An hour’s drive to the east of Melbourne is the township of Lilydale. Now Lilydale is not really a very prominent place by any stretch of the imagination. However, (Dame) Nellie Melba (born Helen Porter Mitchell), a leading soprano of her time, bought a property here in 1909. Nellie’s face graces the current AUD$100 bill. The very first time I had heard of Nellie was in 1981, when someone explained to me how Peche Melba got its name.
In 1900, a rail link was constructed between Lilydale and another township called Warburton, 38 kilometres from Lilydale. Little stations were built along the route, and carried the exotic names of Mount Evelyn, Wandin, Seville, Killara, Woori Yallock, Launching Place, Yarra Junction, and Wesburn. For about 50 years, this line was Victoria’s busiest rail line, with trains carrying huge quantities of timber, as well as, sheep, cattle, and Australia’s favourite breakfast cereal, Weet Bix. Now a little mention must be made about Weet Bix. It is one of the products owned by a church group – the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Adventists settled in Warburton in 1906, and later built one of their factories in this little town. Warburton, although a relatively small town, became a major centre for the Adventists in Australia.
With the building of roads, and the increased usage of road vehicles, the trains started losing prominence in the 60’s. By 1965, the rail line virtually ceased to operate. Around 1985, the disused and rusting tracks were cleared, and the famous Lilydale-Warburton Rail Trail was born. Now considered the most picturesque of all rail trails in Australia, it attracts many outdoor enthusiasts who cover the trail walking, on bikes and horseback throughout the year.
I was asked to provide help to some young people in the planning of a bike-hike from Lilydale and Warburton (Saturday, 3rd Feb). As someone who does not go by karma and astrology, I needed to make sure that everything went according to the plan – including the taking care of any injuries and emergencies. And there were a couple! Fortunately though, all the participants covered the distance and ended up at Warburton, fairly exhausted.
Warburton is my favourite place in Victoria. With its river and lush surrounds, the scenery is absolutely stunning. See the attached pictures. And I am there too, sitting in front of a cafe, enjoying a coffee.
About 2000 people live in Warburton at present. The Yarra River, a rather smallish stream at Warburton, grows in size as it flows to the Port Philip Bay at Melbourne, passing by Kew where I live.
Author: Bert Naik- Australia