Bass Coast Historical Touring Route

This historical drive tour will take you back to days gone by. Until the 1870's, the interior of South West Gippsland was an unexplored wilderness. People and goods came and went along the coastal fringe by boat to settlements like Grantville, San Remo and Inverloch, but the hinterland, leased by squatters with huge runs, was unmapped.


Bass Coast Historical Touring Route

When selectors finally rode down into the great forests, all that could be said of their whereabouts was that they were "down south".

The 1869 Land Act gave ordinary Australians the right to select land. By the late 1870's, a steady migration of men and women were cutting a web of pack tracks through the South Gippsland forests, blazing trees to mark their boundaries.

Follow this Historic Car Tour to explore the heritage of this wonderful hinterland. Whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery you will discover its past and historic buildings.

Archies Creek

Archies Creek was just a name on a map in 1878 when 17,000 acres of blackwood forest to its north was made exempt from selection and milled. By 1888, this land was being opened up for selection.

The Butter Factory

In 1903 local dairy farmers bought out the local privately owned butter factory. The Wonthaggi Dairy Produce Company, later the Archies Creek Dairy Produce Co., ran for most of its 88 years as a co-oporative.

Archies Creek Hotel

Mary Dixon bought land here and applied for a hotel licence in 1901. Over a hundred years of loyal patronage has validated her faith in the business.

Archies Creek Hall

The focus of the district's social life, the original hall opened in 1904. The current brick hall, three times the size of the original, was built in 1958.

Travel east to the juction with the Loch- Wonthaggi Road and turn left.

Ryanston

Daly Road

Members of the Daly family, after whom Dalyston was names, still live in this area.

Roads

As the pack tracks widened into roads, the high rainfall (between 45-50 inches on average) created impassable bogs. Horses pulled sledges more often than buggies and drays.

Jim Caldwell says that in 1926, when they had their first car, there was still no metal on the Loch- Wonthaggi Road. "You can imagine what it was like in the winter. The modern car wouldn't go ten yards in it!

During the Depression, teams of men were employed building Glen Forbes and Koetsveldt Roads. Even when gravel was laid, chains were often needed on roads in winter months.

The Gippsland "scrub"

The hills around you were once covered in massive stands of blackwood and blue gum. A 200 foot high vertical section of this forest would reveal "...at the bottom, a terrible tangle of logs, fallen saplings, sword grass and rubbish of all kinds that impeded your progress and covered the ground entirely from sight; then a stratum of bare stems, with another above it of thick scrub tops, out of which shot up the trunks of the great trees bearing aloft their masses of dark foliage...."

Clearing the forest involved ripping out the permanently wet understorey and the smaller trees and ringbarking the bigger ones. In summer, when the sodden mass of fallen timber had dried out a little, it would be set alight. A 'good bum' meant that the selector could plant down some crops. Failure to burn the cleared timber could mean no income or feed for his animals for a year or more.

The ringbarked trees were there for decades, starkly white on the bare hills. They were removed by "stoving", fires were lit at their base and the hot coals were kept burning over many nights.

Blackwood Forest

Koetsveldt Road, sw corner.

At sixteen, Alf Thorn's father was sent here by his family in the late 1800s to "clear a space big enough to plant down some vegetables and run a house cow". On his own for two years, he partly cleared 20 acres. Later, in 1927 he donated a site here for the Blackwood Forest School.

Clearing the Land

The Land Act of 1869 required selectors to pay rent and 'make improvements': this is, carry out clearing, fencing, cultivation and build accommodation. In exchange, they remainded licensed to occupy up to 320 acres of land. The failure rate was high. The enormity of the task and the obstacles - wet summers that made 'good burns' difficult, bushfires that destroyed fences, prolific weeds that grew up after the land was cleared, blackberries, rabbits and the difficulty of making a living while all these tasks were carried out meant that many selectors had to mortgage their land and finally, abandon it, leaving others to benefit from their years of back-breaking toil.

Those who stayed experienced their own heartbreak. When the Bowmans at Glen Alvie had their first good pasture eaten out by caterpillars, the younger brother, at 16 had to walk their recently purchased cattle back to Newmarket for selling.

Turn left in the Granville- Glen Alvie Road.

Making a living

The hinterland has been dairy farming country from the beginning but increasingly the trend has been towards beef production.  "Life of South West Gippsland's dairy farms was notoriously rigorous and bleak, but over the generations, farmers have won through to more prosperous times. Some old families can recall in detail the long advance to modern practices: from hand milking, hand separation of cream and butter making to the coming of butter factories and home separators, the introduction of milking machines, the change from milk cans to bulk pick up, refrigerated vats, rises and falls in milk prices and finally, deregulation". (courtesy of "Three Stops on the Line" available to purchase at Wonthaggi Visitor Information Centre.)

Almurta

The Almurta State School (1920 - 1935) once stood on the SW corner of Tozer's Road. The original school (1888-1920) was held in the old Church of England. The teach was expected to teacher in Corinella for half the week, riding between the two schoools via a deeply rutted bullock wagon track. He was paid a horse allowance.

Turn right into the Kernot-Loch Road.

Kernot

Note the old school - now a weekender hidden among the trees on the corner of Campbell Road. It was brought here by bullock wagon from Almurta in 1937 and closed in 1978. All primary age students in the district now attend the Bass Valley School near Corinella.

The settlement which sprang up when the railway line came through in 1910 was named Kernot after a chief engineer in the Victorian Railways. If you wander into the Kernot Reserve you will find the overgrown railway station platform. The Kernot General Store was built in the same year.

The Kernot community has twice rebuit their hall (once after a hurricane) and with funds raised by their weekend market and the sale of the old school, have built a third hall, opened in 1993.

Make sure you stop off at The Kernot Store for lunch or a coffee break.

You might choose to take the picturesque but longer route via Stewart Road and the Shuntoff or return to the Grantville-Glen Alvie Road and turn right. 

The Westernport Water Authority's Candowie Reservoir which supplies Phillip Island is on your left.

Glen Forbes South lies over the top of the hills behind the reservoir. A lifetime ago, young Joyce Shugg rode a horse down over these hills to a dance at the Almurta hall. Joyce and her sisters used to wear overalls over their dance dresses to ensure a spotless arrival.

Stop! before you turn left into Glen Fores Road...

Brazier's Timber Mill

The proximity of cheap, sea transport meant that timber mills were more common on this side of the Strezleckis. Brazier's Mill was sited just ahead on the Bass River. Teams of horses hauled the timber to the mill along wooden tramways which reached up into the hills. Messmate was used for building construction, blackwood for railway sleepers, railway carriages and beer barrels, and blue gum for bridges and wharfs.

A network of twenty miles of tram tracks fed the Grantville wharves. Approximately 90,000 super feet of timber (the equivalent of 11 kilometres of floorboard) was shipped off every week.  The shuntoff got its name from the tramway spur built to relieve the congestion at Grantville.

Turn down the gravel road to Glen Forbes. The old train line runs parallel on your right. Watch for the old trestle bridge.

Glen Forbes

Glen Forbes School (1925 - 1971) is on your left just before you reach the road junction at the Glen Forbes store.  The first Glen Forbes State School (1906-1919) was sited above the town at the top of the original Gorge Road. (The Education Department had agreed to setting up the school if residents paid half the costs and erected the building).

Travelling towards the Bass Highway, cross the bridge over the Bass.

On your left are the old Glen Forbes hall, once the hub of the community's social life, and half a kilometre over the Bass River bridge, the ruins of the old Glen Forbes Cheese Factory (1940s-1960). This subsidiary of the Archies Creek factory was a big employer in the district and built a number of low rentall houses for employees.

Back over the river, turn right in front of the Glen Forbes General Store, built in 1912, two years after the rail came through. The Glen Forbes station was opposite. Work on the desalination pipeline has mostly obliterated the remnants of the station platform.

In earlier times, here was all that was necessary to sustain the community "There was the church, hall and school" says lng-time resident, Alan Jones. "Your whole world was there. It was a very stable community, everyone knew everyone else".

The convenience of modern travel

Train drivers sometimes stopped between stations when hailed, and it was not unknown for some young people to take the rail trolley home from the dance...while keeping watch for the coal trains coming through from Wonthaggi State Coal mine.

The making of a timber empire

Stewarts Mill, Glen Forbes (Early 1870s - 1886) is sited along the creek behind the General Store. A penniless Scott Stewart, arrived in Queensferry in 1860. Ten years later he had built his own sawmill and a streamship to transport the milled timber. Tramways ran from Queensferry up into the hills above Glen Forbes.

Some sawmill owners operated only briefly having miscalculated how quickly the forests could be cleared by the settlers. Stewart succeeded largely because he kept building branch tramways into new area of forest. His mill employed 25 men and for years cut an average of 620,000 super feet a year.

Later, new owner FA Shackleford re-established the saw milling business on the Stewart site. The entire output of the mill went to the State Coal Mine where it was used for pit props. When his mine closed, Shackleford allowed retired labourers to live in the huts around the mill.

Take the left hand fork up the Gorge Road towards Glen Forbes South.

The Glen Forbes - McDowell Road corner was once the site of the Glen Forbes South State School.

You may wish to detour right to view the panorama across Phillip Island from the top of McDowell Road.

  • The tiny Glen Forbes Methodist (now Uniting) Church is off to the left in Jones Road. It was dragged to this site by a bullock team.
  • The old Archies Creek School on your right at the intersection of Koetsveldt Road is now privately owned.

The coming of electricity

The State Electricity Commission's solution to the huge task of installing electricity across the state was to require prospective users to finance the operation as a loan from the SEC, to be repaid with interest.  At Almurta 10 people subscribed 16,000 pounds and the electricity went on in 1953, thirteen years after Archies Creek and Glen Alvie. Communities often held a 'switching on' evening in the local hall where the tape was cut and the power turned on.

We trust you enjoyed this step back in time whilst travelling and exploring our hinterland.

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