Queen’s Birthday Monday was a good day to leave the city limits. The diluted winter sun tried its best to warm a still, cold morning.
Pictures first for those short of time/attention span. Story below.
I completed the public transport trifecta getting to Warburton, first leg, a tram to Box hill – and a lap around the awesome and exotically dated food court and market (the ‘vegetable puff’ highly recommended for time constrained consumers), then a train to Lilydale. The Warbutron buses are only once an hour, so had a bit of time to kill. Crows circled and prowled the bus bays, foraging through bins and emitting their curdling calls from the roofs of bus shelters.
I strolled up the highway, past the string of fish n chips shops and the stately Olinda Creek Hotel. I turned into the parklands and showgrounds. Corrugated pavilions standing long empty, waiting for their one time to shine in November at the annual show.
The swimming pool was closed, the water greying and neglected, a family of ducks had moved in. There was not much to see at the museum, the footy oval sits beside the station, and has a lovely line of towering trees along one flank, low slung grandstands are dotted around one end. There was a man in active wear sitting on one of the interchange benches and a huge black mass of circling crows above. The crows noisily passed and were replaced by the shrill screech of cockatoos.
I walked back to the bus stop where a scruffy haired lady of indeterminable vintage was intently pacing back and forward. She asked me the time, and hearing my response muttered about the bus being late. She strode past again lamenting the cold, and inquired as to whether a half-finished can of Cola Cola ™ on the other end of the seat from me was mine. I replied that it wasn’t and somehow on the next lap past she knocked it over.
She made a big fuss of picking it up and taking it to the bin, and skulled it in one big gulp before disposing of it. You can’t blame her, have you seen how expensive Coke is these days? I saw a 600ml bottle being sold for $5.75 the other day, and it wasn’t even at the footy, but at the super market!
Anyway, the bus arrived after about 26 more passes by my freshly caffeinated fellow commuter, and the driver was instantly enlightened by a particularly long story with the end result being my new friend needed to be told where the stop was for the caravan park. Something the driver was only too happy to do. In fact there wasn’t a single thing that the driver wasn’t too happy to do, and he knew pretty much everybody by name that got on and had a nice yarn or message for everyone too. It was really nice. He even gallantly lifted one commuters trolley full of fresh produce both on and off the bus and even had a cheeky salutation for one local who was getting the bus home without her fella “When the cat’s away, the mice will play, aye!”
The scenery too, was pretty damn decent. A few clicks out of Lilydale as if on cue as we rolled into ‘the country’ there was a kangaroo and its little joey standing there in a paddock, just standing around looking at some horses, who themselves were just standing around looking at some grass. It was very rural.
We passed the historic Sam Knott Hotel which dates back to 1860, and if you were wondering, like I just was, who Sam Knott is, then you’ll be amazed to discover that he is that beardy bloke in the old Carlton Ale posters with the catch phrase ‘I allus have wan at eleven’. Read more of this great story here
There was some more rustic scenery around the next bend, a timber farmhouse was slowly fading back into nature behind a front yard filled with clapped out vintage cars with chickens pecking around the wheels.
Millgrove is particularly well named, it’s got a saw mill, and great damp piles of lengths of timber that had at some point in the distant past, been through the mill more tree shaped, and less rectangular. There was an eccentric looking shop called Mt. Little Joe’s Music and Nursery with its hand drawn and painted signs promoting wares including guitar strings, drums, blues harps and musical accessories that I definitely would have stopped into had I been in a car instead of the 683 bus.
One potential attraction of the area was the Blue Lotus Water Garden – which quite unluckily was closed, as lotus season only runs from December to April! It sounds pretty great though, with a GIANT Amazon Lily, and 14 acres of loti to look at. All just made by a feller who got sick of fishing, and cabbages.
Other places I would have also stopped if I was driving included Glady’s Bakehouse, The Upper Yarra Museum, the great looking old Cunninghams Hotel, an Irish pub with a faded ancient Guinness sign out front, and some colourful characters within apparently and the German Clocks Cafe.
The Yarra loomed on the left and the township of Warburton soon followed. It was bustling – people, cars and colour everywhere. And history, I lobbed off the bus and landed in the Lace And Things shop, which was a passion project by local lady Valda Street. She had the old Boot Shop at Walhalla – a former gold mine town, now turned ghost town/tourist attraction – relocated to Warburton’s main street and it was now a museum of not only boots, but thimbles, and needle things, and buttons, lots and lots of buttons. As well as the shelves and shelves of 1800s ephemera, there was a recreated kitchen and a special display of Valda’s own working life as private secretary to decorated surgeon and second world war hero ‘Weary’ Dunlop. It was so good I gave $2 in the gold coin donation box.
There was an Old Tea Shop, lots of ‘rusticly quaint’ cafes, an old timey lolly and confectionary shop, rural gift and homewares, one of those mumsy clothes shops, new age stuff, an antiques and collectible store, which had a strangely strong amount of KISS merchandise in among the old tea towels, bakelite, dusty books and trinkets.
The Arts Centre looks like it’s a vital social and creative hub of the area, with posters for all manner of excellent things filling the front window and notice board. But nothing on today. I went over to the ‘high’ side of the highway, which had a visitors centre – from which I grabbed a few maps and pamphlets – which are probably still scrunched up in the bottom of my bag now. They also had a ‘habitat centre’ which had lots of taxidermed Australian critters and laminated signs with snippets of information all about the walls. They also had a gold coin donation box to use the bathrooms, I didn’t go. There were also some excellent ‘community art’ pieces decorating the steps of the bright colours, shapes and random phrases variety.
The old siding of the no longer present Warburton railway station was now sections of murals, there was also a bunch of carved wooden totem poles and a pretty terrific view from where the platform used to be over the town and across to the mountains.
Lots of lycra-clad people were undertaking the 38km Warburton to Lilydale rail trail ride on their bicycles. Not me, I was headed to the river. Back on December 31st, I as ever, over-optimistically gave myself a New Years challenge. As well as some actually achievable things, I vowed to attempt to walk the length of the Yarra River in 2016. Which is 241km – most of which is inaccessible or restricted areas due to being water catchment areas. Anyway, I made it as far as Heidelberg, and now am just visiting towns along the way where I can actually get beside the banks.
Even better I had to go past the bakery on the way, where there were pies and bikies in abundance. The Yarra is actually clear here! You can see the bottom! Amazing. The first section of the Yarra Walk takes you to a near right-angled bend and some rocky rapids. There are large strangely geometrically straight-shaped rocks poking above the rushing water, and dead trees and branches fading back into the banks. You go behind a superbly scenic footy oval, and through a strange fenced-off vacant lot that has an old rusting and graffiti tagged ‘thing’ of some unknown (to me anyway) formerly industrial type use.
Then there’s another of many ace bridges, a timber-made swing bridge that gives a nice gentle sway as you make your way across. There was a seemingly often overlooked ‘Nature Walk’ to the right on the other side, I had ventured not more than 50 of its 500 metres when I came across a particularly striking King Parrot sitting about minding its own business. Good stuff.
Back to the Yarra and the sun was streaming down over rambling gardens and towering trees. Age old sediment has created numerous islands in the stream and the water swirls and rushes through the narrows, or reflectively shimmers like frosted glass in the deeper, stiller water. It almost feels like a rain forest at some points, ferns and fungi in among the vast grey gums.
There were some parents taking their hesitant kid along the walk and getting her to pose for photos standing daftly on all manner of rocks. A family had a sprawling array of foods filling the BBQ area table, the adults sat and sank beers on camping chairs whilst the kids ran amok all around them.
The best of all the bridges is revealed after a long sweeping bend of the river. You first see a splash of orange leaves, then the white framework pokes out and reveals itself as a simple, but grand river crossing, connecting the picnic area and the tennis courts, but at a height safe enough from flooding. I continued on to the next, and last bridge, and crossed over and connected up to the rail trail. It was some nice flat walking, all paved path and cuttings. There were some alpacas, and generally excellent scenery. I walked a long while, and eventually came close to the road again, and saw a bus was soon arriving, and a minute later was headed back to Lilydale. This driver didn’t know anyone’s name though, and even told some kids to ‘get the next one’ as there wasn’t enough room in the lockers underneath for their razor scooters.
It was kind of disappointing to be driving back towards civilization after seeing such nice, natural things. But the hydroponic strawberry farm was the last gasp of rural Melbourne, before hitting the outer suburbs, then the huge crater of earth that is a lime mine and later a solitary brick chimney standing stoically in a huge vacant lot, the last remnants of a brick pit kind of curtailed the idyllic scenes of the day. And by the time the tram was clanging through the Victoria Street traffic on the city fringe I was back in my own little world checking my phone and ignoring everyone else’s presence like all the other urbanites. Had to see if the Dees beat the Pies after all. Was good while it lasted though. Happy birthday Liz.