Trawool to Mansfield – 4 Day Rail Trail RidePosted: May 19, 2016
Sometimes you just want to ride every day without having to think too much. Sometimes you just don’t want to have to camp every night and cook your own dinner. That’s what motivated us to look for a 4 day ongoing ride, where we could carry everything we needed on the back of our horses, and stay and eat in towns. I was actually surprised how few options for this style of horse ride are available, but after some research, found the ideal option:
The Great Victorian Rail Trail!
We chose to begin our adventure in Trawool. This allowed for 4 days of riding to Mansfield, with approx 27 km ride each day. There is also a horse yard, a hotel (Comfort Inn Trawool – 5792 1444) and a fairly big carpark to park a vehicle and float. We arrived in the middle of the day which was not a good idea as we had an unseasonally warm 30 degree Autumn day!!! Still, a quick saddle up and off we went.
Trawool to Yea – approx 25 kms
Without doubt the most difficult part of this ride to organise was horse accommodation in Yea. Yea is a wonderful small country town with oodles of options for human accommodation and meals but somehow, the Rail Trail, in their wisdom, did not include any horse yards here. The whole plan would have been kaput at this point if it were not for Sonia at the Giddy Goat Cafe in Yarck. (More about that shortly!!!) Thank goodness for Sonia. She was so enthusiastic about my attempts to have an ongoing ride on the trail she hunted around and asked and found us Eden! We had two Guardian angels on this ride. One was Sonia, the other was Eden. Eden has a farm just on the outskirts of Yea where she homes her menagerie of much loved animals, including (at that time) 11 rescue horses. She provided a wonderful yard for our horses, plus horse feed! She drove us down to our accommodation in town, then later picked us up for dinner at the pub. But don’t think it ended there!!! She also arranged for a friend to help her collect our vehicle and float and take it to her other property in Mansfield where it remained safely to be waiting for us at the end of the ride.
An alternative option for collecting your vehicle is to arrange a pick up from Mansfield to take you back to Trawool. There are a couple of companies offering transfers and luggage carry services for cyclists. Details can be found at http://www.greatvictorianrailtrail.com
We took about 5 hrs to cover the distance to Yea as we wanted to warm the horses up for the 4 days of trail. We recommend taking food for yourself and a collapsible bucket for horse water. The best place to be sure of water is the public conveniences dotted along the trail but you need a collapsible bucket to collect it. The first of these on this section is at the 16 km mark.
I must say, it was wonderful to arrive in Yea, have our horses safe, happy and eating and check into the Peppercorn hotel for a shower before an exceptional country pub Parma!
Yea to Yarck 24 – 30 kms – (my GPS was different to the official measurement which was the lower amount!!!)
I was excited to arrive in Yarck as I had developed a friendship with Sonia over the phone and it was wonderful to meet her. She is a dynamo and as I mentioned, without her enthusiasm we would not have been doing the trail. The GVRT has a horse paddock put aside in Yarck which happens to be right on the trail, across the road from our B&B for the night, which is next door to the Giddy Goat which does amazing food and the best coffee! What more could we ask for ? We had the B&B to ourselves but it can actually accommodate up to 13 guests! More accommodation and horse paddocks can easily be made available if you wanted to ride in a larger group. This would also keep costs down.
We arrived in time for lunch at the Giddy Goat (bonus!!) but did pass Molesworth at the 18 km mark. There are horse yards at Molesworth as well as a pub and some accommodation but you need to organise in advance as everything was closed when we rode through. Ph Molesworth pub 5797 6266.
Still you would NOT want to miss a night in Yarck. Whilst Giddy Goat is not open for dinner, the Yarck pub (across the road) does a brilliant meal.
For meals, accommodation and all round assistance
Contact Sonia – The Giddy Goat Cafe and B&B – Ph 5773 4223
Yarck to Woodfield 27 – 30 kms
Whilst at first it seemed tempting to stay at Bonnie Doon on this night, we are so glad we didn’t. There are yards at Bonnie Doon but they are not near accommodation and it would have added an extra 5 km to the days ride. The main reason we were pleased with our decision was the Woodfield Shearers Quarters were just superb for our purpose. Comfortable beds, hot showers and a large kitchen and living room with open fire. Once again, the Shearer Quarters can sleep up to 13 guests so could accommodate a larger group. Our horses stayed in the front yard of our accommodation but I’m sure a larger paddock could be arranged – Contact Mindy 0418 771 178. We had packed a lunch of provisions from the Giddy Goat, Antonio’s traditional salami staple and the eggs and bread left for our breakfast at the Shearers Quarters, we rustled up some dinner for ourselves. If planned in advance, I’m sure Sonia could have delivered a hearty soup with crusty bread to be discovered in the fridge. Alternatively you might like a night ride to Bonnie Doon pub 5 km down the trail (of course that would mean 5 km back as well!!!)
As Mindy had told us there was not going to be much pick for our horses in the front yard of the Quarters we arranged for Mike from Mansfield Produce Ph 5779 1385, to deliver us some hay and chalf. He was going to deliver the other half of the hay bale to Mansfield the next day for our last night, and for a small fee, is able to help all along the trail if required.
Woodfield to Mansfield 27 – 30 km
Off on an early start for our last day on the trail, the horses, fit for purpose and seemingly enjoying the journey kept an amazing pace and we arrived in Mansfield for lunch!
The whole trail is a lovely, albeit flat, riding experience. The surrounds change from open fields and countryside to smaller eucalypt lined lanes with glimpses of the Goulburn River steadily keeping company most of the way. The surface is made for bicycles but generally quite soft for the horses. There are also plenty of options, especially on this last day, to take the dedicated horse trails which veer off along side the trail. I had expected to be constantly encountering bike riders, especially as we rode into Mansfield on a Saturday, but on the whole 4 days we only passed 4 bicycles and no other horses or walkers.
Arriving in Mansfield we settled the horses into the Trail Yards (same as the Trawool yards above.) Whilst they are quite small, they are very strong. We elected to stay at the Mansfield Valley Motor Inn across the Hwy from the yards and whilst we could not see the horses, they were close for regular visits and check up. If concerned you could also bring your own padlock to secure their gates. We were lucky to have our float waiting for us and with the hay Mike delivered and the food and rugs we had in the float, Ginger and Darcy were very content and some how seemed to sense that this was the end of this adventure. Buckets for horse water is also needed here as the trough is a few feet away from the yards.
A Rail Trail will always be a “flat” ride and can never replace the wonders of the high plains or bush, we loved this journey. Something different!!! Good, long trotting days; the lovely swagger of going at your own pace; the bond you share with your horse riding 4 days in a row; the comforts of a cooked meal and the luxury of not having to set up camp. And more than anything, the wonderful hospitality offered by the locals, who are excited to be sharing their experiences of life in rural Australia.