Track information

This is a wonderful ride with a variety of features including the old gold mining site of Waanyarra. The ride out of town follows a bush track beside the railway line to a quiet sealed road leading to the Old Lead Reservoir. This was at one time the water supply for Dunolly. Follow the blue signs over the railway line to Sporting Flat Road, a bush track through the forest to the Dunolly Tarnagulla Road. A hundred metres along here you turn into the bush and then take a signed track that runs parallel to the main road all the way to Waanyarra up over Murders Hill. At Waanyarra there is a wonderful cemetery cared for by the "Friends of Waanyarra" (See the link to their website). There's also the Waanyarra Recreation Site with barbeque, shelter, water, camping area and toilets. Its a great spot to camp overnight. The ride back involves continuing up the Waanyarra Road to the sign taking you right just a short distance from the campsite. Then its back along a series of tracks including Wet Gully Track with a long gentle up then rewarding down slope to meet the Dunolly Eddington sealed (Oh that feels so smooth!) and back to Dunolly.


Additional notes by Margaret Van Veen

The Old Lead.

Early in the ride stop at the Old Lead Reservoir to appreciate that during the 1856 Dunolly rush 35,000 people fought for space along this one strip. The Reservoir supplied water via horse and cart to the Dunolly township until pipes were laid in 1887. The catchment channel that you will cross numerous times during the ride, run for approximately 8 kilometres and was dug using horse and scoop.


Murderers Hill.

On route to Waanyarra you will pass an area once the scene of deeds of darkness - Murderers Hill. For it was in a gully near here on a gloomy day in November 1857,that miner William Dean happened upon an old mining hole surrounded by Green Fly. On closer inspection he found a boot….with leg still attached. In fact he had discovered the rotting corpses of McLean and Dunlop, two kindly gentlemen who had been brutally murdered by pick axe to the back of the skull several weeks earlier. Not quite the giant nugget of gold Dean would have been hoping for! This gruesome discovery was the beginning of a tale that stretched over 18 months; involved countless characters the likes of which we would only see in the movies today. After 18 months and numerous innocent people falsely accused and imprisoned, the seemingly mild mannered Dunbar handed himself in to police, stating that he had been an unwilling assistant in a supposed robbery that became double murder at the hands of Job Neil and Bill Brown. After many lively court cases where the public gallery (packed full from early morning till late in the evenings) booed, hissed and threw objects at Neil's' defense lawyers, it was discovered that Neil and Brown had not even been in the state at the time of the murders. Dunbar, full of hatred towards Neil who had just absconded with Dunbars long suffering partner Mary Dodd, concocted the whole elaborate story finding plenty of willing witnesses. The actual murders had been carried out by Dunbar and Dodd themselves, upon their Jones' Creek neighbours McClean and Dunlop, then proceeded to visit the Dunlop widow with condolences for her and her young babes. Dodd who had six children herself (one died under suspicious circumstances) served only a few months at the Castlemaine gaol, but on her release passed Dunbar in the hall. He asked if they might speak and on his approach bit her nose off.
(Link to contemporary newspaper and court reports)



The land surrounding Waanyarra (previously known as Jones Creek) paints a rugged landscape with thousands of mounds, holes and gullies; the result of Alluvial mining, the mainstay of diggers during the 1850's and 60's. Alluvial gold originates from rock breaking away from auriferous quartz reefs and being washed down into streams. The larger nuggets sink to the bottom, whereas the finer particles can be transported considerable distances, until they collect in crevices. All of the goldfields started with alluvial mining, then move into sinking shallow shafts upon reefs. Most diggers worked in small groups of 3 or 4 men on a shaft of between 1-6 metres in depth. Over each shaft they erected a pole bearing a windlass or pulley, enabling them to bring buckets of rock to the surface. While some had only a puddling tub to wash the dirt, others built horse drawn puddlers to speed up the process of separating the dirt from the rock and minerals. Then with a technique that only great experience (and the loss of a lot of gold) can give, the miners would pan out the rest of the dirt leaving just he gold on the lip of the pan. The remnants of one of these puddlers can be seen at the start of the walking track'. The timber that lined the puddler would have been removed and used on another site, as it along with everything else in the goldrush was designed for a transient existence.

The hardship of life in areas such as these is evident with a visit to the Waanyarra Cemetery. The countless unmarked graves, particularly of children was common in the district, with recent research uncovering more sites at both the Old Lead Reservoir and Old Dunolly Cemetery, containing unknown numbers of children's bodies. It would have been particularly hard for women, still caught up in the restrictive regimes of the Victorian Era, wearing corsets, girdles, petticoats and other undergarments under their dresses, in the searing summer conditions. There was no sanitation and diseases were rife. Bringing up a large number of children in a lean-to shack or canvas tent, having to transport water from as far as the Loddon River at times, and most of this was done without husband/father, as they had to travel to where ever the next rush might have been. As with the Dunlop family, it was common for the women and children to be left alone for long periods, not knowing if their partner was ever to return.

Life after the rush.

Although rushes in this area continued for a 50-year period, enthusiasm had dwindled by the end of the 1860's. The 1869 Land Act finally enabled ordinary folk to purchase land and pursue self-sufficiency farming. During the 1930's Depression the Government encouraged men to head back to these areas in search of gold or work in the forests, as fuel timber was in great demand. During World War II many Prisoners of War or interned 'aliens' were put to work in the forests to combat the demands for fuel and industry timber. During these times the abundance of canvas tents popping up through out the forest was a reminder of times past.

Link to Friends of Waanyarra website

Home | Area information | Maps | Track information | Links | Photo Gallery | GPS