Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail

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Works Supervisor Steps Down

The Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail Inc. - a volunteer group established in 2002 – were faced with a major shock at our December working bee/end-of-year barbecue for 2015 - when our highly esteemed member Frederick John Cook OAM, of Leopold, announced that he was stepping down from his position as our Works Supervisor.  

No doubt it had to happen someday, but nevertheless after fourteen years it came as a blow to realise that we would no longer have the benefit of Fred’s leadership. He has been such a key figure in the extraordinary transformation of the Rail Trail between South Geelong and Drysdale. His vision and drive have been instrumental in converting a disused, weed infested former railway corridor into a valuable community asset, now much used and admired not only by local residents but by many people who come from far afield to walk, run or bicycle along the full 35km, or just a section of the trail, to and from Queenscliff. Fred had been previously recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 2010 with the award of the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in recognition of his service to conservation and the environment through the Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail.

Fred has put in literally thousands of hours planning, inspecting, propagating, digging, planting, watering, weeding, mowing, spreading mulch and supervising. But more importantly has been the vision that he has always held, and his tenacity in organising people, tools, plants and other materials to ensure that the work has continued week by week for all those fourteen years. He has led the way for others by providing a ‘can do’ attitude, a true ‘leader’ in every sense of the word, leading by example, taking people with him on a special journey. 

Listing some of those achievements does give some picture of the magnitude of the task carried out over the years. Some 84,000 plantings of trees, shrubs and grasses, 36 seats built and installed, 9 picnic tables, 32 distance marker posts placed at one kilometre intervals, 5 station signs installed at the site of former rail stations/sidings along the way. Fred has always ensured that we continue to water new plantings so as to maintain a very high retention rate despite the intermittent droughts experienced over this long dry period.

He has also worked closely with the Ocean Grove Barwon Heads RSL group in establishing the Avenue of Honour at Curlewis and the planting of a Lone Pine tree to commemorate the memory of Bellarine Peninsula residents who fought on behalf of us all. The establishment of the Rock Garden at Christies Road Leopold is also a special feature of the Trail. ln carrying out this work Fred has collaborated with officers and councillors from the City of Greater Geelong - the trail manager - and has also worked closely with other organisations on special tasks. Parks Victoria has called upon the group on several occasions, including working bees doing plantings at Barwon Heads, Breakwater and also at South Channel Fort on Port Phillip Bay. In speaking of Fred’s work we must mention the invaluable contribution of those other long-term stalwarts who have always been there to give support in carrying out Fred’s vision. Alastair Mackintosh, Peter Gibbs and Trevor Jennings have also made an extraordinary contribution, particularly in those early years in helping to establish a successful team of volunteers, and all are still involved. On Fred’s behalf ‘thank you’ so much, and also ‘thank you’ to all of those who make up our continuing team of volunteers.

A very special ‘thank you’ to Fred Cook, for his amazing voluntary efforts working for the betterment of the Bellarine Peninsula, and having the continued drive and the will to pitch in and get the job done, so as to see his vision realised and the Bellarine Rail Trail become a major public asset, free for all to use.

Progress in 2015 
Our enthusiastic volunteers have continued their work throughout 2015 with regular working bees along the trail between South Geelong and Drysdale rail stations. Whilst inevitably changes in personnel do occur, we have been fortunate to maintain our volunteer numbers including a strong core of experienced members who have been with us for many years. New plantings have continued, but mulching and watering are vitally necessary to combat the dry conditions which appear likely to continue well into the future, so we have increased these activities to ensure a high rate of plant retention, and will continue to do 

The trail continues to function as a community asset of which we can all be proud. We see a growing number of users, both walkers and bike riders, many coming from afar to experience an opportunity to engage in a healthy, cost-free activity, which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Some enjoy using just a section of the trail, whilst many cyclists ride the full 35kms to Queenscliff. Others take part in organised group activities including walking, cycling and fun runs, often to raise funds for a range of charities - such as the Salvation Army annual walk, the purpose of which is to assist homeless people.  

Trail Sealing

Sealing of the trail has continued with a further 2.5 km section between Jetty Road and Portarlington Road at Curlewis completed in 2014. This means that more than 75% of the 16 kms of trail between South Geelong and Drysdale has now been sealed from funding provided jointly by the state government and City of Greater Geelong. Further works completed under this funding included installation of a new picnic shelter and park furniture on the rail trail reserve near the site of the "Curlewis Dip" (this is at the rear of the Curlewis Golf Club).
The installation of pedestrian/cyclist crossing lights, where the trail crosses Jetty Road in Drysdale, was completed by CoGG during 2015.. Five new seats were installed by our group along the Jetty Road section of the trail during 2015, with plans for more seating to be installed in 2016.

Lone Pine Tree at RSL site
The Lone Pine tree in the photo below has more than doubled in size since it was planted as a seedling at an Anzac Day ceremony at Curlewis in April 2011. A bronze plaque on the rock in the foreground bears the inscription ‘Aleppo Pine, descendant of the original lone pine of Gallipoli. Presented by Legacy.’ 

The photo shows the Ocean Grove Barwon Heads RSL site at the Avenue of Honour, Curlewis, which is dedicated to fallen members of the armed forces from the Bellarine Peninsula. This area has been planted out as a joint initiative of the Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail and the Ocean Grove Barwon Heads RSL sub-branch. Flanders poppies have been planted next to the tree in remembrance of all those who served in the Great War.

This RSL site is located at the former Curlewis rail siding, one of several sidings/stations built along the Bellarine to Queenscliff rail line after it was established in 1879. The railway was built primarily as an integral part of the Port Phillip Bay defence system to supply Queenscliff and other forts located at the south end of Port Phillip bay to defend the city of Melbourne. The rail line for many years carried not only military needs, but also passengers, outgoing farm produce and incoming supplies to local farmers and townships. It was finally shut down in the 1970’s, a victim of more efficient road transport systems.

Fred Cook OAM from the Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail volunteer group, and Wally Gee from the Ocean Grove Barwon Heads RSL, are shown in the photo paying respect to those who have served in our armed forces. Adjacent to the site there is now a shelter from the weather, picnic tables, seats and a water fountain, all provided by City of Greater Geelong for users of the trail, together with signage telling of the history of this former rail siding.


Rock Garden Development at Christies Road, Leopold 2010-2015

Our members commenced work several years ago to construct a raised garden bed in what was previously an open but bare grassed public reserve adjacent to Christies Road. Several large rocks were installed to provide an attractive visual feature, whilst at later working bees, 450 native seedlings were planted, watered, mulched and plant guards installed in this area. The rocks were provided by way of donation, and we also gratefully acknowledge the valuable assistance of Robertsons Transport who transported the donated rocks and positioned them on site.

In the ensuing years since this project was commenced, the garden beds have been extended with many further plantings. A walking path has been created through the trees which have matured and grown to a substantial size, creating a small oasis in the heart of suburbia. The adjacent amenities block and shelter constructed by City of Greater Geelong help to make this an area which is much used and greatly valued by very many people, both local residents and all walkers and cyclists who form the growing number of people who benefit from using the Bellarine Rail Trail.