Daylesford to Hepburn Springs
Directions - From the centre of Daylesford head south along the main strip until you see the signs for Lake Daylesford. There are paths all around the lake but the start of the track is located on the SW edge of the lake just past the Boathouse.
The Hike - Christmas this year took on a different flavour as the in-laws were all gathering in country Victoria for the annual event. Joining my partner and her family for a few days in the picturesque town of Daylesford, just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne, seemed like a good excuse to explore what she describes as the Margaret River of Victoria. With my hiking gear packed we arrived just before midnight on my birthday to join the hundreds of others flying over to the sporting capital of the world.
A 7am AEDT arrival meant we were still weary eyed when my partners dad picked us up for the hour long drive out to Daylesford. Being summer there was no shortage of yellow grass all along the highway and when I wasn't half asleep my thoughts were guided to how much land we have managed to clear in over two centuries of occupying this island. On the outskirts of Daylesford my faith was restored and a smattering of forest appeared. Before arriving I had done my research and chose the Tipperary Track for my sole day of hiking (we were only in Daylesford for about four days). This 17.6km one way trail takes you from Lake Daylesford through the bushland and along creeks until you reach Hepburn Springs (4km north of Daylesford town centre). The plan was to head out on Boxing Day, which was great as the summer heat was forecast to be interrupted by rain on Christmas night. Unfortunately it didn't stop on Boxing Day and as I hadn't brought any rain gear I postponed the hike until the following day.
I started early on the 27th to get the hike in before a 12:45pm movie screening we were all attending and immediately ran into a problem, I hadn't asked if I could borrow some sunscreen. Luckily the Coles Express just round the corner from the rented house we were staying at had a tube and I didn't have to worry about turning into a lobster. It was a chilly morning as I walked along the main street (stopping off for a coffee and snack at the bakery first) and on to the starting point at Lake Daylesford. I had about five hours to complete the 3km walk to Lake Daylesford, the 17.5km Tipperary Track plus the 4kms back to the house so it was going to be a balance of speed and spending enough time enjoying & photographing the landscape (I took a lot of photos). Unlike trails in WA, you won't find trail markers posted every now and then to guide your way. Instead the trail is broken up into sections that are no more than 3.5km and I found it very easy to follow (apart from one wrong turn after Breakneck Gorge).
Section One - Lake Daylesford to Twin Bridges (1.3km) - Starting from the concrete bridge over Wombat Creek I found a single track that led into the forest and began my hike. The first point of interest comes not far down the trail when you reach Sutton Springs. Crossing Wombat Creek again, you are presented with the remains of the old spring before finding the trail again on the western side of the spring. Being summer I expected any greenery to be long gone but the trail to Twin Bridges was still very lush and it was nice to be amongst it all after a few warm months in Perth. The Twin Bridges is exactly as described, two bridges of the Midland Highway over Stony & Sailors Creeks. At this point there is another hike you can do called the Lost Children's Walk, a short hike near where three children got lost in 1867 after going on an adventure walk. Sadly the story didn't end well despite a big effort by the townspeople of Daylesford. I snapped a few photos of the bridges and then entered the Twin Bridges picnic area ready to cross the footbridge of Sailors Bridge.
Section Two - Twin Bridges to Tipperary Springs (2.3km) - Unbeknownst to me, at the Twin Bridges picnic area there are two trails you can take that lead to the same junction further up at Bryce's Flat. They both follow Sailors Creek but on different sides of the bank. I took the western path and after unsuccessfully trying to capture some nice shots of the dry creek bed I moved on and headed towards Tipperary Springs.
Following the steep banks of Sailors Creek on the narrow trail means you really have to pay attention as one stumble or trip and you could be in for a long fall down to the creek bed. The surrounding bushland doesn't help the situation as I constantly found myself looking around at the forest or trying to catch a glimpse of a section of creek that still had water. The trail heads in a generally westerly direction, snaking and weaving along the meandering creek bed until you reach Tipperary Springs. While it wasn't completely dry, there wasn't much there so I took a few photos and moved on as the expected arrival back at the house was playing on my mind.
Section Three - Tipperary Springs to Bryces Flat (3.3km) – Having driven out to Ballarat on Christmas Eve for a last minute shopping expedition, I knew roughly what the landscape looked like west of Daylesford. So with a name like Bryces Flat, I was expecting a climb up the western bank of Sailors Creek and to be greeted with sweeping vistas across the golden farming land between Daylesford and Creswick. I did not see any sunburnt country or lands of sweeping plains but I did get some great Australian bushland where I half expected a bushranger or two to cross my path on horseback. Those days are long gone but its fun to use the imagination to see images of akubra and driza-bone clad horsemen wandering around the eucalyptus trees. I didn’t have time to explore Bryces Flat so I admired the massive rock steps forming a path over Sailors Creek and moved on.