Heidelberg Historical Society

"Heidelberg" by Carew.

Published in "Weekly Times", 21 December, 1901.

Heidelberg is almost unique amongst Melbourne suburbs. Within easy reach of the metropolis, with railway and telephone communication, it also combines the charm of the country and the charm of "the bush." City people drive out for afternoon tea, but coaches lumber in from Diamond Creek and Greensborough, and teams heavily laden with firewood zig-zag slowly up the hills. There is something very English about Heidelberg, for although corrugated iron is used for buildings it is often painted terra cotta color, with most picturesque effect. At the end of the Main street stands the Church of England, a prettily situated old building, with a square white tower, to the left the public gardens, beyond them a perfect cricket ground — a natural amphitheatre. The slopes of the surrounding hills command a lovely view, enlivened in one spot by the red flag of the rifle butts. The pioneers planted hawthorn hedges and dog roses, privet and honeysuckle, which now form hedgerows seldom seen in this land of post and rails.

Nearly all the year round pale blush roses nod and sway in the hedges on the road to Templestowe, and masses of sweet briar and wild myrtle grow on the slopes by the wayside. The bridge which spans the winding Yarra is built at a great height, for the banks are steep, but on the Heidelberg side are shady back-waters, where pollard willows form lovely groups, and wild duck leave a track through the green water weed. We meet the Yarra at every turn. Here the evil-smelling, much-abused Yarra of the city is always lovely with wattle groves upon its banks, and giant gum trees at its edge. On some of the dairy farms noble groups of trees still stand, affording welcome shade for cattle. In the hedges wooden platforms are built, the farmers place cans of milk on them, and a passing waggon collects them. The jingle of empty cans returning is quite characteristic of the country-side of life at Heidelberg.

"The Yarra Valley, at Ivanhoe," is one of the most fascinating spots. Perhaps some of its old world charm comes from the old world trees at "Chartersville." It is a name to connect with. Artists love it in the yellow season, when the hills are golden and white mares' tails are the only clouds in a blue sky ; but they love it even more in autumn, when the hawthorn hedges are flushed with crimson, and the back-waters of the river creep under yellow leaved oak trees, when pomegranates are ruddy and nuts ripe.

The original monarchs of the place, great gum trees, tower above all other trees, but the avenue of Lombardy poplars is only separated by a hedge from trees of many climes. Quaint, gabled cottages, with lattice windows and rustic porches, once housed gardeners who kept the 40 acres in order ; now City folks spend "week ends" in them. Oleander and orange, pomegranate and passion flower, run prodigal to make an artist's holiday. Velvet-nosed calves wander past a broken fountain to browse in the rose garden. The river, alone unchanged, flows below, eddying round brown rocks in the middle, just as it did when black men, instead of white, stood there to watch it.

The murmur of water always has a charm, a spell which it throws over picnicker's who come within its reach. There are so many shady spots, so many lazy halting places. Let us look the other way up the hill above the station. A large picturesque building with smaller ones adjoining, a pretty lodge, a tower with a clock which strikes. Across the spacious grounds nurses in uniform pass, and at intervals a bell rings. It is the Austin Hospital for incurables, a noble institution doing noble work. Let us look again, "Lest we forget, lest we forget."

Yellow gorse, the English furze, prickly, but picturesque, masses in the foreground of the last picture, where the heaped up yellow and red soil, show the embankment of the railway to Eltham. "God made the country, man the town." The train reminds us that, the city with its busy, working life, is only half an hour's journey away."