43 years ago we got married at St Albans Cathedral in Griffith NSW. We held our Reception at the Hanwood Club. What a wedding it was! One of the best weddings I’ve ever been to. Back in those days people wouldn’t leave the reception until after the bride & groom had left and I remember my mum coming to find us around 11pm to say that some of the older people were tired and ready to go however we were still there and they felt it would be rude to leave. What to do?
Richard and I quickly came up with a solution. We left. All the guests formed a large circle and we moved round the circle in different directions saying goodbye to each and every guest until we’d gone all the way around. Then we left. One of Richard’s cousins drove us into town where we did a couple of laps of the main street until we felt we’d given those that wanted to leave enough time to go home then we went back. The party continued into the wee hours. What a wedding!
We didn’t plan to go very far from our bush camp at Lake Eildon. Our destination was Benalla where we thought we might go out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary. It was a quick pack up from camp as we’d packed most things the night before. The only things that still needed packing was the chocks which we’d had to use as the site was sloping. We set off around 9am and headed back on the corrugated gravel road towards Goughs Bay. We drove in and around the little town situated in a bay of the lake. It looked like it might be a town full of retirees. Quite a few people were out walking.
Heading northwards we passed the Mansfield Zoo and then drove on through Mansfield. Mansfield is the gateway to the snowfields at Mt Buller and it seems a little odd to see a couple of huge ski hire shops in the summer. I’m sure they get very busy during winter.
The famous Australian movies ‘The Man from Snowy River’ 1982 and ‘The Man from Snowy river II’ were filmed in the Mansfield area. The movies starred a young Tom Burlinson as Jim Craig and Sigrid Thornton as Jessica Harrison. Jack Thompson played the famous Clancy. Craig’s Hut was built atop Clear Hills for the movie and has become a permanent fixture that most people instantly recognise. When the hut was burnt down in bushfires in 2006 there was such a reaction that it was rebuilt and continues to attract walkers and 4WD enthusiasts to visit.
Our route took us west out of Mansfield and then turned northwards to Benalla. Our first stop on arrival in Benalla was to the Showgrounds to check out the camping area and find a water tap to fill our tanks. The camp area looked OK as it was grassy and flat. The fee is $12 per night and there is a donation box on the wall of the Men’s Shed. All campers must be in fully self-contained RV’s and can stay for up to 48 hours. There is room for about 15 RV’s. However we decided to just fill our tanks then drive out to the Airport to use the dump point before deciding where we were going to camp.
Water tanks full we drove through the lovely town across the bridge over Lake Benalla. Benalla is a mural town. Murals are everywhere. The Annual Benalla Street Art Wall to Wall Festival takes place in March/April each year and attracts thousands of visitors from Australia and around the world. Some of the artists with work in Benalla include Guido van Helten, Rone, DVATE, Adnate and Kaff-eine. The festival began in 2015 and people came the watch the artists at work painting the murals. 14 murals were created that year. The festival has become an annual event and you are constantly surprised as you drive around the town to see another mural on a wall.
Benalla is a town of some 14,000 people and has a lovely feel about it. It is situated about 2 hours from Melbourne along the Hume Highway, the main highway from Melbourne to Sydney.
A public dump point is located out near the airport so that was our next stop. While there another motorhome pulled up and we got chatting, as you do, to the couple who owned it. They’d just packed up from camping at the Jaycee Island Campground, a free camp provided by the town for self-contained vehicles for up to 48 hours, and they said it was a great spot but to get there early as there is only room for 3 RV’s.
OK sounded like a plan, from there we could walk into the Main Street to go out for dinner. Anniversary sorted!
Next stop was the supermarket and we had no trouble finding a park near the Coles carpark. Groceries done, next stop was Liquorland. It was here that Richard suggested we get a cold bottle of sparkling and instead of going out we could have nibbles and bubbles at camp. Excellent idea. Cold bottle of Moet purchased we set off to find the free camp.
I have said before that I use WikiCamps to find campsites and the app really came into its own finding this one. I’d read some of the reviews and saw that quite a few people couldn’t find the entrance to the campground and had ended up going to the Showgrounds. It is a bit confusing. You have to drive through the Library carpark and onto a narrow gravel road at the back. Just as the road turns left there is a huge sign with No Camping very clearly written at the top. In tiny writing at the bottom is an arrow and the words Self-contained Camping. It would be very easy to miss it and just see the No Camping. However we continued on and followed the road around to arrive at a small gravel carpark where up to 3 RV’s can camp. You have to camp on the gravel but we were able to park right on the edge so that under our awning was lovely green grass.
There was already a big Jayco Silverline van set up so we pulled in behind it, not too close, but with enough room that another vehicle could park behind us.
The Jaycee Island Campground is right beside the man-made Lake Benalla and there is a fabulous walking track that goes all the way around. Lake Benalla was formed in 1972 by damming the flood-prone Broken River. The track is a combination of gravel paths, boardwalks and bridges that meanders around the lake for 4.25 km. After setting up camp and leaving Richard to work on his MacBook, I set off to walk along the track to go to the Botanic Gardens. It was raining most of the morning but had stopped, however I carried my big umbrella just in case. Last time we were in Benalla it had also been raining and I didn’t get to see the Botanic Gardens then either.
I set off from the campground heading north west towards the Library and the Skate Park. Some excellent murals are to be found there. I love these little picnic tables that are scattered around the lake.
Wandering further along I came to a strange looking sundial. It’s an Analemmatic Sundial and these types of sundials have been in use since the second century AD. You stand on the central Analemma (stone in the middle with a figure 8 on it) at today’s date and your shadow will indicate the time. I’d seen one of these before in Kingston SE in South Australia and find it fascinating that these have been used for centuries to tell the time. It didn’t work this day though as there was no sun and therefore no shadow.
Further along you pass under the Monash Bridge and on the other side is the quirky Ceramic Mural with the Historical Museum behind. The Ceramic Mural began life as a community art project in 1983. It reminds me of the work of the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. His most famous work is the still unfinished La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
There is a boardwalk along this section with lovely views across the lake to the striking Art Gallery. The Art Gallery was built in 1972.
Further along you come to the fabulous Benalla Splash Park that includes picnic tables, rock climbing and another mural. Out in the middle of the lake is an island and a group of teenage boys were out there yahooing and swinging from a rope in a tree into the lake. They’d had to swim out there and sounded like they were having an awesome time.
I continued on and came to a lovely Aboriginal Community Garden, a place for quiet reflection and gathering and on past that to the Benalla Fishway. The man-made fishway enables fish to swim upstream and downstream past the dam barrier.
I continued on and still hadn’t had to use my umbrella! By this time I had walked round the northern end of the lake and was now on the other side. Along this side is the tennis courts from the 1880s, the oval with its Historic Grandstand built in 1896 , the Historic Rotunda from 1911, the Art Gallery and the Botanic Gardens. Benalla Adventure Playground is one of the best adventure playgrounds I’ve ever seen and on this day there was about 50 children playing in it and, judging by their squeals of laughter, they were loving the play space.
The Benalla Botanic Gardens began when the land was set aside in 1873 and is well known for its Rose Garden. Benalla holds a Rose Festival each year and the town has earnt the nickname ‘Rose City’. The Rose Garden was first developed in 1959. The botanic gardens have ornamental garden beds, winding gravel pathways, sweeping lawns and some huge trees including a giant Bunyah Pine. They are a beautiful place to wander.
It was starting to sprinkle as I made my way back across the Monash Bridge and back to camp past some more incredible murals. I was chased by the mother duck when she thought I’d come too close. I had to use my brolly as a shield when she flew at me! With my heart racing I continued on.
We’d just made up a plate of nibbles and popped our bottle of Moet when our neighbours in the Silverline came by. We asked them to join us. A Jayco motorhome had pulled up earlier and we invited them to join us too. What a fabulous night we had. There was lots of laughs, great conversation and it was a fabulous way to spend our 43rd wedding anniversary. Thank you to Jo & Graham and Di & Alex for making it such a fun night.