Spring into the Bendigo bush

Trail ride: the Spring in the Bendigo Bush ride introduced the delights of getting out of town on a bicycle. Photo: Frank Kinnesley Rail Trails Australia

Trail ride: the Spring in the Bendigo Bush ride introduced the delights of getting out of town on a bicycle. Photo: Frank Kinnesley Rail Trails Australia

Exploring the forest around Bendigo can be daunting if you don’t already know your way around. The Spring in the Bendigo Bush ride was a great opportunity to get out in the forest – without getting lost.

The City of Greater Bendigo usually organises a walk in the forest for the spring event. This year was a bike ride along the O’Keefe rail trail and back to Bendigo through the Wellsford forest with marshalling help from the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail.

Drizzle did not deter the 30 riders who set off on the 45 km circuit from the Pratts Park Road car park. We had visitors from Melbourne and Kilmore and two nine-year-old girls who completed it quite cheerfully as they do a lot of riding. So it’s a good ride for a family used to those sort of distances.

The 19 km rail trail is best ridden on a hybrid or MTB. A couple of tricky crossings where old bridges are missing and the Axe Creek swing bridge make it challenging for kiddy trailers, tag alongs, recumbents and tandems.

We were out to see how much the countryside around Bendigo varies. First stop was the Bendigo Field Naturalists Club Flora Reserve near Bennetts Road. This was purchased through a community fund-raising appeal and is criss-crossed by foot tracks.

By the time you get to Axe Creek swing bridge, you’re pedalling past farmland. At the moment there’s a steep descent to get down to the bridge. The other side is also steep, but not quite so tricky.

The bridge over Sweenies Creek is long gone. Instead there is a steep descent off the railway embankment and climb back up on the other side. You can ride it if you select the right gear and hop over the little culvert at the bottom, or walk across if you’re not confident.

Soon you’ll be back in open forest until you get to the Axedale Cemetery where the trail currently ends. The council is signing a safe loop from there into the Axedale reserve where you’ll find toilets behind the hall and the general store across the highway.

Our return route took us back down Eddington Street to get onto the McIvor Highway for the short distance to Sugarloaf Road on the right. It’s not long before you’re back in forest and on Ellesmere Road. This is mostly well-formed dirt road and takes you almost all the way to Gunyah picnic area – just turn left into Plant Road at the T intersection.

Gunyah is the site of an old eucalyptus oil distilling plant. You can still see the brick outlines of vats for steaming the leaves. There are two picnic tables and an information board about the forest and the site – another good spot for a breather and lunch.

Plant Road is not well signed when you leave the picnic area. Veer right at the nearby fork in the road and you’re on the right track. Plant Road takes you past Mahers Dam picnic area, which has a fair bit of water in it in early spring.

A little further on turn left into Tresize Road and you’re on the home strait past the rifle range and back to the start.

Finding your way

Maps of the rail trail are available from the Visitor Information Centre in Pall Mall or the Bendigo Tourism web site (look for the Cycling and Walking trails link).

Maps of the Wellsford forest are available from the DSE web site (look under Forests > Regional information > Bendigo > Places to Visit, or try http://tinyurl.com/wellsfordforest).

You can find more about rail trails at
The Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail web site and
The Rail Trails Australia web site

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