The accursed Covid has certainly changed our lives. Gayle and I were not intending to spend the winter in Victoria. Another road trip to the tropics looked good. It wasn’t to be. Nonetheless we are better off than many. Locked in a tower block apartment has got to be a nightmare. Fortunately for us we live in a sparsely populated rural location which wasn’t locked down when restrictions were reimposed on Melbourne.
We can’t go far but western Victoria is available and we’ve been keen to go to Woomelang for a look at their little silos. We camped by the lake at Wooroonook the first night. It’s a spot we can reach in little more than an hour. We were blessed with a clear sky, a perfect night for a glass of red by a campfire.
The landscape is pretty well flat but 8km away there is an isolated hill that gives a good view of the surrounding country. The mountain bike and I made it to the top of Mt Jeffcot. The view was splendid and the descent was terrifying.
Strava segments are named by their creator. Presumably this one is not part of a naked bike ride. And for a timid rider like myself you’d want shorts on to hide the fact that you’d packed your daks.
After lunch it was off to Woomelang for some small scale silo art. There are seven portable silos with work by a variety of artists scattered around. This sort of silo is often called a field bin. The artists that were issued with corrugated ones got the short straws. They were definitely at a disadvantage. I was particularly struck by the Western Pygmy Possum and the Mallefowl …
The camp that evening was in Black Box woodland at Lake Albacutya.
In the morning it was back on the bike …
The lake was dry as it usually is. When the Wimmera River carries enough water it spills through Lake Hindmarsh to Albacutya and then into Wyperfeld National Park. It hasn’t happened so far this century! It does have a nice concrete boat ramp for the next occasion.
A walk turned up some nice birds including Chestnut-rumped Thornbill and Scarlet Robin. My second cuckoo for the “spring” was calling prominently – Pallid Cuckoo.
After that it was home again, home again as a westerly front blew in bringing a gale and some heavy rain.
Colbinabbin is about 160 km north of Melbourne and about 54 km from the nearest large town, Bendigo.
The artwork is by the Benalla artist Tim Bowtell and it is a splendid accomplishment. It celebrates local history from the Colbo Picnic of the early 1900s through the days when steam was king to a tractor pull from the 1980s.
For the photographer interested in where the light will be coming from the artwork faces south.
Colbinabbin is situated in north central Victoria. It’s the home of the Colbinabbin Football and Netball Club, AKA the Hoppers and it has a shop or two. Parking and visibility of the art is excellent. It’s a terrific project that I’m sure will do the town some good.
While McGee was swanning around Western Australia another silo in Victoria was given a makeover. The little town of Nullawil (population 93 in 2016, proud possessor of a Post Office since 1897) is the latest addition to the state’s Silo Art Trail.
The artist on this occasion is Sam Bates with a masterly depiction of a farmer and his working dog. There is a rumour that he began at the bottom and ran out of space at the top …
This is very unlikely to be true. In my opinion he chose to omit the upper half of the farmer’s face to emphasize the importance of the dog. In the same way I’ve omitted the ears to emphasize the eyes in this detail …
Nullawil is about 300 km north west of Melbourne on the Calder Highway. There is a little take-away food store opposite the silo.
Bound for South Australia. Reference doubtlessly to the fact that it was such an awful place they had to tie up the settlers to take them there.
We made sure where we’d stashed the candles and crossed the border from WA. There was the minor detail of completing the Nullarbor crossing then we would be just a couple of silos from home.
First was Kimba. Once just a sleepy wheatbelt town with a big galah now it’s a sleepy wheatbelt town with a big galah and a painted silo. It’s become quite famous on the grey nomad circuit for its free camping at the recreation reserve. Free but a donation is expected and it seems a victim of its own success. You could not have swung a cat there when we looked. We settled for the caravan park.
As if to cock a snoot at the jokes about South Australia’s electricity supply the silo is lit at night.
The focal point is a child with an adult proportioned head. I find it slightly disturbing. Even more unsettling is that to my eye it bears a striking resemblance to Julia Gillard (before she developed the Pinocchio nose).
We detoured through the Adelaide Hills and Murray Bridge to reach Coonalpyn just after sunset. The grey nomads have not yet swamped the recreation reserve here. The donation of $21 is expected for an un-powered site. Very pleasant.
The silo here is cleverly organised so that you cannot see or photograph all of it from any one position. Some exercise is required.
Van Helten is also the artist responsible for the silo at Brim in Victoria which is one of my favourites. I don’t find this one quite as appealing but there are no mis-proportioned children here and their hair is portrayed exquisitely.
From there to home was just a hop, skip and a jump.
All good things come to an end. So too did our stay in Merredin. The boys from Carr Care fitted a freshly minted axle mid morning and we made a late start en route to Albany.
This phase of our journey was essentially a quick trip around WA’s silo art trail separated by some nice campsites where we might trip over some of WA’s special birds. Our first camp was at Cosy Corner at Kronkup, about 26km west of Albany. This is by the beach in coastal heath and although the wild flower season is well short of its peak it’s already very pretty.
In the morning we visited the silo in Albany. Artists The Yok and Sheryo present us with a Ruby Sea Dragon which given its jockey cap might be somewhat whimsically interpreted.
Then on to Pingrup where the Miami artist Evoca1 has turned 230 litres of paint into scenes of local life.
It seemed to me that the standard of art work and presentation had picked up considerably since Merredin and Northam (not to take anything away from Phlegm, from London where else -it’s probably the smog, whose flying machines had me thinking.) It was about to reach new heights.
At Newdegate Brenton See (from Perth and with a real name) has given us a water droplet, half fresh, half salt a Malleefowl, a Red-tailed Phascogale and a Western Bearded Dragon. Beautiful, accurate, evocative. He gets my nomination for best of the WA silos …
… although Amok Island at Ravensthorpe gives him a run for his money with charming depictions of Banksia baxteri, only found between Esperance and Albany. A cheeky little Honey Possum on one side and a New Holland Honeyeater shown on the other are its principal pollinators.
Northam is a town of about six and a half thousand people situated just under 100km from Perth on the very picturesque Avon River. When we had a camper-trailer with wheels it was on our itinerary for its silo art. Instead we made it a day trip.
The silos get mixed reviews which they thoroughly deserve. Parking and visibility are not good. At one end there is a collection of coloured blobs that are very colourful and the very epitome of blob whilst the other end is much more quirky and does engage the intellect more thoroughly.
We had a picnic lunch down by the river and admired the plastics. This is an Australian twitcher term for introduced species. The Mute Swan was introduced to Australia in 1886 and on further occasions until 1920. It has persisted at some of the sites to which it was introduced including the Avon at Northam. We hadn’t seen it in Oz before.
The Laughing Turtle-Dove was introduced to Perth from about 1898 and has been a much more successful immigrant having spread throughout the Western Australian wheat belt and beyond.
The pleasant gardens along the river were also home to some real Aussie birds including Ringneck Parrots and New Holland Honeyeaters.
… the ship was lost. On this occasion it wasn’t a ship or even a sheep it was the wheel bearings on the trailer and they became so warm that the assembly was welded to the axle. We discovered this about 30km west of Merriden on a Friday.
In an impressive display of alliteration the trailer was loaded onto a tilt tray tow truck and was delivered to the Merriden caravan park. A mechanic was kind enough to come and take off the axle. The search for a replacement could begin on Monday. But was fruitless and abandoned on Tuesday. On Wednesday it was decided that a new one would have to be fabricated. Thursday’s child has far to go. So do we and we are looking forward to it. Maybe Friday.
Merriden is located in the wheatbelt of Western Australia. It is a pleasant little town of just under 3000 people. It’s on the pipeline, the noisy rail line and a busy road, the caravan park especially. It has it’s own big granite rock collecting water by a system of walls, aqueduct and dam. There is a conservation park adjacent to the rock. The streets have well maintained grass verges and the Roy Little Park speaks of civic pride. It would be a worthy entrant in a tidy towns competition.
It has a painted silo.
The surrounding country side is green presently, it being winter. What was once mallee and Salmon Gum woodland has been cleared for wheat. People have to eat. The various rocks have escaped the clearing and most of them are busy collecting water. Some natural vegetation has survived around the rocks. From a conservation perspective it would be nice if there were more connecting vegetation. So far we have visited Karalee Rock, Bruce Rock, Eaglestone Rock, Elachbutting Rock, Wave Rock, Totadgin Rock, Baladjie Rock and Beringbooding Rock where the water is stored in the largest concrete water tank in Australia. Oh, and the Humps.
It’s not the style of camping that we enjoy and Merredin is not where we would choose to stay. If anyone had actually heard of the place it would be the butt of jokes like Christchurch (spent a week there one Sunday) or Blackpool (first prize a week in Blackpool, second prize two weeks in Blackpool).
Aside from the shower the nicest thing about caravan parks is the people. The salt of the earth stay in caravan parks and are almost always willing to engage in conversation and swap travel yarns. Almost no one stays more than one night here so every day brings new friends. The missing axle is an excellent conversation starter and the conversation always improves after they finish chiding me for my ha’porth of tar.
Central Goldfields, Victoria to Wakerie, South Australia – 615km.
A long day to get a good step over the familiar. Travelling north west through the sheep-wheat-painted silo country of Victoria, pausing at Patchewollock to admire the art work and allow Fifi McGee to stretch her legs.
Next step the border, quarantine and new time zone. The quarantine station was unmanned which made for a speedy transition.
Onto Waikerie and the newly minted silo art, a double sided affair …
Three silos together make for a wavy canvas that is hard for the artist to get a great result from.
The campsite we chose is at Holder Bend on the banks of the mighty Murray. Quite picturesque but very close to the Sturt Highway. The dawn chorus was a competition between a Darter and a choir of Mac trucks.
Recent months have seen some activity on the silo art front in the north-east of Victoria. Good things have been happening on the city walls of Benalla as part of the Wall to Wall Arts Festival. Read all about it <HERE>. Benalla is 212 km from Melbourne on the Hume Highway, the main road to Sydney.
Heading north from Benalla there are four painted silos well worth a look in the little towns of Goorambat, Devenish, St James and Tungamah.
I wrote about the Goorambat silo back in October 2018. Since then another painting has been added on the back of the silo. It’s by Dvate and it’s a ripper.
Clydesdale Horses ploughed the fields before the tractor put them out of business. The local farmer Stan Todd may well have been the last to make the switch first using a tractor for the harvest of 1964.
The models for this artwork are from left to right, Lavereen Clement (gelding aged 17 years), Coolibah Ridge Samuel (gelding, 4 years) and Lavereen Banjo (stallion, 19 years) from a photo taken at the 100 year celebration of the Clydesdale in Australia. It’s hard to find a tractor that is anywhere near as attractive.
Next stop on the way north is Devenish. The mural of the WW1 Nurse and modern day medic was unveiled last year to mark the centenary of the end of The Great War. Since then the painting of the Light Horseman has been added and it got its grand unveiling the other day complete with fanfare and dress ups. The Devenish pub was packed. Silo art is very good for beer sales.
St James is next. Like Devenish the pub is right opposite the silos and was doing a roaring trade. It’s for sale so if you want a good pub here it is.
The silos here were built in 1943 and wheat was first delivered in sacks on horse drawn carts. One of the locals was George Coles later Sir George, the founder of the Coles Supermarket chain. The art work by Timothy Bowtell brings that bit of history to life.
Finally Tungamah for Brolgas and a Kookaburra. The layout here is not at all friendly to the terrestrial photographer.
Here it’s the Police Station not the pub opposite the silos so don’t over-indulge at the previous stops.