Gippsland's Aberfeldy Tracks region has a rich mining heritage best explored by four-wheel-drive.

Story By Mark Muller

In the latter half of the 19th century, the hills and valleys along the Aberfeldy and Thomson rivers in Victoria were a noisy, crowded, smoky, busy place. Gold was mined throughout the area, and thousands of souls were drawn there. They built towns, schools, churches, hotels, pubs, hospitals, halls and more. At first glance, very little of it is left. But, with imagination and a sense of history, the hills are still alive with the life that was.
Some places, such as the town of Walhalla, are still very recognisably linked to their past. Others, including Red Jacket, Jericho and Codes Flat, only hint at the stories they hide. Old cemeteries, ruins and mine workings point to the period when this area was a thriving, surging bustle – an area from which the equivalent of approximately $10 billion in gold was extracted over a 60-year period.
While it has always been possible to drive through fire trails, logging roads and four-wheel-drive tracks that crisscross this country, a fair degree of local knowledge was required to appreciate just how much had gone on in the steep ridges and deep gullies. Now, thanks to the hard work of several local historians and tour operators, councils, and State Government departments, much of the history of the area has been recorded and shared in the form of excellent interpretive signage and clearly marked routes that allow you to follow a map and your curiosity and explore.
“That’s part of the attraction,” says Noel Lees, a forest ranger here for more that 34 years, and one of the driving forces behind the Aberfeldy Tracks project. “There’s just so much fascinating history and we’ve made it much easier for people to see and understand.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #94

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2014