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australia bushwalking Historical Literature

A Survey By Way Of Preface

The train, the car, the buggy, the bicycle are excellent means of getting from place to place; none of them gives him leisure to note what lies between. That is peculiarly the walker’s gain. It is then that he gathers the harvest of the quiet eye, and he sees not only the widespread landscape, but also the details of Nature’s plan.

Robert Henderson Croll

Bob Croll (5 January 1869 – 18 October 1947) was an Australia writer, poet, bushwalker, and public servant. He was involved with the art and poetry scene in Melbourne and was a keen advocate for walking. He released several guide books which you will find at Project Gutenberg.

The Order expresses appreciation to Colin Choat of the Project Gutenberg Australia for  bringing these texts to the public domain.

In 1928 the Second Edition, The Open Road in Victoria Being The Ways of Many Walkers was released by Robert Henderson Croll, Vice ­President of the Melbourne Walking Club. This is the preface to his book.

The language and turn of phrase is a charming reminder of simpler times. Those Australian and in particular Victorian readers will profit from his writings of local places that we can visit now and try to imagine the landscape through his eyes. His devotion to the peripatetic surely earns him a place in the Order of Walkers honour roll. There will be more work done around Mr Robert Henderson Croll in the future but for now  I commend Bob Croll to the Order.

A SURVEY BY WAY OF PREFACE

Man took to walking when he became upright. And still he walks, despite the “many inventions” he has found to keep his foot from the good green earth and his body from health. Once he tramped because he must; now he usually does so for pleasure. The devil called Speed possesses him at times, but in his saner moods he confesses a value and a charm in pedestrianism that nothing else yields. The train, the car, the buggy, the bicycle are excellent means of getting from place to place; none of them gives him leisure to note what lies between. That is peculiarly the walker’s gain. It is then that he gathers the harvest of the quiet eye, and he sees not only the widespread landscape, but also the details of Nature’s plan. The great mountains raise their heads for others as for him, but for him only does the ground lark betray her nest and the tiny flower shine in the grass. Alike to him are the high-road and the “little vagrant woodland way, grey-ribboned through the green.” He may go where no vehicle may follow, and at night, with twenty clean bush miles behind him, he can know what rest really means as he takes his ease at his inn, or, stretched by his campfire on a quiet hill-top, seem so removed from the troubled world as to feel that he owns the sunset, and that the whole round earth and its fullness are his.

Never has walking had a greater vogue than it enjoys to-day. A few years ago an epidemic of walking-races raged like a disease, and everyone took off his coat and did ridiculous things in fast time on suburban roads. It was essentially a class craze—stockbroker competed against stockbroker, butcher against butcher. Even telegraph messengers were affected. But all that was a form of what is technically known as track walking, and it has little connection with the walking with which this book is concerned. So distinctive, indeed, is the action of the expert who can do his mile in seven minutes or less that the cognoscenti, feeling it was neither natural walking nor yet running, coined a special name for it. They called it “gaiting.” Some interest attaches to the fact that Australia was the first country in the world to supply a reasonably satisfactory definition of walking and make laws for its control as a sport. Possibly few people realise the exact difference between running and walking. The former is a series of leaps from one foot to the other, and the runner is in the air most of the way; in walking there is constant contact with the earth. The back foot must not leave the ground until the front one has made connection.

Mercifully, definitions do not trouble the stroller in woodland ways. He has more attractive stuff to think about. He may walk fast or he may walk slow, as his age or his inclination suggest, or as time and distance dictate. It is a game for all ages and both sexes. Young lads are showing an increasing desire nowadays to test the back-country tracks, and one of the most devoted followers of the footpath way is a citizen of Melbourne who confesses that he has passed his seventieth birthday. He will go alone rather than lose a holiday or a week-end in the bush, and with his sleeping-bag on his shoulder he meets philosophically all that chances, sure at least of his bed for the night and buoyed by the knowledge that every trip means renewed health. Women and girls, too, have taken kindly to the open road, and yearly their excursions grow bolder. At first, one found them exclusively in such places as Lorne and Healesville, with one day as the limit of their outing from hotel or boardinghouse. Gradually the horizon has widened. Now they “dare do all that may become a man.” Three feminine walks within the writer’s knowledge in recent years were Warrnambool to Queenscliff; Lilydale to Warburton, Wood’s Point, Darling-ford, Buxton, Marysville, Healesville and Melbourne; and, more greatly daring, Bright-Harrietville-Feathertop-Omeo-Ensay-Buchan-Cunninghame. On the Wood’s Point excursion a caravan conveyed the food and bedding, but they disdained a lift for themselves.

Walking means most, perhaps, to the middle-aged. A man grows definitely old as soon as he gives up exercise, and it is not everyone who plays well enough to be welcome at golf, bowls, tennis, or the other pastimes commonly sought by those who have “come to forty year.” But in this most natural of all the sports all are on an equal footing, and an agreeable lone hand may be played in the unlikely contingency of there being no partner available. Several associations exist in Melbourne for the very purpose of providing the walker with company to his liking. One of the oldest established is the well-known Wallaby Club, which attracts largely the professional man, who finds in the week-end stroll and the good fellowship relief from the woes of his clients or his patients. Another, which has reached the respectable age of over 30 years, is the Melbourne Amateur Walking and Touring Club. Its main intention, in the beginning, was the cultivation of speed walking, and for many years it supplied the men who won Victorian and Australasian championships and put up records. Now the tail wags the dog, for touring is the sole activity of the club. Racing is left to a body of younger men, who style themselves the Victorian Walking and Field Games’ Club. The Young Men’s Christian Association used to encourage a rambler’s section before the war, and there are many smaller organisations which are doing good work.

All of these bodies protest their willingness to make available such knowledge as they have recorded, but the means of giving it publicity has been lacking. The problem for the would-be tourist is ever where to go. In this volume that question will be answered to a certain extent. Some of the most attractive of the Victorian walks are here described and the best way to accomplish them made clear, while hints are given regarding equipment, accommodation, camping places, care of the feet, and other matters of moment to the walker.

By The Order Of Walkers

Solvitur Ambulando

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