Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


16 Comments

Crunching the trails at Lake Mountain, Victoria – 2 August, 2015

Playing in the snow is fun; spending time waiting in queues is not.

How are the two related? If you live in Melbourne (as we do) and wish to visit the snow, this usually involves entering an alpine resort. The alpine area closest to Melbourne is Lake Mountain (named after Surveyor-General George Lake; there isn’t a lake there) in the Yarra Ranges, just outside of Marysville. But a visit to any alpine resort will generally mean queueing to:

– hire snow gear (chains, skis, poles, sleds, snowshoes, clothing, etc)
– enter the park/resort and pay entrance fees
– put chains on and, later when you’re exiting, take them off again
– be directed where to park
– resort facilities
– ski/toboggan runs

In the queue to enter Lake Mountain Resort

In the queue to enter Lake Mountain Resort

So it’s no wonder we are looking for ways to reduce the number of queues we need to join on our snow day. The answer was to buy all our own gear.

For us this didn’t mean shelling out a fortune because we’re not planning to go skiing. Having grown up in Queensland I have no skills in that area, and while Stephen’s background was almost the complete opposite, we’ve decided that snowshoeing is an activity that we can both enjoy in the snow with minimal practice. After having now shelled out only a small fortune for chains (for the car), snowshoes and poles, we’re set and ready to go. We didn’t have to buy a lot of extra specialised clothing since most of our hiking gear is adaptable to snowshoeing.

This was our first walk with our own snowshoes and poles. We’ve just bought MSR Revo Explore Snowshoes from Bogong in Melbourne’s CBD. We were very lucky to snag the last two pairs they had this season! While MSR aren’t the cheapest brand, and Revo aren’t the cheapest option in their range, I wasn’t settling for anything less. (See my previous post Snowshoeing at Mt Baw Baw for a comparison of snowshoes that we’re hired at various resorts in Victoria.)

Now fully equipped, we planned to go snowshoeing the very next day – a Sunday. We did our best to get our the door early. There are always more tourists of a Sunday, so we didn’t want to be at the end of the line. On the other hand, because the Mini is so neat and zippy we’ll always catch up to a convoy of cars eventually. Eh!

The least enjoyable part of a snow day is getting out of the car once you’ve arrived, and getting kitted up to walk. The cold is biting! And it’s doubly – triply! – cold if it’s windy, but we don’t wear our boots in the car – or all of our layers – so by the time we’re finally ready to lock the car and head I’m generally shivering (or nearly) despite wearing all my layers.

The sounds around the carpark remind me of a crèche or kindergarten. Lots of young children, most of whom are excited and impatient to get going, some of whom are content to play with the first snow they see, and then there are those who have changed their minds and don’t want to get out of the car. Voices – excited, petulant, upset, coaxing, calm, or quickly getting frustrated – hang in the air on every side. For someone unused to children, it provides extra impetus to get going quickly.

Up at the main buildings it’s like the shopping mall at lunch time during school holidays – people everywhere. Here is where we stop to strap on our own snowshoes instead of heading over to the building on the right to queue up to hire snowshoes and poles. Leaving the tobogganists and snowman-makers and snowball-fighters and other wanderers to their own devices we headed up main trail out of the village with a big sigh of relief!

Ski fields are very colourful places - just remember to mind your step!

Ski fields are very colourful places – just remember to mind your step!

Setting off at last

Setting off at last

Lake Mountain is popular because it’s close to Melbourne, and because it’s pretty family friendly. There are toboggan runs to keep kids amused for hours. If, like us, you’re looking to enjoy nature with half of Melbourne in your pocket, you can do that too. Once on the trail we quickly left the noise of the resort behind, and then the novice cross-country skiers. It was nice to go off (groomed) track when we found the snowshoe trail and walk on fresh, soft snow instead of compact trails.

Pretty good use for old skis - Snowshoe trail marker at Lake Mountain Resort

Pretty good use for old skis – Snowshoe trail marker at Lake Mountain Resort

This style of snowshoe makes for easy walking - MSR Revo Explore

This style of snowshoe makes for easy walking – MSR Revo Explore

Walking on fresh, uncompacted snow is not only more pleasant but sooo much quieter! All snowshoes create noise on ice when the mental teeth crunch through the icy crust or compact snow on the trail. Being made of a hard plastic, ours also flap noisily when walking on compact surfaces – on soft surfaces it’s almost more of a shuffle.

Stand aside, they're grooming the trail

Stand aside, they’re grooming the trail

'Cordoroy' - easier to walk on, but much noisier and less fun

‘Cordoroy’ – easier to walk on, but much noisier and less fun

From Snow Gauge (trail junction) we chose Echo Flat Trail to continue up to Helicopter Flat. Despite some cold fronts coming through recently, the amount of snow did seem to be a bit low this weekend. Lake Mountain is only 800m above sea level, so as long as there’s something on the trails I guess we should be thankful.

Lake Mountain Trail Map

Lake Mountain Trail Map

Arriving at Helicopter Flat we were surprised at the number of people gathered – and the tent that was set up (sorry about the dud photo – didn’t notice until I got home). Turns out there was a cross-country race on that we’d stumbled into the middle of.

We waited for a break in the skiers – I think we’d come in towards the end anyway – and continued on along Echo Flat Trail to The Camp (junction).

Winter vs summer - Echo Flat trail

Winter vs summer – Echo Flat trail

I've never seen an iced-over pond before

I’ve never seen an iced-over pond before

The Camp was a busy junction. It has green (easy), blue, (more difficult) and black (most difficult) trails intersecting there. Standing out of the way we had a quick break for a snack, drink – and a couple of fungi photos.

'The Camp' junction was pretty busy today, too

‘The Camp’ junction was pretty busy today, too

Refreshed, we decided to stick with the easy-rated Echo Flat Trail. We’d seen other fresh snowshoe tracks, and shortly after leaving The Camp we caught sight of the snowshoers.

Other snowshoers heading off into the mist

Other snowshoers heading off into the mist

There were more in the group than we’d expected. We left Echo Flat Trail and followed after them for perhaps 30m or so, but the snowshoe track crosses the middle of the valley and they looked like they were going pretty slowly crossing the creek. After watching their slow progress for a few minutes we decided to back-track and stick to our original plan of following the ski trails.

Blue sky was starting to show as we reached The Gap. Pausing just long enough for a drink and a photo, we headed uphill to Triangle Junction.

Our initial aim was to walk the Panorama Trail and checkout the views from the lookouts (assuming it wasn’t cloudy), but although we hadn’t come far our feet were talking to us, so we instead decided to head back along Royston Trail – our first blue grade trail for the day, but as it was down hill all the way back it didn’t really matter. In fact, it was the best ski trail of the day because there was plenty of deep, ungroomed snow on the side of the trail. Perfect for snowshoers!

The cafeteria, shop, first aid, and public toilets and change rooms are all in the large building on the lower side of the village. We knew it would be packed inside; lucky we weren’t famished. We decided to stop in near-by Marysville to find lunch instead. It was interesting to see the old-style skis and snowshoes they had on display. How our equipment has changed!

There’s just one more photo I’d like to share – it’s from our drive back through (The) Black Spur. The road winds its way through a forest of fern trees which are dwarfed by giant mountain ash, standing straight and pencil thin, their crowns seeming to reach for the clouds. It’s not the safest place to be during storms or high winds, though – I’ve seen YouTube clips of trees falling across the road like a giant tipping over wooden building blocks – but unless you’re stuck in a painfully slow convoy, it’s a great drive!

Magnificent Mountain Ash - driving through Black Spur

Magnificent Mountain Ash – driving through Black Spur

🙂

Advertisements


2 Comments

Mt Sturgeon & Mt Abrupt – Grampians National Park, Victoria

Writing a guest post is not like writing for your own blog.

I felt quite spiffed, chuffed, honoured even, when Neil Fahey invited me to contribute to his well-known Bushwalking Blog.

He asked if I had a favourite local walk.

Umm…well…

Despite having lived in Melbourne for almost 5 years now, I found myself answering his question with a question my own: “How local is local?”

Strictly speaking, I honestly suspect the answer is ‘no’. Despite there being plenty of walks we have enjoyed doing around Melbourne, my favourites (i.e. that ones I’d most love to return to) all involve overnight stays. We don’t re-do walks too often as there are plenty in both Chapman’s and Tempest’s books that we haven’t done yet (and there is, of course, the 1000 Steps that I always find myself talking Stephen out of – shhh, don’t tell him).

Still eager to contribute a post, I suggested my very first – and possibly favourite – hikes in Victoria: Mt Sturgeon and Mt Abrupt, located at the most southerly end of the Grampians National Park, about 3 hrs drive west of Melbourne. To my surprise and delight, a quick search had revealed that neither of these hikes had been covered yet on Neil’s blog!

Awesome!

Although we hadn’t been for over a year, the trickiest part for me wasn’t remembering the details – it was trying to keep focused on describing the hikes rather than writing a tourist brochure for Dunkeld or the Royal Mail Hotel. (Look out – that could be coming in a future post. It’s drafted… but then, that and more of the Grampians region has been in draft post stage for at least 18 months now, so don’t hold your breath.)

What I finally sent to Neil must have passed muster because he posted it on his blog. Thank you Neil for the opportunity to contribute!

Here it is – please read, enjoy (hopefully), and please feel welcome to leave a comment:

Bushwalking Blog Guest Post: The glorious southern Grampians – Mt Sturgeon & Mt Abrupt

: )


6 Comments

Southern Circuit of Cathedral Range State Park, Yarra Ranges VIC – 3 November 2014

A challenging hike for walkers unused to much rock scrambling, and not one I’d recommend in wet or hot weather, but good views and a real sense of accomplishment at the finish make this a worthwhile day hike.

Other people at the top of Sugarloaf Peak who climbed up from the saddle car park

Start/Finish: Jawbone Car Park, Cathedral Range State Park
Distance: Approx 9km
Time: Approx 4h 50m (included a 20min lunch break). Moving time was 2h 30m.
Difficulty: Hard

Map & elevation profile of the Southern Circuit of Cathedral Range State Park
See also: Parks Victoria Map of Cathedral Range State Park which is very detailed.

Melbourne Cup weekend provides a fantastic opportunity (for those of us living in Victoria) to enjoy a 4 day weekend late in the year. Since no one else in my team at work was taking the day off, it fell to me to uphold this time-honoured tradition. Ignoring anything and everything to do with the spring racing carnival, Stephen and I followed our own tradition and decided to go for a walk somewhere away from the maddening crowd…

So, why this walk?

We first attempted this circuit in September 2010, having picked it out of John Chapman’s “Day Walks Melbourne“, probably because it looked interesting and slightly adventurous. Or possibly because it was located near Marysville, where I’d never been, and Stephen hadn’t been since the devastating Black Saturday Fires in February 2009. Or maybe we were simply enticed by the photo of two hikers looking over the range from Sugarloaf Peak featured on the books’ cover, which belies the challenges and amount of effort required to get to that point.

Atop Mt Sugarloaf, background is similar to that on the cover of Day Walks Melbourne

Me atop Mt Sugarloaf. The view in this shot is similar to that on the cover of Day Walks Melbourne; there’s little indication of the challenges faced to get to this point – from either direction.

In our first attempt, we drove up Cerberus Road to Sugarloaf Saddle (apologising to the MINI as usual for asking it to be a 4wd) and walked up Canyon Track. John Chapman’s brief description of Wells Cave Track was enough to make us think the ‘easy’ option was more our level. We followed his advice and ‘scrambled carefully’ up the steep hillside, the gullies and terraces proving not overly challenging until we came to what I believe he refers to as “a short climb to the right lead[ing] to the summit of Mt Sugarloaf”. Which is where we got stuck. And this is how it looked.

Sep 2010 - The sticking point on our first attempt at this walk

Sep 2010 – The sticking point on our first attempt at this walk

Now, we’re not the only ones to have fun here. I’ve just read Greg of Hiking Fiasco’s account of his ascent (with a full backpack containing camping gear, mind you!) and he ratchets the difficulty rating of this walk to a level above merely ‘hard’. No wonder!

So, finding ourselves somewhat confounded – we’d never had to abort a walk before! – we retraced our steps, drove back to Jawbone Car Park back down the road and walked up to South Jawbone Peak instead. At that time it was only a year and a half after the Black Saturday fires when 92% of the park was burnt; it was very clear the greening bush still had a long road ’til anything near ‘full’ recovery.

For the last four years the memory of this failed walk has been at the back of our minds, nagging away. Almost every time one of us (ok, usually Stephen) suggests we go for a bushwalk, more often than not Cathedral Range has been offered up. Like that thing you borrowed and have been meaning to return to whatshername for yonks, you almost get used to living with the guilt of still having it hang over you.

This weekend was finally it. The conditions were pretty prefect – not raining, not too hot, not too cold, fire risk seemed reasonably low. When it came to it, there was just one fly in the ointment… my legs.

More specifically, the huge amounts of lactic acid in them from a PT gym session two days prior, rather impeding my ability to walk. Now, I usually go to the gym on a Wednesday night, but due to a couple of re-scheduling issues it was changed to Saturday. Never again, people! Certainly not if I’m planning to do a walk that weekend! Despite stretching after the session, it was coming back home and blogging for the next ~8hrs that probably didn’t help matters much. Had I but known how sore I was going to be, I would have continued to stretch through the day. (Ok, point made, enough complaining.)

Despite the legs, I felt that this was our chance to get this walk knocked over, struck off the list – and I didn’t want to be the one providing the excuse not to go yet again. Especially after I’d told everyone that this is what we were doing this weekend! So Monday morning we made lunch, packed the car and off we headed.

It’s a lovely 2hr drive from our place through the Yarra Valley to Cathedral Range State Park. I used the time to try to warm up my stiff and aching legs (and gluteals) – the benefits of being the passenger. Unsurprisingly, we found Cathedral Range right where we left it; tall, long and distinctive, though a bit tricky to photograph well from the road due both to the length of the range and the trees growing along the roadside.

From the road, the top of Cathedral Range looks pretty flat and easy to walk...

From the road, the top of Cathedral Range looks pretty flat and easy to walk…

The turn into Cathedral Lane from Maroondah Highway is at the northern end of the range and is marked with the usual brown sign for places of interest. The graded dirt Little River Road (that runs alongside Little River) is reasonably well graded – but mind the potholes.

(Of course, the middle of a State Park is the best place for the state government/Vic Forests to put a pine plantation…)

We were somewhat surprised to see the large number of cars parked at Neds Gully car park (we didn’t realise at the time that there is a camping ground across the creek) and there were also plenty of people parked and camping around Cooks Mill. Apparently it’s a popular weekend for coming to the park! Navigating solely by memory (naturally the book was in a backpack in the back of the car) we turned right at the campsite and headed uphill to Jawbone Car Park.

We were astounded by how many people were at Neds Gully car park

We were astounded by how many people were at Neds Gully car park

By now it was almost noon – despite my crossed fingers, we weren’t the only there. Given the numbers of people we’d passed, it wasn’t really a shock. The Mini blended in perfectly with the other cars.

Nov 2014 - The Mini really blends in amongst the other 4wd's - Jawbone Car Park, Cathedral Range State Park, Yarra Ranges

The Mini really blends in amongst the 4wd’s

 

Slowly changing shoes for hiking boots (while at the same time, going as fast as I could manage) I heard three or four groups come and go – mostly young families. Concerns about how busy the walk was going to be started to fill my mind – was the car park just an indication of the traffic on the track? Yikes!

Backpacks on, we set off – slowly – down the steps to cross the creek at the bottom of MacLennans Gully. In 2010 we crossed the creek on stepping-stones. Today there’s a nice, shiny new bridge…which you’ll just have to take my word for since I neglected to take a photograph of it…

The bridge marks the last downhill section for a good while. Although the climb up to the Farmyard is step, the path is very well made and if you take your time it is a very pleasant walk. I’m afraid I didn’t take too many photo’s along this section. On countless occasions Stephen has probably wished that I’d stop taking photos and hurry up. Well I’ve found what will limit my compulsion to stop and click: pain. Unfortunately that also meant my average speed wasn’t any faster than usual!

There was so much I didn’t stop for, too. November is a good time to see lots of flowers in bloom. The walk up to the Farmyard probably has the best number and variety across the whole walk, since it’s quite a damp and sheltered gully,with Jawbone Creek even supporting tree ferns to grow near the top.

A sign at the top of the gully directs you to turn left here to continue on to The Farmyard. Another walker had caught up to us at this point. He looked like he’d taken a wrong turn to a running race and somehow ended up on the mountain with only his drink bottle, but when we got to the next clearing and he ducked into his tent that blended in so nicely with the surrounding vegetation I completely failed to see it on approach, I began to think maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

You are allowed to camp here, and if you want a bit of quiet and/or privacy and don’t mind lugging your gear all the way up here it’s certainly the way to go. He was the only person camping in this first clearing where there is another track leading to The Cathedral. In the next clearing there was also a single tent.

If you’re interested in climbing South Jawbone Peak, the track starts at this second clearing. When you enter the clearing from the north there are three tracks to chose from. On the left is South Jawbone Peak (sign posted), the middle one is The Razorback (also sign posted) – not, as I initially thought, an alternate route to South Jawbone – and the track on the right (which is roughly straight ahead as you approach) is actually the track to the latrines. No, not long drops, the unofficial latrine area used by campers. It wasn’t the smell that gave it away (at least, I didn’t smell anything); the tell-tale signs were toiletpaper and other non-biodegradable rubbish lying around. Goodness people! Dig deeper holes! Ladies – take liners and packaging home with you to dispose of, please!

Nov 2014 - The choice of paths at the main Farmyard clearing was more than expected - Cathedral Range State Park, Yarra Ranges

Chosing the Razorback Track from the Farmyard - Cathedral Range State Park, Yarra Ranges

Beating a hasty retreat we tried again, taking the middle path this time.

The Razorback Track undulates relatively gently at first (lulling you into a false sense of security) as it follows the ridge line south through fairly dense young trees and shrubs regrowing on the ridge after the fire. By now my legs had warmed up a little, but still seemed reluctant to handle anything but an incline with anything nearing a modicum of comfort.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Occasional glimpses down into the valley are obscured by burnt, dead trees; in the five years since the fire their charcoaled limbs haven’t yet fallen to the ground and they remain reaching, stark and barren toward the bright blue sky.

A glimpse into the valley to the west of Cathedral Range

A glimpse into the valley to the west of Cathedral Range

It’s quite clear that the path is well used and it’s simple to follow for the most part, but there are numerous orange triangle track markers along the way to ensure walkers don’t get lost. Indeed, it’s easy to think that Parks Victoria have put a whole year’s allocation of these markers just in this one park. (Maybe that’s why they’ve had to resort to carving blobby arrows into the signs at Wilsons Prom?) However, the further we walked, the more reliant on these arrows we became.

I lost count of the number of walkers that passed us going the other direction – young and old, all evidently following the generally recommended route. How had they climbed up the section that defeated us four years ago? Had we missed something – was there a way around that bit that meant retirees were seemingly able to do this circuit yet we couldn’t? What was going on? As with almost all our walks where we pass lots of people, the general state of attire seems to be ‘casual’; limited water, basic footwear, and no extra clothing discernible. How do people go for a bush walk so unprepared?

This couple are typical of people we see out walking, to whom we much appear completely over equipped

This couple are typical of people we see out walking, to whom we must appear completely over equipped

Walking along the ridge you really appreciate why the range is described as ‘sharply upturned sedimentary rock’. In fact, it reminded me of crunchy sand at the beach – the type that fragments into pieces as you break the crust. Only these rocks were formed from sand/silt in the Devonian period, a few hundred million years ago. No wonder they’re a bit harder than the crusty sand bits on the beach.

Don’t get too excited at the sneak peaks you get back over the ridge – soon enough you’ll have plenty of opportunity for looking around as you really start climbing. And there’s still plenty to see around you.

Sugarloaf Peak, being the highest point along the ridge, is tall and narrow and sticks out like a sore thumb. But we were too busy looking at the view behind us to pay much attention at first of what was ahead. I had in my mind that the ridge was pretty flat – that’s certainly how it looks from the main road – and the real challenge would be getting down that tricky bit from last time. But as we kept climbing and clambering over increasingly large rocks along the ridge line, the peak in front loomed ever higher. It even got to the point where I put my camera away so I could focus on climbing properly instead of worrying what it might be banging against as I held the strap between my teeth. That may be fine for short diversions, but when you’re combing what is essentially a rock wall – it’s better to keep the camera somewhere safe.

We didn’t re-read the track notes or anyone else’s blog posts about the walk before setting out (at least, I didn’t) and on reflection I’m really glad we didn’t. Although John Chapman certainly doesn’t make it sound scary, had I read Greg’s Hiking Fiasco post or Neil’s Bushwalking Blog (plus the mention in his Northern Circuit post) post on this walk, there’s a very high probability that we’d never have tackled this walk. Putting something in the ‘Too Hard’ basket is a very convenient excuse not to accept a challenge. As it was, I’m left to reflect the marvellous ways we try to kid and talk ourselves out of something we don’t really want to contemplate even when it’s right in our face.

“I wonder what mountain that is?” became, “Is that part of this ridge?” which lead to, “Surely we don’t have to climb that?!”. Inevitably, the reality of the situation is accepted and you admit to yourself that yes, indeed, that shark’s fin of some “Sharply upturned sedimentary rock” IS part of the track, and what’s more, “Yep, the track goes straight up”. Don’t forget to follow the orange triangles! There’s one place where it looks like the path leads down, but as far as I could see from the ‘junction’ it doesn’t go anywhere. Keep following the markers straight up.

I knew we were almost there when I saw someone else at the top. We knew had made it when we got our cameras back out. Wooo!

Now, about this down bit….

Once you’ve had the freedom of two hands (or maybe it’s just that the path down quickly requires both hands again) the camera was soon back in the top pouch of my backpack, only withdrawn for a quick photo here and there. The people we saw at the top were a group of three young hikers, who started back down shortly after us. I have to say I welcomed their company on this section because they clearly managed to get up – maybe they knew a better way down, or at the least, if we got stuck it was more people around to help out.

Follow the arrows. Uh-huh. In the end the ‘tricky bit’ wasn’t as scary as I had worried it might be, but thank goodness the day and been a warm and dry day. There was no chance of slipping on these lovely rocks that are pretty good to hang on to without getting torn to bits. I went first, and just like climbing up the peak, the one thing running through my mind was to keep at least three points of contact on the rock at any one time. The hand and footholds are there, you just need to find them – and trust your hiking boots. Now, having made it down, I found the step we both missed the first time. So obvious now…

Unexpectedly, getting down the next rock was almost the trickiest of the day! It’s a bit of a drop to the next level, and I have only vague memories of climbing up there last time. I tried to feel for a place to put my foot as I held onto a rock on the side and a tree root, but instead I ended up sliding down on my belly. It was only a drop of about 20cm – if that. I ended up with a tear in my shirt where it got caught between buckle and rock, but the others chose to slide down on the bums. Could be the better option.

From there it’s more or less plain sailing. My legs were still not properly programmed for descent, but otherwise hiking as usual. It took us about 4 hours to get to the rest area at Sugarloaf Saddle where there is a pretty fancy new covered picnic area where we ate lunch. There are toilets nearby (best to take your own toilet paper) and a car park.

Backpacks on again, Stephen took off and I hobbled after him, my legs quickly seizing up in our relatively short (but late) lunch break. (Why people chose to walk up Cerberus Road instead of down it is beyond me.) Downhill was not much fun, but by the time we made it back to Jawbone Car Park (a couple of kilometres later) I felt I might be loosening up a bit. Just in time for a 2hr drive home.

In all it was a really good, if challenging walk, and we’ve both come away with a sense of accomplishment. I’m glad it wasn’t any more challenging as there were a couple of sections there that we only just found a way to climb up or around.

We’re not in a hurry to do the Southern Circuit again. Other bloggers seem to rate the Norther Circuit as about the same but without a slightly lesser degree of rock climbing/scrambling. One day we might even pluck up the courage (or have forgotten enough details about this one) to go and check it out.

: )


9 Comments

The Doctor Blake Mysteries Costume Exhibition, Ballarat – June 2014

The Doctor Blake Mysteries is an Australian period drama TV series that is simply brilliant. Sorry – I meant BRILLIANT!

Stephen poses with Craig McLachlan as Doctor Blake

Stephen poses with Craig McLachlan as Doctor Blake

Following hard on the heels of Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries – which is light, bright, fun and glamorously over the top, as it’s set Melbourne in the 1920’s – one of my first thoughts when the show started was, ‘Why would the ABC be running another Australian period murder mystery series right after a fantastic one just ended?’

But instead of trying to out sass Phryne (I’m not sure anyone can do that – but give him a pair of fishnets and I bet Craig McLachlan (who plays Dr Lucien Blake in this series) would give it a go!), The Doctor Blake Mysteries are set in the bleak post war period of 1950’s Ballarat. Fans like Stephen and myself have been drawn in by the haunting music of the opening titles composed by Dale Cornelius (see more on his YouTube page), the sublime casting, wonderful plots and character threads, and great production of this award-winning series. The deliberate fading of colour in post production does take a bit of getting used to, but it’s done to reinforce the post war feeling of the era (I think).

The best news recently is that season three is going to be shot by the end of 2014 and – somewhat amazingly – the show’s official Facebook page was even saying that it could be airing by February 2015! Woohoo!!

Doctor Blake Mysteries - Facebook Page update on Series 3 posted 08.08.2014

But onto the costume exhibition…

From 1 May to 9 June this year, M.A.D.E. (Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka) in Ballarat hosted The Doctor Blake Mysteries costume exhibition. Since Ballarat is only a 1.5hr drive (these days! It would have been much longer for Dr Blake) from Melbourne, and Ballarat is a great place to visit, we thought it was definitely worth going, especially since we hadn’t visited MADE before.

First port of call was The Design Exchange market in the glorious old Mining Exchange building on Lydiard Street. Definitely worth a stop if you’re visiting on a Sunday. The only downside for Stephen was that there wasn’t much in the way of menswear to browse, whilst I on the other hand, managed to pick up two items of clothing. Not bad for someone who doesn’t usually like clothes shopping! There’s also plenty of funky handmade craft items to browse.

We stopped for lunch a door or two along at the cafe attached to the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Also worth spending some time there if you haven’t been before… (You can find out whether Dr Blake’s mother’s painting hangs in there or not!)

Art Gallery of Ballarat - photo from March 2012

Art Gallery of Ballarat – photo from March 2012

Admire the cinema as you cross Lydiard Street in front of the Art Gallery, and not just because it was featured in definitely one Doctor Blake episode (Series 2 episode 5 “Crossing the Line” – but possibly more, in general street-scape shots. The tourist information shop is also across the street. You can pick up this Doctor Blake Walking Tour brochure from them if you don’t want to print it out for yourself. Pity there doesn’t seem to be any organised guided tours of Doctor Blake filming locations with insider (or at least local) information to impart…

Regent Theatre, Lydiard Street, Ballarat

Regent Theatre, Lydiard Street, Ballarat

After a quick drive around Lake Wendouree – no trip to Ballarat is complete without a drive around the lake to check the water level, see the birds, and admire some of the houses, old and new, but all with great views – we headed off to M.A.D.E.!

People enjoying Lake Wendouree, March 2012

People enjoying Lake Wendouree, March 2012

Located just outside the centre of town at the physical site of the Eureka Stockade, M.A.D.E. uses the history of the site to encourage visitors to explore concepts of democracy. As it opened fairly recently (May 2013) there’s no excuse for children and adults alike to visit and learn something new. I thought the lecture theatre was also very comfortable and inviting.

Yes, I’m getting to the photos of costumes…

It didn’t feel like there was as extensive a collection as was set out in the Rippon Lea mansion for the Miss Fisher exhibition (see here), but it could be that there just aren’t as many costume changes in Doctor Blake as in Miss Fisher. Gorgeous furs and ostrich feathers went out the window in these lean post-WWII times, and synthetics were now in – although there are still a lot of cotton items in the collection, and the suits are wool, of course. The exhibition space was also unrelated to the series – maybe if it was being displayed in the house they use as Dr Blake’s residence in the show there would have been more opportunity for costume and prop displays. But it’s possible that someone may actually live there – I don’t know.

Before taking photos I did check for any signs indicating that photography, even on my phone (which, incidentally, was what I was using) was not allowed, but saw nothing. No mention was made at the front desk about photography (or its prohibition) when we enquired about the exhibition, so I don’t think I’m breaking any rules in sharing this with you.

I have titled the full-shot photos as per the display descriptions, and certainly tried to photograph everything on display. Due to guide ropes and glass cases keeping visitor from getting too close to the costumes and props (which is completely understandable), indoor lighting and not taking my proper camera, some of the photos are not quite as good as I’d hoped.

So there you have it. May season 3 be every bit as good as the past two seasons have been, and may there be plenty more Doctor Blake goodness to come!

: )

 


4 Comments

Rippon Lea House & Gardens – Oct 2013

Rippon Lea – another in the ‘Haven’t you been there yet?’ places now ticked off our to-do list!

Lawn side of the mansion

Lawn-side of Rippon Lea mansion

Frederick Sargood certainly left a fantastic mansion and beautifully designed grounds. The whole of the estate is currently managed by the National Trust.

The prompt for this visit was the current exhibition of some of the costumes used in Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries. The second of the TV series based on the books by Kerry Greenwood is currently being shown on ABC1 of a Friday night – the traditional who-dunnit time slot. Rippon Lea is used in a number of the television episodes as different locations, depending on which part view of the mansion is being filmed. Very clever. Also, I would say,  the reason, why the costumes are being exhibited there.

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on ABC TV – “Who says crime doesn’t play?”

We chose to visit on a Saturday, which meant we a) had a chance at parking within 1km of the entrance gate and b) were able to wander into the mansion to see the costumes when we arrived, instead of being allocated a set entry time. Had we gone the following day, when Kerry Greenwood was attending a high tea there, I can only imagine the nightmare that parking would have been and battling the crowds that came to flood the mansion and grounds to see her and the costumes – despite the prediction of showers through the day. I’m a fan of the books and TV series… but I’m quite averse to crowds.

Not unexpectedly, photography was not allowed inside the mansion, but believe me when I say the place is very grand. The photos on the website are better than mine would have been anyway. As for the costumes (mostly gowns and hats for the lead character, Miss Phryne Fisher), it was very interesting to see them up close. To really appreciate them as fashion though, watch the TV series!

Phryne Fisher

Essie Davis as Phryne Fisher

We re-emerged into a bright sunny (warm!) day to explore the grounds. I’d been told that Rippon Lea is a popular location for weddings and I have now seen exactly why.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We wandered around, exploring the different areas of the grounds – the fernery, orchard, windmill, the ponds/lakes, and yet we didn’t see everything. I guess we’ll just have to go back again!

With a picnic next time!
: )


2 Comments

National Rhododendron Gardens – 21 Sep 2013

“Again?” I hear you ask. Yes, I’m afraid so. But stick with me; it’s a short post (which is how it’s jumped ahead of a couple of others) and it’ll be our last visit to the National Rhododendron Gardens for a while, I think. As beautiful and ever-changing as the gardens are, I think after this trip we can tick the box that says ‘Done’ for now.

We didn’t think we could tick that box off before for two reasons: 1) last trip we were too early for the cherry blossoms and 2) we also hadn’t seen the rhododendrons in flower!

Well, no more dear people! Feast you eyes upon these photos and sigh (possibly with relief) for there are cherry blossoms (though not nearly quite as many as we had imagined), rhododendrons (many more than we had imagined) and other flowers brightening the park with colour everywhere you care to look!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not previously being very familiar with rhododendrons, I was thinking to myself that a lot of them looked quite like azaleas. It turns out that azaleas are of the genus Rhododendron! That would explain it.

The promise of cherry blossoms and reasonable weather drew plenty of people to the park yesterday, and we (like many others) had to park down the side-road a way and walked back up to the entrance. (Note: if you go, wear sneakers at least. I saw more than one lady with shoes she probably didn’t plan to get mud over.) Today they’re expecting 4,000 visitors to the park! I wonder where they’re going to park their cars…

: )


Leave a comment

National Rhododendron Gardens – 1 September 2013

Melbourne has enjoyed a beautiful weekend! Winter was farewelled, and has been spring ushered in with sunny, warm days with temperatures in the low 20’s.

Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens

Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens

It won’t last, of course – it’s Melbourne! – so you’ve got to make the most of it while it does.

One of the things I love about Melbourne are the parks and the way people get out and use them.

People enjoying the Carlton Gardens on a beautiful afternoon

People enjoying the Carlton Gardens on a beautiful afternoon

Since spring has seemingly decided to arrive (or tease us) earlier than usual this year, we decided to go back up to the National Rhododendron Gardens, near Olinda on the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne. Having been earlier in the year to see the leaves change colour in autumn, we thought we’d go back to see the cherry blossoms in the Cherry Tree Grove.

IMG_1797

Petals in the gutter outside our house & there are plenty more along the footpaths – surely we should go up to see the cherry tree blossoms before we miss out?

Unfortunately we were a little eager – the climate around the Dandenong Ranges is cooler than Melbourne, so even though the tree outside our house has almost lost its flowers and is looking like it’s got most of its leaves back again, the cherry trees up on the mountain are only just budding.

Although the cherry trees might be taking their time waking up from winter, other plants like magnolias, daffodils and azaleas have been busy putting forth their blooms.

There also seemed to be more native birds around than last time, too. It’s always a treat to spot and identify them, too, even if it’s ‘just’ a fairly common New Holland Honeyeater or Eastern Yellow Robin. All up, a lovely day out.

: )