Hanging Rock

Hanging Rock

Woodend, Victoria, Australia.

Hanging Rock (formally known as Mount Diogenes), in central Victoria, Australia, is a distinctive geological formation, 718m above sea level (105m above plain level) on the plain between the two small townships of Newham and Hesket, approximately 70 km north-west of Melbourne and a few kilometres north of Mount Macedon, a former volcano. Best known as the site where a party of schoolgirls disappeared in February 1900 in the fictional story Picnic at Hanging Rock, Hanging Rock is located within the Wurundjeri nation's territory.

Hanging Rock is a mamelon, created 6.25 million years ago by stiff magma pouring from a vent and congealing in place. Often thought to be a volcanic plug, it is not. Two other mamelons exist nearby, created in the same period: Camels Hump, to the south on Mount Macedon and, to the east, Crozier's Rocks.[citation needed] All three mamelons are made of solvsbergite, a form of trachyte only found in two or three other places in the world. As Hanging Rock's magma cooled and contracted it split into rough columns. These weathered over time into the many pinnacles that can be seen today.

Hanging Rock contains numerous distinctive rock formations, including the "Hanging Rock" itself (a boulder suspended between other boulders, under which is the main entrance path), the Colonnade, the Eagle and the UFO. The highest point on Hanging Rock is 718 metres above sea level and 105 metres above the plain below. Hanging Rock is located within the Wurundjeri nation's territory but they exercised a custodial responsibility on behalf of the surrounding tribes in the Kulin nation. It was a site of male initiation and as such entry was forbidden except those young males being taken there for ceremonial initiation.

After colonial settlement the Aboriginal people of the area were quickly dispossessed and forced out of the area by 1844. However one last initiation ceremony was held there in approximately November 1851 by a Wurundjeri Elder from the Templestowe area in the Yarra Valley. This ceremony was also attended by two young settlers' children, Willie Chivers, 11, and his younger brother Tom, 7, who were being cared for on a daily basis by the tribe after their mother had died. Their father went missing after looking for their mother.

The rock's official name, "Mount Diogenes", was bestowed on it by the surveyor Robert Hoddle in 1844 in keeping with the spirit of several ancient Macedonian names given by Major Thomas Mitchell during his expedition through Victoria in 1836, which passed close to Hanging Rock. Others include Mount Macedon, Mount Alexander and the Campaspe River.

Hanging Rock is the centrepiece for the Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve, a public reserve managed by the Macedon Ranges Shire Council. The reserve also includes a forest, horse racing track, picnic grounds, creek, interpretation centre and cafe. The reserve is a habitat for endemic flora and fauna, including koalas, wallabies, possums, wedge-tailed eagles and kookaburras.

The reserve is open to the public during daylight hours seven days a week. Entry is charged per vehicle. Camping is possible by arrangement.

Hanging Rock was listed on the Register of the National Estate until it lost its registration during heritage register reforms. The Hanging Rock Action Group has since nominated the entire Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve for listing on the Victorian Heritage Register.

PHOTOS: Craig Thorne   WORDS: Wikipedia.org




Horse races have been held at Hanging Rock for over one hundred years; the Hanging Rock Racing Club holds two race meetings a year on New Year's Day and Australia Day (26 January).

Friends of Hanging Rock, started in 1986, is a community group which holds events open to the public, such as night walks and wildflower tours. The group can be contacted through the ranger.

In 2013 the Hanging Rock Action Group was formed by local residents to call for adequate community consultation about the Macedon Ranges Shire Council's proposal to build a 200 person conference centre and 100 bed hotel in the Eastern Paddock, adjacent to and very visible from the Rock.

Influence on the Arts

William Ford, At the Hanging Rock, 1875, National Gallery of Victoria
Hanging Rock was the inspiration and setting for the novel Picnic at Hanging Rock, written by Joan Lindsay and published in 1967. The novel dealt with the disappearance of a number of schoolgirls during a visit to the site. Their disappearance was explained in the final chapter, but Lindsay deleted this chapter at the suggestion of her editor, thinking the mystery was greater without it.

The novel inspired the film Picnic at Hanging Rock, made in 1975 and directed by Peter Weir. The success of the film was responsible for a substantial increase in visits to the rock and a renewal of interest in the novel. Yvonne Rousseau wrote a book called The Murders at Hanging Rock, published in 1980, which examined possible explanations for the disappearance of the girls.

As a result of the increased interest, the deleted final chapter of the novel was finally published in 1987 as The Secret of Hanging Rock.

Concert Venue

Hanging Rock reserve is currently used as an occasional outdoor concert venue by major international acts on the Australian leg of their tours.

The following events have taken place at Hanging Rock as part of a trial by Frontier Touring and the Macedon Ranges Shire Council:

  • Leonard Cohen - November 2010
  • Rod Stewart - February 2012
  • Bruce Springsteen - March 2013 (Wrecking Ball tour)

In 2014 the Rolling Stones were scheduled to play a night concert (30 March) at Hanging Rock as part of their "14 On Fire" tour. The death of Mick Jagger's partner, L'Wren Scott, resulted in the postponement of the entire tour. The tour was rescheduled and resumed in Adelaide on October 25, 2014. The Hanging Rock concert was rescheduled to take place on Saturday, November 8, 2014, but Rolling Stones lead Mick Jagger cancelled the concert due to a throat infection.

In October 2013 Frontier Touring signed a five-year agreement with the Macedon Ranges Shire Council to hold up to four concerts per year at Hanging Rock, effective from 31 October 2014.

Since this agreement, further concerts were announced for Hanging Rock. These include:

  • The Eagles - February 2015 (History of The Eagles)
  • Rod Stewart - March 2015
  • Cold Chisel - 21 November 2015

PHOTOS: Craig Thorne   WORDS: Wikipedia.org

Craig Thorne

Shepparton, Australia