At 120 km driving distance from Melbourne. Castlemaine is the main town, officially a city,
of The Shire of Mount Alexander, in central Victoria.
It has a population of about 8000 and economically it is doing better than the rest of regional Victoria.
Until now, "The Shire" and its resident hobbits, have managed to avoid great changes (a sort of Brigadoon effect)
and have thus maintained an alluring charm. The charm of age, slow pace and familiarity.
This fragile spell is threatened by the improving highway, the improving railway line and the influx of people from the Big City.
People who are individually wonderful people but who en masse are insidiously changing "The Shire".
Add to this, the councils decision to allow commercial developments on the entrances to the town,
and this uniqueness will disappear before your eyes, making this town indistinguishable from any other.
So catch this doomed Brigadoon while you still can.
Castlemaine began as the centre of the Mount Alexander gold fields in 1850.
It was briefly larger than Melbourne, as that city's population moved to Castlemaine to seek it's fortune.
It was the richest alluvial gold field in world history and that title has not yet been surpassed.
At it's height one of the weekly convoys alone, shipped 3 tons of gold to Melbourne.
However, the rich alluvial diggings were worked out within 15-20 years.
Castlemaine was where the "little fellows" became rich, with nearly all the gold being found within 4m of the surface.
Thus small groups of men could band together and work a stake together in the hope of winning the lottery.
Although Bendigo and Ballarat gold fields both eventually yielded more gold, theirs was mostly reef gold and being much deeper,
requiring great capital investment and thus were for the "big fellows".
The road to Castlemaine, from Melbourne, passes through towns at roughly equal distance from each other.
The clue to this is given by the first town on the trek from Melbourne being given the name: "Diggers Rest".
Each town is by a water course and is about a days walk from the other .
They were the camp sites for the prospectors as they walked to the gold rush.
Enterprising individuals set up businesses to supply the diggers and of course pubs. That is the origins of these towns.
The trek was 1. Diggers Rest. 2. Gisborne. 3.Woodend. 4. Kyneton. 5. Castlemaine. 6. Bendigo.
Unlike the buildings in other goldmining towns in Victoria, the public buildings in Castlemaine are in the Georgian style.
This is because Castlemaine's was the earliest of gold discoveries and the gold being mostly alluvial, ran out relatively quickly.
Bendigo and Ballarats gold lasted much longer and their continued wealth enabled them to afford to renovate
their Georgian buildings to the new "Victorian" style.
Scratch a Bendigonian building and you will find the Georgian underneath.
This has added to Castlemaine's uniqueness.
Of course, Castlemaine is more than it's past.
And although the past is always with us, it serves as the stage, not the performance.
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