Driving to Daylesford

A long and unseasonably warm drive down the freeway to Victoria.

We started just after seven and broke for a coffee at the bakery in Holbrook sometime after 10.30. The drive down had been uneventful though a dry yellowing autumn landscape and afterwards we pressed on to Benalla where we had a picnic lunch in the Botanic gardens next the art gallery. It had been forecast rain but it was unseasonbly warm and dry reaching 28C in the afternoon. Just after we turned off the freeway, somewhere short of Woodend the heavens opened and the temperature dropped ten degrees in as many minutes. Then we drove on across country Victoria, which has a rolling hilly landscape and small fields and coppices that gives it a looks of a half-remembered England, through towns with very English sounding names and streets of nineteenth century wooden houses to the little village of Musk, where we had rented a cottage for a few days.

Musk consists of a row of houses and a store by a creek, and lies about 5km outside of Daylesford, which was a nineteenth century spa town and resort for the well to do of Melbourne in summer to avoid the heat. A bit like an Australian Llandrindod Wells.

Daylesford’s origins were a littel more prosaic, it started as a gold mining settlement called Wombat and was laid out as ‘proper’ town by the colonial surveyor’s office in the late 1850‘s, at which point the surveyor decided to rename it Daylesford after a village in Devon as he thought Wombat did not have the right tone.

The gold of course ran out, but not before they built a railway line to it, and some local entrepreneurs started promoting it, and its quite foul tasting mineral waters as a spa cum summer resort.

These days, and the railway, are now gone but the town still has an air of faded gentility and some quite nice nineteenth century shop buildngs in the main street. Nowadays it promotes itself as a weekend destination for Melbourne and trades more than a little on its Victorian past, but that does mean a plethora of places to stay and some more than half decent restaurants and cafes.

The whole central highlands area of Victoria is pretty nice, quaint, englishy without the pompousness of England, and with old empty gold towns like Maldon left to dream of the good times before the gold ran out and now just a dream of wrought iron and period features, including a nice selection of colonial period mail boxes.

In the course of our few days there we basically just drove about, went for a few gentle walks, took photgraphs of unspoiled nineteenth century architecture, read and unwound.

Again, we were, by accident rather than design, off the net for a few days. While most places had decent 3G mobile network connections, the quaint, japanese style cedar built cottage we were staying in did not – it was in a hollow, and while you could get a network connection or make a phone call that was all and they would drop out unexpectedly.

Still, that was to the good and we were free of technology and the world, in fact we were amazingly ignorant of the world over these few days – while there was tv in the cottage we were usually out at dinner when the main evening news was on, and we didn’t bother with newspapers, and of course surfing the web for news sites was out of the question.

We did have an ulterior motive in visiting Daylesford for a few days. As I’ve mentioned before, we’re beginning to think about retirement and, Daylesford, or more particularly these old nineteenth centrury gold towns in the region are eminently affordable for us, a bit warmer than Canberra but cold enough to have temperate seasons, and, because Victoria still has a rural train network, somewhere where going to a big city for the day is easy and saves the hassle of driving (and parking).

After Daylesford we went to see family in Mornington on the peninsula. Rather than drive down through Melbourne and pay tollway fees to drive through the city – paying fifteen bucks for the privlege of sitting in a traffic jam on an urban tollway has never been my idea of fun we drove to Queenscliff (it did have a final ‘e’ in the nineteenth century but it got lost along the way) south of Geelong, and got the ferry to Sorrento across the mouth of the bay.

Queenscliff is a small pleasant town with a massive post office building dating from the late nineteenth century when the government obviously thoght the town was need of the stamp of authority. The ferry was, compared to the Kangaroo island ferry last year, a model of efficiency, and while driving, and sitting in traffic jams, would have been cheaper it was definitely a much more pleasant experience.

Mornington was Mornington, where we did Mornington things, such as brunch in Docs an italian cafe cum restauant cum providore, talked, barbecued and reconnected. After that it was the long drive home via Bruthen and the famous Bruthen pie shop.

A busy but fun week …

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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