Spring Gully

A seemingly endless landscape of gold mining history.

Access:    By car to within 100m of the first easily accessed site. More sites to explore on foot Period:    1850s-1930s
Time:    Allow 20 minutes - 1 hour Stories:    A miner's tale; 19th centurv  techniques

From the carpark, walk about 50 metres to a viewing platform overlooking the remains of the Spring Gully Junction Mine.

There is another lookout about 40 metres from the first.

If you are fit and want to explore more, the track continues up hill and down dale to some more extensive and evocative Spring Gully sites... and further into Verne Hooper's past.

(This is part of the Goldfields Track, a walking track that leads eventually to Daylesford and on to Ballarat.)

Verne Hooper was born to a gold miner father.  He grew up at Spring Gully in a world of mines and miners.

This gully was particularly rich in gold. It was rushed by the alluvial gold miners of 1852, and then saw four distinct periods of underground mining up to the end of the 1930s.

The gully has been scoured out by hydraulic sluicing and the hill slopes are marked by shafts and the foundations of mine machinery.

Massive mullock heaps show, by their size, the scale of the work that went on underground over many years.

You can discover quite a bit from the two viewing platforms and more if you go for a walk along the track.

First viewing platform

This is the rich Spring Gully Junction Mine, which operated from 1897-1914.

Being a rich mine, it was equipped with its own crushing battery. A tall, timber poppet head would once have stood over the shaft and, right next to you, a towering brick chimney rose from the boiler house. A great network of tunnels has been dug underneath the platform here, to a depth of around 300 metres.

The diagram below indicates features you can see from the platform.

Second viewing platform (20 metres from the first)

You are now standing on the mullock heap of the Spring Gully Junction mine. All this rock was mined by hand. From here you can see the characteristic deep scars left in the gully by hydraulic sluicers in the 1930s.

Verne Hooper can remember seeing the spring after which the gully was named. He says it is now buried by five metres of silt from these operations (you cross this spot on the walk to the Spring Gully mine).

Looking down the gully to your right, you can see a line of mullock heaps running up the hill. A lot more rock has been dug, further along on the other side, at the Spring Gully mine. The walking track leads to that mine site.

On the Spring Gully trail

If you follow the track for about 200 metres from the second viewing platform, it takes you past the remains of some miners' huts to a little footbridge crossing Spring Gully.

Where the track crosses the gully you will see, to your left, rocks iron-stained by waters welling up from the old spring. The spring is now buried under about five metres of soil and rubble from the sluicing operations in the gully.
After a short but testing hill climb, a stile (a step on each side) takes you over a fence. The track then passes through a mid-1850s open cut mine, about 20 metres wide.

The reef here once protruded above ground, and miners recovered up to 30 ounces of gold for every ton of rock quarried.

Following the track, you walk alongside a massive mullock heap from a later period of mining. In 1894, the Spring Gully Co. started mining here in a big way, and dumped their mullock into the 1850s open cut.

Coming out of the open cut, you get a first glimpse of the Spring Gully Co. mine - there are mounds of red bricks marking the site of a collapsed chimney stack. A few metres further on you will find yourself among the largest and most intact 19th century miningfoundations in the Castlemaine district.

Look for these 19th century relics at Spring Gully:

  • the boiler foundations
  • stone engine beds
  • mortar blocks for the crushing battery
  • massive stone loading ramp
  • tailing ponds

In the 1930s, Verne Hooper helped to build the concrete foundations to the west of the loading ramp. These workings were re-opened from 1933-1939. Since then, the mine has remained abandoned.

`Mining is not without risk, and Tom suffered an accident in the mine that he was lucky to survive. He fell from the ladder, at least halfway up the shaft, hitting his head (and leaving a patch of hair at 60 feet up) and falling free to the bottom, where he skidded down a slope which followed the angle of the reef... Tom stood up at the end and walked back to the profound relief of his brothers, who were working in a side tunnel. Hauled up in the `skid' and taken to a doctor, he was found to have only minor injuries, but he retained the bald patch on his head for life.' Thomas Smith of Sandon: Miner, Farmer Geologist, C. C. Culvenor, Jim Crow Press, 1994

Today, I still enjoy walking around Spring Gully, looking at the old mine shafts and mullock dumps.  I look at some of the old shafts I helped to sink, and think of the underground workings that we worked in.  I can still see the places we worked in underground, even though these shafts have been filled in for many years.  I can remember the men I worked with, can see them moving about in their places of work, as if it were only yesterday.  These men were much older than me and all have passed on many years ago.  I can stand and look at the foundations of the old Spring Gully mine, with holding-down bolts protruding out of the concrete blocks.  We made these bolts in the blacksmith's shop at the mine.  - Mining My Past   Verne Hooper

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