Sunday, 31 March 2013

Day Three - bird song and silence

Gaiters: morning, noon and night. (with Bidgee Widgee)

Today we walked through Kate Looker's property. It was incredibly beautiful. About 50 metres on each side of the creek is fenced off from livestock. Within this boundary the creek bubbled and flowed, enormous red gums dominated the landscape and lower to the ground we saw native raspberry, geranium, Bidgee Widgee, kangaroo grass and masses of poas to name a few. We saw a kingfisher, wagtails, rosellas, wrens, ducks and others that I couldn't name. We heard crows and magpies and lots of other birds we also couldn't identify.... I may become a twitcher yet.

Caroline and the girls

Caroline Henbest joined Lesley and me today. She is a musician, and is thinking about writing a piece of music for the creek. It was the perfect day for her to walk with us because the Hume highway was out of earshot (for the first time) and the land care work on Kate's farm provided a space that gave forth the most insect buzz, frog croaks, bird calls and song that we have heard so far.


Native Raspberry (Rubus parvifolius)

We think this was a horse skull - beautifully dyed by grass.

Heading for morning tea aboard a magnificent Red Gum


As we moved down the creek today a pair of native ducks rose in a flurry of wings and quacks and headed downstream. Four times the pair did this, and we imagined it was the same ducks each time. Of course we couldn't be sure, and if they were we were scaring them into their flight, nevertheless it seemed as though they were leading the way for us.

The contrast of creek quality on leaving Kate's was stark. The beautiful grand red gums still grew, but around them was cow activity, pats and hoof prints and the muddy edges to go with it. Land care is a huge undertaking, but the results it would seem, speak for themselves.

Finally we ended up at Lockerbie where Hannah, her sister Catherine and their friend Jess, took time out of their Easter Sunday to chat and welcome us here. Last night was great in the shearing shed (especially the sound of rain on the tin roof in the middle of the night). But tonight we have a shower and a heater to look forward to once our towels arrive along with our chicken curry!
PS. Even better than the curry was the delicious pear crumble Dave made today with pears from the Source. Thank you Chef and Helen and Gil!

Walking up to Hannah's

The landscape of Merri Park (Kate's) was so beautiful that we felt cheered by what is possible through friendly fences and hard work. Somehow the beauty of the creek within its twists and turns, the Red Gums, the reeds and all the other flourishing plants left me with a sense of melancholy. I'm not sure if this is a form of nostalgia; of viewing a landscape from another time, or if it is simply imagining viewing the landscape through the eyes of another artist, perhaps long dead... Hans Heysen or Tom Roberts; or is it just a feeling that the clock is ticking on Merri Park, and the freight terminal planned for further north will alter this riparian wonderland forever?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Day Two - fences and bridges

Today we walked about 16kms. We started off in Wallan on the Merri, the light at 8am was gorgeous. Mt Fraser glowed yellow in the distance. Around lunchtime we walked past Mt Fraser to circumnavigate our first 'exclusion zone'.

Mt Fraser
Merri Creek at Wallan, clean gaiters.

Lesley crossing a bridge near Walnaring

Katrina crossing the same bridge
We lost count of how many fences we climbed through or over. There was a lot of electric fences and barbed wire. We managed to avoid the barbed wire, but Katrina was zapped sometime after lunch across the middle of her back.
We also found a few tricky bridges, not all of them approached with enthusiasm, but nonetheless navigated with aplomb (see above).

Merri Creek enters Camoola
Walking along the Northern boundary of Camoola

and then along the train tracks

and finally to Merri Park
We reached Kate's property mid afternoon. Her creek frontage has had a lot of restoration work performed along its banks. The magnificent old Red Gums were a stately back drop to the soft sea of poas. It has been a delicious evening here in the wool shed, and we are all looking forward to a good night's sleep amongst the scent of lanolin.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Day One

We got off to a lazy start this morning. 5.15 see you then. Perhaps this was due to the Good Friday Hot Cross Buns but more likely due to Helen and Gil's hospitality. We had a great night in the tent after a lovely meal and woke to a perfect Autumn morning.
This is the view across the Merri Valley from Helen and Gil's, a nice preview of our route- Mt Fraser in the middle distance.

The most lasting impression of the creek today (and it was only about 10km of frontage) was the way in which the landscape of the creek could change abruptly from one property to the next. One moment we would be wading through blackberries and then over the next fence we would find ourselves amongst native lilies (tricoryne), water ribbons, cumbungi, bidgie widgie, cherry ballart and more.

I wonder at the balance between hope and despair. The cadastral demarcations are revealed by more than simply barbed wire and star pickets. Are these boundaries defined by our aesthetic and cultural values as much as by our fences?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A thought from Macfarlane via Tony Birch

Something to send you on you way ...

'For some time now it has seemed to me
that the two questions we should ask of
any strong landscape are these: Firstly,
what do I know when I am in this place
that I can know nowhere else? And then,
vainly, what does this place know of me
that I cannot know of myself?'

Robert Macfarlane - The Old Ways

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

1952 aerial photos of the creek.

Today I spent the afternoon in the National Library in Canberra. Through a combination of old maps, flight line diagrams and most importantly, the expertise of the map room staff I was able to look at photos taken 60 odd years ago. It was interesting to see where new suburbs have emerged, and at the same time how unchanged other parts of the landscape are. Thank you DGN for alerting me to this resource.

Friday, 8 March 2013


Today was a pupil free day at the girls school, so they came with me when I headed out to meet and touch base with a couple of farmers. (Photo credit to Romy who snapped a few action shots. I'm glad she caught this lovely dog on film.)
We are walking east towards the creek, and towards the original blue stone cottage. Greg said he has a friend on a property some distance away who had the same owner way back when. Consequently she has a cottage identical in layout, architecture and materials on her place. The kit home or yesterday.
Driving back down the Hume the passage of the recent grass fires are already green with 'pick' (to quote Bill Gammage). To the west looking into the grasslands the black is now bright green. Unburnt grass, yellowed by the summer, curves into the new growth with perfect registration. The green and yellow combination is the result of fire followed shortly by 75mm of rain. The only real evidence of the terrible black smoke (to the untrained eye) is a few burnt out shipping containers and rows of eucalypts with bleached out leaves.
I think we have our itinerary worked out now. Thanks to everyone who has offered campsites or even roofs over our heads. Not to mention sage advice about fire, weather, snakes and livestock.