For me no holiday is complete without the opportunity to walk surrounded by the beauty and mystery of nature where the phenomenon of cyclic change is there for inspecting and contemplating.
I have found that walks secluded from the bustle and hustle of city life are invigorating and rejuvenating. They restore a sense of inner peace and stillness.
I walked the Cherry Walk, which runs along a formed track with gentle hills and occasional steps.
This invigorating walk is named after the Cherry family who still have descendants living in the area.
I began this walk on a glorious morning and started from Howitt Park located in Bright on the banks of the Ovens River in the state of Victoria.
Here I was delighted to observe Bright Splash Park, an adventurous play space that interacts with the natural environment and its design and construction reflects the mining history of the area.
Walking a short distance beyond was the Bright Rotary funded Waterslide that opened in 1982. This provides an ongoing source of funds for charitable purposes and further community projects.
I then followed the track high above the River’s edge as it meandered along until it opened out exposing rocky outcrops that lined the banks.
Listening to the continuous sounds of water splashing and gently moving downstream lulled me gradually into introspection and released a calm equilibrium that was nourishing.
When I arrived at a crossroad I was guided by a very helpful young cyclist who suggested crossing the suspension bridge and staying on the path that hugged the River. His advice proved very effective.
The Ovens River rises on the northern slopes of Mt Hotham in the Alpine National Park and flows north- west for two hundred kilometres to join the Murray River at Lake Mulwala.
For me there is always something unique and liberating about walking beside water.
Many prolific species of vegetation grow along the Ovens River and the bush track led me to one of these, the Round Leaf Mint Bush. I crushed a few leaves of this very hardy plant to release the fragrance of mint.
After crossing a very small overpass my gaze met the peaceful, flat and soothing River vista. Many distinctive bird calls broke the silence and tuned my sense of hearing to the sounds of the bush. Cherry Walk provided a wide variety of habitats for a range of bird species.
The re-established grasses and low shrubs were a haven for small birds like wrens, finches and of course magpies.
Back from the river the larger trees including wattles, tea-trees and eucalypts offered places for birds to roost, feed and build nests.
On the higher banks, drier eucalypt forests supported habitats for larger birds.
I was watching out for rosellas, king parrots, galahs, cockatoos, kookaburras, currawongs and bower-birds. The swiftness of their movements and quick flight left me pondering about their features.
From this vantage point I could observe the flats where gold miners hand sluiced the area in the early 1860’s.
Large parties of Chinese miners systematically worked the river gravels. I reflected on their hardships and the contribution they had made not only in the Bright region but across the goldfields.
This section of the Walk was also a fine example of the diligence of land care volunteers who between 2008 and 2011 cleared the area of invasive species and replanted it with local species.
I was one of many fortunate walkers to reap the benefits of their commitment and generosity.
Continuing on the bush walking track I could observe the course of the river in past times because the wetland plants and ferns have remained.
Over time the path of the river has changed as a result of floods and the work of miners.
I stopped to examine the Ovens Wattle, a rounded ornamental species which develops into a full bright yellow ball of bloom in spring and summer.
Looking across the still water, reeds clasped the water’s edge and tall trees cast distinctive shadows across the river. A sense of peace swept over me.
Constant changes within the bush were reflected where young trees pushed up through the remains of the older dead trees.
Gazing upward though the dappled light the clear blue sky greeted me with its expansive expression. The sky triggered wonder and my heart was filled with the joy of the moment.
After passing a variety of different Blackwoods, these are one of the longest living wattles surviving for between twenty and forty years, I approached Cherry’s Bridge and crossed over to the opposite bank. I discovered that the first member of Bright’s Cherry family, William arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1855.
In 1871 tragedy struck his family when six of his fifteen children died within seventeen days in the great diphtheria epidemic.
Four more of William and Harriet’s children also died at very young ages. William, one of his surviving sons settled on a property of 150 acres just north of the Bridge location.
Cherry’s Bridge was built for the timber workers who toiled at the mill which once existed 800 metres upstream.
Walking along the lower edge of the embankment I was able to relish the close proximity to the rippled patterns of the water and the serenity of the scene.
Further on large natural boulders had been placed by man into the stream to increase habitat, break up high velocity flows and improve conditions for fish.
This procedure is known as Bed Seeding. In this section of the river I quivered at an ethereal quietness that had reminiscent features of the Japanese landscape garden aesthetic.
Later, on my walk I observed Constructed Log Jams, where fallen hardwood trees were deliberately used by man to simulate the effect of naturally fallen trees. These Constructed Log Jams in the waterway play a critical role in providing diverse habitats for fish and other aquatic life.
Because they are crafted from natural materials these structures continue to evolve and constantly enhance a healthy ecosystem.
I was fascinated by the effectiveness of the idea and the simplicity and naturalness of the structures.
The last stretch of the walk was framed by a forest of pines and on the opposite side gently undulating hills thickly studded with trees provided contrast.
The pine plantations are a significant part of the scenery around Bright.
Many groups use the forests for recreation activities such as horse riding, mountain biking, bushwalking, hang gliding and sometimes sled dogs events.
HVP Plantations now own and manage the timber resource.
The sustainable nature of the industry will ensure benefits to the local community continue for generations to come.
The ever evolving colours of autumn crept into my vision and I was reminded of the ambiguity and miracle of seasonal changes.
The crisp clean air, the azure sky above mingled with the hues of autumn created a scene of natural perfection. It was a blissful sensation to be alive walking and immersed in harmony.
Rose Niland, Special Features NSW, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015