Winchelsea

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Our Town

History

The town of Winchelsea was founded at a ford across the river Barwon, around the mid-1800’s. It started with the Barwon Hotel (“the bottom pub”) plus a couple of stores, and the CBD is still located in the same spot. One of Winchelsea’s notable claims to fame is allegedly being where the rabbits were released, with devastating consequences across the continent. Thomas Austin, who built Barwon Mansion, imported rabbits to provide some hunting pleasure, and they took to local conditions with gusto.

Famous Winchelsea residents include

  • Dame Marjorie Lawrence, who’s father built the Globe Theatre – still in use today
  • Albert Jacka, awarded Australia’s first Victoria Cross (VC).

Barwon Park mansion

The Barwon Park Mansion is one of the jewels in the National Trust crown, and a must-see attraction showing how the other half lived 200 years ago. Extensive restorations and period furnishings, and guided tours by enthusiastic local volunteers, give a good picture of the life of the wealthy. (Barwon Park is available for functions, by the way, a fabulous setting).

Other historic buildings are dotted throughout the town and the region, including homesteads, sheep-shearing sheds, churches, the railway station, and don’t forget the old bluestone bridge across the Barwon river.

Economy

Winchelsea sits squarely in a rural and agricultural setting, with a major river running through its centre. Founded as a stop for supplies, the town centre still fulfils that function with a supermarket, bakery, butcher, bank, post office, etc. Surrounding farmland supports sheep, cattle, grain and hay production, with other smaller activities such as chickens here and there.

Boasting the first traffic lights on the Princes Highway after you leave Sydney, Winchelsea is a popular stopping point for travellers with a number of cafes, stores and pubs/restaurants to choose from. It is said the public toilets on the Geelong side (next to the Information Centre) are the busiest in Australia!

The completion of the dual-highway between Winchelsea and Geelong has had a marked effect on local housing activity. It’s an easy 25-minute drive to Geelong town centre, a fact that comes as a surprise to many living closer yet queuing to work much longer. Accordingly, the growth of residential housing in Winchelsea is expected to accelerate.

The town is serviced by a railway running from Warrnambool to Geelong, it has a hospital and medical clinic, primary school, Op Shop, several old-wares stores, petrol station, hardware store, laundromat… pretty much everything you might want.

Winchelsea shopping centre

Environment

The Winchelsea district is basically flat farmland. The Barwon river meanders through, on its way to the sea having come down from the Otways and heading to Geelong, finally merging with the ocean at Barwon Heads. Rolling hills of grasses and crops, managed plantations, and the occasional lake make for a fairly traditional rural agricultural landscape.

Footbridge across the river Barwon

Dry and brown in summer, lush green in winter. The 4 seasons are very evident around Winchelsea – spring buds, summer shade, autumn leaves, winter stalks. The nearby Otway National Forest together with the grassland make for significant bushfire danger during the summer months, as fires can spread very quickly (usually pushed down from the north, and then across from the southwest as ‘the change’ arrives). Water can be an issue, with dams and creeks drying up completely during the dry times. The Barwon river itself came to a muddy stop in 2016.

Winter and more often spring are the typical times for rains to come, to the extent that the Barwon breaks its banks and floods paddocks and plains every other year or so. Floodplain overlays are common, to restrict construction close to the river. Winchelsea itself seems to be in a bit of a rain shadow courtesy of Lake Murdeduke, but its the rain falling in the Otways that will lead to flooding in Winchelsea a couple of days later.

The riverside parks in Winchelsea town centre are great places to take a walk. There are crossing points embedded into the river but whether they are usable depends on the river height.

Neet To Know What’s Going On In Winchelsea?

For Local News – It Can Only Be The Winchelsea Star

The Winchelsea Star is the local newspaper – a volunteer-powered publication that comes out every week (except for a short summer break). Find it in the shops every Tuesday, or better yet, subscribe online for the digital edition delivered straight to your email inbox (and every edition you can choose whether to read online or download).

Where’s Winchelsea?

Not too hard to find – if you’re on the Princes Highway anywhere in Australia, just keep following it and sooner or later you’ll come to Winchelsea…. 😛

Winchelsea is halfway between Colac and Geelong. Heading out of Melbourne on the Princes Highway, you’ll come to Geelong, and next stop is Winchelsea.

 

Winchelsea town centre

Winchelsea, Victoria 3241, Australia