Sunday, January 08, 2017

Crossing the Black Spur to Marysville

As New Year's Day fell on a Sunday, Australia wide, the Monday was a public holiday. It is a wonderfully quiet time in Melbourne, especially on a our roads, so while I would normally be put off by the traffic issues, we decided to visit the tourist township of Marysville, to the far north east of Melbourne. The marvellous Google Maps told me the trip would take 1hr 40mins. R, we need to leave early, by 9:30.

The light traffic in the normally clogged Punt Road/Hoddle Street moved along smartly and we made good time. We passed through Lilydale, and while I would not have remembered, R pointed out where Late Step Father's petshop was. Not a person was to be seen on the streets of  Lilydale.

Which was rather the opposite where we stopped for a break and coffee at Healesville. It was heaving with people. It is a lovely town and popular for good reasons. Ok, my ability to take photos in busy areas without showing people is legendary. You will have to trust me that it was busy.

The main street of Healseville is full of cafes. Not sure where you would buy a chop or a bag of spuds. Interesting looking older home in the background.

A lookout, over Maroondah Dam, one of our water storage dams.

I was puzzled. Marysville is not so far from Healesville. Why is Madame GPS telling me it will take so long to get there. That was because we had to cross the Black Spur, driving along a steep and winding road. As we crested the spur, blue sky began to appear and the weather changed from being grey and drizzly to quite warm. I was very surprised, expecting that it would be even greyer and wetter. We took jackets in case, but they certainly were not needed, but my straw hat was.

Well, you can't mention Marysville without remembering the terrible bush fires of 2009 when the town was pretty well destroyed and so many lost their lives. The town has been rebuilt in the intervening years, but there is little historic about it. The local history society lost all and pleaded with folk to send in their personal histories and photos.

I think we saw one surviving old house in Marysville. This building is a replica of the police post.

Probably once gold and then timber harvesting and milling made Marysville prosperous. Before the terrible fires, it was a tourist place, with both upmarket and downmarket facilities. My grandparents once stayed in a guest house for a week, overlooking the lake, perhaps the Cumberland. Maybe it was the late 80s when I was last there and I can't recall much, but we had nice high tea overlooking a lake.

While it is kind of sad that everything in the town was destroyed, I think those responsible have done quite a good job at renewal.

Steavenson River flows through the town. To my surprise, it is not a Yarra River contributor but ends up in the Murray River, which discharges to the sea in South Australia.

A wisteria arbour walk.

Quackers and young.

The lake and the river seem disconnected, but I suspect the lake is filled from the river.

Above the lake is an sports oval where many people took shelter from the firestorm. Of the state death toll of 173 killed by the fires, 45 people were from the Marysville area.

I know hydrangeas are either pink or blue according to the acidity of the soil, but why are blue ones found so widely in elevated areas? It was a bit early for these to be at there best.

A bit of an effort at a Christmas tree.

At the tourism office is a museum dedicated to that terrible day in 2009 when the town was engulfed in flames. While I would not have minded a visit, I thought R would find it too depressing. Instead we visited Bruno's Sculpture Garden. It too was destroyed in the fires, as was Bruno's house, but both have been rebuilt. I balked a little at the $10 entrance fee, but after visiting, I consider it was worth it. There are many many sculptures and these are a few of my favourites.

Note the bottle in his hand and a transistor radio.

This was my favourite.

The boy second along is poking out his tongue. This is certainly a repaired sculpture burnt in the fire.

Burnt gardens.

We could hear piano music, from somewhere.

While Eucalypts can survive fires, this fire burnt so hotly and intensely, many did not survive, but as nature planned, the bush regenerates as the seeds of the trees, that may have lain on the ground for a long time, burst open in the fire heat and with some rain and the fertile bed of ash, new trees grow.

Steavenson Falls, a four kilometre drive from Marysville.

At the very top of the falls is a lookout. No, we did not climb up there.

I guess the original marker for Damian McKenzie was burnt, but this still marks his disappearance. Mother knows all the details of his disappearance.

There is a small electric hydro plant to supply power for the night time floodlighting of the falls.

From an information board, the falls after the fire.

This photo from the Black Saturday Museum was taken of the falls around six months after the fire. Already there is regeneration, with the tree ferns sending out fronds. The website is very good, with photos, education and personal stories of the day and later.


  1. As I watch your photos I must admit your country is very beautiful despite climate which is not friendly especially in summer..

    1. Gosia, it is usually only hot for a few days and then it will cool down.

  2. I am always amazed at how the countryside rejuvenates after fire. And often relatively quickly too.
    That looks like a lovely New Year's outing, and I would love to see the sculpture garden.

    1. Yes EC, seven years and the change is amazing.

  3. It's all so pretty up there, you'd never know there had been a fire if you hadn't seen and heard the news of that day.
    The sculptures are really terrific, I love the witch on her "broom".
    Elevated areas often have pine trees and the acidity or alkalinity of the fallen pine needles adds the necessary soil element to colour the hydrangeas. Pine needles are supposed to be an excellent mulch for strawberry beds too, but I don't remember the reason why.

    1. River, the witch's broom is kind of like a whipper snipper. Interesting about the pines and the soil.

    2. I remember all kinds of snippets from the days when I read a lot about Permaculture in hopes of a self-sustaining garden.

  4. I know a few place around here use wisteria for shade plant.
    Not sure how the oldest child and spouse jobs worked over the New Year weekend. My daughter in law in a flight attended for a small air line (Horizon) I know she worked Christmas day. But my son got both Sunday and Monday off he is air plane mechanic.
    Coffee is on

    1. Dora, a couple of connections in your family to flying.

  5. Remember The Cumberland in Marysville? A couple of months after the devastation of the 2009 fires, we drove through the town and the surrounding forests. The buildings in town were still destroyed and the burnt trees still stank :(

    Joe and Hels

    1. Hels and Joe, I think that was where my grandparents stayed in the 60s or early 70s and where in the late 80s, we had a high tea.

  6. What a interesting place , love the sculptures.
    I remember the fires a sad time and so much damage but our countryside bounces back.

    1. Merle, yes, our country can cope with bushfires........the white people, not so much.

  7. ooh I love driving the Black Spur. The boy hasn't driven it, and his car is made for roads like that. I see a road trip in our near future!

    1. Fen, it takes me a little time to regain my winding road driving skills, but once I do, I move along quite snappily and tend to drive at 10 km/h over the suggested limits for the curves. Nevertheless, when coming back, I had three cars lined up behind me. Must have been locals who know the road.

  8. That was a lovely day in the country Andrew 😊 The fire was horrendous, all those lives. Good to see Marysville recovering so well, as for nature, it's miraculous how it regenerates!