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Visiting Kinglake - Living Memories March 2018

There have been many different ways of visiting the Kinglake district over the years. In February MM, KHS member, Rob Verhagen, quoted the bicycle trip by members of the Melbourne Bicycle Club in 1883, surely one of the earliest ventures of its kind, and one of the most difficult given what we read of the state of the Kinglake roads (often referred to as 'tracks') at the time.

Some visitors chose to walk here. In December 1915, the Carlton Harriers Ramblers Club weekend tour started from Yarra Glen on Saturday and reached 'Fern Dell', near Kinglake, for tea. On the way near Mount Slide, the group met a wallaby family and later a porcupine, which hurriedly burrowed out of sight, and notes and photographs were taken at both encounters. After an overnight stay at the 'Fern Dell' guest house, the ramblers were up before sunrise rambling around the hills nearby, admiring the neighbouring orchards and sampling the produce thereof. After breakfast, they headed off by way of 'the blazed trail' to reach the Yea road, then turned towards Toolangi where they had lunch before taking the road to Healesville. Their walking tour covered a total of approx. 40 miles.

'Fern Dell' Guest House 1920s

Others rode in style. In 1920, the White Chars-a-Bancs ANA Day weekend tour left St Paul's Cathedral in the city at 1.30pm on Saturday 24 January. The group travelled first via Macedon to Kyneton where they stayed for the first night. On the second day, they went on through Kilmore to Broadford for dinner then through Tyaak and Strath Creek to accommodation in Yea for the second night. On ANA Day (26 January), they passed through Flowerdale to Kinglake for dinner at the Kinglake Hotel, then on through Queenstown to Hurstbridge for afternoon tea, after which they set off for the city, reaching St Paul's at 7pm. The fare for this trip was £3 which included the 'best accommodation', according to the advertisement.

At this point, some translation may be required: In those days (nearly 100 years ago!), dinner was lunch and tea was dinner, Queenstown was St Andrews, and a 'chars-a-bancs' was a side-loader bus or motor coach which had two side doors for each row of seats. It's interesting to note that Horace Carman, who operated the Kinglake to Melbourne passenger bus service for many years from the 1920s, had a 'chars-a-bancs' bus on the run for some time.

Carman's 'Chars-a-Bancs' motor bus 1930s

In June 1927, the visitors were on motorcycles. The Melbourne Harley-Davison Club conducted a Reliability Trial which passed through Kinglake. The route followed was to Whittlesea then through Flowerdale, Glenburn and over the Eucalyptus Hill through Kinglake and back to Melbourne through Whittlesea. Sixteen competitors took part in it, only two being on time when they reached Kinglake according to the report in The Hurstbridge Advertiser.

By 1934, the Pioneer Tours Company was running regular trips to picturesque parts of Victoria. Their advertisement offered 'delightful pleasure trips through the most picturesque country in roomy saloon cars'. Included in the Sunday Specials was a trip to Kinglake via Mount Slide 14/6. (On Mondays, the same trip cost only 12 shillings, perhaps not so special.) The Pioneer saloon cars and or buses often stopped for afternoon tea at Brydon's Tearooms at Kinglake or at the Mawdsley's Mount Slide Inn, and in later years, at the Strawberry Inn on Mount Slide Road, operated by Avon and Doris Schultz.

Kinglake has long been, and still is, a popular place for visitors, arriving by whatever means they choose, to enjoy fresh air, lovely scenery, local farm produce and good food. In addition to the Kinglake National Park and its many walks and attractions, the district now offers the Kinglake Ranges Heritage Trail (for walking or cycling), the Bowden Spur Shepherd’s Downhill Mountain Bike track down to Strathewen, and on 17 March, the new Kinglake Country Fair.

(Information from The Age, The Argus, The Hurstbridge Advertiser and The Sporting Judge (Melb,) by means of the Trobe website.)

Deidre Hawkins

Kinglake Historical Society

(Contact Kinglake Ranges Neighbourhood House 5786 1301.

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