffective. Despite reports that it travels faster than a speeding bullet the front is likely not to exceed 16–20 km/h. After five or six hours then the area affected will look like a relatively narrow triangle with its base in the south about 100 km from the apex at the fire’s origin.

The change arrives with a strong westerly wind, the fire front now becomes the eastern side, much longer than the southerly base. If the change is accompanied by heavy rain … great. In summer it often isn’t. In Victoria the loss of life and property is usually greater after the change.

The most recent weather cycle produced the fires in the Adelaide hills, South Australia, which has destroyed at least 26 houses, and fires in western and southern Victoria that have been less destructive. Looking west from my front gate the change looked like this …

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My fire plan is simple. There is a road leading south and another going east. Fire from the north, McGee goes south, fire from the west, McGee goes east.

But on a brighter note, my meanderings over the last couple of days have turned up some beautiful sights …

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The old trestle bridge at Archdale, and below a Rainbow Bee-eater at Newstead.

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