Sunday, 2 June 2013

Heavy Rains

Darebin Falcons sports ground fence; tide mark.
Mostly leaves.

On Friday night (May 31st) it rained and rained. It was the kind of downpour that leads one to wonder at the dryness of houses. It is pleasant to be within four walls listening to the wet and thunder outside.  The hammering rain lasted all night so naturally I woke yesterday morning thinking of nothing but the creek.

Usually the creek is only just visible from here.

At about 9.30am I ventured down in my wellies. It wasn’t cold, but was still gently drizzling. I wanted to see how much gutter runoff and storm water was flowing in the creek. Clearly it had reached its peak during the night and had receded well below the high water mark. The usual throng of purposeful creek goers (dog walkers, cyclists) was replaced by small groups of people milling about; quietly observing traces of the storm. Phones were quietly snapping and little children, tempted by the sea of water, hesitantly navigated its edges.

The Creek flows to the left of the power pylon.
The stillness was marked. People had come to stop and look. The creek had changed, suddenly and not forever it was high and fast flowing. This had happened while we slept. If we had come in the darkness, we would have heard and felt the water. Who would abandon the warmth of their bed and dry house to see the water level rise? But now, here we were, witnessing the mystery of the creek, transformed without human witness.

High water mark, 5.5m (South of Harding St Bridge).

But really, did it change itself? The way in which the creek floods in 2013 is so different to how it overflowed 200 years ago. The channel will (in parts) be deepened, rather than the wetness stretching out into swamps and wetlands. The dykes and ridges built to protect our homes stops the water moving where it once did, and the storm water drains and hard surfaces of our roads and footpaths sends as much water as it can straight to the creek. Have the platypus learnt to build their tunnels higher into the banks to avoid inundation in this new landscape? What other animals find this new fierce flow an impediment?

Water flowing over the path from Strettle Wetlands to the creek.
Polystyrene debris gathers and floats to the surface.
As the water continues to recede the rubbish and tree branches swept along will be revealed. The trees will display their new plastic adornments, all brushed and wrapped in a downstream sweep.

Friends of Merri Creek site, Poa brushed by the water.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Now the dust has settled...

On finishing the walk we rushed to Adelaide for the wedding of the Millennium. I am back in Melbourne now and back to thinking about the walk.

Thank you everyone who helped make it happen so smoothly. *

Firstly I would like to thank Freya Mathews, whose book Journey to the Source of the Merri inspired me to also walk the Merri and to re-trace her steps of 13 years ago (albeit in the other direction). The book and subsequent conversation has been invaluable.

I would like to thank all the land owners who allowed us to walk through their properties. Describing an artwork before it is made, or trying to describe the processes involved in making art can be tricky. So I thank you all for trusting that what I was trying to explain was indeed what I was setting out to do.

I would also particularly like to thank everyone who let us stay over, or took the time to meet with me prior to the walk. In addition to the people listed below, thank you Melinda Hobson, for maps, cups of tea and advice!

Everyone at MCMC - especially Tony Faithfull, Luisa McMillan, Angela Foley, Brian Bainbridge, Katrina Roberg, Ray Radford and Ben North.

Thanks also go to the ANU School of Art: Patsy Payne, Raquel Ormella, Anne Brennan, Helen Ennis and John Pratt. And specially to Barbara McConchie, who maintained good humour and patience while hauling me over the line with all the official ANU paper work. Thanks Barb!

Finally I am most grateful to Vicki Penko who discussed riparian rights of way and the history of these laws in Victoria ad infinitum. Thanks Vicki, and soon we will have that coffee!!

Gil and Helen Berry - Keeper's of the Source, and magnificent raconteurs and hosts!
Michael Daunt
Barbara Brereton
The McDonalds
Ron and Family
Gaye and Family
Claudia and David and the Wallan Scouts
Ruth and Michael for a lovely lunch
Potential dye stuffs from Day One

Potential Dyestuffs collected on Day Two

Austral Bricks & 'Walnarring'
The Hauffe Family
Scott and Vic Barrow
Kate Looker (Bec and Woody!)

Katrina for walking and sharing her knowledge.

Greg Heffernan
Hannah Marriott (great sleepover and lovely heater!!)

Caroline Henbest, for opening our ears and being such a great sport.

Pine from Lockerbie, Day three Dyestuffs

mostly weeds

Mineral Springs, Macedonian Orthodox Church (Father Gavril)
Steve Copeland
Margaret and Richie Lloyd
The Glides
Charlie Bonavia
Margaret Walker and Pete the horse
Anna Topalidou, for fancy sandwiches and nimbleness
Zoe and Holly - you were there in spirit.

Prickly pear, charcoal, common reed etc.


Brendan Sullivan (Parks Victoria)
Lesley, for coping with prickles and rain.
Dave for the Cedar's Bakery lunch.

Pipeworks lopped trees, ready for homewares store and more

Dye stuffs, under the expert guidance of Ilka.
Brian and Colleen

Tony Birch (walker and lunch bringer)

Georgina for the best meat-balls EVER


Fellow walkers:
Roseanne Bartley
Ilka While
Jacqui Chan
Eliza, Aphra and Romola

DAVE for champagne & baklava

Everyone who joined us at the confluence.... thank you for coming

* Any omissions are purely my own human error, and I am very sorry. Others who have been fab: Mazza Frommer, my family and friends, and of course the Weichelt/Harding crew.... notching up all those km's on the Hume.

Walk stats

0: arguments (nice work!)

1/3: amount of Indian take-away consumed (Day Four, Dave feeding an army)

1: tumble in the Creek (Rebecca, Day Five)

1: homeless sleep out (near Pipeworks, very tidy)

1: blue tongue lizard

1: blister (Rebecca - pinky toe)

1: man with large shiny knife

2: nights in the tent

2: injured kangaroos

2: flight or fight moments (perilous creek crossings inducing fast heart rate in L)

3: snakes, 1 brown and 2 tiger, the latter sighted on the last day, in suburbia

3: rabbit exterminators (human - with ferrets and dogs)

4: no. of times first aid kit required

4: hunters with guns

4: falls

4: hot showers each

5: animal carcasses (fox, cow, mare, sheep, roo - parts only)

5: muesli breakfasts

6: co-walkers

6: wet socks (3 pairs)

6: hot dinners

7: shots fired by gun-wielding hunters

7: picnic lunches

12: foxes (approx)

20: swamp wallabies

25: fences climbed on Day Two

100: largest mob of kangaroos, Day Four

102: kilometres walked

672: kilometres travelled by support team

Friday, 5 April 2013

Behind the scenes - guest post from Lesley

Double rainbow on Mahoney's Road, on the drive up to our starting point at Heathcote Junction.
An auspicious sign, we hoped.

Camping adjacent to The Source at Gil and Helen's, the night before starting the walk.
Romola and Eliza. 7 of us sleeping in the big tent, Katrina snugly and sensibly in the one-man.

Cheeky, who likes vegemite toast for breakfast.

Eliza. Shoes off!
Day One: our fearless expedition leader.

Day One: Aphra on stand-by while Katrina pulls out some Cumbungi for us to eat.
The tender shoots coming out of the root section tasted a bit like radish.

Day One: Romola collecting walking sticks for the walkers.
Dave, David, Gil and the girls joined us for the first hour or so.

Day One: lunch at BB's farm, among the cow pats. Merri Creek at photographer's back.
Katrina, Rebecca, Michael and Ruth (providers of the ample and delicious sustenance).

Night One: sleeping in the ring at Wallan Scout Hall.
Rebecca, Katrina, Charlie (the Spoodle), Eliza and David (in the swag).

Night One: Rebecca's new Gortex is not only rain and snow-proof, but multi-tasks as sleeping attire.

Day Two: morning tea hovering over the Merri on the bridge near Camoola.

Day Two: lunch in a nondescript paddock - tinned tuna in corn wraps, banana and tahini on corn thins.
Maybe an apple and an almond / dried apricot combination. Merri Creek to photographer's left.
Note Rebecca's solar panel strategically placed at 45 degrees for phone charging (device aptly named 'Free Loader').

Day Two: a lovely soft brown farm dog joined us to his property's edge.

Night Two: sleeping like sausages in Kate's shearing shed.
Dinner in the shearing shed... delicious lasagne and a salad to die for. Certainly was a high point.

Day Three: Eliza and Romola hunting for Easter eggs at Kate's.

Day Three: Kate's dog Woodstock (Woody) walked with us for the first little while.
Day Three: lunch by the creek on Greg's property, courtesy of our Day Three companion, Caroline.
Much laughing on this day. Lovely rolls with prosciutto and cheese. Apples and chocolate.
'Free Loader' now at a carefree, jaunty angle

Night Three: our accommodation at Lockerbie, with Aphra providing context. Thanks for having us Hannah!
Night Three: we slept in the Boardroom, but had a shower, two camp beds and the capacity to make a cup of tea.
Caroline in the foreground, Aphra and Romy at the back. Rebecca in the shower. Dave ... busy.

Day Four: lunch among the Hawthorn trees - tasty sandwiches, grapes and Easter chocolates courtesy of Anna (above).
A gaggle of goats (not sure of the collective noun) watched on. Unclear if they were wild or domestic.
Merri Creek just beyond. Glenn, please note the green packet of 'moist towelettes' at the ready.

Beautiful birds' nests, Day Four (above left); Day Two (above).

Night Four: Eliza and Aphra on arrival at Margaret's farm.

Night Four: Soccer before dinner. Great entertainer. Should have thought of it earlier.
Night Four: Indian take away. Rebecca attending to urgent business (i-phone - friend of the modern walker).
David, Eliza, Aphra, Dave, Romola, Rebecca. Creek - somewhere to photographer's right.

Night Four: trusty tent at Margaret's property. No power. No toilet. No morning caffeine.

Day Five: started sunny, ended rainy. No companion walkers.
Rebecca looks quite buoyant though, don't you think?

Night Five: back at Miller Street. Phew. Gaiters, pockets, plant gatherings, backpacks spread out to dry.
Walking boots are beyond frame, toasting up on the heater.

Day Six: lunch in Fawkner, with Tony Birch. At a picnic table no less.
Left over curry for us. Date scones for Tony.
Merri Creek over Tony's right shoulder.
Day Six: Rebecca left her hat at home. Luckily, Dave's Greg Chappell hat was in the boot of the Subaru.

Day Seven: the familiar creek path in Thornbury. Eliza in foreground, Roseanne looking back.

Day Seven: the gang at Ilka's billabong. 'Free Loader' still free loading.

Day Seven: morning coffee at CERES. We sent Aphra and Eliza ahead to order!
Day Seven: lunch in Clifton Hill, just past Rushall Station. The curry feast leftovers continue.
 How many people did you buy for Dave?
A large contingent today, and a lovely warm, slow, contemplative amble to The Confluence.
From left: Jacqui, Roseanne, Ilka, Rebecca, Eliza, Romy, Aphra.

Day Seven: Dave approaching us as we approach The Confluence of the Merri Creek and Yarra River.
Aphra and Eliza were the first there - that's them lurking in the shadows.

Day Seven: walk complete.
I had such a great time Rebecca - many many thanks. xx