Event date: 23-26 January 2021
Day 1 – Australia Day Weekend
On the first day we met early in the morning at Essendon BMW. I really liked looking at the MINIs… and of course the BMWs.
Jo explained to us what we would be doing that day and then the man from the dealership showed us a new type of BMW - none of them have even been sold yet. I think Dad want’s one now. I also had a yummy hot chocolate while we waited to leave.
Then first part of our trip was a nice drive as we headed to Yea for morning tea. We had a wander around the shops and found a nice bakery where I got some hedgehog slice, it was very yummy.
We then had a nice easy drive to Mansfield for lunch. Lunch was at a hotel - and it was busy! There was a kids playground though so my sister and I could have a play. I had fish and chips for lunch.
After lunch we all lined up in our cars for a fun drive to Beechworth. We drove through some mountains on some windy roads. The mountains were beautiful, but sometimes Dad was driving a bit too fast around the corners!
It wasn’t long until we arrive in Beechworth. It’s a very beautiful town - very old building along the street and lots of interesting shops. Mum and Dad told us all about how busy it was during the gold rush. My sister and I imagined what it must have been like with all the people, horses and carriages and tents that some people lived in.
When we got to the motel in Beechworth my sister and I couldn’t wait to go swimming in the swimming pool. It was a little pool, but still lots of fun to cool down in.
That night for dinner, instead of staying with the group we decided to go to Billson’s Brewery where they make cordial (as well as some alcohol drinks). It’s a very old building that has been around since the early days of Beechworth.
Before we ate our dinner, my sister and I got to do a cordial tasting and I tried about 8 different cordials. My favourite was the lemon & ginger. My sisters was Raspberry Vinegar.
I had a great weekend and everyone was really friendly and funny. people cracked lots of jokes and shared fun facts on the radios the whole weekend.
I can’t wait till our next trip and hopefully next time more people with kids come too.
Thanks to Jo, Graeme and Peter for organising it.
Harper Cooper (aged 10) | Member #631
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne
We’d made it to Beechworth the previous day, some did the trip in significantly less time than at least one participant. Jo rolled her eyes when he called in to say he thought he’d left his coffee machine simmering so already 45 mins into the journey, the coffee addict turned around and headed home to find that an extra hour and a half’s driving whilst enjoyable, was in vain. It was OFF!
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s look at day 2
Firstly, if you didn’t make this event, you must be really disappointed. The driving is the northeast is nothing short of fabulous. Peter’s drive encyclopaedia put’s Melways to shame and whereas Dr Google generally gets you there, Pete’s tome actually has useful stuff in it. You won’t get lost with Pete on the trip.
o Day 2, 24 January, was Silo Art Day. The silos in question are on the opposite side of the Hume to Beechworth. So that meant we headed into the wheat and fortified wine country of Rutherglen and surrounds via Wangaratta and the Warby Ranges. Now if you drive a Beamer, the Warbies, are just what the doctor ordered; 18 km of twists and turns, rises and falls, short straights and not much traffic. Being still under warranty, and not too sure of the capabilities of these beasts, I learnt a lot trying to keep up with Pete in his little blue box MINI, that thing has actually got some legs. Firstly, in the twists and turns, Sports mode works a treat and this owner’s car appears to know how to corner, better than its driver. [Don’t say anything Jo!]
So, if you like to stretch your car’s legs, get up the front of the convoy and play, ‘Catch Pete.’ If you want to meander, that’s fine, you can do that too, just slip to the back of the convoy and spend more time on the scenery than the corners.
The Beechworth side of the highway’s history is steeped in gold, the Rutherglen side is steeped in cropping and damn good fortified wines. Mind you, there’s some very good wines on the Beechworth side too, just think Brown Brotheres at Milawa!
The north east is littered with lots of small towns, with pubs of course, that are the hub of the district. The trains came to town to get the grain to ports. Grain needs silos and as the size of farms increased and populations decreased, these little icons of Australiana needed to find ways to attract people to town. Somewhere along the line, one town decided to decorate their silos and turn them into concrete art galleries, a trend had commenced. Some silos are 90m high so they’re substantial structures.
The artwork that we saw on the silos of Goorambat, Devenish, St James and Tungamah are stunning. How the artists scale the images to get the perspective correct is an incredible feat. The silos depict life of the area, the impact of wars and the wildlife of the area. Fabulous snapshots of life in the country.
We lunched in Rutherglen, and suffice it to say that these small towns have some seriously good food on offer including some of the best pies you can get to wrap your laughing gear around. Then it was off to Chambers’ Winery where some of our great fortified wines are produced. A cellar tour and the inevitable tastings took place then it was back to Beechworth via Chiltern, another north-eastern gem.
A couple of hours to recover and then it was off to Bridge Road Brewers for gourmet pizzas and way too many beer varieties to sample in a month, let alone a night.
A great day of driving, food, wine, comradeship, and seeing some of the best country this state has to offer and meeting new friends with a common interest. It don’t get much better than that!
Graham Thomas | Member #534
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne
Day 3: Monday
Monday in Beechworth began with the "Echoes of History Walking Tour". It was already extremely hot so the walking was mainly from one shaded spot to the next! Our guide, David Saxton, was a true expert on the district and its history, with many fascinating facts and stories from the early days of what was once one of Victoria's most important towns. His interest in archaeology and his infectious enthusiasm suggested an identification as "Australia's Francis Pryor", although his impressive beard perhaps pointed more towards Mick Aston (Time Team cast members, for those unaware of that great English TV series)!
The driving segment of the day then commenced, with a slightly reduced complement of eight cars, displaying a range of ages, sizes and number of doors/roofs. Our first stop on Pete Williams's well-designed route was the small historic town of Yackandandah, which proudly possesses a Williams Street. There was a variety of shops, galleries and eating places on offer but unfortunately the renowned Sluga Gallery was closed for the day. Perhaps just as well for our wallets! One "old wares" shop at the end of the street had a large range of small vintage car models of the Corgi/Matchbox type. The writer was tempted by a folded tin Shell service station with two levels to display such cars, but apart from the price ($275) the perennial question of "where will we put it?" raised its ugly head and this beauty remained in its cabinet.
After lunch we headed for Mt Beauty and Bright via a "twisty" drive. The scenery in this part of the State is stunning and the clear air revealed it in all its glory. Traffic was light. The group spent some time comparing outside temperatures according to our respective cars' instrument displays. No matter the detailed variances there was no doubting the overall picture; it was "hot, damned hot". Before we reached Mt Beauty there was some reshuffling of the convoy order, allowing for various degrees of enthusiasm for the seriously twisty and highly entertaining climb from that town to the Tawonga Gap. Most of the group stopped at Sullivans Lookout to admire the splendid view, although a couple of cars/crews missed that tricky turn-off. We regrouped at the next lookout for the equally delightful run down the hill to Bright.
Bright was heaving! Parking spots were hard to find and both streets and footpaths were very busy. Victorians were clearly heeding our Premier's exhortation to get out and help the regional towns by visiting and spending money. Bright was hard hit by the bushfires a year ago and by the covid-enforced closure of the ski season so it was great to see it so well supported. Jo and Graeme collected the meat for the forthcoming barbecue but, since we had become separated by this stage, I can offer no further report of activity in Bright.
The venue for our barbecue dinner had been changed from Lake Buffalo to Lake Sambell but this was a very picturesque alternative. Who is Sam Bell, by the way, and is he related to Graeme Bell? Our own Mr Bell did sterling work with the tongs and served up a vast quantity of sausages and rissoles. I'm not sure who organised the salads/plates/cups/cutlery etc but I suspect Jo and Shaaron put in their usual hard work to ensure a very enjoyable evening. The food went down well, accompanied by the (responsible) consumption of wine and beer, and by the pleasure of conversation.
In summary, a great day!
David Francis | Member #243
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne
Day 4: Tuesday
Day four rolled around very quickly...as did the rain. We can't complain after three days of continuous sunshine – and truth be known it actually came as a bit of a relief.
We were out the door very early to drive the Beechworth Gorge circuit. Unfortunately it was quite foggy and as a result we missed out on what we were told is usually a great view. We did manage however to capture some fast cascading waterfalls which I assume were increased in volume due to the rains..so lucky us! After our drive we moved on to drier premises, the Court House. This is a building dating back to 1858 where it was in continuous service for 131 years and bore witness to many convictions, many of which would be thought in today's times and as one noted as "demented". People were convicted for crimes that were minor and brought upon from no more than extremely sad and poor circumstances of the times. We believe that the gold rush days of Australia may have been good for some but for others it was more about heartbreak than fortune as many of these stories support. One lady in particular was sentenced to jail leaving her two infant children being sent to the local asylum to spend their formulative years because, I can only guess, they had nowhere else to go.
From Court we went, as you do, to Jail (the Old Beechworth Gaol that is). In bygone times you had to pay for your crimes with your time...now we have to pay to spend our time there. I'd much prefer to pay for the experience anyway.
The Old Beechworth Gaol is a fascinating building opened in 1864 and was still in operation up until its closure only in 2004. I was in the area in the 1980s and remember the prisoners tending the gardens. The gaol has been left in a condition as it was when closed which makes it even more fascinating and I can tell you that there hadn't been much modernisation on the building up until its closure. This is not a place you would want to spend any of your time in if you can help it as I'm sure the infamous Ned Kelly who spent some time here before being transported to the Old Melbourne Goal where he was hanged for his crimes felt the same way. His mother Ellen Kelly also spent time in this gaol for the attempted murder of a police Constable Fitzpatrick who supposedly tried to kiss her 14 year old daughter...some would say "justified" she on the other hand said "I should have done a better job". I say supposedly because both sides of the incident were not without sin of lying. There were a few modern day infamous people too such as Carl Williams that spent some time in this establishment. Well worth a visit if in the area.
We stayed at the Golden Heritage Accommodation – which we can highly recommend if you intend to visit the area. It is really clean and fresh and the owners are very welcoming and accommodating.
In staying with the theme of criminals it may be appropriate now to pass on some insights from the hotel owner as to the light fingers of guests past...not all heists were accomplished at the Golden Heritage might I add and in fact the main incredulous light fingering was undertaken at the Melbourne Ibis that the owners opened many years ago. The story goes that a group of overseas visitors booked enough rooms to have almost an entire floor. After their departure, when cleaning the rooms, it was discovered that each room had a curtain missing and the one remaining curtain was drawn across the length of the window to cover the theft. The owners calculated that they had got away with 4 sets of curtains. Did they get charged for the curtains? That I'm afraid I cannot answer. Another story: however, I do like to view this more as a tip on "How to acquire new pillows" (as done by guests at hotels more regularly than you would think). Step 1: bring your old bed pillow from home to the hotel you are a guest of (this is a must), Step 2: remove hotel's pillow case from lovely new firm pillow; Step 3: place your old pillow in the hotel's pillow case and leave on the hotel bed; Step 3: Take home what we hope to be a newer version of what you've left behind. Now, of course if you have more than one pillow you would like to exchange then just repeat those instructions. Pretty clever huh? If you're feeling more brave then you could do what one brazen guest in Tasmania did, take the whole King-sized bed from the hotel room...yep, that's right, the whole bed! They believe that the "guest" must have taken the bed down the fire escape (escape being the operative word) in order to accomplish this feat. I'm not sure in this instance that they actually brought their Queen-sized bed from home as a replacement as the thoughtful pillow thieves do – and I think to not do so seems rude don't you? Not to mention more obvious that something in the room is missing. The element of surprise is always priceless.
Anyway, back to our trip and this is where it ended – outside the Gaol. We bade farewell to our new made friends as this was our introduction to a weekend away with the BMW Drivers Club Melbourne and we will be back for more. We had so much fun and it was so well organised that we could not fault one aspect of our trip. People are so friendly and welcoming – it made a 'good' trip 'great'!
Paul wanted me to add something about the driving!!! All I can say is he had a smile on his face for the entire trip so the BMWDCM are doing something right.
Paul Carrington & Angela Muser | Member #623
BMW Drivers Club Melbourne