Took some recent time off to go see what all the fuss was about with these silo paintings. It was a fantastic excuse really as I’d pondered for years about journeying up through the Wimmera/Mallee to Mildura off the mainstay of the bland Sunraysia Highway. What an experience. You get a real feel for how reliant this region of Victoria is on grain commodities. If only through the town welcoming signposts, you’d know this was the Kansas of Victoria, sheep and wheat emblems abound. More than one claim to be the “home of barley”. Makes you wonder whether they compare tonnages each harvest.
Brim was a corker. I loved the fact that this painting on a silo had brought us here in the first place, forced us to stop, hang around and pay for a spot at the local camping ground (for more images of Brim’s silo’s refer to this earlier blogpost). No way known if it weren’t for the painting that we would’ve stopped off here but that’s the beauty of it. As I wandered the streets on dawn of Saturday morning I chuckled to myself over the bloke who’d strung a boxing bag up in his gate, commiserated the closing of the local primary school, admired the sameness of the bowling green, and wondered what the greenskeeper was thinking about the local golf course which was quickly turning into a jungle after a wet start to spring had prevented any mower access. The Australianess of the place seeps out of every building and tree but it’s not unique, just one of many thousands dotted around Victoria that speak of a proud past and uncertain future due to population creep. Guido’s well publicised artwork had brought us here but to be honest I was equally enjoying the walkabout of Brim’s streets. One thing I think town’s could do more of are information boards. Every town has its stories of conquest and misfortune, it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering moments in the history of our nation. Simple yarns about local characters and their amusing escapades, triumphs or disappoints. Turn it into a walking trail and Bob’s your uncle, Edna’s your aunt. Here’s where Mildura do it well, albeit the story’s fairly grande but the same principle applies on smaller levels.
Mildura was built on the back of toil and smarts from a pair of Canadian brothers called William and George Chaffey. These Canadian raised brothers first gained their Australian connection through Sir Alfred Deakin. The then Victorian Minister for Water Supply (later to become three times Prime Minister of Australia) met the pair in 1885 while enquiring into US irrigation strategies. Two years earlier Mildura, then a sheep station, had fallen into liquidation following a drought and rabbit plague but Sir Alfred recognised potential in the region if waters flowing down the Murray could be harnessed.
The Chaffey brothers had complimentary qualities that made them a formidable combination for such an onerous civic project. W.B had extensive knowledge of horticulture and town planning while George had family experience with engineering bridges and ships. Deakin’s description of Victoria and Mildura inspired George to visit. On arrival he immediately set to work designing pumps for elevating water from the murray onto higher plains for agriculture and telegrammed his brother to come at once. The project wasn’t all smooth sailing but endured and setup Mildura to be what it is today, a diverse environment for agricultural production (for more info on the Chaffey Brothers refer to W.B Chaffey’s House).
This trip took in a route which weaved through; St Arnaud, Murtoa, Warracknabeal, Brim, Patchewollock, Walpeup, Underbool, Murray-Sunset National Park, Red Cliffs, Mildura, Wentworth and back. Big thumbs up on this tour. Two tips; pack plenty of Bushmans Extra Deet Insect Spray and a net to throw over your face. Flies aren’t pleasant darting round your tonsils, neither are swarms of mosquitos turning you into a dehydrated prune.