I have may have mentioned before that we are staying in Altona which is a beach resort in the south western suburbs of Melbourne, about 15km from the Central Business District. Its key feature (and probably its only one) is that it is home to one of only two swimming beaches in Western Melbourne, the other being at Williamstown which we visited recently. Having said that, the Esplanade which runs the length of the beach and down towards the reserve at the western end, is a magnificent long path along which to walk run or cycle, there is room for all. Towards the reserve many species of sea bird can be seen taking advantage of the shelter and food available.
Left: View from Altona Esplanade towards Melbourne; Centre: Altona Esplanade from the Reserve end; Right: Sunrise at Altona Esplanade
The wide open spaces and calm seas just offshore are ideal for Kite surfers and with the regular stiff breezes they are a common sight. The pictures below were taken on a weekday evening just before sunset when about twenty kite surfers were racing across the bay. It was a beautiful sight with the large kite “wings” filled out by the stiff breeze skimming the rider on the board rapidly across the water. Majestic.
Four shots of the Kite Surfers on Altona Beach
Altona was first permanently settled in 1842, with the construction of The Homestead by Alfred Langhorne. The name ‘Altona’ first appeared on maps in 1861 and was named by Frederick Taegtow, a German who originally came from Altona a small town just outside Hamburg. Taegtow believed that coal was to be found in the area, and in 1881 he formed the Williamstown (Taegtow) Prospecting Company. This coal reserve lasted until the 1930s when larger, open cast mines opened elsewhere in the state making the Altona reserve uneconomic.
Similar to the rest of Melbourne, following the Second World War Altona embraced a large influx of immigrants, primarily from the Mediterranean, Central Europe and a smaller number from the Middle East.
Altona can also claim the first flight in Australia when on the 20 February 1911, J J Hammond flew the first cross country flight between towns in Australia from Altona Bay to Geelong in Victoria, and on 23 February, also at Altona Bay in Victoria, he undertook the first powered passenger flight in Australia.
Each week on Saturday morning Altona plays host to a Park Run which is held at the western end of the town on the local park or reserve as they are known here. Park Run is a hugely popular running event which started in Bushy Park in the UK, in 2004. Intended as a non-competitive run to encourage people to “get active” on a Saturday morning, the 5km run has gradually expanded over the years and Park Runs are held each Saturday morning in eighteen countries across five continents. Each event is organised and run by volunteers, and participation is free of charge. Australia is one of those countries and has 261 events throughout the country, second only to the UK. As there was a run organised within a Kilometre of where we are staying we thought it would be a good idea to go along and support it.
The route is a flat out and back course through the local nature reserve and runners share the path with dog walkers, cyclists and those out for their morning constitutional. The only hazards are the snakes which occasionally slither on to the path but we were assured that they were of the “non-bitey” variety so we would be safe. Some runners also brought along their dogs to take part. The weekly event was well organised and attended, with over 100 taking part. On our first Parkrun we both finished in the top half. One week later, encouraged by last weeks effort I went even quicker and finished first in my age group.
Scenes from our first Altona Parkrun
Some shots of the reserve along which the Park run is staged.
Park Run 2 Clockwise from Top: Left and Right: Me and the start; Centre – The sun does not always shine in Melbourne – We had this beautiful cloud to watch over us. It rained hard later. Bottom Left – Me on the course; Right – At the finish
I have already written about local walking areas, local meaning within 90 minutes drive of Altona. We returned to the Macedon Ranges to follow a route provided by an Information centre when we were last there. The start of the walk was a short drive from Mt Macedon village (about 1 hour from Altona, traffic permitting) and as we headed off into the forest the temperature was a chilly 15 deg, a massive change from the weekend high of 34. We followed the path through the woods until we reached the wonderfully named Sanatorium Lake. The area was the site of a hospital used to treat those suffering from Tuberculosis and the lake was part of their grounds. The hospital is long gone and the lake is now surrounded by high trees and is in a poor state. From here we discovered that the path was closed for a long stretch for maintenance and tree felling, so we retraced our track and walked on to Camels Hump, the highest point in the Macedon Ranges at over 3000ft. The views were amazing and clear. Interestingly, as we looked out we could see no signs of habitation, just countryside for as far as the eye could see.
Clockwise from top left: Eucalyptus Tree with a hole in it; Sanatorium Lake; Us at Camels Hump; Look out over Victoria from Camels Hump; Panorama from Camels Hump.
Part of this circular walk includes the Macedon Memorial Cross, which as its title suggest is a memorial to those Australians killed in war and conflict. The original Memorial Cross was erected on the summit of Mount Macedon by a private citizen, Mr William Cameron, in 1934, to commemorate those who died in World War One. A plaque to those who fell in WW2 and subsequent conflicts was later added. Weather erosion eventually took its toll and the original cross became eroded and dangerous. As a result it was dismantled in 1995 and was replaced by a new cross in the same year. It is this monument that now stands in tribute to all those Australians who gave their lives in conflicts . Considered to be the most significant memorial in Victoria after the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, The Memorial Cross is certainly an imposing presence where it stands and the views from the summit site across Victoria towards Melbourne are breathtaking.
Clockwise from top left: Memorial Cross; Us at Memorial Cross; View from Memorial Cross; Panorama towards Melbourne
Close by is a cafe, intriguingly named “Top of the Range”, I assume because of its location close to one of the highest peaks in the Ranges. Inside the walls are decorated with works by local artists. However, covering one wall were large number of gold, silver and platinum discs, all awarded to an Australian singing group from the 1960s, namely The Seekers. There were many framed discs awarded to the band on display as well as framed posters advertising gigs and newspaper cuttings describing their achievements and reviews of gigs they played. This collection had been donated by Athol Guy, one of the group members who live nearby. It’s more famous lead singer, Judith Durham lives in Queensland.
It was a fascinating collection, giving a visual history of the group. The coffee and cake was good too. All in all a very interesting interlude to our walk.
For me Judith Durham is a golden person with a golden voice I never tie of listening to. It was a pleasure and a bonus to stumble across this display. Lyn
Melbourne is full of surprises. Away from the city centre the suburban sprawl spreads well north and east. The west is quickly catching up as the tentacles of Melbourne reach out even further. Within the suburbs are many large “green spaces” or parks or nature reserves or even all three in one. We had arranged to meet Lyn’s cousin Jo, son Oscar and Mother in Law, Annette, at Aberfeldie Park. We decided to have a walk before meeting up and found a reserve in the suburb of Maribyrnong by the name of Pipemakers Park. It was created on the site of a former pipe works and meat preserving company, and the remaining historic buildings have been adapted to create a museum and historic industrial ruins. The park itself is quiet and has plenty of birdlife, although the path around the lake is concrete giving the reserve a somewhat artificial feel. It is surrounded by modern apartment buildings adding to this feeling. Having said that, the walk was not unpleasant, although the strong cool breeze did not help.
Some of the bird life on Maribyrnong Lake. Top Left: Gulls: Top right; Brown Australian Duck; Bottom left: Purple Swamp Hen; Bottom right; Duck
Us on the Maribyrnong Reserve walk. Note the picturesque power lines and apartments in the distance!
We met up with Jo and family at Aberfeldie Play park, where Oscar just filled his boots around all the play areas. His particular favourite is the “Pirate Ship” but he also found time to bowl around a scooter track and run along walls. This boy has so much energy, he is non-stop.
Left: Lyn and Jo; Middle and right: Oscar at play
When we were in Melbourne last year we went on a free guided city walk. It is a good way of reaching into the city and getting some of the history first hand from enthusiastic guides, local to Melbourne. We decided to re-vist this free walk to catch up on what we missed last time round and see what had changed. I was keen to contrast the old and new as Melbourne has many old and historic buildings but these are gradually being swamped by new high rise blocks, or demolished to make way for a number of new underground metro stations. The first part of the walk we saw the major buildings that played a significant part in the city’s history. The second half took us through Melbourne’s famous narrow laneways where cafe’s, restaurants and quirky shops sit side by side down long narrow streets, indoor shopping arcades, and lanes with street art painted on the walls. These laneways are hugely popular with locals and tourists alike and the crowds bore testament to this. Street Art is all over and I have included some examples although these are a small sample of what is around.
The old and the New: Top Left: Old – Palace Theatre; New – CBD. Bottom Left: New office space encroaches on old buildings; Old and Famous: Flinders St Station – The Clocks
Top: Buskers: Bottom Left: Living Statue; Bottom Right: Some things don’t change: Man begging outside a bookshop
Examples of Street Art and Sculpture in Melbourne
We are coming to the end of our time in Australia and we head home in a few days time. We still have some places to go and more socialising. This visit has been slightly different as we have already seen much of what the main part of the city has to offer. We have been out and about more in Victoria this time, but this place is so vast a round trip of 300 miles for a day out is not unusual. Next time, who knows where we will be, but one thing is certain, friends and family matter so we will be back, if only to catch up with them.