2017 Annual Rally to Colac

We wish to thank the members who attended the rally to Colac for their daily cooperation. Unfortunately, the weather was not great, but we managed to avoid getting drowned.

There were a couple of changes which had to be made meaning we missed out on visiting some planned venues and that disappointed us.

We certainly enjoyed our week in your company and look forward to next years’ time away wherever it is planned to be. Thanks to John and Virginia for your assistance and our money man, Ted.

Clive and Peggy Bennett

The Rally Diary

Day 1 – Saturday 30 September

by Rini and Barb Zyvelt, Valda Webb

We left the club rooms at 8:45 am, traveling in a convoy to Daylesford with our morning tea stop at the Mill. Having had a quick read of the day’s instructions, we assumed (and one should never assume!) it was the “Chocolate Mill”. So, having lost sight of the leading cars we zipped into the Mill — not one of our mob to be seen and several others sailing past so a quick check and realised it was another Mill. A huge antique market shed with treasures to interest everyone. Barb purchased a nice little drop side table, came with an auto tray and fortunately it fitted into Bec’s car. We had morning tea and an early lunch, some choosing the café and some of us bringing our own.

Next, we met with Ian Dowell at Cressy, who we followed to Yarina. Ian was our guide and friend of property owner Franco Baccari. Franco and his family live in the beautiful property with river frontage, delightful gardens, and lovely old blue stone and timber made home stead (which the ladies were able to go into), and he leases out the farming land. All the ladies were intrigued by the huge AGA English stove and the outdoor glass bathroom, which is attached to the main bedroom. Found the river name was interesting because it is called Yoadlyalloak, which means Bubbling Brook. The property was originally 3400 acres, then in 1907, the property was subdivided due to the railway opening and became 2200 acres of land. The property continues to be a working farm, raising mixed livestock and harvesting crops. We went on through to the three-stand wool shed, also made of blue stone. Inside it still contains a section of old wooden slats and a section of new metal grid flooring.

Then we moved on to the Colac Caravan Park, where we were eventually given our site locations (without upfront payment) so our convoy of cars and caravans would not hold up the Princess Highway. Majority of our group pulled together to erect the community tents for evening gatherings after each day’s outings. The caravan park managers were very obliging, even provided the camp kitchen with eggs laid by their resident chickens.

On our arrival at the caravan park, Glenise Moores and Valda Webb were the only members of the group roughing it. Keeping them young and resilient unlike others…Ha Ha!

Day 2 – Sunday 1 October

by Glenda Roberts and Graeme Vickers

Today we woke up to a cold morning with light misty rain. The Valiant protested at having to suffer the elements overnight and gave some trouble when trying to start it.

It was so cold that morning that Ted was seen in his woolly slippers. It was certainly a day for coats and woolly hats.

At our first stop, Ean McDowell from the Beeac Hotel gave us a good history of the hotel & showed everyone part of his large car collection. Ean owns a total of 60 cars.

The town of Beeac has many historic buildings. An old bank building, a drapery store, and of course, a hotel, all from the early days of the town’s settlement.

The town became well known for its windmills. These were designed and built to extract ground water to supply the dairy stock. The town’s engineers became suppliers of windmills to many other states between 1891 and 1946. The town area was surveyed for housing in 1864 and grew rapidly over the next 50 years.

Lunch at the Farmers Arms Hotel, while very tasty was a little slow in coming and the chef not accustomed to cooking for large groups. Michael was already suffering indigestion by the time some of us got our meals.

We returned to Colac via Warrion, Cororooke and visited an American muscle car collection in the main street. Afterwards some returned to the caravan park and others went on to visit the Botanical Gardens in Colac.

Day 2 – Sunday 1 October

by Don & Judy Roberts

We all left the Caravan Park at 9.30am and headed into Colac and continued until we turned left towards Beeac. At the Farmers Arms (104 years old) we met Ean who was to show us a little of the town.

He first took us to a building at the back of the hotel which was originally stables. After renovation, it now houses a display shed for 9 cars at different points of restoration.

We then walked along the main street marvelling at some of the old buildings, including the old bus depot. We arrived at an old shed, housing lots of junk and many more cars- Fiats, Porsches, and a British Chevrolet truck to name a few.

Back to the Hotel for lunch. We think we caught them out because they ran out of several dishes and we did wait a while for our meals. Finally had lunch — very nice.

We saw a display of historic windmills while in town and a few visited the lolly shop. The publican of the hotel employs 22 and also owns the lolly shop that employs 3. Great for a small town.

Back to Colac for a coffee at the new Coles Mall.

Day 3 – Monday 2 October

by Frank Robins

After leaving our caravan park at the most respectable time of 9.30am, we proceeded to Gellibrand, where we visited the impressive tractor collection of Eric Larson who is the proud owner of approx. 60 Farmall, International and other tractors. A lot of them have been very well restored. Eric finds it most suitable to send his wife off on a cruise, while he remains home and plays with his toys.

We left the tractors and cruised along to the Otway Tree Top Walk where we enjoyed a picnic in the carpark, before venturing down to the Walk. The work involved in the construction of this feature is as impressive as the view of the forest about 80 feet below.

Our final destination was to have been the Redwood Forest, but a combination of poor signage and bad luck meant this was postponed until further notice. (No! We were not lost!)

A leisurely trip home ended another great day,

Thanks to the organisers.

Day 3 – Monday 2 October

by Mike and Mary Hipwell

We all left at 9:30am as usual and travelled south to Gellibrand to visit Eric and boys’ Vintage tractor collection. He started with one Farmall abandoned in a gully 18 years ago and he has now 60 Farmall and International tractors in his collection. Eric is a retired dairy farmer and his doctor told him to get a hobby! His oldest tractor is a 1928 Farmall. It is an unbelievable collection of restored and unrestored tractors.

We left the farm at about 11:20am and travelled further south through Beech Forest to the “Otway Fly Treetop Adventure Walk”.

We all had BYO lunch in the carpark then most of us went on the treetop forest walk. It was very interesting to be walking on catwalks 33 metres above the ground in the treetops as it was moving around in the wind. An awesome experience to have.

We left the Treetop walk and drove not far down the road looking for the Redwood Forest. Not much luck finding them and it was a bit late for the 7.5 kilometer or 1.5 hour walk anyway.

It was all good fun and we had a fantastic day.

That night the campfire was lit with Rini in charge of wood. Everyone had an enjoyable evening sitting around the open fire. It was a fantastic day as always. Thanks to our wonderful organisers.

Day 4 – Tuesday 3 October

By Bill and Carmel Watters, Geoff and Rita Windridge

On the Tuesday, we visited a homestead at Warncoort, called “Tarndie”. This was settled by the three Dennis brothers in 1845. Their home is the only remaining Cornish house in Australia. At its height running sheep on 160,000 acres, it is now 60 acres, running Polworth and some coloured sheep for spinners worldwide.

Tours of the house, gardens and wool room with John and his wife and their son Tom were most interesting. These days they run the homestead and are managers of Bed and Breakfast places in the workers cottages. We enjoyed a plentiful morning tea of lemon tarts, and scones, jam and cream on the veranda. What a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.

Next, we travelled to Birregurra where we had lunch in the park, followed by a talk by a local historian at their headquarters in the main street. This was followed by an interesting Town Walk. Passing locals greatly admired our display of cars.

The Birregurra Festival and Art Show will be held on 14-15 October. The town of 700 people swells to 16,000 during this Festival. It is a great boost to the town.

Winchelsea was our next town where we enjoyed afternoon tea in the Winchelsea Shire Tea Rooms. The lovely Town Hall was built in 1868.

We went back to the Caravan Park, where we enjoyed a lovely BBQ tea followed by entertainment by Graeme Vickers on his button accordion, followed by some Irish jokes from Alan Stevens.

Day 5 – Wednesday 4 October.

by Pat Morley and Jennette Dawson

An early start today, departing our camp at 8:45am. A lovely drive through the forest of tall timbers and ferns as well as lush green grazing land with cattle and sheep.

Our morning tea stop was at West Barwon Reservoir opened in 1965 where we had long walks over the bank of the reservoir. A beautiful morning tea stop, also the sun was shining. The drive to Apollo Bay however, was quite windy and a hilly drive.

The Great Ocean Road was picturesque. Then onto Cape Otway Lighthouse where we enjoyed lunch. We were given a very informative talk regarding the Lighthouse which was built in 1840, two men lost their lives while building it. Before the lighthouse was built many ships were wrecked including one on her maiden voyage with 400 women and children aboard. This lighthouse is the oldest on mainland Australia and has saved 100’s of lives. It has been operating since 1848 from the cliffs 90 metres above where Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean collide. One keeper’s wife had 7 children while living in the lighthouse and supplies were only delivered once a year. What a wonderful woman she must have been! For thousands of immigrants this was the first sight of Australia.

There were many international visitors at the lighthouse this day who were most interested in our vintage cars, so much so that some decided to sit on the cars to have their photos taken, until Barbara said a few choice words to them.

Rini then stood guard- “thanks Rini”

We made our way back to camp feeling very wind-blown and tired. However, we all had a very enjoyable day.

Day 6 – Thursday 5 October

By Martin and Joan James

The day started with a delicious breakfast of pancakes cooked by Peggy, Clive and an army of helpers. We were lucky enough to be travelling in Rini and Barb’s 1934 Chev for the day. Our first stop was Gorge Chocolates.

We had plenty of samples to taste, milk chocolate, dark chocolate with ginger and white with mint. With the weather being cold, hot coffee and hot chocolate made with real chocolate went down like a treat. The present owners have been there 6 years. They have 4 workers that hand temper the batches of chocolates prior to distributing to over 60 outlets. Jason (our host) advises that chocolate can kept in the fridge but should be consumed at room temperature.

We had lunch at Simpson where there is a wrecking ball on display that was used with another ball to clear the land for the 1956 Soldier Settlement Scheme. While we were having lunch we were approached by John Wright wanting to know if the club was interested in seeing his collection of cars which included a 1948 Oldsmobile and Dodge among others.

The next stop was Gum Valley Patchwork. Linda White displayed patchwork quilts, gave advice on needlework and sold sewing products. The building resembled a church with some of the building materials recycled from Tarnagulla.

Day 6 –  Thursday 5 October

by Lloyd and Marsha Cameron

Apostle Whey Cheese. This business was started because of the downturn in the dairy industry. The owner decided to diversify and went to cheese making classes. After many challenges, they now make 12 different cheeses and have now branched out to producing delicious Gelato. We were able to view the cheese making cutting and the packaging process. We all tried the many samples and filled our bags to take home the great variety of cheese.

The Snail Farm. Another niche business which sells to restaurants in the area and to Melbourne. They feed the snails on Brassica vegetables which are grown in their pens. They harvest them, shell then process them, and pack in lots of 12 and they are delivered to boutique businesses as required. Some members were very brave and sampled the snails. A very interesting visit. We then had a surprise visit to a family dairy farm full of cars and collectables.

Day 7 – Friday 6 October

Roy Shelton and Alan Stevens   

We left the Caravan Park at 9am on a very cold morning and headed for Red Rock lookout over the Volcanic area. The good news was that we had a sunny day ahead, no rain although a bit cool.

We were lighter in numbers as the Roberts, Windridges and Zysvelts had headed for home.   27 of us headed off from the Park to the Red Rock Reserve. This was an amazing hillock which a million or so years ago had been the heart of an active volcano.  There were Craters everywhere you looked at heaps of volcanic remnants relating to what must have been spectacular times. Today the rolling green hills made for a much more serene environment except for the lazy wind not going around you.  The amphitheatre of sheep and cattle tracks around the craters were amazing as was the magpie nesting in a wind stressed bush at the top of the carpark.  We toured to another lookout and far below in an easterly direction we could see a big sprawling old house.  This was to be our next stop and morning tea.  This vantage point had a Colac Shire plaque dated 4-12-1915 which portrayed various arrows pointing to distant landmarks including Mt Elephant, Apollo Bay and Mt Cole. We drove down the steep track again being careful not to leave the road edge it was a very steep drop away into paddocks.

Eventually located the gate to Coragulac House and suddenly found the last in the convoy became the first into the driveway (due to GPS failures of the lead vehicle)!   A long driveway to the magnificent Coragulac House, a homestead of 30 rooms, a real bluestone mansion, over 100 squares of living space built in 1873 by the Robertson family out from England.  In its hey day it had been a sheep farm of 12,000 acres and pioneering pastoralist George Robertson and family building a 50-square home.  The entry room still has the original family insignia wall paper hanging proudly.

The second owner, Andrew Chirnside had doubled the home to its current size around 1895-1900 to 100 squares (115 sqares including verandahs).  The home ending up with 14 fireplaces requiring around 100 ton of wood per annum. 13 have carved timber mantles and only one marble fireplace.  The home features extensive cedar and Huon pine.  During this period, the farm focus had changed from sheep to racehorses.

The third owner was Thomas Baker, a stock and station agent changing to run beef cattle.  Due to financial problems land had to be sold off, forcing the farm to dwindle down to its current size of 96 acres.

1n 1932 Len Ralton, aged 24 became the 4th owner. He was in the Forces and away a lot, leaving his wife with a few other tenants in the home and others leasing parts of the farm until it was again sold in 1949.

The house remained vacant for 2 years until 1951 when the Matthews family purchased it and lived there for 62 years, maintaining the old home in liveable condition.  During this time the land grew potatoes, peas and onions on its rich red volcanic soils.

The current owners of 5 years are Sharyn and Gary Gibbons who are slowly restoring room by room and have opened their home and original stables for weddings.  When purchased, the only remaining original furniture was a full size billiard table in the smoking room.  All the other beautiful period furniture was already owned and fitted by Sharyn and Gary, having brought it with them when they moved from Brunswick.   It was fascinating to be mesmerised by Sharyn relating how each room had been and how it got to its current status.  The ceiling alone in the Parlour for instance, had taken 7 weeks to paint.

Fortunately, the home has not been National Trust registered so owners have a better chance of recreating without red-tape influences.

Apart from our restoration talk we enjoyed the morning tea.

Our trip ended back at the Caravan Park for a quick lunch then off into Colac. As we left the Park we had to detour around a 4wd that had slid across the Park drive and up an SEC post tension wire before breaking it and crashing passenger door first onto the SEC pole.  An ambulance had attended, Police were there, along with Powercor who had cut the power to the Park.

After lunch and a quick visit by a few to opp shops and collectable shops we all met at the Botanical Gardens Café 2 pm for a lovely coffee and scone.   For some reason Alan’s scone wasn’t listed on his order and they refused to charge him (a win for Alan). Then we split, some stayed to inspect the gardens, some off to opp shop and some to visit a truck collection.  A lovely drive through back streets to view a huge 2 storey redbrick mansion which is currently vacant and apparently owned by a Melbournian but being restored internally.  The land around it was reportedly to be developed as a retirement village.

On to Merv Brunt’s collection of around 30-40 trucks from the 1920s to 1960s, arranged by Richard Mills.  An amazing Museum of trucks restored by Merv, who for many years had a cartage business in Colac.  We’d never seen so many solid tyred trucks in one place and all beautifully restored (although later found only 7 were in actual running order). We’d also not heard of many of the makes – Brockway, Bean, Republic, etc.  plus, unusual examples of Leyland, Packard, International, Bedford, Dodge, Morris, etc. Merv conducted a trucking business alongside a passion for collecting and restoring old trucks from all over. On his passing the collection was at risk of going to Alice Springs or Melbourne but an interest from Camperdown saw the collection remain in Colac but as yet not available to the public – Thus we were very privileged.  As we headed back to the caravan park our new President Lloyd Cameron joined Alan for a luxurious trip in the Austin Princess.

We returned to no power in the Park following the earlier accident.

A brief interlude included pulling down the camp meeting tents, before a group of us headed back into town to satisfy the thirst of our vehicles in preparation for homeward trips tomorrow.  Met up with most at the RSL for a lovely meal, but others had taken Chinese back to camp and some had stayed at camp and cooked dinner.

Lots of hand shaking and hugs as this was to be the last event with the Club as Roy and Carmel were returning to South Australia to live.

Back to camp 9pm.  Many off to bed but some braved the elements and met for a chat in the camp kitchen.  What happened after that is anyone’s guess.

P.S.   Roy and Carmel stated they would like to thank all members for their support and friendship over the last 14 years.

DAY 8 – Saturday 7 October

by Glenise Moors

This was another fine day which meant the packing up was not a problem.

Roy and Carmel were waved off at 7:30am, heading toward South Australia. Other members left camp as they were ready. Following fond farewells and some help in packing my tent (thank you again). The remaining six vehicles left in a loose convoy before 10am. We travelled via Ballarat to Creswick where we caught up with John and Virginia in a cafe in Creswick. Definitely time for refreshments! In Newstead I barely missed hitting a dog and as Val’s car had gone from view, I dropped off the convoy to return via North Harcourt.

Thank you to Bennetts and Tangeys, for planning and running this very successful tour. The camps are always enjoyable and friendly and we look forward to the next one.