Page 117: Portland and East along the Great Ocean Road
  Chainsaw Sculptures in Dartmoor.  

We had heard about some chainsaw sculptures in Dartmoor, a small town inland from Portland. A chainsaw is a dangerous, unwieldy, heavy tool to use - not at all the sort of instrument you would normally associate with delicate carving. Thus we were curious about what exactly we would see the day we visited Dartmoor.

Before continuing it might be preferable to give the background to these sculptures. The story goes back to 1918, just before the Great War officially ended. The good people of Dartmoor wanted to honour and remember those who had gone to fight, the nurses who went with them and particularly those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.

An "Avenue of Honour" was created by planting sixty Atlantic Cedar seedlings along the roadside, each tree having a plaque dedicating it to the perpetual memory of a serviceman or nurse from the district. What a wonderful gesture! However, time went by as it is wont to do. Some plaques disappeared and some trees became unhealthy and unsafe. So what to do?

A commemorative plaque bearing all the names was engraved and placed on the wall of the Dartmoor District Memorial Hall. In 1998, after consultation with the living relatives, a section of the Avenue was lopped and the remaining stumps were to be carved with suitable images and themes.

Renowned chainsaw sculptor, Kevin Gilders, was commissioned to carry out the work. Ideas for the carvings were proposed in public meetings and discussed with the artist. The result was truly amazing . . .

Left: Title unknown.                                                    Centre: "The Parting."                                                                            Right: "At arms."
Left: "The Game."                                 2nd Left: "Sad News."                                3rd Left: "Rest in Peace."                           Right: "Over the Top."

Is it not incredible that these images were carved out of solid tree stumps by a man with a chainsaw? And this is only a selection of the sculptures. Below are three of many not associated with WWI. Those on the left are not all sculptured from the same stump but from the wood of the lopped tree.

   Left: Australian wildlife.                                                             Centre: Characters from fairy tales.                                                   Right: Three horses.

Tell me honestly now, is Kevin Gilders brilliant or what?

  The enchanted forest.  

Pam wanted to walk through the Enchanted Forest which was not far from the Cape Nelson Lightstation. As it just so happened the café at the lightstation came highly recommended and so we agreed to walk through the Enchanted Forest first and then have lunch at the café.

Perhaps "Enchanted Forest" was not really an appropriate name for this walk which featured Moonah trees and hanging vines. It was, nevertheless, a very pleasant one hour walk (at our speed) with several lookout points along the way giving wonderful views of Nelson Bay. We looked for whales without success and the seals we spotted turned out to be marker buoys. Ho-hum.

  The Enchanted Forest. To the left is a high cliff, to the right the ocean.  
  Port Fairy.  

Our next stop was at Port Fairy, a short distance east along what is known as the "Shipwreck Coast." John and Jenny, the owners of the Anchorage Caravan Park gave us a really warm welcome and a very generous discount. They are a lovely couple and they helped us with heaps of tourist advice. The one thing we then needed was good weather and nobody could help us with that.

As I've mentioned before, we are now travelling along the south coast of Australia in mid-winter and during that first night in Port Fairy the weather did its worst. All night long gale force winds howled around our ’van and intermittent showers lashed it with a vengeance. Around the district the emergency services were kept busy clearing fallen trees from the roads, patching people’s roofs and restoring power. Not a drop of water leaked in through our caravan roof but now it's the turn of the front window and, man, did it make up for lost time. Pam found the cupboards under the window soaking wet and it had run through into the caravan's boot as well. By opening the window a fraction, the water stopped coming in!

Port Fairy is a nice name for a nice town. It (the name) dates back to around 1828 when Captain James Wishart sailed from Tasmania in his cutter, "Fairy". One night he became caught in a violent storm and sought refuge in a little bay. In the morning he discovered he was "in the mouth of an excellent river" and named the bay Port Fairy after his ship. Ahhhh, very romantic, soft violins, fade to credits.

Well, scrub the violins; Master Wishart was only here to murder seals. Worse, about this time a whaling station was set up in the bay to harpoon whales and drag them onto Griffiths Island for processing. They killed so many that the station was forced to close in the 1840s for lack of whales. This data is taken from the official visitors' guide to Port Fairy. Perhaps 'Port Slaughter' would have been a more appropriate name.

In 1843 two blokes called James Atkinson and William Rutledge bought, from the Crown, a large parcel of land on the side of the Moyne River. Attkinson laid out a township, naming it Belfast and encouraging Irish immigrants to settle here. By 1857 the population of the district had reached 2,190 and the town was thriving. However, five years later, Rutledge's company suffered a disastrous collapse which severely set back the town. In 1887 the name 'Belfast' was abandoned and the town was named Port Fairy.

That name, Belfast, doesn't seem to bring much luck with it, does it?

  Tower Hill Reserve.  

Tower Hill Reserve, just a short drive from Port Fairy, became Victoria's first national park in 1892. After a visit to Tower Hill in 1858, George Bonwick wrote:

"A stroll amongst the gigantic ferns of the valley . . . a ramble among the cones and craters . . . the winding path at the foot of the basaltic rises close to the lake . . . almost tropical reeds rustle in the breeze . . . leafy shrubs and trees form delightful bowers and alcoves . . . tender emotion in suitable company".

Well, whoever George Bonwick was, he'd have been heartbroken to see what good old mankind had in store for this beautiful utopia in the crater of an extinct volcano.


Small volcanoes, rising from the large crater, are covered in rich green grass and wattle trees coming into to bloom. This is the
way Tower Hill Reserve looks today but ’twern’t always so. In the distance the water still covers the crater floor but here it’s dry.

  The Tower Hill crater is a good example of a nested maar.
We were lucky to catch a fleeting patch of sunshine, the only one in hours.

The volcano erupted about 20,000 years ago and thereafter all was peaceful until the white man decided to make use of it. He cut down all the trees and introduced grazing, cropping and quarrying to the crater. He also resorted to dumping his rubbish there. By the 1930s the hills and islands were bare and scarcely any wildlife remained.

In the 1950s a restoration programme commenced. Volunteers planted 300,000 trees but the varieties of the original understorey vegetation were unknown. Then a detailed painting by Von Geurard, commissioned in 1855, came to light enabling botanists to identify more plant species. Now the understorey, including grasses and ferns, has also been restored. Many species of wildlife - koalas, emus, kangaroos, echidnas, sugar gliders and possums as well as many types of bird - have returned to the crater.

Sometimes humans can be quite nice, can't they?

  Something seemed to be moving down on the crater floor. Changing to a 200 mm lens on the camera revealed it to be an emu.
There were several of them, almost impossible to see from the rim with the naked eye.
  In some places the crater wall is vertical and the rock layers exposed.  

I've described the crater as a good example of a nested maar. You're possibly thinking the same as I did when I read those words: “What the hell is a nested maar?” Well, a maar is what results when molten lava begins pushing its way through the earth's crust and meets a layer of water or water-soaked rock. The heat from the lava instantly turns the water to steam which expands with explosive force sending everything above it rapidly skywards. The resulting crater is usually shallow with a flat bottom which fills with water to become a lake.

In the case of the Tower Hill crater, several smaller volcanoes later erupted in the centre of the crater forming a volcanic island in the lake, hence nested maar - small volcanoes within a larger volcano's crater.

Where is the lake? Good question. On the map we obtained from the Tourist Information Centre the crater bed is shown as covered by water. Certainly there is water lying on the surface of the grass but not enough to describe it as a lake. I'm guessing now, but I would think it can be attributed to a lowering of the ground water table after several years of drought. The other side of the crater is still under water. We saw the same thing in Mount Gambier where, of four lakes in volcanic craters, two are now dry.

  An environmentally Conscious Magpie.  

My hair and beard having become long and shaggy again, I was outside the caravan with my $10 trimmer giving my hair a #2 and my beard a #3. The fallen hair was lying in clumps on the grass when along came a magpie and started cleaning up around my feet. Pam grabbed her camera but the magpie wasn't keen on being photographed and led her on a merry dance around the park, finally capitulating for the sake of peace.

  “All right, take your damn photo then LEAVE ME ALONE!”  
  Port campbell.  

Leaving Port Fairy we skipped along the coast to our next stop at Port Campbell. As we approached along the Great Ocean Road we started passing scenic lookouts. One was called The Grotto so, caravan behind, we diverted down the narrow road towards the ocean and hoped there would be space to turn around. We needn't have worried, there was a large carpark with special long parking bays for caravans and a loop road to turn us around. Now THAT is friendly.

  The Grotto. A sign informed visitors of how rainwater sinking through limestone became slightly acidic and ate away at the rock until it wore a hole. I think. Unfortunately the sign seemed to have suffered the same fate and was hard to read.  
  Another of the several lookouts was called London Bridge. Encouraged by the quality of the first lookout's carpark we turned down to look at that and found the facilities equally good.  

They'd called it London Bridge but . . . London Bridge has fallen down.
Inset: Prior to the bridge's collapse in 1990.

  The sandy beach below the London Bridge lookout has a backdrop of vertical cliffs.  
  Arriving at our destination caravan park in Port Campbell we set up the caravan. Exploring can wait until tomorrow and a new page.