The Silo Art Trail is planned to be 200km long and lies within the Wimmera Mallee Region. A large, flat region in the North West of Victoria, that is regarded as the agricultural heart of Victoria. A significant proportion of the world’s wheat and barley is produced in the Wimmera, as evidenced by the silo’s dominating the landscape of every town small and large.
We drove up from Melbourne the day after Boxing Day, staying overnight in Horsham, so as to be near the start of the Silo Art Trail. Weather in Melbourne had been somewhat erratic with a scorching hot christmas day and a mild and wet Boxing Day. Driving up we had rain on and off all day, but still pleasant temps. Grey skies are not my favourite photographic background though and we had our fingers crossed we would get blue skies the further north we drove.
We woke to more grey skies and rain the following day…weather forecast was rain and high winds. Loading up the car in the rain as we booked out it looked like we were going to have a wasted trip. I wanted fields of yellow grass and blue skies! Leaving Horsham we passed through Dooen and to Jung and stopped briefly to shoot the silos. Our goal was to shoot as many silo’s as possible…
Just after leaving Dooen the heavens opened…we were out in the rain photographing train tracks and silos, attracting confused looks from cars driving past….
From Dooen we drove to Jung….tiny little town with a population of 246 and just 18 km north-east of Horsham. The name came from the Parish of Jung Jung, derived from an Aboriginal expression of uncertain meaning but ingloriously recorded in some places as meaning a big mess
Continuing to head north, our next stop was Murtoa.
While still a small town it was much bigger than tiny Jung and boasted a population of 991 in the 2011 Census. The name Murtoa is believed to come from a local Aboriginal word meaning “home of the lizard”. The silo’s at Murtoa can hold 400,000 tonnes of grain and is the largest inland receival centre in Australia. By now we were getting occasional breaks in the cloud, we were getting some sun and patchy blue skies!
Next Stop Rapunyup
Back on the road we were heading to Rapunyup. The name is said to be an Aboriginal word meaning ‘branch hanging over water. With a population of 549 we weren’t expecting a metropolis, but Rapunyup, like the towns before it was deserted. I beg to differ on the “town with a pulse”. We were starting to feel like we were heading the wrong way.. had everyone left town for the city? had there been warning of an approaching zombie apocalypse?
The silo’s near the disused station are apparently earmarked to be part of the Silo Art Trail……….
Leaving Rapunyup behind we headed to Minyup. With a population of 667, Minyips claim to fame is it was where they shot the Flying Doctors TV series with the senior citizens centre becoming ‘coopers crossing flying doctors base’. It is claimed that ‘minyip’ meant ‘ashes’ in the language of the local Aborigines.
We left Minyip and headed for Sheep Hills with a quick stop at the Nullen Sidings. By now we had glorious blue skies, puffy white clouds and the temp was climbing and sitting on around 35C
Sheep Hills had a population of 189 in 2006, and no population recorded in 2011. Not sure what the significance of that is. Graincorp, owner of all the silo’s closed the Sheephills silos in 2003 so maybe there is no population there anymore. It is at Sheep Hills, that the silo art trail really starts as Rapunyup wasnt ‘online’ yet. The Sheep Hills silos are painted by Matt Adnate an internationally renowned, Melbourne artist, well-known for the indigenous portraits on walls and canvas.
Next stop after Sheep Hills was Warracknabeal for lunch and stretch the legs. Weather was a balmy 38C with blue skies. While Warracknabeal was a much larger town, it still had the closed up look about it. We found one fish and chip shop open, and enjoyed a delicious lunch before heading off again towards Brim with a quick stop at Galaquil to shoot each other on the deserted rail line. By now we were thanking our forward planning on bringing insects nets for our hats… we learnt very quickly to put them on BEFORE we got out of the car… the flies descended in their millions as soon as we got out…though for the pics below we sucked it up and worked quickly 😉
Brim is tiny town on the Henty Highway just north of Warracknabeal. With a population of around 260, no pub, no school they are hoping the tourists will come now that they have the silo’s. Painted by Brisbane artist Guido Van Helton they were the first of the silo’s to be painted and it was originally planned to be the only ones. Such was the interest in them that five more towns were added and the Silo Art Trail was born.
Between Brim and Patchewollock we drove into Beaulah… another silo, another abandoned railway line with quietly decaying station. The insect net and hat went on and we wandered around the station giving the crystal ball a workout.
Our last stop before our evening destination was Patchewollock. A tiny, tiny town on the edge of the Big Desert in the Mallee… its reported to have a population of 431 but I have my doubts. It had a couple of closed stores, a park, no internet access in the town (and we were relying on our phones for navigation). The silo’s here were painted by Fintan Magee and like the Brim silo’s they depict a local farmer.
By the time we arrived in Sea Lake the temperature was firmly settled on 40C. We were booked into the Sea Lake Motel but they had lost power that afternoon with the high winds so the aircon hadn’t been on long. Room was just as hot inside as out… so we made sure the aircon was running well and then went to the pub for dinner. They didn’t have the aircon on either. In fact I don’t think they had aircon period. Meals were typical country fare (deep-fried and over cooked) but the beer and wine was cold and cheap.
After dinner we headed to Lake Tyrell. Lake was just about dry with a few puddles too far off to reach… wind was blowing a gale. I set the tripod up, but had to hang onto it for dear life to stabilise it… managed a couple of shots of the setting sun before I gave up and dived back into the safety of the car.
next morning was overcast again with showers… we were heading back to Melbourne via Jeparit and Dimboola…the Dimboola pink salt lake is just beautiful…..and while we did stop at a few other small silo towns on the way, we were under the pump to get to the airport for my travelling photograher friend to catch her flight home. We ended up getting there with about 20 mins to spare… fortunately for her, her flight was delayed due to the storm that hit as we were driving down.
We covered just over 1,000 kms, driving through wind, rain, blazing temps, storms, flies, fortunately didn’t encounter any snakes. If you decide to do the Silo Art Trail… Rapanyup, Lascelles and Rosebery are due to be completed by mid 2017. Make sure you have hats, sunscreen, bug spray, plus insect nets for your hats, lots of water and snack supplies in the car. A lot of the little towns aren’t exactly open for business. Keep an eye on the fuel gauge…. a lot of towns don’t have an open petrol station, so fill up in Horsham, Sea Lake and Dimboola. And take a map as your phone maps wont work in Patchewollock. (Then you’ll be in the middle of nowhere without a clue like we were).