Cyclists in the GreenWEDGE ride in a rich tradition of exploring the area by bicycle, which stretches back to the 19th century. Using the National Library of Australia’s Trove website, we have been able to uncover some old news stories describing rides by pioneering cyclists. These stories evidence the ongoing presence of sports cycling in the GreenWEDGE from the early 1880s. Some of the descriptions here will strike present-day GreenWEDGE cyclists with remarkable familiarity! – Alain 2013
A.B., ‘A Cycling Trip’, Evelyn Observer and South and East Bourke Record, Friday November 8 1901, p.6
“Leaving the busy Queen City for a breath of country air, no more attractive ride presents itself than that leading to Kangaroo Ground. The favourite route is through Eltham, a picturesque little country township; but cyclists also find their way through Anderson’s Creek, a district relieved of dullness by the River Yarra, and occasionally they cross from Diamond Creek.
Kangaroo Ground itself is within twenty miles of Melbourne and is one of the loveliest spots in Victoria. It is perhaps, the richest farming district of equal extent south of the Dividing Range, the soil being rich, black, and of volcanic origin.
At present, touched with the full blush of spring, the young crops waving in the wind like the dancing wavelets of the sea, all nature touched with the deep, rich green of the happy south, it strikes the visitor as a place to be desired, a little Eden molded as a resting place for man. It carries at every turn the proud view of prosperity, and happiness seems its natural ornament. How often have I seen the cyclist pausing a minute to gaze, as though he drew the scene into his very life – a little snatch of nature to lighten weary officer hour.
Especially is the remarkable view obtained from Garden Hill the crown of the district. Bounded almost entirely by the dark masses of the Dividing Range, which now are clear as the blue heavens above; now dark as the clouds which speak a thunderstorm; now veiled in mists which curl thickly or lightly up their sides; now casting the reflection of the clouds which pass rapidly overhead; now lovingly receiving the kiss of the soft white cloud which rests a moment on the wooded brow; and now again throwing from the snow-clad peaks the radiance of the sun, it presents a view variable as magnificent, sufficient to satisfy the cravings of the most artistic mind.
Nearer at hand lie many pretty districts – Lilydale, Heidelberg, etc – while in the west rises the dome of the Melbourne Exhibition, the tram chimneys, and with a field-glass can be seen the shipping in the Bay. Many a prosperous home, with its clear cultivated lands, contrasts finely with a profusion of undergrowth and the tall waving eucalyptus. At your feet line large boulders, eloquent explanation of the rich soil which lies around the hill, stretching to of radius of only a few miles. The hill, with its few solitary trees, is seen from many parts of the state and is roughly reckoned to be 1000 feet above sea level, yet so unnoticed is the ascent that few realise it, and a fine hills which rise and fall lend considerably to its beauty.
Till a few years ago Kangaroo Ground was almost unknown. The bicycle first opened it up, till now it is rapidly becoming the favourite cycling resort, many cyclists in the summer passing through to the well known boarding houses at Christmas Hills. The railway now being constructed between Eltham and Heidelberg promises to increase its popularity.
The district possesses all the attraction needed for a gentleman’s country residence. It is within easy reach of town, and is healthy, beautiful; the air fresh and clear.
But above and beyond all these are the sunsets – those beautiful southern sunsets which so often draw the residents to the door. I saw one once years ago, and it has never faded from my memory. The sun had but half sunk from view, and was one gracious sovereign half-ball of pale yellow. From its centre broke two rich golden arches, stretching far neither side; these were crowned by other two, dark blue, their cell and that’s fringed with myriad colours, the sky for remarkable distance carrying the reflection; the dark hills on the horizon were lit with its glow, the trees fringed and waving with every shade of colour. It was a scene beyond the artist’s gift and brush the work of the Great Artist of all; one which sends its radiance through many years, yet which often finds a rival in the sunsets of these lovely hills”.
‘Bicycling‘, Evelyn Observer and South and East Bourke Record, Friday 5 October 1883, p.2.
“On Sunday last, September 30th, Messrs. W.S. Haselton and Alf Joy of the Melbourne Bicycle Club, took a run from Melbourne to Kinglake. This, We believe, is the pioneer bicycle trip to the Mount. The following are the places called at and the time ; – Left Melbourne at 6.30am, arrived at Heidelberg at 7.20; left Heidelberg at 8.20 arrived at Research, 9.38; left Research 9.48 arrived at Queenstown, 11.18. Thus doing the journey from Melbourne to Queenstown, a distance of 27 miles, in 3hrs 33m riding time; the stoppages taking 1hr 10m. AT 12.18 they made a start for Kinglake, arriving there at 2.15, and at Mr E. N. Staffs residence at 2.20 and stopped there 20 minutes; left Kinglake at 3.30 and arrived Queenstown at 4.45. After a short stay they made a start for Melbourne“.
‘A Trip By Cyclists‘, Evelyn Observer and South and East Bourke Record, Friday 6 February 1891, p.3.
“A member of the East Melbourne Bicycle Club gives the following account of a trip to Yea via Heidelberg, Eltham, Kangaroo Ground, Queenstown, and Kinglake:
Passing along the main road, Heidelberg was left behind under the hour, the company keeping together until Greensborough road was met, when three of the party returned to town. The remainder (14 in all) continue the journey to Eltham, where a halt was called for a few minutes. The country from this is very hilly, but the extra work is fully compensated for by the varied scenery which is to be seen from the tops of the hills.
Kangaroo Ground was reached about 5.40, and the tea which Host Lindsay had prepared speedily disappeared before the attacks of the wheelmen. After tea the party visited some of the works in connection with the Watts River scheme for augmenting the water supply of Melbourne. A visit was also made to a tunnel, about a mile long, which has been cut through a hill. Some time was spent here in listening to the echoes which came from the tunnel after speaking into it.
About 8.30 they returned to the hotel, where the remainder of the evening was spent in singing, quoits, &c.
Next morning, after breakfast, nine members of the party left for town, the remaining five intending to ride further into the country, but after travelling two miles Mr. Golding’s machine bolted down a very steep hill, and meeting with some loose metal at the bottom, he was thrown and considerably shaken. The party, with one exception, then turned back and proceeded to Eltham for dinner. Mr. Scott, who continued the journey went on to Queenstown.
About 2 o’clock a start was made for Yea, but after travelling about twelve miles on the journey, the wrong track was taken, and two and a half hours lost before the main road was found. About 17 miles from Yea, the river of the same name was crossed. The road then became very cut up with cattle tracks. Darkness came on, and obstacles were met with in the shape of branches of trees which had fallen across the road, the machines having to be lifted over them. One fallen tree was run into, and the rider landed on the opposite side some time before the machine came over. However, after some hard work Yea (44 miles) was entered at about 9.45 p.m”.
Ray Attwater, ‘A Bicycle is My Spaceship’, Argus, Friday 14 May 1954, p.22.http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/23417228
“I have been in Australia just six months now and have managed a few explorations on the old bicycle. (My wife and daughter accompany me on short trips).
My only disappointment has been the comparatively small number of touring cyclists encountered on the roads.
On several outings, apart from a few passing cars, I have had the hills, the trees, and melodious bird songs to myself.
On a recent trip I set off over Kew and Templestowe to Warrandyte, where a little sidetrack entices one to visit Gold Nugget Cairn.
The winding tree-lined road suddenly opening out into a grand vista and spelling itself down into Warrandyte came as a pleasant surprise. Here – a stop for tea before crossing the wooden plank bridge (best walked across if you have narrow tyres) over the Yarra.
Then follow four miles of very rough road where the going is slow, giving time to admire the glimpses of panorama between the trees.
The dark blue hills form a striking background to little red-roofed houses, and father beyond are the paler misty blue ranges. What better compensation could there be for the present road surface?
At Kangaroo Ground are really grand view can be seen by ascending the Shire of Eltham lookout.
I found the road to Kinglake diving away at the distant beckoning hills but the day had turned out hot in spite of threatening cloud. So I lazily chose the shorter route to Yarra Glen. Again only an earth road, but easily rideable and worthwhile.
Throughout the day the whirring of my gears was accompanied by wildlife sounds, from the cicadas (emitting noises themselves I thought not unlike the gyrations of a loosley spoked wheel) to the cackle of the kookaburra.
Now wending my way among the gums and pines, the hissing of my tyres on the sandy soil disturbed a score of brightly plumed rosellas. This for me a rare sight, and I stopped the better to admire the red green and blue feathers.
This seemed as good a spot as any for lunch, so I settled down to my sandwiches, my back against a convenient bank. Here I learned why the bell bird is so named, for as they flitted between the boughs their clear chiming notes sounded is good to me as would a restaurant orchestra to a city diner.
The road winds on through Christmas Hills, much of it on the upgrade, and culminating in the heights of Big Hill (1,000 ft.). An amazing landscape view is obtained across the plains to the Great Dividing Range, blue as ever in the distance, before one hurtles down to Yarra Glen.
I followed the road across the Yarra again, and along the valley between the hills: Panton’s Gap and Ben Cairn away on the left.
The little white wisps of cloud that had been drifting across the peaks were being joined by more ominous looking stuff, and my legs began to feel as leaden as the skies were beginning to look.
Just past Lilydale a nice juicy crop of blackberries by the roadside was simply waiting to be eaten, so I stopped and gorged myself, the while long rays of light from behind black clouds showed where the sun was drawing up the earth’s moisture.
Somewhat fortified, I pushed on, musing on the effect of humidity and the human body, for my lethargic feeling seemed to coincide with the approaching storm.
A section of the far hills was entirely obscured by a curtain of rain. A sizzle of lightning here and there, and the rain was upon me – a real downpour.
But I didn’t care as I pushed uncaped through the refreshing shower, for the heavy feeling had disappeared with the advent of rain and I pedaled on into the blue”.