50 towns in 50 days: Historic Blackwood is a hidden gem

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AN historic village surrounded by stunning natural attractions, Blackwood is a hidden gem in the forest.

Located on the Lerderderg River, 89 kilometres from Melbourne, the village's history is reflected in its charming streetscapes and historic cottages, while just out of town there are numerous forest tracks and wondrous gardens to explore.

The population of 350 is a far cry from the 14,000 prospectors who once settled in the village after gold was discovered at nearby Golden Point in 1855.

These days, the town balances modern hospitality with an historical feel.

A number of cosy B&Bs have sprung up in the town and in the main street the Blackwood Merchant combines an old-fashioned general store with a fine dining experience.

For the adventurous minded, The Lerderderg State Park, south-east of Blackwood, is a bushwalker's paradise.

There are with several tracks for a range of walks from short, easy strolls to strenuous overnight hikes for experienced bushwalkers.

At the end of Simmons Reef Road, to the west of Blackwood, is the Garden of St Erth with its magnificent gardens.

Head gardener Julian Blackhirst moved to Blackwood five years ago, looking for a tree change.

He said the Garden of St Erth was operated by the The Diggers Club and attracted gardening enthusiasts from far and wide.

The Basics

Municipality: Moorabool Shire

Population: 350

First settled: 1855

Main Industries: Tourism, hospitality, agriculture

Claim to fame: Blackwood is a haven for bushwalkers. Don the boots and enjoy spectacular walks from Blackwood through the Lerderderg State Park.

Five fast facts

1. The town of Blackwood is located on the Lerderderg River, 89 kilometres north west of the state capital, Melbourne.

2. In 1855, four years after gold was first discovered in Ballarat, Edward Hill struck it lucky at nearby Golden Point. By the end of that year, Blackwood had 13,000 prospectors panning the creeks and sluicing the river banks and hillsides.

3.The Garden of St Erth traces its history all the way back to 1854 when Matthew Rogers, a Cornish stonemason, left Sydney in pursuit of gold discovered near Mount Blackwood. In the 1860s he built a sandstone cottage, naming it 'St Erth' after his birthplace in Cornwall.

4.The Blackwood Woodchop and Carnival takes over the Blackwood Recreation Reserve each Easter Saturday and features woodchoppers from all over Australia and art and craft stalls.

5. The Lerderderg State Park, located south-east of Blackwood, gets its name from the the Lerderderg River, which has cut a 300 metre deep gorge through sandstone and slate, almost bisecting the park.

Five things to do

1. Pack a picnic and head to the the Blackwood Mineral Springs Reserve, off Golden Point Road, one kilometre east of the town centre. A small entrance fee allows visitors access to a selection of picnic and BBQ shelters situated along the grassy banks of the Lerderderg River. While you’re here, visit the Soda Spring on the car park side of the river.

2. At the end of Simmons Reef Road, to the west of Blackwood, is the Garden of St Erth. A small entrance fee allows visitors to explore the magnificent gardens which feature an extensive range of plants from around the world including colourful flower displays, fruit trees and vegetable gardens. There is also a plant nursery, gift shop and cafe.

3. Looking for adventure? The Lerderderg State Park, south-east of Blackwood, offers a true bush experience. Walking is the best way to get to know the park - there are several tracks for a range of walks from short, easy strolls to strenuous overnight hikes for experienced bushwalkers.

4. Indulge in fine food fare at the Blackwood Merchant and the Blackwood Hotel.

5. Cool off with a swim at Grahams Dam.

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