Black Spur

The Black Spur Drive is a thirty kilometre stretch of road between Healesville and Marysville in the Yarra Ranges. The meandering course, with sharp bends and gentle gradients, promises spectacular scenery along the way. Towering mountain ash trees rise above a lush forest of tree ferns.

1.Black Spur

Unfortunately, our scenic drive didn’t go quite as planned thanks to the weather gods, although the rain and mist didn’t dampen the beauty of nature.

2.Black Spur3.Black Spur

Originally known as ‘The Blacks’ Spur’, the road follows the route taken by displaced indigenous people to Coranderrk Aboriginal Station in the late 1800s.

4.Black Spur

Horse drawn coaches also carried miners and settlers to the goldfields along this section of the old Yarra Track. It became popular for tourists and photographers and a bus service, operating two twelve-seater Buick charabancs, was introduced in 1916.

5.charabanc courtesy of australianmountains.com

Photo courtesy of australianmountains.com

We resisted the suggestion in the tourism brochure to, “roll down the windows and experience fresh crisp air any time of the year”, and had to settle for photographs through the car window.

6.Black Spur

Our destination of Marysville is home to one of Victoria’s highest waterfalls, nestled in native forest in the surrounding mountains.

7.Steavenson Falls

Steavenson Falls are named after John Steavenson, the Assistant Commissioner of Roads and Bridges who first visited the site that is now Marysville, in 1862. Opinion on the actual height of the falls seems to be divided, some claim 122 metres while others suggest 84 metres. Either way, there are five cascades, the last one descending 21 metres into a small rock pool.

8.Steavenson Falls9.Steavenson Falls

Residents first cut a track to the falls in 1866, it is now an easy walk from the car park to see natures wondrous display. The weather wasn’t conducive to walking to the viewing platforms below or above the falls, I’m sure it would have been spectacular. The falls are floodlit until 11pm each night, a turbine driven by water at the base of the falls generates the power. What a lovely place to spend a summer evening.

10.Steavenson Falls

Maroondah Dam

The day we had planned for a scenic drive from Healesville dawned wet and windy but, with limited time, we forged on regardless. Ten minutes down the road, we parked at Maroondah Dam and braved the elements to explore the beautiful gardens. Landscaped in the early English style after the completion of the dam wall in 1927, exotic and native trees cohabit. Some had shed the last remnants of their autumn apparel

1.Maroondah Reservoir Park

while evergreen stalwarts proudly displayed their verdure.

2.Maroondah Reservoir Park

The Rose Stairway, constructed in the 1940s, was so named because the stone steps were originally flanked by roses. For some reason, they were replaced around 1980 with Golden Pencil Pines.

3.Rose Stairway

We ascended the stairs to the small rotunda at the top and,

4.Rotunda, top of Rose Stairway

following a signpost to the dam wall, passed another of the five rotundas in the park, the Bell Rotunda.

5.Bell Rotunda

The path led across the dam wall to a lookout on the other side but we weren’t willing to challenge the ferocious wind.

6.dam wall

With camera in one hand and inverted umbrella in the other, I ventured far enough to catch a glimpse of Maroondah Reservoir. The 26,000 acre catchment area is entirely eucalypt forest and no human activity is allowed on the water.

7.Maroondah Reservoir

Risking life and limb, I was determined to get one shot of the temple-like outlet tower.

8.outlet tower

The impressive 41 metre high concrete dam wall is arched to withstand the pressure of the water upstream.

9.dam wall

We beat a not too hasty retreat down the Rose Steps, hoping to avoid spectacular slippage,

10.Rose Stairway

stopping to admire a very late or very early Azalea bloom.

11.Azalea

The towering dam wall is even more dramatic when viewed from below.

12.dam wall13.dam wall

The valve houses have stood the test of time and are even more beautiful wearing nature’s adornments.

14.historic valve house

Seemingly a serene lily pond, the compensation channel is the point where water released from the reservoir flows back into the Watts River.

15.pond

Spring would be the perfect time to explore the park, stroll along the walking trails and perhaps enjoy a picnic. We will just have to return one day.

Yarra vines

After the challenge of negotiating Melbourne peak hour gridlock, our tension slipped away as the traffic quelled and the road bisected a quilted landscape of farmland and vineyards. The Yarra Valley is renowned for its abundance of wineries and award winning wines. It seems June is the time of year to shorten opening hours to ‘winter time’ or to close doors and concentrate on maintenance but  De Bortoli didn’t let us down.

1.DeBortoli

The family company spans four generations, established by Vittorio and Giuseppina who migrated from Italy in 1928 to settle in Bilbul, New South Wales.  The Yarra Valley Estate was purchased in 1987, the original plantings of 1971 make it one of the oldest vineyards in the Yarra Valley. The bespoke rustic gates at the entrance to the property open to a tree-lined driveway, the morning sun still low in the sky.

2.bespoke gate3.DeBortoli driveway

The Locale Restaurant upstairs serves authentic Italian dishes made with ingredients grown on the estate.

4.restaurant & cellar door

Too early for lunch, we made our way to the cellar door instead.

5.cellar door

The space was warm and welcoming with interesting presentations of products.

There are a few tasting options, including a specialty gourmet selection combined with a cheese platter

8.cellar door

and private Trophy Room Tastings for those wanting to learn more about De Bortoli Italian wines.

9.Trophy Room10.Trophy Room

We opted for a tasting at the counter, the friendly staff happy to share their knowledge. A bottle of La Boheme, Act 1 Riesling accompanied us on our journey to enjoy later. The view is spectacular, 162 hectares of vines merge with rolling hills and distant ranges.

11.view from cellar door

We retraced our tracks to Yarra Glen for a life sustaining sausage roll at the bakery before continuing on to our next point of call. Zonzo Estate is set on 230 acres with stunning views across the valley.

12.view from Zonzo13.view from Zonzo

The 45 acres of vines were pruned and ready for spring,

14.vines

a comfortable perch for the local aves

15.raven

and the young olive trees were bearing fruit.

16.olives

We were disappointed to find the cellar door locked and deserted

17.Zonzo cellar door

but we had a quick nosey around. The old farm buildings have been cleverly resurrected and are a popular venue for weddings. I’d be happy just to sit with a glass of wine and absorb the wonderful vista.

18.Zonzo Estate

TarraWarra

I recently spent a wonderful week in Victoria with my very special friend who I met many years ago in high school (she now lives too far away in Darwin). We arrived on flights within an hour of each other (quite a feat from opposite ends of the continent), collected a hire car and drove a circuitous route to our destination, Healesville. After a short visit to a couple of wineries (a little too early in the day for tasting, even for me), we stopped by for a look at TarraWarra Museum of Art. Philanthropists Eva and Marc Besen began collecting works of art in the 1950s and realised their vision of establishing their privately funded museum with the opening of TarraWarra in 2003. The elegant building is the result of a competition between five of Melbourne’s outstanding architects. Allan Powell’s winning design hugs the contours, complementing rather than imposing on the landscape.

1.Tarrawarra Museum of Art2.TarraWarra Museum of Art3.TarraWarra Museum of Art

The scenery is sublime, adjacent to the TarraWarra Estate vineyards

4.TarraWarra Museum of Art5.TarraWarra Museum of Art6.estate

and further afield to the ranges.

7.view

We wandered into the current exhibition, The Tangible Trace, immediately awestruck by the light and magnitude of the gallery. There were numerous glass display cabinets (I now know they are called vitrines) containing stones, tiles, bits of brick and cubes of termite clay.

8.Domino Theory, Simryn Gill

The materials have been collected by artist Simryn Gill from around her studio in Port Dickson, Malaysia, near one of the world’s busiest trade routes, the Strait of Malacca. The pieces are traces of the movement of capital and power and the title, Domino Theory, refers to the Cold War concept that if one country fell to communism, others in the region would follow like dominoes, a policy used by the U.S. to justify its involvement in the Vietnam War.

An abandoned seaside motel in Port Dickson was Simryn Gills inspiration for Passing Through. The series of monotypes were created by placing coloured inks on the small white tiles of the former dance floor and imprinting onto paper.

14.Passing Through, Simryn Gill

The distorted, partially collapsed outline of Australia, Shilpa Guptas Map Tracing #7 – AU, was somewhat disturbing. The copper pipe has been manipulated to change the shape of the border, inviting us to consider the, “porous relationship between inside and out”.

16.Map Tracing #7 - AU, Shilpa Gupta

The large concrete slab covering the floor nearby, another of Shilpa Guptas creations, is engraved with the phrase, “The markings we have made on this land have increased the distance so much” in English, Hindi, Arabic and Chinese. The slab was smashed into fragments on site with the intention that the audience will each take away a piece and at the end of the exhibition, only a trace will remain.

17.engraving on concrete, Shilpa Gupta

The huge paintings of Carlos Capeláns Implosions series filled the walls of the next gallery.

21.Implosion series, Carlos Capelán

Upon entering the gallery, we were asked not to touch the curtains in the hallway as they were, in fact, an art installation. Sangeeta Sandrasegar has created five panels of Indian khadi cotton over-hung with silk organza, hand-dyed with indigo and Australian native cherry. What falls from view covers the windows in the Vista Walk gallery, changing the Yarra Valley landscape outside as the material wafted gently in the breeze.

22.What falls from view, Sangeeta Sandrasegar

The picture framed at the end of the hallway showed nature at her best.

23.view

What could be more beautiful than autumn hues in the morning sunlight?

24.autumn colours