Why did we want to walk the length of the Barwon River from source to sea?
For each participant of the walk, there is probably a different answer. Perhaps it is simply curiosity as we go about our workaday lives, driving on bridges over the river or one of its many tributaries, and glancing sideways wondering what is round its many bends.
The opportunity to camp out and share stories beside a glowing campfire with thoughts of exploration and adventure may be a motivation. For keen “Landcarers” it was an opportunity to take a close look at the revegetation and weed control work that is being done and still needing to be done along the banks of the river. And for others the walk was to experience nature; to learn from the wisdom of the elders, and to commune with all who care about the Barwon River, the natural environment, wildlife, bird life, agriculture and water.
And all embraced the opportunity to connect with the many communities along the river; from the upper catchment communities of Forrest, Birregurra, Winchelsea, Inverleigh and the Barrabool Hills, through Geelong, Lake Connewarre, and the Barwon Estuary to, finally, the coastal dwellers at Barwon Heads.
So, where was the seed for this trek sown? In 2011, as a member of the East Otway Landcare Group, I was invited to a Landcare conference in Halls Gap. It was there that I heard about a group from Lake Bolac, who each year walked a “Healing Walk”.
The Healing Walk is the brainchild of singer-songwriter, Neil Murray. Neil comes from Lake Bolac and he had organised an annual walk with a group of indigenous people, artists, land managers and farmers along one of the creeks that led into Lake Bolac, with the “Lake Bolac Eel Festival” celebration at the end of the walk.
In 2012, I was invited to join the Healing Walk. As I walked with the Lake Bolac people on our way along Mt Emu Creek from Woorndoo in Western Victoria, I learned so much about the history of Lake Bolac’s Indigenous and European heritage that included the amazing life story of the eels. How does an eel spawned in the Coral Sea find its way back to Lake Bolac in Victoria?
There is something ancient and elemental about walking all day – it is not surprising that walking is at the heart of Eastern meditative traditions. I enjoyed the experience so much I thought I could bring it back to our part of the world with a focus on the lifeblood of our area, the Barwon River.
This book is the story of that walk, what we saw, what we learnt and what we did.
For all who walked, the simplicity of walking and talking, sharing knowledge, and appreciating our own backyard and the importance of the Barwon River was a unifying and uplifting experience.
New friends were made, old friendships strengthened and we all completed our own journeys feeling just that little bit richer for having done so.
Excerpt by Jennifer Morrow
Walking the Barwon River from Source to Sea is available for purchase through
Upper Barwon Land Care Network, phone 5236 2401 to place your order.