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Dartmoor, VIC

Quiet rural town on the Glenelg River famous for its tree sculptures

Dartmoor is a small rural service centre on the Glenelg River near the Lower Glenelg National Park. The Dartmoor district is known as prime grazing land. The small town has achieved fame by turning some of the Atlantic Cedars, which were planted as an Avenue of Honour after World War I, into a series of impressive chainsaw sculptures. It is also an excellent entry point to the beautiful Lower Glenelg National Park.


Dartmoor is located 374 km west of Melbourne via Geelong and Hamilton.


Origin of Name

Dartmoor was named after the Dartmoor area in Devon, England.


Things to See and Do

Dartmoor Heritage Trail
There is an excellent Dartmoor Heritage Trail which is 6 km long. It identifies 25 places of historic interest around the town. It can be downloaded, complete with a map, at http://www.swvic.org/dartmoor/heritage.htm. The most interesting include:

2. Fort O'Hare
Located at the eastern end of the Old Princes Highway, and at the junction of the Glenelg and Crawford Rivers, Fort O'Hare is where, on 18 August 1836, Major Thomas Mitchell camped. The rounded hill was named Fort O'Hare after Mitchell's commanding officer who died at Badajoz in the Peninsula Wars. It is a suitable starting place for a pleasant walk up the Glenelg River to the ford.

3. The Ford
Walking upstream the land to the west of the river was leased in 1845 and became the fording place at Dartmoor for the wool route from Penola to Portland. It was where the "Woodford Inn" was built and, over time, it was the place where two punts operated.

10. Church of England
This very simple structure of field limestone was built in 1885 on private land. In 1952 the new owner James McIntyre, donated the land to the Diocese of Ballarat.

13. Coach House (Museum), store and residence
Located on Greenham Street and built in the late 1870's by George Greenham, this was originally a store which incorporated the post office until 1947. In the 1970's it became a private residence. The coach-house was, at various times, a blacksmith, carriage-maker, rendering house, motor-repairer and hardware store. The Museum opened in 1993 with the aim of preserving the written, oral and pictorial history of the Dartmoor District. Themed exhibitions are regularly displayed, information is accessible for family and social researchers, and district history publications are available for sale.

18. Avenue of Honour
Located along Greenham Street is the town's Avenue of Honour which comprised a total of 70 "Cedar Atlantis" (Atlantic Cedars) trees which were planted in September 1918 to honour the service of sixty local men and women in World War One. The seedlings were planted along roads from the town's main corner and the trees were dedicated to the enlisted personnel who lived along those roads. Original brass name plates slowly disappeared so in 1994 a plaque listing the names and respective tree locations was placed on the wall of the Dartmoor District Memorial Hall.

Tree Carvings
Over time the Avenue of Honour trees became unsafe and it was decided, in 1998 in consultation with the relatives of the soldiers and nurses, that some of the less healthy trees should be turned into sculptures. A chainsaw sculptor, Kevin Gilders, was employed and now the main street (Greenham Street) has an impressive display of chain saw sculptured trees. "Ideas for the carvings were proposed in public meetings and discussed with the artist - the final selections reflected: local veterans' experience in the war, images that would evoke emotion in a modern observer, and limitations imposed by the size and shape of the medium. Considerable research was done to ensure historical authenticity in the detail on the sculpture".


Other Attractions in the Area

Lower Glenelg National Park
Located 22 km south of Dartmoor, the Lower Glenelg National Park (27,300 ha) has the Glenelg River, flowing through to the estuary at Nelson, as its main attraction. Beyond the river the prime attractions are the river itself, the surrounding forest, the Princess Margaret Rose Caves and a spectacular 15 km limestone river gorge with cliffs sometimes 50 metres in height. Visitors to the park can enjoy fishing, scenic 4WD drives, walking, picnicking and camping.
There are 22 places along the river with either camping, barbecue or picnic facilities. The Park Note - Glenelg River Guide - has a detailed map and offers information about camping and canoeing and the restrictions that apply to water skiing and power boating in the zones at Taylors Straight and Sandy Waterholes. Check out https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/315669/Park-note-Lower-Glenelg-NP-River-guide.pdf.
It is possible to explore the river from Dartmoor through to Nelson (about 70 km) in canoes. The trip typically can take around four days - very relaxed. There are no rapids. Canoes are available for hire.

Paestan Canoe Hire
Located at Winnap, 7 km east on the Princes Highway, is the Paestan Canoe Hire which suggests a number of trips up and down the Glenelg River ranging from day trips (ranging from 6.8 km to 15.6 km) through two day trips, three day trips and four day trips. The website provides full information and details of possible trips. Check out  https://canoehire.com.au/ or tel: 0429 381 875.
The main access roads to the campsites, picnic areas and boat ramps on the southern bank are the Nelson-Portland Road and the Nelson-Winnap Road. Both are sealed though the side roads out to the riverside camps are not.
The park contains over 700 plant species in forest, swamp, river, dune and cliff habitats. Fauna includes platypuses, echidnae, koalas, kangaroos, water rats, wallabies, possums, potoroos, gliders and a rare colony of wombats which were once plentiful in south-western Victoria. There is an excellent Park Note on the entire Lower Glenelg National Park. See https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/740176/Lower-Glenelg-National-Park-Visitor-Guide.pdf.

Princess Margaret Rose Caves
It is claimed that the single cave which is open for guided tours is "the most decorated cave per square metre in Australia". Certainly the Princess Margaret Rose cave is a wonderfully simple experience. There is one cave which is accessed from inside the Visitor Centre. So visitors start by visiting the Interpretative Centre which tells the story of how the cave was formed and provides a history of how it was discovered and developed. Outside the Visitor Centre there is a landscaped picnic area amidst a stringybark forest and a small campground with three cabins (caravans are permitted). Daily tours of 40 minutes duration are conducted at 10.00 am, 11.00 am, 12.00 noon, 1.30 pm, 2.30 pm, 3.30 pm and 4.30 pm. Reduced tour times in winter (June, July and August) 11.00 am, 12 noon, 1.00 pm 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm. tel: (08) 8738 4171. The single cave features spectacular stalagmites, stalactites and helictites (long, thin formations which grow in different directions rather than up or down). There are also cave coral formations, rimstone pools and sawtoothed shawls.

River View Nature Walk
The River View Nature Walk is a pleasant 20 minute walk through the bushland with views across the Glenelg River. The River View Nature Walk leads from the cave entrance to two lookouts over the Glenelg River Gorge. It takes in the 'Death Pit', a hole created by water dissolving away the limestone roof of a cave. The bones of animals which have fallen through the hole include those of the giant kangaroo, the marsupial lion, the giant echidna and the Tasmanian tiger. The Nature Walk provides access to wildflowers and an opportunity to observe the local birdlife. For more details check out the downloadable https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/315834/Park-note-Princess-Margaret-Rose-Caves.pdf.

Lasletts Loop Walk
This is an easy/moderate 4.5 km walk through different vegetation types. It includes the lookouts over the Glenelg River Gorge. It is part of the longer, 250 km Great South West Walk. Check out the downloadable https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/315834/Park-note-Princess-Margaret-Rose-Caves.pdf. for more details.

River Cruise to Princess Margaret Rose Cave
It is possible to take a leisurely 3.5 hour cruise with Glenelg River Cruises/Nelson River Cruises to the Princess Margaret Rose Caves up the Glenelg River from Nelson. The cruise leaves at 1.00 pm twice weekly and every day during school holidays. For more information tel: 08 8738 4191 and check http://www.glenelgrivercruises.com.au/cave_tour.html for prices and season details.

The Great South West Walk
The Great South West Walk, established in 1981, is a 250 km circular walking track which starts and finishes at Portland. Constructed by community groups it initially heads north through farmland, veering westwards through native forests and the Lower Glenelg National Park, following the southern bank of the Glenelg River to its mouth near Nelson, then returning eastwards along the coastline through Discovery Bay National Park. It then reaches Descartes Bay and passes around Cape Bridgewater, past The Springs, the Petrified Forest, the seal colony, Bridgwater Bay, Cape Nelson, Point Danger and back to Portland. Sections are accessible by car to allow shorter day or weekend walks. There is a hugely useful website. Check out http://www.greatsouthwestwalk.com.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Gunditjmara Aboriginal people.

* Major Mitchell explored the area during his Australia Felix expedition of 1836. His party were the first Europeans to investigate the Glenelg River.

* Mitchell established a camp upstream from the present site of Dartmoor.

* In 1845 the Woodford pastoral run was established.

* By 1846 the Woodford Inn was trading where the Portland-Mount Gambier road crossed the Glenelg River.

* A punt service carried people across the river at Nelson from 1849.

* Dartmoor was surveyed in 1852.

* The railway reached the town in 1916-1917 when Heywood was connected through to South Australia.

* The railway closed in 1995.

* The Dartmoor Timber Mill closed in 2008.


Visitor Information

There is no information centre at Dartmoor but there is information at the Portland Visitors Information Centre, Lee Breakwater Road, Open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily, tel: (03) 5523 2671 or free-call 1800 035 567.


Useful Websites

Portland has a useful website for Dartmoor. Check out http://www.visitportland.com.au/dartmoor-district.

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