A Short History of The Molesworth Recreation Reserve

Prepared and written by Lawrence Hood

Long Time Resident and Committee Member of the Molesworth Reserve Committee of Management

For an indeterminate number of thousands of years the Taungurong aboriginal tribe freely roamed the hills and valleys and streams of this district. They were the original custodiansand it is conceivable that they lived very well, being endowed with the abundance of wildlifeand water essential to sustain their lifestyle.
The first white explorers to travel in and through the district were Hume & Hovell. They described the land near the Goulburn as" extremely beautiful, clothed with a luxuriant herbage, and both hill and lowland thinly wooded". It is plausible that they crossed the river in the vicinity of the current Recreation Reserve.

Edward Cotton was one of the first white European settlers in the district and he built a magnificent homestead on the hillside overlooking the Goulburn and the now township of Molesworth. His brother John, who became the largest landholder in the district, held some 155 square kilometres in fact. When he first arrived in the district he wrote of the view over the valley from the Balham Hill homestead in his correspondence." I was much pleased with the beauty of the spot. The trees are rather thinly scattered over the flat, and there are extensive lagoons”. ”White cockatoos, king parrots, parakeets, eagle hawks, several species of honey-suckers and numerous tribes of smaller birds, including the bellbird, the superb warbler, etc., were plentifully scattered about this station. Ducks, black swans, divers, kingfishers, herons were constantly seen on or about the lagoons”.

John Sloan built the’ Punt Inn’ to accommodate travelers, then established his punt, enabling them to safely cross the Goulburn River at the end of Recreation Reserve Road. This road was historically then known locally, as Punt Road but has since been named Recreation Road in the absence of the punt, however remnants of the landing can still be seen when the river falls below high water level. The block of Crown Land now known as The Molesworth Recreation Reserve had been reserved mainly to accommodate drovers and their traveling livestock as they passed
through the district on the way to better pastures or to distant markets.

A number of local social and sporting functions were known to be held on this land during the 1880's and the 1890's, including numerous picnic parties and foot races and other games. (On the embankment area where the two toilet blocks and a bank of powered caravan sites now exist).
ln 1902 it was decided by the local population and the State to establish a Recreation Reserve for the benefit of the Molesworth Community. A Committee of Management was established in 1903 with a charter which encompassed the regulations of the then
Governments Board of Lands.

For next sixty years or so the Reserve remained relatively undeveloped with one or two small sheds, or rough pavilions and two crude male and female toilets. These were provided for use of sporting functions, local picnickers, and the occasional fishermen who camped on nearby private farmland or stayed at the ever popular Molesworth Hotel. During these years this area had a park like setting with remnant large river red gums looming majestically over the grassy area beside the river, and over the small cleared area, which was surrounded by bushland. This area was later to become the oval, once the huge stumps were blasted out of the ground, heaped and then burnt, when clearing was completed.

The Molesworth Sports Club conducted their annual sports meetings on the embankment, as did the Molesworth State School who practiced their skills for the district school sports held in Yea.
ln the late 1950's it was agreed that a sports oval be developed on this area. The Molesworth Football Club and the Molesworth Cricket Club had historically played on the privately owned land conveniently located next to the Molesworth Hotel. Many a patron
used this location to cheer on their favourite team and the players- this included the much loved publican's wife Nanny Morris.
It was time for a shift and this area offered more room to accommodate players and spectators alike. This move was strongly supported by the Molesworth Cricket Club who offered substantial financial contribution to this project. The Molesworth Football Club
players had in the meantime moved to other more viable clubs, and the club had disbanded.

The very popular Molesworth Tennis Club had for many years used the courts situatedbehind the Molesworth Hall and it became possible that they may have chosen to move to the Recreation Ground Site as well. In 1960-61 a major undertaking and effort was put in by the whole community to begin to establish the new oval, and to provide suitable facilities for the project.
A lot of major earthwork was done by local cricketer and farmer Jack Jeffery with his TD9 bulldozer. He was ably assisted by many, many locals who contributed their labour, time and various assorted equipment. This included tractors, graders, and other farming equipment. Charlie Redfern with his heavy equipment removed the old and dead red gums on the site, helped by several locals. Bob Fisher of Yea blew the old stumps to clear the cricket pitch.

This was a concrete example of locals working together to achieve a magnificent outcome without any assistance from government or council coffers. These people were community leaders with a vision for the future and the ability to literally move heaven and earth to
achieve their aims and they stood justifiably proud of their unique achievement. The Molesworth Cricket Club used the oval for the first time in the 1962-3 season and it became the new home of the club.

In 1966 the Old Yea Fire Station was obtained by the Committee and was transported by carrier and local Toby McLeish to Molesworth where it was re-erected by lan Tyson, Tom Jeffery, and Norm Saddington as a pavilion. Over many years the Committee of Management has worked closely with our other substantial community asset, the Molesworth Hall, and its Committee of Management both assisting with joint projects, and on occasion providing mutual financial support.

Molesworth and the surrounding areas with the Goulburn River and its many tributaries flowing through its centre has always been an attractive and successful fishing destination. It came as no surprise that it attracted fishermen and tourists alike. Recreational fishing is a sport that all members of the family can participate in and enjoy. Campers enjoyed experiencing the great outdoors and were in the main welcomed on private land. This began to change as pressure built due to large numbers and more satisfactory facilities were needed to meet demand. Very few campers braved the basic conditions and the long grass and bushy aspects of the Recreation Reserve with snakes in their natural habitat.

During the construction of the new Molesworth Bridge the itinerant construction crew required more sophisticated accommodation facilities and this fact became a catalyst for action within the community. A toilet block was erected in the 60's to accommodate this obviously long overdue need to upgrade the old and crude basic toilets. Permanent Caretakers were then employed to maintain the facilities, and to assist the local volunteer committee members to enhance the condition of the newly improved Molesworth Recreation Reserve.

Loyal unpaid local volunteers and Committee members had worked tirelessly to achieve this result. They had to bear the brunt of the hard physical labour. The time and effort wholly devoted to maintaining and improving the Recreation Reserve goes largely unrecognised and unappreciated. The extensive planning work undertaken over such a long period of time needs to be carefully assessed. This fact sadly has not always been considered by those few who are often critical of the role of the Committee of Management and indeed, it's legacy.

During the next 25 years, initially 50 powered sites were installed and it was envisioned that by providing these modern facilities it would ensure that visitors and locals would be catered
for satisfactorily. This would also maintain and fulfil the necessity for a viable cash flow which would enable the provision of extra facilities and improvements for local recreation. This therefore provided for the local community requirements, with an area set aside for them to use and enjoy, at their leisure, as well as providing appropriate facilities and improvements for visitors to utilise.

In recent years, canoeing, kayaking, and other forms of boating have become more popular pastimes and the Reserve provides a preferred stopover point for those engaged in these sports. The recently completed Great Victorian Rail Trail has generated a healthy increase in visitors to this area. This has therefore created a need for additional overnight accommodation. This participation in bicycling can only increase significantly in the future.

This area has deservedly been acclaimed as one of the most picturesque recreational areas in Victoria being situated on the banks of the mighty Goulburn River and positioned next to
The Molesworth State Wildlife Reserve with its abundance of protected flora and fauna. This area is very popular with bird watchers, artists, photographers, and field naturalists.
The Recreation Reserve has provided a recreation space for the little community of Molesworth for well over a century, with a wonderful venue for picnics, sports, social events and other special occasions. The Molesworth Easter Bazaar has become an institution and is
known and supported state wide. It is held in these grounds and it supplies vital funds for many district institutions and is an outstanding example of community collaboration to achieve significant results.

The Molesworth Recreation Reserve continues to remain an outstanding asset, not only for the Molesworth residents and the local community, but for the large number of visitors, both regular and occasional who choose to visit this venue.

Molesworth 1824-1994 G.P. & N.E. Jones
The Correspondence of John Cotton- G. Mackaness

© 2017 Molesworth Recreation Reserve Committee of Management