It’s been a busy few days for us this week, Just after returning from Perth, we have been thrown into a flurry of activity.
Our eldest grandchild, Audrey, (14) has decided to have a shot at undertaking the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Their official website tells us that this award is “An internationally recognised program for young people, building their skills to equip them for life and work. By creating opportunities for young people to develop skills, get physically active, give service and experience adventure, the Award can play a critical role in their development”
The choice to do the Award is entirely voluntary and every Award is different. Each Participant can choose what ever activity they want to take part in for each part of the program. It is a very personal program that offers young people a structure to fulfil their passions and ambitions in a way that suits them. For her Bronze level, Audrey has chosen camping and Bushwalking – and I went with her.
I have learned something from this weekend away. While I have been a bushwalker for all of my life, I thought that at my advancing age, I might have been past getting down onto the ground to sleep in a hiking tent but I was quite wrong. I handled the camping rather well, but I did get a lot of lower back pain after a five kilometre walk (even without a pack). But, it has inspired me to go again!
Last weekend was a practice camp at a nice location called Starlings Gap, the site of an old sawmill. It was near the little town of Powelltown in the Yarra Ranges. We will do a more remote camp later in the year including an overnight hike into the forest.
Powelltown is now a tiny town with a sawmill, pub, a church and a few houses. It is important because, for decades, it was at the heart of one of Victoria’s richest and most prosperous timber cutting area. The huge Mountain Ash (the world’s tallest hardwood tree) saw tramways, sawmills and industry booming in the district until it was virtually wiped out by the horrific bush fires of Black Friday, 1939. Today there are excellent bushwalking trails on a number of the old tramway tracks.
We set up our camp after lunch on Saturday and then explored the area.
There are a number of relics nearby including the remains of an old steam winch and a 10 metre high mountain of sawdust from the timber mill that once occupied this site. After nearly 100 years, virtually nothing grows on it. The tracks are very scenic but muddy underfoot in many places.
The weather was kind to us with warm sunny days although a heavy mist descended across the clearing early on Sunday morning that made everything damp.
When the sun came up, the temperature rose a good few degrees and the sun was nice and warm.
On Sunday, we did another walk along a different section of track before packing up and heading home. On the way back, Audrey and I did a recce to find the track junction where we need to start our more advanced walk later this year.
The following day (Monday) was Anzac Day (the rough equivalent of Veterans Day for my American friends). I was up at 4.30am to get to the 5.40am Dawn Service.
After a traditional gunfire breakfast, I headed into the city on the tram to join the Anzac Day march from the CBD to the Shrine of Remembrance, a few kilometres away. My calves were a bit tight after our weekend camping and hiking trip but the march wasn’t too difficult.
Jill managed to get a photo of my unit banner from the TV screen as we approached the Shrine.
For me, both these commemoration events have different meanings. The Dawn Service is a simple commemoration that replicates the ‘Stand To’ that every soldier on active service follows as a defensive measure in case they become under attack at dawn. During that service, I often reflect on my Grandfather’s service in the trenches at the Somme in WW1 and the gruesome nature of that time. It would have been a horrible experience for any man. Then, I see the March as a time of reunion in which I can catch up with old mates with whom I have a close bond, It’s also a time when I feel very proud about my service.
Five of us veterans and our families assembled at the Box Hill RSL for lunch. We didn’t leave until 4.00 pm.
On Wednesday, I went to a boutique brewery in Woodend for lunch with other members of my Probus Club. The Holgate Brewhouse is a small, independent, family-owned brewery. Brewing operations began in 1999 and were moved to the Keatings Hotel in 2005, where the Brewhouse also operates a restaurant and hotel.
Holgate beers have consistently won prizes at the Australian International Beer Awards, including gold medals for their Mt Macedon Ale and Pilsner, as well as the 2008 Premier’s Trophy for Best Victorian Beer for the Big Reg Lager.
The rest of the week has also seen me go the dentist, have lunch with my cousin, Ian, and have a couple of sessions at the gym. I’m looking forward to my next quiet day but I still have a talk to give on Saturday. On Sunday, I head off to Tasmania for two back-to-back photography workshops. My ‘business’ doesn’t seem to stop.