The Emu;s recent expedition commenced on the 16th November, destination was to a part of Victoria that has many memories for me, as it was an area that I lived in for approximately 7 years when a young member of the Australian Army. The main reason for the trip down memory lane was for a reunion of army members who served together at that time in that area. The return to the past was to incorporate the small high country townships of Toolangi, Healesville and Marysville.
I specifically wanted to visit these places, especially Marysville, as these places were the scene of one of Australia,s worst bushfires in the year 2009 when a lot of Victoria was ablaze.
The three townships were all affected by the bushfires with Marysville worst hit. The fire started on the 7th February 2009 and was at first believed to have been caused by arson which was later changed and credited to the high heatwave that engulfed Victoria at that time.
Toolangi was hard hit by the 2009 bushfires with two deaths and 18 homes burnt.Marysville was completely devestated with the final death count being 45 and 90% of the township destroyed.
Driving down through the Yarra Valley Ranges into Toolangi bought back many memories, the Mountain Ash trees were still standing in places but all bore the scars of being burnt, the beautiful ferns had regrown and the mountain was rebirthing, our destination in Toolangi was a beautiful setting called The Singing Gardens, aptly named as one sits amongst the gardens and closes their eyes, you can hear natures orchestra playing amongst the mountain trees, combined with a cacophony of birds that bring the whole of natures wonderland to life. A stroll down to the cool clear mountain stream that wends its way through the gardens is a pure delight, the crystal trout waters bubbling over rocks completes the nature lovers dream.
We relaxed later with Jan Williams , the proprietor of the guest house there and enjoyed a great vegetable mountain soup accompanied by hot bread rolls, after a great friendly talk Jan and I found we had many aquaintances from the past, people we both had met and for me people I had worked with. If anyone ever visits Toolangi Victoria I heartily recommend The Singing Gardens and the lovely Jan Williams
The name Toolangi is an Aboriginal word meaning tall trees. It is believed the area was known as Mt Rose up until the 1890s. Toolangi was first inhabited in the 1860s by paling splitters and then timber cutters, who camped deep in the bush. They were attracted by the huge stands of mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans), a tree that splits easily, and the messmate timber, which proved durable as a building material.Toolangi Post Office opened on 1 August 1900 and closed in 1974.It was not until the early 1960s that electricity came to Toolangi. Together with the opening of the Melba Highway, this created the impetus for industrial expansion in the area. An early development was the Potato Research Station (1945), which was followed by the Strawberry Certification Scheme.Victoria was devastated by the worst bushfires in Australia’s history during the summer of 2009. 7 February, the day now known as ‘Black Saturday’, saw the loss of 173 people and over 2000 homes. About 78 communities were directly impacted by the fires and Toolangi was one of them. Two people lost their lives and 18 homes were burnt. Fire surrounded the town for weeks and the whole area was quarantined for three of them. The township itself and a small segment of forest in the Toolangi State Forest to the east of the town survived. In total about 406,337 hectares of land were burnt.Toolangi was the home of one of Australia’s most beloved poets, the late C. J. Dennis, the author of The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke, Jim of the Hills, The Glugs of Gosh, Rose of Spadgers, The Singing Gardens and Ginger Mick, to name a few. Dennis joined artist Hal Waugh on an expedition to Toolangi in 1908. Dennis stayed on after the expedition, attracted by the ambience of the area, he was also a business partner in one of the many sawmills of the area – St Leonards Sawmill. His work captured the feel of the bush and the true Australian characters, both of the bush and the pubs. In 1915, he purchased 3.5 acres (14,000 m2) for 22 pounds. This included a mill house. Over a period of 10 years, with the help of a local handyman, they converted the mill house to a two-storey house named “Arden”. His house has long since burned down, but his gardens remain in the care of Jan and Vic Williams, where they operate their tea rooms, The Singing Gardens, and are open to the public.Opposite the gardens is the pottery of David Williams, who creates unique crystalline-glazed ceramics, which have been exhibited in the National Gallery of Victoria.The Toolangi Tavern, situated at the intersection of Myers Creek and Chum Creek Roads (aka Healesville-Kinglake Road), is a common meeting spot for those living in, and travelling through, Toolangi. The tavern was opened in 2006 and serves lunch and dinner.The former Toolangi Hotel burned to the ground in 1975. I recall many an enjoyable Sunday afternoon in this old pub. While the building was totally destroyed, the locals saved the beer. For weeks afterwards, they would gather under the trees at the old pub site and assist in depleting the stocks. The former licensee decided not to rebuild the pub and the town remained publess for decades.
Emu Expedition to be continued.