Malmsbury – Elphinstone – Chewton – Castlemaine
One of my old favourites, a 38km infinitely variable mainly bush ride – 42km if you start or end in Malmsbury. Which I suggest you do for the pleasant ride through the Botanic Gardens to view the 5 arch bluestone railway viaduct at close quarters. Plus Malmsbury has Moto Bean Cafe for great coffee and the Malmsbury Bakery is famous for – baked goods. The route takes you to the edge of Elphinstone and it is only a few more 100m to the welcoming Elphinstone pub. At Chewton you ride past the Soldiers Memorial Park to link up with the Goldfields Track into Castlemaine.
Mainly 4WD tracks with some single track. Twice follows the Coliban Channel. Bush flowers including orchids in spring. Pass by WW2 tracked vehicles ‘museum’ and a geocache en route. Join the Goldfields Track at Chewton for the ride into Castlemaine.
Malmsbury – Elphinstone
Start at Malmsbury village, Malmsbury Rail Station or Queens Lane which is nearest the bush tracks. Just after the start point in Queens Lane, veer R before the gate (sign post). Shortly you will cross a stream and may get your feet wet. The track climbs steadily but not steeply and in spring you will see the first of the flowers en route. The most common here is the yellow and orange ‘egg and bacon’ flower.
You turn off Queens Tk onto Neiner Tk then Swanky Gully Tk to emerge onto Taradale Rd opposite Teldorado. an establishment that looks as interesting as the name. I still haven’t worked out what, if anything, Teldorado sells apart from some plants at the gate. Down the gravel road 900m past bush small holdings, R onto a Bollard Tk then veer L onto Humbolt Tk which takes you in a sweeping left hand curve down to emerge again on Taradale Rd at a bridge over the Coliban Main Channel.
The Coliban Main Channel runs from the reservoir at Malmsbury to Sandhurst Reservoir 70km distant on the outskirts of Bendigo. It was built in the mid 1800s to supply water to Bendigo’s goldfields and continues to be a source of irrigation. The Leanganook segment of the Goldfields Track follows the Coliban channel further N.
Across the bridge and L onto the channel track until shortly you will come to a channel structure worth a look. Backtrack 100m or so and drop down onto the track which quickly rejoins the channel. Past small holdings we arrive at Dearden Rd. If you haven’t taken a bike through these swing gates before, the secret is to dismount, rear your bike up on its rear wheel and applying pressure on the rear brake if necessary, wheel it into the enclosure, get another rider to swing the gate, then either back out or when confident, turn around to exit. Then L over the bridge to climb gently through the bush until R onto Salt Water Tk for a bit of up and a fair bit of down.
You emerge onto the Fryerstown Rd at a channel bridge. Cross the road. but not the bridge then take a L up a rise to an open area with makeshift seating perfect for lunch on a nice day. If you brought a steak and the makings you can use the bbq if not the fire season. Back down the slope and L onto the continuation of Salt Water Tk for an easy undulating ride. R at Cypress Drive then across the channel and L onto the track again. Eventually on the R you will see the remains of some WW2 military vehicles including a bren gun carrier.
Across the stile and it is L up the tarmac to Cemetery Rd on the fringe of Elphinstone. Hard L onto Cemetery Rd unless you are gasping for a cool drink in which case instead continue to T, L then R and the pub is on your L and war memorial on your R. The pub does a deliciously cooling lime and soda.
Along Cemetery Rd watch out for its R turn which takes you past equine establishments, an old and spacious cemetery and past Lands End into the bush again. A long gradual climb up to the top of the ridge and R onto Tunnel Hill Tk. So named bacuse there is a railway tunnel at the N end of it. You can choose to go that way then drop down to the railway bridge mentioned a bit further on.
However many of you will prefer a single track ride which you get by L at the Parks Loop Tk sign. If you miss the R turn you will end up on a loop so it then becomes a L turn onto the single track. A wee bit scrabbly but very enjoyable moderate downhill. Watch out for the info display on your R half way down. At the junction go R and you will emerge at the old dam. Ride up onto the dam wall and R across it then veer R up the track a short distance to admire the old brick rail bridge and maybe see a train whistling below you. If you can’t face any more hills, then cross the bridge to the main road and free wheel down to Chewton and onto Castlemaine but take care as this can be a busy road and the downhill curves need caution by riders and drivers.
Else backtrack across the dam wall then R onto a 4WD track up the first of more than a few hills. Take the R track at a junction. Over the top, a long broadly downhill, with some neat views of hills including Mt Alexander, brings you to the now inaptly named Channel Water track. R up a short rise then L for a climb or two and a long fast downwhill to meet White Tk.
L along the road to the saddle then R onto your penultimate bushland track. Then a series of hills including a couple that give lie to the contours – I had to walk! one of these. A cruisy float down the last slope brings you onto the railway track for a few 100m to the aptly named Railway St. R under the rail bridge them immediately L onto a 4WD track exiting onto the Fryerstown – Chewton Rd. R then past the Soldiers Memorial Park to the memorial gate on your L at the corner of the highway. Cross this often busy road, past the fleet of London double decker buses on your R and immediately L at the Goldfields Track signpost (gold top) immediately prior to the worn out looking bridge.
After the recent hills you will probably feel like flying along this fast track that follows Forest Creek. Just keep following the gold top posts and Forest Creek until you get to a divergence liberally splashed with signs directing you to all points of the Goldfields Track and others. Stay your course, don’t drop down to the creek. A tad further on, take a few minutes to check out the rock sculpture garden on your R then onward past the suburb of Wesley Hill on your L until you climb a short rise to arrive at a T.
From here you can choose to turn R to follow the revised Goldfields Track route through to Castlemaine Station or you can follow the old route to the L. If the latter, when you get to the main road cross carefully, veer R and just after the Toyota garage you will veer L onto single track snaking through the grass. Behind the old Visitor Centre you climb onto the stream side bank and follow that until you meet a tarmac road. Over the road to your R is a park and hard R the road takes you into the delights of Castlemaine cafes and other retail.
To get to the railway station, head R then L at the roundabout, stay in the cycle lane across the main road traffic lighted intersection. Immediately before the overhead rail bridge R onto Kennedy St and just after 2 blocks on, a tarmac track angles down on the L into the railway station.
The route map with points of interest, profile, GPX file can be viewed and downloaded from GPSies.com. I hope you enjoy this ride. There are myriad bush routes Malmsbury to Castlemaine and I will cover some of the more interesting ones at some time.