This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

100 years of Zumsteins

This weekend will celebrate 100 years of the Zumsteins Picnic Ground in the Grampians. The picnic ground re-opens after the severe damage of the 2011 floods.
  Walter Zumstein was born in Melbourne in 1885, of Swiss ancestry, about 1906 he came to the Grampians as a bee-keeper for W. Barnes of honey fame. Leaving Barnes, he took his bees in a wheelbarrow as far up the MacKenzie Creek as he could manage (the Shanty Crossing site) where he built a cottage and hives.

At the outbreak of World War I, Walter enlisted in the 5th Battalion and was in Scotland when he met his future wife Jean, they married in 1916 and returned to the Grampians in 1919. They had one daughter Jeannie, who moved to America. Walter died after a long illness in the Wimmera Base Hospital in 1963. His body was cremated and the ashes scattered at the back of their cottage.


Between 1934-35 Walter & Jean built pise (rammed earth/clay) cottages using local earth and stone, and second-hand building materials. Walter was sympathetic to the environment, if a rock was in the way, he just built around it, and improvised - holding the walls together is barbed-wire.

Some attempts were made to restore the cottages and surrounds a number of years ago when the Picnic and parking areas were updated. 

Unfortunately  the cottages have suffered from vandalism and decay.
 The cottages and surrounding gardens, tennis court and swimming pool provided accommodation for the tourists increasingly attracted to the area, then and now.

Walter planted 100s of trees both native and exotic (the pictured gum is believed to be the only specimen existing in Victoria). 
There was an attempt to remove the exotic trees - as not being indigenous to the national park - but after some public outcry, most remain. 

The camellias and bulbs still flower in spring alongside the wattles.

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