There is one thing any British visitor to Australia will notice, it is that place names here are copied, borrowed or even repeated from the homeland. One can only surmise that it gave the new settlers a sense of a home from home, although I can’t imagine many early settlers were from Sandringham England, unless they had been sent into exile for some unknown royal misdemeanour. Other pilfered place names local to us were Chelsea, Brighton and I believe there is a St Kilda Island off the north of Scotland. A prime example of this “borrowing a name” was our next day out. One of the major tourist destinations on the Mornington Peninsula is Arthurs Seat, which is about one hours drive from Hampton. It is the highest point on the peninsula and offers a number of walking trails, and the Seawinds Garden at the summit, with views up and down the coast, it was on our “to do” list for this area.
Arthurs Seat was named by naval Lieutenant John Murray in February 1802, because of its apparent resemblance to the hill of the same name in Edinburgh (which was his home city). The Aboriginal name for the hill is Wonga and was home to the Boonwurrung people prior to European settlement.
Once again the weather gods were worrisome, grey cloud loitering over Hampton and to the south as we set off down the Mornington Peninsula Freeway towards our first destination, a small village named Red Hill South. The village was a collection of large houses and a small retail area with artisan shops and a lovely cafe/pizzaria. We sat a while in the Johnny Pipe Pizzeria and cafe, enjoying excellent coffee and a great atmosphere. The place had a really friendly vibe generated by the helpful and friendly staff. The cafe was noted for its pies of all flavours, but with one thing in common, they were all enormous, around 7in across. You could eat in or take-away and they were reasonably priced too. I like my food, but if I ate one of those for lunch I would need nothing more until breakfast the next day. As we left their wood fired Pizza oven was being fired up which provided more tantalising aromas drifting across the cafe.
Clockwise from top left: Mural in Red Hill; Outside Pizzeria/cafe; Inside Pizzaria/Cafe
The short drive to Arthurs Seat saw the clouds part a little and the sun greet us briefly, for the first time. Adjacent to the car park was the Lookout Point which provided us with our first views of the coast line down west side of the Mornington Peninsula. It was still a bit hazy but the weather looked promising for our intended walk later. Above the lookout on the other side of the road was a seat, Arthur Seat, which attracted all manner of tourists; we gave that particular photo opportunity a miss as it seemed a bit of a cliche shot! To be honest it was a bit of a nondescript chair, looking more like a garden seat with high back. Also the grass around it had worn away due to the footfall around the chair. Not very grand at all.
Above the patio area where Arthur left his seat was the Arthurs Seat Eagle, “a state of the art gondola”, a cable car which runs from the top down to a base station about 3km away. This was on our list too, after a walk.
The site is the start point for number of walks from 1km to 26km. We had elected to follow the trail that took in a number of interesting locations around the main feature, the Seawinds Gardens. The walk started in woodland and quickly dropped down hill to pass a number of look out points, which by this time provided some amazing viewpoints of Port Phillip Bay and the peninsula, south towards Sorrento (not the Italian one!). It took in the Seawinds Garden, which, because of the very dry and hot summer, was looking rather parched, although much of the garden was designed to cope with an Australian summer the lawned areas were not, and looked decidedly sorry for themselves.. Interestingly a number of sculptures by William Ricketts had been incorporated into a wall in the garden. Ricketts was a sculptor who lived among the indigenous people of Northern Territories for many years, and his sculptured figures reflect his time with them. There is a sanctuary in the Dandenong Ranges dedicated to him and his work. We decided it would be worth a visit at later date.
Matthew Flinders Viewpoint on Arthurs Seat
Clockwise from top left: Plaque on Arthurs Seat showing its location on Mornington Peninsula; View out from Flinders Viewpoint; View south from the viewpoint; View North; Lyn on the wall at Flinders viewpoint.
As mentioned above, The Arthurs Seat Eagle is a cable car that runs from Dromana Base Station to the top of Arthurs Seat and return. It was built in 2015 and replaced The Arthurs Seat Chairlift which operated from the early 1960’s until its closure in 2006 after a number of safety issues were identified. Lyn was a reluctant passenger, preferring her feet firmly planted on terra firma, but she took a deep breath and decided to come with me. during the transit down the mountain side. The open cable car afforded us some stunning views to the north but with a misty clag still hanging over central Melbourne, any view of the skyscrapers was obscured. The trip down took about 15 minutes but when we got to the base station, we found there was nothing worth hanging around to see, so we hopped on the next available car and headed back to the top.
Top row: Three views looking north from Cable Car. Bottom Row: Us on the Cable Car “Eagle”
Flowers in the Seawinds Garden
William Ricketts carvings in Seawinds Garden
Our last evening out with Nick and Jenna was at one of their favourite haunts, The Bad Shepherd Brewing Company, in Cheltenham, a short distance from Sandringham. It is a craft ale establishment where they create the product on site in a brewery at the rear of the bar. They have a core list of seven ales of varying colour and strength, from Victoria Pale Ale which was very tasty, to a Hazelnut Brown which was brewed using real hazelnut extract. They also had a range of “Limited Release” ales, specials if you like, ranging from a Raspberry Wheat Ale, Strawberry Milkshake, (yes that is a beer) to the strongest on offer at 7.3% abv, Double Choc Hazelnut Brown Ale. They took the Hazelnut Brown and added Cocoa! We did not try any of those! Their food menu was limited but a whole batch of vegan offerings tempted us so we stayed. The atmosphere was brilliant, a real locals pub with rock music coming out over the speakers and a busy staff keeping customers supplied with beer and food. Another great evening out.
On the wall at the Bad Shepherd Brewery Bar – how to make beer!
top row: Left and Centre: The Bad Shepherd Brewery Bar; Right: The product -Very tasty too. Bottom row: We “test” the product” (Note – it passed with flying colours!!)
We had one more day out planned before we moved on. Olinda is about 35km east of Melbourne and is one of the highest villages in the Dandenong Ranges. Noted for its collection of craft and antique shops, boutique restaurants and cafes, it is also noted as the home of the William Ricketts Sanctuary, whose work we saw in the Seawinds Garden on Arthurs Seat. We had morning coffee in the Olinda Cafe, a large, pleasant and friendly place, with local artists work on the wall, always a good sign.
Views of Olinda – a quaint village in the Dandenong Ranges
We had a gentle walk around the village, then, back in the car, we set off to find the William Ricketts Sanctuary but took a wrong turning and in doing so came across the Dandenong Botanical Gardens. Formerly known as the National Rhododendron Garden, it is home to a collection of over 15,000 Rhododendrons, 12,000 Azalea’s and other species, spread over 104 acres of hillside. What’s more it was free to get in! We had missed the flowering season for most things, it being late summer here, but there was still much to enjoy, a small lake, many peaceful tracks to follow and a lovely picnic area. There were number of specimen trees in the garden, including Giant Redwood, and a number of Australian native Eucalyptus Trees. One we had seen a number of times before is known colloquially as the “Stringybark” Tree. The bark peels off in long fibrous strips and hangs from the trunk or branches, or rests in twisted dry heaps on the ground beneath. These trees are common in this part of Australia and pose a huge threat during times of bush fires because the oil in the trees is flammable and the dry bark would ignite very quickly, aiding the spread of the fire.
Clockwise from top left: Stringybark Tree; Bird in a Tree; Lyn hugs a Stringybark tree; Stringybark Tree
Flowers in the Dandenong Botanical Gardens: Clockwise from top left: Protea; Thistle; Lyn with hydrangeas; Vireo Rhododendron
The entrance to William Ricketts Sanctuary is tucked away along the twisty Mount Dandenong tourist road and has a non-descript entrance opposite a burger restaurant. Thinking they shared a small car park we parked on the side of the road above the restaurant and walked down the road to find the entrance to the sanctuary. A narrow gate and a wooden “A” board sign were the only indicators as we climbed the steps up to the reception area.
Entry to the sheltered wooded garden was free and the narrow paths led us round the sanctuary, past his studio where he made moulds and cast his figures in clay. He was an interesting character. Born in Melbourne in 1898. From 1912 to 1920 Ricketts developed his skills in playing violin, crafting jewellery, and clay modelling. He finally settled in the Mount Dandenong Ranges in 1934 and started to create his Sanctuary. He never received training as a potter but still managed to create many statues, which are still present in his garden sanctuary.
Sculptures in the William Ricketts Sanctuary
Throughout the 1950’s he spent much of his time in Central Australia, (mainly desert) living with Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte Aboriginal Australians, whose traditions and culture inspired his sculpture. He was not an Aboriginal by birth, but considered himself adopted by the Pitjantjatjara nation and many of his sculptures, completed during his time there, are at a bird sanctuary near Alice Springs. His vision of a modern Australia that embraces Aboriginal spirituality and respect for the natural world was his general message throughout his artworks and his life.
More sculptures from the William Ricketts Sanctuary
Whilst I can admire his skill as an artist and sculptor, many of his works left us cold, and some of the figures were also slightly scary. We had a brief walk round, but left feeling that, despite what we had seen at the Seawinds Garden previously, that his work was not for us.
It was to be a day of joy and disappointments. Joy for the Botanical Garden we had stumbled on, and disappointment from the Sanctuary. We followed the Mount Dandenong Tourist road for a while, and making our way slowly home, then saw a sign to an Observatory, Maze and Gardens. Called Sky High Mount Dandenong, we left the main road and went to take a look, our curiosity having got the better of us.
We should not have bothered! We were charged A$7 to get in, to find the site consisted of a large circular cafe/bistro/function building with patio and Lookout Point and views all around from east to west. To one side was a small garden with an English theme, a maze and a “Secret Garden” which was to remain a secret because it was closed because of a private function. There were seven car parks around the site but six were empty so it was not that busy. No wonder the guy who took our money on the gate looked pleased, we were probably the first folk he had seen all afternoon! It took us all of 10 minutes to decide that this attraction was not attractive to us so we jumped back in the car and headed home. Such a disappointment and the only thing, apart from coffee in the morning, that we had to pay for! There were no pictures either!
After a week of gadding about on the Mornington Peninsula, our time in Hampton was drawing to a close. Our remaining time on this trip will be spent over on the west side of Melbourne, at Point Cook.