Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail

Latest News

Vale Peter Cowden

Our ‘Friends’ group has suffered the loss of a very esteemed and loyal member, namely Peter Cowden, who passed away on July 29. Peter will be sadly missed by all our members, but will also be fondly remembered for his outstanding contribution to our community cause.

Peter joined our group in April 2006 and immediately involved himself in all our activities, including a stint as treasurer, whilst also specialising in publicising our environmental improvements to this very valuable community asset. This encompassed writing newspaper articles, taking photographs that became a digital archive, developing and then presenting ‘power-point’ presentations along with guest speaking roles at various community clubs. He also energetically managed our webpage – all these extra efforts taking place after he had attended our weekly working bees that have seen, since our inception in 2002, over 86,000 trees, shrubs, grasses etc. (including 50 different species)  planted on the trail between South Geelong and Drysdale, along with 34 red-gum seats and 13 picnic tables built and installed. A team effort, where the efforts of each individual are greatly appreciated.

Peter’s friendship and knowledge will be sorely missed and our sympathy and condolences go to Anne and her extended family

Winter Happenings on the Trail

Recently the ‘Bellarine Rail Trail’ featured in an article published in the Age (June 25) titled “6 reasons to visit the Bellarine Peninsula” with the Rail Trail being reason no 4. The writer highlighted the intrinsic value of the trail as a community asset, together with its history, and made mention of the remnant bushland along the corridor.

It should be noted that a small portion of remnant native flora, located in pockets, did exist when the trains ceased in November 1976, but it would have been no more than 10% in reality. This remnant flora was supplemented by an invasion of weeds, introduced species, and vermin along the trails length. The ‘Friends’ group, along with others, aimed to overcome these issues, continuing to consult & improve this brilliant community asset – a corridor that enables a multitude of activities to be conducted within a safe and convenient zone.

Over this winter season we have been working at creating, and adding to, new plantations in the Whittington, Moolap, Leopold, Curlewis and Drysdale areas. Specifically Pienza Way in Leopold is a work in progress, as has been new beds adjacent to Coppards Road. Propagation of new seedlings continues at the Community Nursery in South Geelong, so it’s thanks to our small team of dedicated volunteers who show up on Tuesday mornings to build on our stock of plants.

Growth Rates

For those of who regularly use the trail you will have noticed the tremendous growth rate this year of our indigenous plants – a lot to do the quantity of rain we have received this winter. The late spring rain has also meant that our group has been able to plant and mulch much later this year, in the process running down our stock levels that were propagated at the community nursery in South Geelong.

For the 2016 year to date; the Friends have planted some 2,300 trees / shrubs / grasses / ground covers on the trail, in the process clocking up approx.  900 volunteer hours.

We continue to be guided by the trail manager, the City of Greater Geelong (CoGG) on where our environmental efforts need to be directed. At the instigation of CoGG we recently planted out a small area near Kildorary St. Moolap, so that less mowing was required in the area. Safety for trail and road users is also a consideration when selecting plants for trail entry points near adjacent roadways. On the subject of safety please also keep an eye out for snakes this summer when taking the daily walk or ride!

We must also say a special ‘thank-you’ to the members, and others, who have provided us with cakes, slices, pies, sausage rolls etc. throughout the year  - that has made our ‘morning teas’ a great social occasion, where the problems of the world are discussed and solved over a ‘cuppa.’

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.