Dry Stone Walls

Western Victoria has up to 3,000km of the most dramatic and accomplished dry stone walls in Australia, historically and culturally significant, diverse in form and style. Many are visible along our roads and highways.

Western Victoria is dotted with dormant and extinct volcanoes which in the last 4,000 to 20,000 years spouted lava and stones. The most visible local eruption points are Mounts Leura, Elephant, Noorat, Porndon, Gellibrand, Widderin and Shadwell.  Hollows created in the basalt surface resulted in numerous crater lakes such as Bullen Merri, Gnotuk, Keilambete and Purrumbete; while other lakes were formed when lava flows blocked valleys, such as Lake Corangamite.

Long before European settlement, Aborigines used stone for semi-permanent dwellings, cairns, races, canals and fish traps.

The Victorian gold rushes in 1851 decimated the farm labour force of shepherds, so fences were needed.  Metal was expensive and a combination of timber post with wire was almost impossible to construct in the stony western plains.  Dry stone walls came to the fore.  The basalt plains needed clearing for farming and stones were the solution for economical wind-and-fire-proof fencing.

Rabbits were introduced to western Victoria in 1859, another reason for deep stone barriers.  Rabbit-proof walls were so ingenious that (supposedly) rabbits could climb out of a property but not into it – as seen along the Princes Highway, Pomborneit, which features overhanging copestone as well as timber slats placed under the copestones.  The Rabbit Proof Wall at Pomborneit was built in 1920 and is one of the strongest stone walls in the district; most of it is still standing.

Myth has it that Australia’s stone walls were built by convicts, but it was teams of wallers from  Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Devon and Ireland who plied their skills in the Western District, and taught the locals. Cheaper post and wire fences in the 1880s resulted in a decline in wall building. The Depression largely brought an end to the waller’s craft in the 1930s, though a few local experts continued into the 1970s; it has since re-emerged as a boutique craft.

Australia’s stone walls are taller, thicker and deeper than elsewhere in the world and Western Victoria has up to 3,000km of the most dramatic and accomplished dry stone walls in Australia.  Our rough local stone – bluestone, basalt, honeycomb, scoria – was right for the job, and the walls are historically and culturally significant, diverse in form and style.  They reflect the desires of the owner, the purpose (varying sizes for sheep or cattle control, the tallest for personal glorification), the preferences of the waller, and available rocks littering the paddocks.

Two differing styles of Galloway Dyke form road boundaries at the southern end of Bass Road, southwest of Derrinallum:  doubling on the lower half of the wall and singling on the top.  The tottering appearance of stones along the top was calculated to deter sheep from attempting to leap over.

Dry stone walls rely on selection and placement of stones, together with a combination of gravity and friction.  “There is a place for every stone” – stones are not broken or chipped, although each is tapped with a hammer to make it ‘settle’.  Walls are best constructed with two men working on opposite sides.  Typical freestanding dry stone walls consist of two, united with throughstones and copestones, the centre being filled with smaller stones and rubble, known as ‘hearting’.

Many of the walls visible along our highways have tumbled, a result of pulling out stones on the chase after rabbits, rubbing by cattle, or pressure from nearby cypress trees.  Those along McRae Road, Noorat have been regularly repaired by descendants of the family who constructed them.

Bass Road Derrinallum Dry stone walls Volcanic Lakes and Plains Great Ocean Road Victoria Australia

Two differing styles of Galloway Dyke form road boundaries at the southern end of Bass Road, southwest of Derrinallum:  doubling on the lower half of the wall and singling on the top.  The tottering appearance of stones along the top was calculated to deter sheep from attempting to leap over.

Accommodation Nearby

Things To Do Nearby

Places To Eat & Drink

Rise and Grind

Camperdown

Loaf and Lounge

Camperdown

Camperdown WellNest

Camperdown

Cobden Bakery

Cobden

Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawuurung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Ancestors, past present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.