It’s a long time since I have ridden on a bicycle. The last time was in 2015 when I visited Lord Howe Island. Over the last two days I have enjoyed some new scenery while riding on the bike trail from Mt Evelyn to Warburton. The bike trail follows the route of the old railway line through scenic grazing country along the Yarra River Valley and its river flats. We rode 32 km to Warburton, stayed overnight and then rode back this morning. I am very grateful for the E-Bike that my friend Rob lent me for this ride. It was much easier than peddling hard – especially up the long continuous hills of the old railway gradient.
We left the old Mt Evelyn railway station at about 10.30 am yesterday. The weather was fine but we needed a wind-proof jacket as it was a bit cool as we rode along between 20 to 25 km / hr and creating a breeze as we went.
The trail passes seven little towns and some still have the remains of the old railway infrastructure – like this old platform at Killara.
The route was quite scenic and very well maintained. There are many water stops along the way, seats, and frequent signposts that told us the distance that we had travelled. We passed the backyards of many houses, vineyards, open paddocks in which cattle were grazing and some forested areas. The track is very popular with horse riders, walkers and cyclists.
We reached Warburton at 2.30 pm after a leisurely ride with stops for coffee and lunch. Our accommodation was at the rustic old guest-house of Warburton Lodge.
This place would have been in its heyday in the 1940’’s – when we looked outside our room, all we could see was gentle decay. Our rooms were fairly basic and clean but the large lounge and dining areas are no longer used. There once would have been singalongs around the piano and people congregating around the billiard table.. We counted many old sets of the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bookshelves that probably dated back to the 1960’s.
I was interested to see a stamp inside the old fashioned wardrobe in my room. The ‘European labour only’ stamp was a legal requirement in Victoria, and in most other states. In Victoria it was set out in the Factories and Shops Act of 1896. It was later incorporated in different Acts over time under various names, finally remaining in 1958 as part of the Labour and Industry Act. The purpose of the legislation was to distinguish between furniture made in Victoria by Chinese workers and that made by Europeans, meaning Australians of European origin.
We were a very racist country in those days – something that we are all pleased to say is now in the distant past. There was a general mis-perception that the Chinese ran ’furniture making sweatshops’ (which was never true), so to defend their European honour, the majority of white (European) Australians were vary wary of the activities of Chine people who had originally come to Australia in the gold rush. It does say something about the age and character of Warburton Lodge that furniture of this age is still used in its rooms!
In the evening, we walked 1.4 kilometres each way through the town to the local pub for dinner. There was some wonderful afternoon light that made the park along the Yarra River look quite spectacular. It was more challenging walking back to our accommodation from the pub as by then it was dark and we had some trouble seeing where we were going.
Warburton is another old gold town. Gold mining first commenced at nearby Britannia Creek. Yankee Jim’s Creek goldfield opened in 1859 and was renamed Warburton in 1863 after the Gold Warden for the district, Charles Warburton Carr. Then a timber industry started as the gold ran out with the railway being extended to Warburton in 1901. Numerous sawmills and timber tramways developed throughout the area feeding the train line that supplied timber to Melbourne. Warburton went through a period in the late 1940s and 1950s where guest houses close to the railway line, provided accommodation for city holidaymakers and honeymooners. The railway line closed in 1965. Today the area is served with hotels, motels, conference centres, bed and breakfast accommodation. Warburton, nestled between mountains, has become a bit of a centre for tourism. Its streetscape still looks ike something from the gold mining days.
This morning, we returned to Mt Evelyn on our bikes.
We had a little drizzle and one small shower of rain as we rode back but this was not enough to detract us from appreciating the local scenery and farmland.