Sunday, 10 April 2011

Cowies Creek, Part 1

There's a sad little creek, called Cowies Creek, that runs through the northern suburbs of Geelong. It's only a few kilometres long and runs east from farm land in Moorabool to the industries at North Shore on Corio Bay. When Europeans first settled in the area after 1835 it would have been a lovely little ephemeral stream but that can't be said today. The Ballarat-Geelong train line also runs down much of the creek valley.

It is named after James Cowie, a saddler from Scotland who settled in the area in 1841, amassed a fortune doing business during the gold rush and went on to become Geelong's third mayor and a member of parliament.


Over several blogs I'll be exploring the creek. Yesterday I started at the beginning near Lovely Banks Rd in Moorabool then had a look where Warners Rd and Evans Rd cross the creek further downstream. I've marked the spots on the map above.

Firstly, Lovely Banks Road.
Cowies Creek drains some relatively flat farming land north of Lovely Banks Road and it is at about this point that you could start calling it a creek. It is not fenced off from farm animals and no attempt has been made to revegetate. I could only see weeds and pasture grasses but a proper flora study might yield a few rush or reed species. This is the view south from Lovely Banks Road.


Secondly, Warners Road.
In the photo above you can see the railway embankment just below the horizon. The Geelong-Ballarat line was opened in 1862 and it crosses Cowies Creek several times. At both places the creek was diverted to cross the railway alignment at a more convenient angle for bridge building. We haven't improved much - the same thing happened downstream when the new Geelong Ring Road was constructed several years ago, but I'll discuss that in another blog. The quote is from The Victorian Heritage Register entry for 'Cowies Creek Rail Bridge No. 2', H2241. This pretty bridge crosses the creek at Warners Road and  is significant for several reasons to do with railway history and the people who designed it as well as the architecture and design of the bridge itself. (The arch style is rare, the stonework and detailing elaborate.) If you want to know more you can find it on the web. I'm more interested in the creek underneath.



We drove down Warners Road to get a closer look but couldn't get very close because there was an orange fence around the general area with signs saying that it was an 'rail upgrade site, no go zone'. Again, not much in the way of natural vegetation. The single line is being upgraded to a dual line. They haven't put the extra line in this section yet and I've no idea how they'll manage with a heritage-listed bridge in the way but they've already done a lot of the earth-moving to widen the embankment. The photo below (from railgeelong.com) shows the widening process in October 2010 and it appears, at this stage, that the creek area is untouched. You can just see the bridge corners half way along.


This is the view of the creek from the bridge at Warners Road looking north. A DSE (Dept of Sustainability and Environment) map for the area shows salinity levels to be high for the entire length of the creek and I'm sure this bit of farm land is salt damaged.


We then drove east to Evans Road that crosses the creek in a dip. The creek has cut itself a valley here because it is still nearly 50 metres above sea level and has only a short distance to run. On the west side of the road the farmer has fenced off both sides to allow the natural vegetation to recover...



...but on the east side grazing cattle are allowed free access. The railway line runs along the side of the valley and some houses on large blocks line up along the northern bank



Click on photos to enlarge.
To be continued.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Better than my local creek, which is mainly a concrete channel, and eventually runs under a shopping centre.

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