27 April 2010


Friday 23 April 2010
Thornbury to Heidelberg
18km / Approx 5 hours

Many of the Melbourne walks that I enjoy are those that run alongside the creeks and rivers. In part this is because the organic, snaking lines disrupt the city and suburban grids, both spatially and atmospherically – on this walk, for instance, we saw half a dozen Australian White Ibises stalking quietly through the scrub beside the Yarra, whilst only a couple of hundred metres away cars hurtled past on the Eastern Freeway. However, another thing I like about these arteries of greenness is that in following them, we set our sights (either explicitly or implicitly) on the sources of the waterways and trace them backwards through the suburbs. If we follow them far enough, we can walk right out of the city.

Walking out of the city is a concept I’ve been turning over in my mind recently, as I’ve been pondering what I like about walking in Melbourne, where I’ve enjoyed walking from and to, and whether there is a point (or more than one) on each walk that marks a shift in atmosphere or perspective. It is something I hope to explore a little more in a series of walks and blog posts that trace a meandering line from Thornbury to Warburton. If you look at a map, you will see that our destination is almost due east from our starting point. However, our route takes us down the Merri Creek and upstream along the Yarra, bringing us to Heidelberg Station at the end of the first day, and Eltham Station at the end of the second. From there, we cut south across the river and walk beside Mullum Mullum Creek and through the suburbs to Ringwood Station. At Ringwood our walk takes what looks like the greenest route on paper to Lilydale Station, and then the last section follows the Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail, a two-day walk that rejoins and loosely follows the Yarra River from Woori Yallock to Warburton. I believe that in most definitions, this is an exercise in walking out of the city, even though does not start in the CBD! The walk begins in the inner northern suburbs and will end over 100km later at the very edges of Greater Melbourne, and I hope it will give me the opportunity not only to enjoy walking and (re)discovering places, but to contemplate what it means to walk out of the city.

walking We are (celso gitahy)

When thinking of walking out of the city, a whole host of other questions arises. Some of those that fascinate me centre on a consideration of what ‘the city’ is, and also what it is not – that is to say, the ‘other’ against which ‘the city’ is measured. Is walking out of the city merely a matter of crossing the street from the CBD, Melbourne 3000, to East Melbourne 3002, or from an ‘inner east’ suburb to ‘outer east’? Does it mean moving from Melbourne City Council to Moreland City Council, or can we measure it only when we cross the line between city council and shire council (between Knox City Council and Yarra Ranges Shire Council, for example, or Whittlesea City Council and Mitchell Shire Council)? Is it the place on the walks from Brunswick West to Gellibrand Hill where the path suddenly leaves the territory of the MFB (Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board) and enters CFA (Country Fire Authority) land? My reason for posing these questions is not to seek a definitive answer but to show that there are myriad administrative ways to define where ‘the city’ is and where it ends, and that very few of them say anything much about how either side of that boundary feels or how it might be to cross such a boundary while walking.

There are other ways of defining the city, too, and they may be utterly personal, incredibly complex and/or vague: perhaps the end of the metropolitan train service is the end of ‘the city’, and anywhere reached by VLine is not Melbourne; the borders of the city might be defined by streets (Park St or Brunswick Road, Hoddle St or Punt Rd) or highways and freeways (the Western Ring Road, Eastlink between Ringwood and Seaford); maybe walking out of the city means leaving the pages of the Melways, or perhaps out of the city is anywhere without a clutter of buildings, so stepping off St Kilda Rd into the Royal Botanic Gardens is walking out of the city in the same way as leaving the streets of Altona for the Altona Coastal Park or plunging from Belgrave Station into Sherbroke Forest; maybe for you being out of the city might mean being above, looking down on the hustle and bustle from the top stories of the Rialto or Eureka towers; you might define the city by the sound of cars or the sound of trams; and while it might seem obvious at first, when you think about walking out of the city, is the St Kilda foreshore your destination or only the starting point of your journey?

gravel path and adolescent trees

During this walk from Thornbury to Heidelberg, D and I talked a lot about why we walk and what we enjoy about it, and perhaps I will recount this discussion (or others like it) at a later time. However, one thing we both noticed as we were walking was how quickly and easily we were walking. We wondered if this was partly to do with familiarity: we’d walked almost every part of this route before. I’ve wandered the first three-and-a-bit kilometres along the creek to North Fitzroy several times just in the last three weeks on the way to various appointments and brunch dates, so it feels almost workaday to me – though last time I walked that way I saw a dozen or so New Holland Honeyeaters (I think) near Ceres, the new bike path around Brunswick Velodrome opened only in the last month, and last week G and I watched Bell Miners making nests, so it’s not boring by any stretch of the imagination! Just east of St George’s Rd, D and I used the newly opened pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Merri Creek, and for the first time found the way up to Park St to join the Capital City Trail instead of having to jump the fence onto the path near Rushall Station! But apart from the birdlife, the leaves of introduced species turning autumn-yellow, the water level of the creek – the natural variations that are best appreciated when walking – the curves of the path to Yarra Bend Park and Fairfield boathouse are well known to us and our legs ate up the distance.

ooh! a before photo!

tiny red berries on the merri creek

d near rushall station

one of my favourite bits of the creek

alien clouds, th westfield reserve

After crossing the Yarra on the pipe bridge, we took our favoured route – the dirt track beside the river, rather than the path that climbs to the top of the hill. Yarra Bend Park is always something of a surprise to me, a corner of bush and scrubland tucked away like a fold in the handkerchief of Melbourne where, if you didn’t make a specific point of visiting, you might assume that Clifton Hill or Collingwood just merges straight into Kew. I noticed that it’s a bit over 15km to walk here from Federation Square along the Main Yarra Trail – that would feel like a walk out of the city to me! There are new ‘gates’ across the path to keep cyclists to the tracks they’re meant to be using, but someone else was annoyed either that they couldn’t fit their pram through when they were out running, or that they had to slow down to get through.

d is the centre of the tension

the track by the river

someone is pissed at parks victoria

We stopped for an apple and a handful of scroggin at about the 10km mark, in a cool and remarkably tranquil nook below the Eastern Freeway, before striking out for Burke Rd. We didn’t have a map, which is unusual for me, but we knew roughly where we were – after all, we only had to follow the trail!

The path crosses the river on the footbridge near Burke Rd, and we were soon crunching along a wide gravel track with the river and trees to our right, and a small plain of grass on the left between us and the genteel suburban homes of Ivanhoe East. For me, this was the moment that the walk changed. But what was different? The most obvious change is that we were no longer squeezed up near the freeway, but that doesn’t account for all of it, as the path only followed the freeway for three of the previous twelve kilometres. Let me provide an incomplete list of changes: the green corridor (as Melbourne Water would call it) widened, the sky seemed bigger; the space that opened up around the path meant that the wind felt fresher; we caught the surprising sight of an occasional horse in the paddocks beside the trail; there were more non-native deciduous trees crowned in red and yellow leaves; the path turned north (perhaps only something that affects people like me with a strong sense of direction); the information boards alongside the trail with reproductions of Heidelberg School paintings done nearby reminded me of high school art classes, going to see a Frederick McCubbin exhibition with my dad, and the links to history that seem stronger when embedded in place; the surface underfoot was gravel instead of concrete or asphalt, which changed the feel and the sound of our walking. This new atmosphere lasted for the 3km between Burke Rd and Banksia St. We stopped at some picnic tables and ate lunch in order to soak up the atmosphere: roast pumpkin, potato, onion and garlic with salsa brava style sauce; cup of tea from our visit to Betty’s in Yorkshire; Lindt dark chocolate and nuts. We watched the clouds rolling closer, and wondered if we would get rained on (we didn't - it started bucketing down as soon as we got on the bus, and stopped just before we got off).


autumn in eaglemont

On reaching Heidelberg half an hour later, we climbed the little hill above Heidelberg park and drank the rest of our tea while looking east over the suburbs. In the distance we could see the blue silhouette of the hills, the steep slope where they dive down to the Yarra Valley. Somewhere further along there is Warburton, which we will reach after walking another hundred or so kilometres along our crooked path out of the city.

the after shot at ivanhoe station

26 April 2010


dress and yellow ghost black turtleneck on white grey armband and the swallowing of smaller walkers

Three figures we found on our walk to Heidelberg on Friday. I particularly like the one with the turtleneck! (Click on the images to see larger versions at Flickr.)

22 April 2010


Barcelona (or even Valencia or Madrid), just me and D eating patatas bravas and drinking sangria; or perhaps sampling the local cheese and drinking good, cheap red wine with other backpackers; or maybe searching the streets to find some surprisingly elusive xurros amb xocolata/churros con chocolate.

I'm trying to make salsa brava, but I don't have a trusted recipe and I don't have much in the way of ingredients. We'll see how it goes!


Tomorrow we're walking. It marks the start of a long-term, pie-in-the-sky goal for me, which some of you know and others don't need to know. All we'll share for now is that it is the first day walk in a series that will take us to Warburton from Thornbury along the Yarra, through the suburbs, then along the Lilydale-Warburton trail.


There have been some spectacular clouds and sunsets in Melbourne over the last week or so. Here's a sunset from earlier this month.

brunswick sunset 1

narnia in brunswick east

11 April 2010


I woke up this morning feeling a little seedy after a night that involved a couple of cocktails more and a few hours of sleep less than i needed. However, the wind was blowing in through the open windows, bringing with it the crisp, clean smell of autumn! Yes, it's here! Walking season, here we come! Instead of walking, however, I had a long bath and listened to some podcasts about hiking the Appalachian Trail (see also).

The ATHiking podcasts focus mainly on sectional hiking on the Appalacian Trail, but a lot of the information is generalisable: they talk about food, gear, maps, photography, lightweighting, etc.

The Trailcast series centres on interviews with thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail (and other long distance trails). the interviews are conducted with hikers as they're on the trail, so you get a bit of the vibe of their walk. It's really interesting to hear different people's attitudes and experiences, and I appreciate that many of the interviews are with women.

It could be fun to make podcasts!