I'll never forget the day, Wednesday, 25th March, when the Diamond Valley Bushwalking Club (DVBC) cancelled all of its hikes and rambles. The day before, the State of Victoria had declared Stage 1 restrictions. Nevertheless, friend Janie and I decided to continue just walking together and to find as many new walks as we could to present to the club when the pandemic was over.
Butterman's Track in St Andrews sounded intriguing. We drove to where the map showed a reserve on the edge of the Kinglake National Park. We met no-one on the 7 kilometre track and discovered a clearing in the reserve with a large ring of stones but no fire place or any signs of a camp fire. We both agreed that it must be the meeting place of some religious sect and that we would be the first to introduce the DVBC to this adventurous walk. Our first recce was completed.
Within the week, Stage 3 was declared. No sharing of cars plus social distancing meant that any walk we discovered had to have a lot of parking space. Nonplussed, we armed ourselves with flasks, sandwiches and maps and found a walk in Warrandyte, on the opposite side of the river from the well-trodden paths of Jumping Creek. Finding new walks was fun for the next few weeks.
By 11th May, with the spike over with, restrictions were eased and we had a road map for re-opening Victoria. At last the club was able to meet again, with a limit of 10 walkers socially distancing. 17 walkers put their hands up. The leaders of the Panton Hill Boomers Orchid Reserve read the Government's small print and discovered that, providing the groups had no more than 10, we could walk 100 metres apart. What bliss to be out amongst the pink heath.
We move forward to 28th June. New cases had been increasing daily in Victoria, as hot spots were declared in Melbourne. Stage 4 was announced as borders to Victoria closed. We decided to return to finding new walks, ourselves. It’s surprising how you can find narrow tracks even in well-known spots around places, like Banyule Flats.
It was disappointing to find that, despite all our best efforts, the numbers of new cases continued to rise (723 recorded on the 30th July). And face masks became mandatory. Four days later, the Premier was forced to declare a State of Disaster. This meant no visitors, a curfew and a 5 mile exercise radius. Luckily my friend and I live within a kilometre of each other and soon found a walk along the Plenty River in Montmorency which lasted around an hour. No new discoveries to be found in local parklands, so we poured over maps for the following week and found Brown’s Reserve in Greensborough.
Brown's was unknown to me even though I’ve lived in the same house in Briar Hill for nearly 50 years. Last century, Nurse Brown, who had never married, decided that her house and 6 acres of bushland were to be given to the Banyule Council. What a find, not only were domestic animals barred and the gate closed at sunset, but greenhood orchids were beginning to peep out. Here, right in suburbia, was an unspoilt piece of bushland. Our swag of new walks was growing by the week, until I read about the ‘don’t drive to exercise’ rule. They must be kidding.
That nonsensical restriction was overturned 48 hours later, common sense prevailing. Whatever happens next, the Senior Ramblers will be up for the challenge!