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Patchewollock, VIC

Town in the heart of Victoria's Mallee parks and reserves

Patchewollock is a small wheatbelt town in the Mallee which is notable for its location regarding both the Wyperfeld National Park and the Wathe Flora and Fauna Reserve. Visitors eager to observe the fauna and flora in these two desert parks, both of which are on the edge of the Mallee district, can use Patchewollock as their base.

Location

Patchewollock is located 426 km north-west of Melbourne, 50 km north of Hopetoun and 62 km south of Ouyen.

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Origin of Name

It is accepted that Patchewollock is a corruption of two local Aboriginal words 'putje' meaning 'plenty' and 'wallah' meaning 'porcupine grass' thus 'the place of plenty porcupine grass'.

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Things to See and Do

Wall Mural
The Textile Wall Mural (5 metres x 4.5 metres) in the Memorial Community Centre is a project of the Arts and Crafts Group. It depicts the environmental factors which have impacted on the lives of Patchewollock's women over the years. Special lighting recreates the tones of the passing day. There are electric barbecues adjacent the centre and a wood barbecue in Lions Park, located in the main street, opposite the hotel. The centre is usually closed. However the woman who runs the Transaction Centre across the road has a key and is happy to open it.

Patchwollock Railway Station
"The Patchewollock Railway Station Complex, located in Federation Street, was constructed in 1919 on the Patchewollock-Hopetoun line by the Victorian Railways. It consists of a small, timber station building, with office and former lobby, and a gable roof and posted veranda on a low-level platform. The complex also includes a standard timber van goods shed and goods shed. The goods shed platform, loading platform and toilet shed have all been removed. In 1986 the station was closed and the railway line to Patchewollock was discontinued. Consequently the tracks have mostly been removed, with a small section of the tracks being retained immediately in front of the station building. The Patchewollock Railway Station Complex is architecturally significant as a rare and intact example of a series of stations built in Victoria in the early twentieth century. It is the only 1919 'Manangatang' Type B Style station building in existence. The 'Manangatang' style of station building is of a rectangular plan, designed to allow for future extension along the main axis. Patchewollock Railway Station is historically significant as an example of a station built for the extension of the railway into the Mallee and Wimmera regions." This has been extracted from the Victorian Historical Database.

Historical Park and Mallee Fowl Sculptures
Over the road from the hotel, in the grounds of the old railway yards, an historical park is under construction. The railway station and goods shed, classified by the National Trust, have been restored as part of the project and there are two corrugated iron Mallee Fowl sculptures which were installed by artist Phil Rigg in 2013.

Silo Art Trail
The Silo Art Trail is one of those inspired ideas which started as a one-off project and has grown into six (and possibly more) impressive and huge works of public art on a series of disused grain silos in the Wimmera Mallee area of Victoria.
It is a journey of over 200 km from Rupanyup in the south (it is a small town which lies to the east of Horsham) through Sheep Hills, Brim, Rosebery and Lascalles to Patchewollock in the north. The trip can be done in any direction. Each work of art stands by itself.

Some Tips:
* the entire journey can be done in a day. There is no reason, apart from personal pleasure, to linger longer than half an hour at any site. What you are looking at is basically huge images of faces and people which have been painted on the sides of concrete grain silos.
* it is sensible to do the journey starting in the morning. Most of the paintings are best lit during the day. This will never be perfect. The images at Rupanyup are at a different angle to the rest of the silos and the images at Lascelles (of local farming couple – Geoff and Merrilyn Horman) can never be photographed together because they are on opposite sides of two of the grain silos.
* they are all ideal for photographers – impressive large grain silos on a flat landscape. Only tips: a wide angle lens is helpful (particularly if you want to avoid power lines at Rupanyup) and some Photoshop “transform” to correct the inevitable “lean” produced by photographing huge objects from ground level.
* There is a really excellent publication – Silo Art Trail Visitor Map – which can be obtained from the Visitor Information Centres either in Horsham or Warracknabeal. The following information has been taken from that publication.

About Each of the Murals
Rupanyup
Located on Gibson Street (easily seen to the east of the Wimmera Highway at the northern end of the main street) this is one of the simplest of the murals. It was created by Russian mural artist, Julia Volchkova, and depicts two local sporting team members – Ebony Baker and Jordan Weidemann. It was completed in 2017 and is located on two Australian Grain Export steel grain silos. A singular difference - all the other art works are on cement silos which date from 1938-1939.

Sheep Hills
There is a sign off the Stawell-Warracknabeal Road to what is the most photographed and most admired of all the murals. It was painted by Melbourne-based artist Adnate’s (that’s his name) and I suspect that part of its appeal is that it is striking - it is in brilliant and bright colours. Historically Adnate has often painted indigenous people and when commissioned to paint these silos, which were built in 1939, he developed a relationship with the local Barengi Gadjin Land Council and, in 2016, he painted these huge images of Wergaia Elder (Uncle Ron Marks), a Wotjobaluk Elder (Aunty Regina Hood) and two children – Savannah Marks and Curtly McDonald. In the photographs I have added some people to give an idea of the scale of the work which took only four weeks to complete.

Brim
In 2015 van Helten painted 30-metre high portraits of four farmers on the disused Brim silos. They were the first and started the trend which led to the others being painted. The disused silos had been built in 1939 by GrainCorp. 
Van Helten, a Brisbane artist, used a super cherrypicker for three weeks in 2016 to create the work using spray paint and acrylic house paint. He has worked for up to 10 hours a day in temperatures which reached 40°C and strong winds to produce the mural. 
Upon seeing the result, the Brim Active Community Group president Shane Wardle, whose family has farmed in the town since 1894, reckoned it was the biggest thing to ever happen in the town of about 100 people and a welcome boost at a time of drought and shrinking population. 
The project came to Brim by accident. Van Helten has done similar giant portraits in Ukraine, Norway, Italy, Denmark and Iceland, and he asked street artist management company Juddy Roller to find him silos in Victoria.
GrainCorp came up with a disused silos at Brim, which dominate the town facing west over the highway. Funds were provided by Regional Arts Victoria and the Yarriambiack Shire Council, paint was donated by Taubmans and Loop Paints, and the local caravan park and pub provided free accommodation and meals.
Van Helten took photos of locals and mapped the work on computer, but a challenge was to accommodate the silos' curves.
Shane Wardle said the identities of the three men and one woman depicted were known but had not been publicised. "It's about the art," he said. "It's trying to capture the spirit of the local area. And he's done a great job." The amusing thing was that it started a trend. 

Rosebery
Located beside the Henty Highway in this tiny settlement, the Rosebery mural was painted by Melbourne artist, Kaff-eine (a woman), who came to the Wimmera Mallee with fellow artist Rone who was painting the silos at Lascelles. There are two images – one of a young female farmer in a work shirt, jeans and cowboy boots and one of a horseman in an Akubra hat, Bogs boots and an oilskin vest, with his horse. The two images are symbols of the local people who work on the farms in the surrounding area.

Lascelles
Located off Sunraysia Highway, and easily seen from the road, are these two images of local farming couple, Geoff and Merrilyn Horman. Painted by Melbourne artist, Rone (a man), it was completed in 2017 using the GrainCorp silos which had been built in 1939. They are intentionally low key (which is typical of Rone’s work). He added water to the paint to give both images a ghostly, slightly transparent and monochrome effect.

Patchewollock
Completed in late 2016 I worry about this mural. It appears to be peeling and chipping but this was intentional. It was painted by Fintan Magee, a Brisbane artist, who, after meeting a number of locals, decided that he wanted to paint a local sheep and grain farmer, Nick ‘Noodle’ Hulland. Magee chose Hulland not only because he saw him as a symbol of the local farmer (sun-bleached hair, flannelette shirt) but, very conveniently, because he was tall and lean, a frame that would easily fit on the 35-metre grain silo.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Wyperfeld National Park
Wyperfeld National Park, which currently covers 357,017 ha, is one of Victoria's largest national parks. It covers three distinct landscapes - the Big Desert country which lies in the west of the park; the Mallee which lies to the east; and the sand dunes and floodplains which lie to the north. Historically it was a shallow sea 25 million years ago. The park contains a series of lakes which are linked by Outlet Creek, though they are usually dry, filling only when the Wimmera River floods, which is about once every twenty years. It fills Lake Albacutya which overflows into Outlet Creek. European settlers moved into the area in 1847. The first reserve was established in 1909 and as a result of lobbying by naturalists the park was declared in 1921. The park is known for its fauna and flora. It is home to kangaroos, emus and birds which survive in the semi-arid landscapes of sand dunes and spinifex, mallee scrub, heathlands and native pine woodlands of river red gum and blackbox. The northern section can be accessed by heading due west from Patchewollock for about 20 km (sealed for 9 km) along the Pine Plains Track. Just after you enter the park a sign posted road on the right will take you to Casuarina Campground, a secluded and sheltered campsite with picnic-barbecue facilities, toilets, fireplaces and drinking water. If you avoid this turnoff and continue along the main track it leads to Pine Plains, a section of freehold land taken up in 1847. There are opportunities for bushwalkers, 4WD exploration, an enormous sandhill called The Snowdrift, O'Sullivan Lookout and Pine Plains Lodge, which is situated on the O'Sullivans freehold property in the middle of the National Park, offers fully self-contained accommodation and an opportunity to explore this unique environment. Tel: (03) 5084 1216. Pine Plains is the favoured breeding ground for Mallee Fowl, Major Mitchell Cockatoos and Wedge tailed Eagles and you can see kangaroos, emus and other native fauna on the ancient flood plains that dominate this area. Those entering the park in 4WD vehicles can gain access to Milmed Rock, Chinamans Well and North Callitris Track. There is also the acclaimed Mallee Drive - check out http://www.fwdvictoria.org.au/iconic4wd/mallee.html which has a downloadable map, track notes and information about the track conditions.

Eastern Lookout Nature Tour
There is a detailed, downloadable brochure - check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/315826/Park-note-Wyperfeld-NP-Eastern-Lookout-Nature-Walk.pdf - which provides detailed information on the 15-km Eastern Lookout Nature Drive which is suitable for a 2WD. It includes details on the 25 minute return Eastern Lookout Walk which offers views over stands of Black Box, Red Gum, Native cypress-pine woodland and Mallee woodland. The walk also passes through country occupied by Wedge-tailed eagles, black-shouldered kites and nankeen kestrels. The rest of the drive includes lines of Red River Gums; Lake Brimin which has not held water since 1921; stands of Porcupine Grass and Mallee eucalypts; and, inevitably, kangaroos and emus. It is an ideal opportunity for those interested in fauna and flora to study the uniqueness of the Mallee. The brochure explains the special importance of the plants and animals. For further information there is a useful and downloadable brochure. Check out http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/315825/Park-note-Wyperfeld-National-Park.pdf.
Wyperfeld National Park is accessible from Underbool, a small town 50 km west of Ouyen on the Mallee Highway. Underbool-Patchewollock Road heads south from Underbool to Pine Plains, a section of freehold land taken up in 1847. This area of the desert is ideal for bushwalkers, 4WD exploration, an enormous sandhill called The Snowdrift and O'Sullivan Lookout. There is also accommodation at Pine Plains Lodge. Check out http://www.pineplainslodge.com. Alternatively, if you head west towards Patchewollock, a road heads 3 km south to Casuarina Campground, a secluded and sheltered campsite.
Those with a 4WD can also make their way south to Wonga, the park's main campground. Kangaroos, emus and birds inhabit the semi-arid landscapes of sand dunes and spinifex, mallee scrub, heathlands and native pine woodlands. For further information ring (03) 5395 7221 or 131 963.

Wathe Flora and Fauna Reserve
The Wathe Flora and Fauna Reserve is an important breeding ground for the Mallee fowl which is indigenous to this semi-arid region of Victoria. The Mallee fowl can be detected by its distinctive mounds which are circular and dome-like in shape. They can be as much as five metres across and one metre high. The fowl lays its eggs inside this mound. Wildflowers bloom all year round. It is restricted to 4WD vehicles. It is signposted off the road from Hopetoun to Patchewollock.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was occupied by Wergaia Aboriginal people.

* As early as 1847 Pine Plains, of which Patchewollock was part, was taken up as marginal grazing land.

* Patchewollock was established as a town surrounded by soldier settler farms in 1914.

* The Patchewollock Railway Station was completed in 1919 when the railway reached the town from Murtoa and Warracknabeal.

* The local Post Office was opened on 27 June, 1920.

* Local reservoirs were built in the 1920s.

* In 1927 a Bush Nursing Centre was built.

* In the 1930s large grain silos were installed beside the railway line.

* The railway to the town was closed in 1986.

* The local group school closed in 2011.

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Visitor Information

Patchewollock Community Store, 58 Federation Street, tel: (03) 5084 1242.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website: http://www.yarriambiack.vic.gov.au/tourism/patchewollock and http://www.wimmeramalleetourism.com.au/our-towns/patchewollock-victoria has additional information.

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