28 February 2011


(Wow, this is a bit late!)

Here is a map of the walk.

Here are all the photos we took.

We met E at Essendon station (unplanned) and took the 903 bus to the start of the walk. The plan was to walk up to Brimbank Park, do a loop back to (near) the start, then head downstream around the large curve in the river to catch the 903 bus back to Essendon at Steele Creek.

e, j & d: the before shot

We headed down the side of the valley to the river on one of the unofficial tracks, through shoulder-high grasses, past huge purple thistle flowers and the occasional wild/feral fennel bush.

unofficial path


Once down at the river, it was easy to see how high the recent floodwaters had come, and also to imagine how fast it must have been flowing. Large branches had been swept onto the path, and bushes had been tipped on their sides. The path was also damaged (though no longer wet), with water channels creating small ditches along its length. We walked under the Maribyrnong River Viaduct/Quarter Mile Bridge and had to take a picture of the kissing gate below – so plastered with leaves and twigs that it looked deliberately thatched!

quarter mile bridge 2

under the quarter mile bridge
Check out that concrete, Dad!

flood-thatched gate!

It was kind of unsurprising, then, when we met a ranger underneath the ring road, who told us that the path was actually closed (we hadn’t seen any signs) due to flood damage. “We can’t guarantee the safety of any of the trees or the path,” she told us, and strongly advised us against coming back that way . . . which was exactly what we’d planned to do! Luckily, there is a higher path to Brimbank Park from Western Ring Road (which we’d intended to use on our return trip), so we took that over the top of the valley walls and were treated to excellent views out towards Mt Macedon.

western ring road with shadows

train on the quarter mile bridge

It was pretty cool to see up close some of the geological features that are so obvious when you take a plane out of or into Melbourne (and we saw A LOT of planes!). Around those north-western areas it’s clear that the high parts are not hills – it’s a plain, and the watercourses have cut huge valleys out of it.

Once down in Brimbank Park, we had a wander around and decided to treat ourselves to an iced coffee (or iced chocolate in D’s case) at the café. It was perfect weather to sit under the high verandah and consult Google Maps on E’s phone. We couldn’t cross the river to Horseshoe Bend because both the fords were underwater, so we decided we’d walk back to the Western Ring Road, follow the path around to Steele Creek, and have lunch there. From there, we’d decide on our next move.

picnic tables and flood damage
Flood damage and picnic tables

the ford, under a bit too much water to cross!

iced coffee and chocolate at brimbank park

For a little way the Western Ring Road Trail was surprisingly pleasant, but after we crossed Keilor Park Drive it was pretty grim walking to the Calder Freeway, sandwiched between the ring road and various industrial estates and warehouses.


It was a relief to get into suburban streets and then finally descend into the greenery of Steele Creek. We walked a little way from the freeway noise, then downed our bags to sit in the shade, reapply sunscreen and eat lunch.

e & d - LUNCH BREAK!

Consulting the map again, we decided to head down to what Google calls Niddrie Lake, but which seems to be known as Valley Lake on the ground. After trying to follow Google’s map (incorrect), we decided to simply scramble down the side of the hill through an undeveloped plot of land in order to get to the lake. We hypothesised that this used to be an enormous quarry (internet searches tell me we were right). It is quite a bizarre place: a newly landscaped lake with a great big sculpture of a person sitting on a ladder gazing east through a pair of binoculars; huge quarry walls; recently planted trees and unestablished ‘wetland’; patchy development of new McMansion-style estate homes, some perching almost too close to quarry walls for comfort! It will be interesting to go back in ten years to see how the trees have matured and the lake and wetland have become more established.

birdwatcher/stalker/voyeur sculpture at valley lake 1

birdwatcher/stalker/voyeur sculpture at valley lake 2


Although the map said otherwise, we were able to follow Steele Creek right down to Rosehill Road and then to Buckley Street (though we had to do a bit of rockhopping to get to the path on the east side of the creek). Although it was hot, a cool breeze kept it from being stifling, and there were lots of small birds, moths and butterflies flitting about to keep us distracted.

We climbed the path near Buckley Street to get the view over the explosives factory and down to the city, and we sat on a shady bench to enjoy the scenery and drink a cup of tea. From there, it was back to Buckley St and the (wonderfully airconditioned!) 903 bus. Despite not being allowed to do the walk we’d planned, we had a good time exploring totally new places – plus we ended up exactly where our original walk would have taken us!

In conclusion: I wouldn’t be keen to walk the Western Ring Road Trail again, but it worked for us as a link between Brimbank Park and Steele Creek (would probably be less obnoxious to ride it on a bike). We probably all got a touch sunburnt - we were pretty careful, but there really wasn’t much shade on the path. We hadn’t walked with E before, but we all seemed to strike the same pace, and be comfortable with the distance. All in all, a good day!

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