Wednesday 31 December 2020. Over the New Year the Handels enjoyed a short break in Eldorado, an attractive and interesting former mining town in Victoria’s northeast, not so far from the Victorian Alps. During our stay we drove to Beechworth, once famous for gold and now for honey, via Woolshed Road, an interesting route that takes one through the picturesque Woolshed Valley in the Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park. Adjacent to the valley flows Reedy Creek, central to the area’s gold-mining history and still yielding quantities of gold as well as gemstones. Along the Woolshed Road are many reminders of the area’s gold-mining heritage.
Our day out in Beechworth began with a walk around Lake Sambell, an artificial lake created in the 1920s following the closure of a sluice-mining operation. It is not a particularly large lake – only two kilometres or so around – nor particularly picturesque, but the walk was very pleasant all the same. We set out from a part of the lake given over to recreation. There is, for instance, a fine beach, with an offshore pontoon. Walking clockwise, we soon left this area behind and came to an undulating, wilder section of the circuit, where we encountered bushland and a bird hide overlooking a small wetland.
Further along, at the southwestern end of the lake, there is a pretty Chinese-style garden.
After completing a circuit of the lake we drove back into town in search of pies and pasties for lunch. Beechworth Bakery had been recommended by our Airbnb hosts in Eldorado, so that’s where we went. While Mrs. Handel and older son bought the baked goods, younger son and I waited across the road. We watched an eager party of tourists engage a horse-drawn carriage outside the Beechworth Honey shop and trot gaily away. The weather was perfect for such activities. Eventually Mrs. Handel returned with our purchases. We drove to the rather cheerless Queen Victoria Park, whose central feature, a granite outcrop, boasts a pair of cannons (somewhat randomly) and effectively cuts the park in two. Nevertheless we enjoyed sitting on the grass and eating our meal.
Lunch completed, we drove back towards the Woolshed Valley to take a dip in the famous terraced rockpools of Woolshed Falls, carved out over millennia thanks to the abrasive action of Reedy Creek. The site was busy with bathers and onlookers when we arrived but the onset of cloud cover seemed to encourage people to leave; in any case we eventually found ourselves immersed in the tanniferous pools. Initially they were cold, of course, but not shockingly so, and it soon became immensely pleasant to loll about and even to swim in a (very) limited fashion. We took great care at all times as the rocks were treacherously slippery. After an hour or so of watery bliss we drove back through Woolshed Valley to Eldorado.