If there was ever a walking stick of significance, it would be the walking stick belonging to Henry Lawson. His stick may have been for mobility but no doubt it enabled his thoughts to flow freely as he travelled around the country.
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.
James Valentine presents us with an opinion piece that is quite simple and obvious, yet periodically journalists need to reiterate it. For some reason humans continue to defy their own evolution and embrace labour saving devices to their detriment.
In this essay published by the Griffith Review Frank Moorhouse relates a solo trek to Mt Gunderbooka near Bourke in outback Australia. It’s a very personal account of man and nature and how easy a walk can go wrong. It raises that hoary chestnut of carrying and activating an epirb and the embarrassment theirin.
Let us not forget that pride can sometimes muddy our decision making. I commend Frank’s essay to the Order.
Alice Manfield (1878-1960) was a walker, naturalist, mountain guide and early feminist figure. This post will interest Victorians with its plot based around Mt Buffalo in Victoria’s high country. The blog site “Riparian” has an excellent piece on guide Alice for your study
The ABC “history Listen” on RN offers a polished podcast.
A fascinating look backwards.
Moving at Pace
I see no value in planning a journey, short or long, and then attempting to complete it as fast as possible. The journey is the gift. That being said, it is ironic that I like to read about such human endeavours, and I do respect the mental and physical resolve one must have to face up to the challenge.
This article in bushwalk.com magazine, documents a “Fastest Known Time”. I enjoy reading such track reports because I know the country that is being traversed and there is a comfort knowing that it is still there waiting for me to get there ever so slowly.
The question beckons. Are these athletic contestants sympathetic to the values of the Order of Walkers? The Order is a broad church. At its core there is the same kernel of adventure, yearning and curiosity. I am reminded of Arthur Barrett’s 1893 Melbourne to Sorrento dash where the competition of man, time and geography played out in some quixotic night time adventure. It’s in the DNA and its execution satisfies a primal urge. The urge to keep moving.
I commend this article to the Order.
Tim Erikson of the Victorian Race Walking Club has done significant work in documenting the history of competitive walking in the state of Victoria. This Original article deals with Arthur Barrett and his 1893 walk from Melbourne to Sorrento.
On the afternoon of 25th January, 1893, 1 was standing on Princes Bridge in a highly disgruntled frame of mind, having missed the boat to Sorrento. The time was 2.40 p.m., and the temperature, 103 degrees in the shade. Suddenly the thought struck me, “The earth is flat, and I am on the surface of it. It is only 40 miles, and, if I walk along the beach, I will be there by 11 p.m.! Why not? But, before I start, I must let them know at home where I am going.” Thrilled with the idea, I set off along Batman Avenue to the Richmond malthouse, where I lived, and told a carpenter, Jack Goyder, about it. He gaped – he knew; I didn’t. The time was then 3 p.m.
Proceeding along Church Street and Chapel Street, 1 arrived at the Elsternwick Hotel, where I asked a man the way. He told me, and off I went, arriving at the Mordialloc Hotel at 5.40 p.m., where I had a good wash and drank a gallon of water. Again I inquired the way, and, at 6.50 p.m., I got to the old Carrum Hotel. On going into the dining room, there was “Peggy” Miles, my old schoolmaster of Melbourne Grammar. He cross-examined me about my doings. Hearing of my proposal, he exclaimed, “But, ‘Silky’ (my old nickname at school), it is still 40 miles to Sorrento.” This was a body blow to me. However, I drank two bottles of beer and ate the inside of an apple pie (I would not eat solids), and then commenced to ruminate. As “Peggy” Miles had told me the way, off I went again, leaving the hotel at 7.55 p.m. At first I was a bit stiff, but the stiffness wore off, and I got to Frankston at 8.50 p.m.
Going up the hill out of Frankston, a terrible thing happened to me – a bad blister developed on my heel; so I stamped on it, when the pain was so “exquisite” and, marvellous to relate, I became completely refreshed. It then got dark, and I could see only by gazing up between the overhanging trees, where there was a glimmer of light. As far as I was concerned, the moon set at 10.40 p.m., and along that part of the road I had two bad falls on heaps of stone. However, it was no use lying there, luxurious as it seemed! Having been told to go straight on and turn neither to the left nor to the right, I obeyed instructions, and in time went down a long hill to what I now know to be Balcombe Creek. There was no water in the creek. and I was beginning to feel very thirsty. Crawling up a hill (Mt. Martha), which seemed miles long, I came to a stone house, with two water tanks fitted with taps, but two fierce dogs barred the way. So on I went, down again, and at the bottom of Mt. Martha was another creek; this time only mud. Then I was done; no sound of the sea and nearly dead with thirst – I was lost.
Suddenly I heard the click of horses’ hoofs on the road and a few minutes later up came a buggy with two horses. “Stop,” I cried. ” I am lost. Come back and tell me where I am.” The buggy stopped and two men got out and came towards me. “Great Scot,” said one “it is Silky.” They were Davy and Bert Nicholson, old school mates. They got the truth out of me, and, when that was over, I said I wanted some water. They had none, but Davy said, “I have a bottle of claret,” and he gave it to me. Sitting in the buggy was another acquaintance, Miss Bluebell Stapleton, and she said, “Artie, I have a bottle of milk.” I accepted the milk, and drank it straight away. Having told me the way, they went on. Refreshed, I reached Dromana at 1.45 a.m., and went past the Rosebud lighthouse doing “six knots.” I was now “full of beans,” and it was not until dawn that famine intervened and some weakness came. When it is pitch dark and one cannot see more than a few yards ahead, there is nothing to be apprehensive about, but when the road shows up a mile ahead, a distance becomes alarming, because a mile is 1760 yards, and that means 1760 steps, and each step an effort. Then came some corners and little hills – they didn’t help. “Surely Sorrento must. appear soon,” I thought – and it did. Around a corner, there were the baths and the pier. I had done it!
Overcome, I staggered up to a cow which was lying on the road. As I approached, the cow got up, and I lay where it had been lying. It was hot and lovely! The time was 4.45 a.m. I stayed in that spot until 5.30 a.m., and, when I went to get up, I was so stiff that I almost failed to hold my balance. Then a humorous incident occurred; a venerable old man approached me and. clutching at my coat labels, he began to pray. He said, “Oh, young man, turn from your evil ways. Seek the Lord. You have been out drinking and lying drunk on the road. You will run your life. What a shame to see a young man like this. Kneel and let us pray.” “Let me go,” I exclaimed, “I have just walked down here from Melbourne.” It was his turn to gasp, as I left him and went on my way. And that is how my walking began.– Arthur Barrett
I commend this piece to the Order.
Scratch your head, ponder a while. Make of it what you will.
I have two issues with this media release.
If you look closely at the image there are some incredibly large lumps of wood which are clearly not walking sticks. There are also a lot of really poor looking sticks in the pile which I suspect a walker would not willingly choose. What is the mass under the pile like?
Secondly if Parks staff left the sticks at the trail heads, walkers would recycle one of these sticks for their direction of travel and hence not contribute to the removal of wood. End of argument. Back to real work for Parks staff, Game, Set and Match. Don’t bother me with your social media posts.