Take a look at this for a death-defying swan dive. How the Moorabool River might accommodate sufficient depth for our aquanaut not to break her neck is anyone’s guess.
Going by today’s flows, the river would have to be full flooded spate, in which case she’d likely be whisked away quick smart to a very uncertain future. So I’m not buying it.
Still, you think of daredevils going over waterfalls in barrels and this doesn’t seem so different.
Have the river’s levels changed? Perhaps. Been a fair song and dance about the Moorabool’s poorly condition for some time. Water’s getting drained off by farms and other operations upstream.
The river’s course was even changed, some 30 years back, to supposedly secure the Fyansford cement works’ future for another 50 years. Didn’t do much good, the place folded shortly after.
A century-long fixture at Fyansford, the cement-works and their giant chimney stacks have given way to an inexorable urban sprawl that has to be Geelong’s biggest growth spurt since the Gold Rush.
New suburbs are popping up all over the place – north, south, east and west. Melbourne’s creeping closer each day it seems.
Just as in the roaring days, Fyansford remains one of the first arrival points in Geelong. With a couple of new housing estates, a 47,000 sqm shopping centre in the wind and a phalanx of earth-movers lined up along the main drag, everyone’s diving into the place these days. And there’s a good bit more change to come.
This transition, the coming of the new-age Fyansford, is a curious affair. It’s heightened my sensibilities about this town, named, oddly enough, for Geelong’s first police boss, Foster ‘Flogger’ Fyans, a very nasty piece of work renowned for his sadistic brutality toward convicts in his time as commandant at Norfolk Island.
Anyone should be going off a bridge, it might be him. The tall Norfolk pines in town are an ironic reminder of his sins.
That old arched bridge, by the way, was designed by John Monash, the bloke who basically won World War One for the Allies. He used a French system of wire-reinforced concrete, the Monier system, the experience supposedly serving him well when targeting weak points in German underground bunkers.
The biggest change to Fyansford is undoubtedly the loss of its cements works, a full-blown industrial fixture for a full century, with giant stacks, silos, rail lines and trains, conveyors, factory workshops and more. It unearthed all manner of marine fossils, which once formed part of an extensive museum housing all manner of cement works artefacts.
The sheds have been replaced by new Hamptons facades and split-level homes, myrtle-lined streets, a playgrounds, footy oval … the only surviving evidence of the works is a giant Komatsu earthmover used, unbelievably, to help knock over the last of the 300-metre chimney stacks 20 odd years back when explosive charges failed to do the job. No idea where OHS was for that job.
Fyansford has hosted multiple quarries for limestone and bluestone. You’ll find remnants of the bluestone efforts in the cliff faces along both the Barwon and the Moorabool.
A waterfall that once cascaded in the area where the tip now is has disappeared. The town’s bluestone primary school stopped operations in the Kennett schools cull of the 1990s.
The tennis courts next door are in ruinous shape but still offer a sprawling view across the Moorabool/Barwon escarpment that runs along McCurdy Rd and around Geelong College, Queens Park and Newtown.
Even the Volkswagen graveyard that propagated up beside the old school has disappeared. So too the historic Swan Inn, up the access road to the cement works quarry, a victim to fire in recent years. The Fyansford pub, pictured here and which opened in 1854, as did the Balmoral over the road, are both still operational.
The paper mill is enjoying a renaissance as an arts/dining precinct but one of its larger structures was burned to the ground in the 1990s. It’s a car park now. Bluestone cottages along the paper mill road remain the best real estate you’ll find within cooee of a rubbish tip anywhere.
And the Fyansford Common, of course, remains a Mecca for local canines. I once fished out an Alsatian that found himself stuck in the water channel along the car track on its eastern edge.
Silly mutt wasn’t watching where he dived.
This article appeared in the Geelong Advertiser 28 March 2022