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Children of the Goldfields

Posted 18/04/2018 in People

Our boys gold panning at Dead Dog Gully. Image source: Bendigo Advertiser

Abandoned mines, mullock heaps, gold diggings and historic buildings were all part of the scenery when I was growing up in the 90's in Majorca, a former gold town of the Victorian Goldfields. I am now raising children of my own in the goldfields, and through our adventures we have definitely found that this part of the world is a unique, fascinating, educational and fun place for children to explore. The landscape of the goldfields has literally been shaped by its rich history, and tells a story which spans the centuries.

Our boys checking out the Cornish boilers at the Bull Gully Battery Dam and Distillery, Daisy Hill.

We started going out into the local bush a lot when our now-six-year-old was still a toddler - we figured out very early on that our extremely high energy, independent, rule breaking little guy was right in his element when we took him out into the wilderness and let him be as loud, fast and intense as he needs to be. By the time our littlest boy came along a year or so later, exploring the goldfields had become such a normal, regular part of our lives that he was born into life as a little adventurer! We have discovered so many amazing locations, in March 2017 we started taking pictures and recording them, launching Goldfields Guide five months later.

Heading down from Melville Caves, Brenanah VIC

Our kids have learned and experienced so much over the last few years. We are always out exploring caves, waterfalls, forests, creeks, mine sites, ruins and more. They are interested in everything around them and ask thousands of questions along the way. 

Exploring Black Hill Reserve, Ballarat. He was amazed at the colours in the rock, the pine forest and the wooden stairs leading down into the gorge.

To little kids, the giant mullock heaps of the Victorian Goldfields are daring obstacles to be overcome - they'll clamber their way up one side, take a good look around at their surroundings from the top, and slide back down again. Gullies are filled with fascinating rocks, tree roots, and bugs to examine. 

He found a rock slide at Black Hill Reserve, Ballarat.

There's just something about mud puddles in the bush that gets them every single time. Last winter we carried spare clothes and towels in a plastic tub in the back of the car everywhere we went, as the boys were sure to find a puddle to dive into.

Running through muddy puddles behind Goldfields Reservoir.

Nature truly is a playground - everywhere we go the kids are finding rocks, trees and hills to climb, stepping stones to hop over and logs to balance on. They live very active lives and are constantly developing their strength and coordination as they negotiate the uneven and obstacle-filled terrain of the Victorian Goldfields.

Clambering barefoot up to the Cairn Curran Weir along the beautiful Loddon River.

Of course, real playground equipment never goes astray either... One of the boys' favourite spots to visit is Vaughan Springs, with its beautiful scenery and giant hillside slide.

Heading up to the hillside slide at Vaughan Springs. It's a big slide for such little boys! 

By spending a lot of time out in the bush, we have also chanced upon a lot of amazing wildlife. Echidnas, wallabies, kangaroos, lizards, snakes, and crazy caterpillars are the most common. The boys love coming across echidnas! They watch, fascinated as the echidna waddles its adorable spiky self quickly away before shuffling itself into the dirt and leaves to hide.

Getting an up close look at a gorgeous echidna in the bush near Amherst.

While wandering around Tullaroop Reservoir up near Rodborough School Island we came across a cluster of empty snake eggs, which this guy found absolutely fascinating.

Checking out some empty snake eggs.

Kangaroos regularly visit the boys' Aunty and Uncle's backyard, and they were lucky enough to get a close look at them recently. Their place is also home to swarms of adorable geckos which scatter everywhere as you walk along.

Quietly appreciating a mob of Kangaroos.

One of our more heartbreaking discoveries was the body of a Wedge Tailed Eagle which had been hit by a car outside Moliagul - it must have been within the hour. The boys were simply amazed at this beautiful, enormous bird.

The kids had a rare but heartbreaking opportunity to get a close look at Australia's most majestic bird of prey.

A particularly memorable adventure was taking a quick peek into an abandoned gold mine. This timbered mine tunnel outside Talbot seemed sturdy enough for a look. They spent ages climbing the hills on either side and jumping back down again. 

Peering into the darkness at Tunnel Hill, Talbot. Please note that this mine is now locked and access is prohibited.

Of course, there are definitely dangers of exploring the Victorian Goldfields with children. Among the most common remnants of the 19th century gold rush are the unexpected open mine shafts throughout the bush. These mine shafts can range from a few metres to a few hundred metres deep! You have to be very careful wandering off the track. A popular attraction just outside Maryborough - the Bull Gully Battery Dam and Distillery site, has multiple open mine shafts several metres deep among the trees just beyond the parking area. There have been many places we have recorded for Goldfields Guide where the kids needed to stay safely in the car. 

Open mine shafts outside Moliagul. The kids definitely stayed in the car while I got these pictures.

All the adventures through gold mines, ruins and relics has given our boys a real love of gold hunting. Our 6yo is not afraid of hard work, and loves getting out in the bush on the pick or shovel.

This guy loves going out "golding", as he calls it.

He could barely lift the pick back then, but he was still keen!

The boys have a 'mud patch' in our back yard, which they regularly dig, splash in, and ride bikes through. When one of them decided to try his luck panning the mud patch, he was excited to find a speck of gold and declared that we were all going to be rich!

He loves having a go at panning.

The kids have showed us that there's more than one use for a gold pan. These guys use them to cart water round the yard, drive toy cars in, and fill with stones and mud. 

Demonstrating the gold pan's little-known alternate use as a speedway track for race-trucks.

When our littlest was very little, if we needed him to stay safely in one spot for a while we would park his pram and give him a gold pan filled with dirt to drive his cars through. Kept him happy every time!

Our littlest boy chilling in his pram while playing cars in his gold pan dirt pit.

Another popular use of the bushland of the Victorian Goldfields is four wheel driving - something our kids love to bits! The goldfields are a great area for it due to the countless gullies and mullock heaps to drive up, around and over - and of course the mud! Our kids love any driving through the bush. "Puddle hunting" in the old ute is one of their favourite things to do.
The best view is obtained from up on top.

One of this guy's happiest days was when we picked up a paddock bomb for him. His Daddy and Uncle smashed it around with him til it was too mangled to drive any further.

Checking out his new ride.

He was pretty happy with the end result, he talked about it for months. In fact he just saw this picture and said excitedly: "Is that my car? It was still driving with no radiator! And that wheel was just skidding, skidding, skidding!" 

Happy with the result of a few hours driving out in the paddocks.

Spending so much time outside in the Victorian Goldfields has been extremely beneficial to our kids. Exploring outdoors turns them into little scientists. They are examining everything, smelling leaves, feeling dirt, picking up interesting stones and twigs, touching different types of bark on the trees, hunting for frogs and insects, and they are always asking questions! Playing in nature gives kids countless new experiences and discoveries to ponder over and ask questions about.

Examining something interesting in the water at Bealiba Reservoir.

By going out into the bush, we are also giving them the chance to practice and embrace unstructured play. There is no play equipment, no toys and no technology to entertain them. If they want to play, they have to find or create something to play with, and they certainly have no trouble doing so. 

Chasing each other across the log steps at Clunes' gorgeous Creek Walk Picnic Area

Sometimes they do all the physical things like jump in puddles, play with sticks, dig holes, balance on fallen trees, climb hills, clamber through gullies, throw things, feel plants and search for insects. 

No slide? No worries. They thought this was the funniest thing ever.

Other times it's all about their imaginations and they create their own games together where a tree becomes a shop, a fallen log becomes a bed, stones become money, leaves become sandwiches and fallen branches become trailers they drag along behind them. This really influences the way they play at home as well - they are very good at independent play and overcoming boredom on their own.

Wondering if he can make it across at the beautiful Glenluce Mineral Spring.

We love living in the Victorian Goldfields, and we definitely make the most of all the treasures the region has to offer. We hope that by creating Goldfields Guide, others will be able to easily enjoy the area as much as we do!

Do your kids love exploring outdoors? We'd love to hear about their adventures, tell us about it in the comments below.




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