Our next stop was at the Mathoura. The Bowling Club offers the use of the large grass area behind the club building to travellers for a small cost. We were allowed to use the facility and as there were ablutions outside it works in well. It is always a bonus to be able to take a hot shower and not have to worry about if you have enough water to last until you can fill up the tanks again.
The name of the town comes from an Aboriginal word for windy so we did think we may have been in for some rocking of the van a bit, but the weather was lovely. We arrived mid afternoon and after setting everything up we bludged for the rest for the day.
The first Europeans arrived in the area around 1838. It wasn’t until ten years later a shanty hut was built. Ok a shanty hut doesn’t make a town but it wasn’t long after the hut was built that woodcutters started to arrive and then more shanty hut’s started to appear. The forest surrounding Mathoura was thick with tall trees, some of them reaching 40m high. At the time there was a large demand for railway sleepers as well as house stumps and fence posts for the new colony. By 1865 the demand for timber had increased so much that a sawmill was built. The timber would be dragged down to the river by bullocks then loaded onto barges so they could be sailed down to the sawmill.
Most of the trees in the area are Red Gums. They often have a hollow base to them. The woodcutter would climb the tree to about 3m or more before they would start to cut into the tree. The work would have been all done by hand. From the men cutting the trees down, to loading it on to the barges. It would have been hard and dangerous work.
If you take a forest walk you can still see some of the old tree stumps.
With every timber town the threat of fire was always a concern, after all a bushfire could wipe out the town literally as well as economically. Everyone was always on the look out for any signs of smoke. Timber towns would have a tree or even a tower to which a person would climb to the top to help locate and pinpoint the location of a fire. It was always an unwritten rule in country towns that if a fire broke out every able-bodied person would be expected to down tools and help fight the blaze. The men would go to the front line of the fire, while the women would gather together to assist the men. Fires in Australian can last for days if not weeks. If the fire looked like it was going to last for more than a day or two reinforcements would come from near by towns to help. The army of volunteers would have to be watered and fed. It was not uncommon for people to open their homes up to a volunteers so they would have somewhere to sleep and rest before going back out there to fight the flames again.
Mathoura has a tower on the edge of the town. The next day we went to have a look at it but couldn’t find it. You would think it would be easy to find. One large tall tower but no we missed it. We did find the Soldier’s Memorial Gardens. The Mathoura residents built the gardens after World War 1 to honour the men from the area who were lost in the war. The families of those who had lost a family member were given a large commemorative plaque. The men who come home were greeted with a formal dinner and presented with a gold watch. The garden came later and was funded entirely by the local community on land donated to the core. (Way back then there was no government grant to help build the park.) The garden was unveiled in 1934 filled with lovely flowers and a rotunda, although it took a number of years to find the money to have the fallen engraved on a plaque for the garden. By the time the money was raised it was almost time to add the names for World War 2. When completed the gardens were handed over to the Shire who maintain them.
These types of gardens are always lovely to see as they are always well looked after.
There wasn’t much happening in the town now the timber industry had almost disappeared.
We walked around the town looking into empty shops and at deserted buildings. Most of the buildings from the heyday of the town are long gone. The only hotel to withstand the test of time is The Pastoral Hotel. It still stands and operates on the original site where it was built 1876 although it has had several name changes over the years.