Forrest – From Sawmills to Mountain Bikes

Forrest – From Sawmills to Mountain Bikes

Forrest was named after a local parliamentarian of the day – Charles Forrest who was instrumental in the creation of the railway line to the area in the late 1890s. Where goes the railway also go the land developers and it was at this time in our history that Forrest began its journey. In 1892 a man by the name of William Pengilly purchased a premises at the northern end of the town and turned it into a hotel. Forrest now had a railway and a pub – things were on the move.

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In the early 1900’s Forrest quickly developed into a small town with a bank, a general store, a boarding house, police station, bakery, butcher, welfare centre and the very famous “Terminus Hotel”. What Australian inland town does not have a Terminus Hotel? If it doesn’t it sure as hell has a Railway hotel!

Logging was what was driving the expansion of this small town mái tôn đẹp. Men poured in to fell by hand the massive Mountain Ash trees which populated the slopes of this beautiful area. Photos of days gone by seem unreal as we try to imagine what it was like for these men high above the ground in very precarious situations to fell by hand these enormous forest giants.

Stories abound of what life was like in those early days in the bush. Small shacks were aplenty – carved by hand from the bush to provide shelter for many families eager to earn a living. Dirt floors were the norm, gas lanterns for lighting at night, corrugated iron for a roof if you were fortunate – life was a bit primitive for many hard working families.

It was wood that was fueling the growth of Forrest and there were numerous sawmills operating to capacity. Shops in turn were needed to fuel the workers, one being owned by a Mrs Frizon. The local post office was also eventually taken over by her and her husband also opened and ran a very successful swamill. Entrepreneurial skills were being finely tuned.

1955 saw the introduction of electricity to Forrest- this was very welcome. Two years later the increase of motor transport saw the demise of the railway which began in Birregurra and finished in Forrest. I’m not so sure whether this was as welcome. The Otways can be a very wet location and none of those early vehicles were equipped with 4WD capacity!

Ten years after the introduction of electricity the West Barwon Dam was completed. This was primarily to provide Geelong with water but as an offshoot Forrest also received a running town water supply in 1967.

In 2003 the very last sawmill closed its doors. It was at this stage that Forrest had to reinvent itself or die. Fortunately, the town was home to some forward thinking people and slowly but surely the town changed direction. Forrest now looked towards tourism.

Today the township of Forrest is a thriving community once again. It is now known as Australia’s mountain biking capital holding numerous world class events along some of the best mountain bike trails in the world. It also has its own micro brewery which I am led to believe is a very good drop.

If you intend to spend a while in this beautiful area you will find numerous accommodation venues ranging from budget to large groups and romantic getaways. Don’t give it a second thought. Come and experience what Forrest has to offer. You will not be disappointed!

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