Eltham District Historical Society Inc, Eltham
EXPLORING THE UPPER YARRA (Newsletter No. 105, November 1995, by Bettina Woodburn)
We enjoyed the Spring Excursion, this year "Exploring the Upper Yarra" - in spite of the constant rain and the countryside under the cloud cover, especially in the valleys, being mainly shiny shades of green. The occasional fields of buttercups, clumps of arum lilies and splendid rhododendron and other flowering bushes became very special.
The Cobb and Co coach was warm and a cosy retreat as we zig-zagged on the highways and byways to glimpse the Yarra River, upstream and down, its secret places, and particularly the many bridges. Russell excelled as 'Poet Laureate', reading from Dacre Smyth's book. This 1979 publication includes paintings of all the bridges along the river with poems and brief descriptions of each one. Some of the bridges are in out of the way places and are not very well known. We looked forward to hearing the poetry as much as seeing the ' constructions'…Big Pat (was he short or tall, lean or fat? He did win the two hundred pound reward for discovering gold and had the creek named after him), about the 'Eddies'?, and the disliked 'meccano' bridge in Warburton, etc. etc.
The hot roast lunch in the old Reefton Hotel was also most welcome. It was easy to imagine it peopled by miners and early settlers.
Starting by crossing the new (1974) concrete bridge at Warrandyte we headed through Wonga Park with views to the Christmas Hills and to the escarpment of the Yering Gorge, which causes flood waters to back up through the Yarra Glen plain, so avoiding disasters downstream.
At the end of a long driveway we found the wooden, privately owned Henley Bridge (1935 after the 1934 floods). This facilitates access to different parts of Henley Farm and to Lilydale.
Everard Park, named after Blanche Shallard's father, a State Member for 17 years, below the Highway Yarra crossing was in need of care. It is 10 miles from Yarra Glen by road but, as "Yarra Marra” canoeists well know, 32 winding miles down by water. After more delightful countryside scenes we joined the Warburton Highway at Woori Yallock.
From the old Railway Station at Launching Place the Centennial Trail for walkers, cyclists and ' horse riders has replaced the rails. The line from Lilydale was opened in 1901, and the last diesel freight train ran to Warburton in 1965.
It continued to rain as we had morning tea in Warburton in a shelter between footbridges. From here we continued upstream past the Bridge to O'Shannasy Lodge and Reservoir, Starvation Creek, and the Peninsular tunnel (miners dug it as at Pound Bend) which we visited (scrambling down those steps!) on our return after lunch.
Our furthermost point was the Upper Yarra Dam Reserve (and vast catchment area). Finished in 1957 after ten years work and 100 years after Yan Yean, it supplies much of Melbourne's water.
After crossing the 30m Launching Place Bridge to the Eltham side of the Yarra and Healesville, we saw in the distance the Yarra Glen Timber Trestle Bridge over the river flats "the longest for years in the land it was said!" Harry's dream of "better weather over the Divide" unfortunately didn't come true, but I'm sure we 36 members will retain happy memories of a day that was wet and green and filled with Bridges.
Bettina Woodburn - October 1995
Record of the Society's history of activities - Spring 1995 excursion