‘Castlemaine’s first environmental cause’

The curious circular earth formation pictured below isn’t a mysterious religious site. It’s a puddling wheel, and if you want to know how it used to work, check out historian Marjorie Theobald’s article ‘Commissioner Bull and the Puddling Machines: Castlemaine’s first Environmental Cause’:

Puddling machine, Cobblers Gully: Circular ditches like this, with islands in the middle, are fairly common in our district. The fallen trees are recent intrusions--natural heritage at work.












‘In the years 1851-1855 the area known as the Mount Alexander gold fields, about ten square miles including the towns of Castlemaine, Chewton and Fryerstown, was ransacked by the alluvial miners; no creek was left unchanged, no gully was left unscarred, no ridge was left unpierced. Concern for the environment as we understand it today did not exist. It comes as a surprise then to find that in January 1855 Resident Gold Commissioner for Castlemaine, J.E.N. Bull, took a stand on precisely these grounds: he sent to each proprietor of a puddling machine an edict that from the 31 March 1855 these machines would be banned from the main creeks in his district. This was necessary, he wrote, to safeguard the water supply of Castlemaine, the operations of the miners using cradles and Long Toms, and the health of the creeks and flats generally.’

What happened next? To find out, check Marjorie’s excellent article on the online Central Victorian Ecology blog.

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