australia bushwalking Historical Literature

A Survey By Way Of Preface

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.


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.

audio australia bushwalking Historical Vintage

Guide Alice: Podcast

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.

australia bushwalking Contemporary Physical

Australian Alps Walking Track

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 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.

australia bushwalking Contemporary

Picking up sticks

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.

Read it here

australia bushwalking Uncategorized

Island Lagoon

This story is sourced from Bushwalk Australia Magazine. Nick Gleeson presents us with a very personal account of a three day solo trip across Island Lagoon in Mid South Australia. I commend it to the Order.

Nick Gleeson Island Lagoon

australia bushwalking Contemporary Spirituality

The Further One Goes

As the car made its way up the tarmac ribbon that runs from Harrietville to the top of Mt Hotham, the setting sun filtered its way through the trees. One of the intrepid hikers aboard took a moment to enjoy the comfort he would leave behind for the next few days. He closed his eyes and smiled, enjoying the dysrhythmic dance of light and shade being performed upon his eyelids.

In time the car climbed above the snowline and disgorged its occupants. They stood on the slopes of the broad mountain looking across the ridge to the north, the left hand side of their faces painted a gentle orange by the hazy orb that hung so low in the sky it seemed beneath them.

The Razorback – the ridge upon which they would be walking was well named as each undulation that rose along it bore an undeniable resemblance to the lumbar joint of a giant. The spine of this sleeping titan stretched far out into the distance, crowned by a steep conical peak ten kilometres away – Mt Feathertop.

With nary of word said among them, the group of five shouldered their packs and set off down the track that led along the ridge. Such was the ethereal calm that soon fell over the party that conversation seemed an unnecessary ornament to the occasion. In the distance the occasional cry of an unseen bird was all that could be heard beyond the crunching footfall of the five men.

The world – the other world, full of demands and denials became hard to perceive, hidden behind the veil of nature that had been drawn around them. Payrolls and pay rises seemed inconsequential as the soft light of dusk gave way to the clarity of night. To the west the sun fell below the horizon as a hunter’s moon rose in the east. Up the centre of the celestial equilibrium walked the hikers, each man in his own headspace, interpreting the outlook in his own way.

The stars came out so slowly, no-one was sure when they had first appeared. Of course, they had always been there, even in the daytime, staring down dispassionately from the heavens. But they did not seem indifferent to the walkers – they were as benevolent as the maternal moon which lit the way across shards of granite and mounds of loam that lay across the track.

In the cooling alpine air, a faint umbra encircled the moon, a halo upon the head of the walkers’ guide. The line of men stretched out and the distance between the fastest and slowest walker grew to half an hour. And yet despite this space, there was a unity that had enveloped the group. A unity of purpose and of place. They had separated themselves from bricks and steel of the city and were now a part of the sublime architecture of the Australian bush. Although the path ahead could be seen for miles – literally – each step taken uncovered a unique perspective upon the land before them. Subtle changes in mountainscape rewarded their labours: little moonlit dells and wooded enclaves were glimpsed at; an unseen brook played a delicate tune somewhere beyond a copse of thin, dark trees; a line of rocks resembling hunched trolls appeared and disappeared like Celtic spirits. And whilst they walked across this surreal stage, each man’s thoughts gradually turned inward, persuaded there by the peace that lay upon the land. Their ruminations they kept to themselves – it was not their way to share such things – but one thing was clear by the time the last man walked into the campsite below Mt Feathertop – all had found that special peace known to people who venture out into the wilderness. Without articulating it each man had been reminded of the secret that all hikers know – the further one goes out into the natural world, the more he travels towards himself.

Paul Stewart is an educator, writer, walker and talker. He can do some of these things at the same time. Paul spends his working days as Head of Middle School English at Melbourne Grammar School and the rest of his time is spent enjoying friends, family and the world at large.

australia bushwalking Contemporary

These Boots

These boots are a pair of Rossiter Scrubs. I adopted them in 1991. They were my goto serious bushwalking boots of the time. They were not worn for any other reason, other than serious walking. Folklore suggested that I was required to own a pair of full leather, thick soled, ankle supporting boots. In the shop, I remember them feeling great; No load on my back, no muscle fatigue, fresh socks. I felt invincible with this sort of armament on my feet. And so, it was with my early twenties body I took to some Victorian mountain in pursuit of some rich experience. At the end of the first day, the honeymoon was over. I sat there at the head of my tent looking at these harbingers of pain. I could not reconcile the fact that I invested so much money in a product whose only dividend was the delivery of said pain. 

But I persisted. I tried all sorts of blister treatments and amidst varied success I accepted a modicum of discomfort for the natural wonders I bore witness too. I was expedition walking only a few times a year due to other commitments so I could not financially justify not wearing them. My day walks with these boots could be described as amicable. The type of friend you might see a few times a year, check in with their family welfare, revell in their company for a few hours then say goodbye.

My Wretched feet.

In 2007, after a particularly violent blister episode, I took action and booked a podiatrist appointment. If I was to further my walking in the future I would need some more amenable companions for my feet. The Rossis were proudly presented to my podiatrist when she asked “What boots are you wearing on these bushwalking trips ?” (I had shown her photos). The podiatrist brought me into the contemporary walking boot era, which I had always dismissed due to that folklore thing. I was fitted for orthotics and shelled out the bucks for a pair of lightweight salomon ankle support boots. This indeed changed everything.

Looking at these boots now, I remember some of the walks we partnered on. Overland track, Alpine Track, numerous Prom trips north and south, Wellington River Wonnangatta district, the Otways and Yarra Ranges, Victorian High Country. On all expeditions with load, I had to balance the joy of the wilderness immersion with the knowledge that I was going to suffer painful blisters by the second day. 

I will contend that such hardship enables a joy not known to others. Sometimes in private moments at camp, I found myself bellowing like a calf as I removed the boots and introduced my clammy wrinkled white feet to the earth. If the sun was shining and I was able to nap, I could forgive my boots. After a weekend out in inclement weather, the Rossis would be banished to the shed whilst I was tempted to the bath. But in a few days time, I would extend the hand of kindness and, with a stiff brush, clean the Rossis and dress them with a melted beeswax coating on hair dryer warmed leather.

Whilst these boots are no longer in my walking kit, I cannot bear to dispose of them. Due to their full leather design, they are in pretty good nick, and for the odd local wander they feel good (probably because of the orthotics and the change of gait.) They now reside at a remote outstation and if I am taking a short walk I will pull them on, tighten the laces and take the vintage scrubs to the scrub. The feeling of leather binding close to the feet with a pair of explorer socks, is a lightning rod for fond memories and because I can’t remember the pain, I will always show clemency for these boots, living out their days on death row.

australia bushwalking essay Historical Literature Philosophy


I present this essay on walking and talking by E Kaye from the Melbourne Bushwalkers in the 1954 no 5 edition of the “Walk” magazine.

We have been walking for a long time, we have been walking for millions of years. We have walked a long way. It took us a long time to walk from the Euphrates Valley to the remotest corner of this world. When the world was young and warm we walked to the Poles; as it cooled we walked back again in the teeth of the advancing avalanche of ice. In Biblical times we walked with Moses to Mt. Sinai. It is even recorded that Enoch walked with God. In classical times we walked with the great philosophers Aristotle and Socrates. In the Middle Ages we walked with the Crusaders, and at Canterbury with Chaucer and the pilgrims. In Dickens’ time we walked with David Copperfield to Dover.

But all the time as we walked we talked.

We talked of the food for which we craved, of the good lands we sought. We philosophised; we told risque stories and sang bawdy songs; but we always talked. Even as we walked the beautiful English Lake district with Wordsworth, we talked. But with Stevenson and Hazlitt we walked alone, our only friend, our thoughts. As I contemplated this I felt sad – I felt that something had been lost. I pondered a long time over Stevenson’s graphic words “The traveller becomes more and more incorporated with the material landscape and open air drunkenness grows upon him with great strides”. I found little to console me in them. It did not deny us the right to talk but it prophesied that as certainly as we grow from children to adults so we should increasingly carry the burden of life alone.

Even as I meditated on this I found one who was not prepared to accept the inevitability of this situation gracefully; one in fact who ruthlessly attacked our right to talk. I quote Sidgwick in his “Walking Essays” who charmingly refers to patrols who “Stride blindly across the country like a herd of animals, reeking little of whence they came or whither they are going, desecrating the face of nature with sophism and influence and authority. At the end of the day what have they profited? Their gross and perishable physical frames may have been refreshed, their less gross and equally perishable minds may have been exercised, but what of their immortal being? It has been starved between the blind swing of the legs below and the fruit Iess flickering of the mind above instead of receiving, through the agency of quiet mind and coordinated body, the gentle nutriment which it is due”.

I could not let this go unchallenged. We are essentially gregarious creatures and our craving for companionship is as primitive as our instinct to walk. Despite all the paraphernalia of this mechanical age we are still merely clothed savages and tend to behave as such. We walk to enjoy life and I submit that we cannot enjoy it alone and in silence. Whilst it is true that good companions, like heroes, are not many, nevertheless, in addition to a handful or perhaps only one special friend, almost all who walk and love nature have a human interest story to tell us. 

Our walking clubs comprise people from industry, from commerce, from professions, housewives and students who band together to spend their weekends and holidays enjoying one another’s company. In this fuller world into which they escape for little more than a few brief hours we find many of them bush poets, sages, humorists and philosophers of no mean order. Just as modern society for its strength relies on the integrated efforts of all, so the success of a walk is just as certainly bound up with companionship of one another.

Mr. Sidgwick takes umbrage at us “desecrating the face of nature with sophism, influence and authority”. He says it, I am sure, with his tongue in his cheek. We are there primarily because we love nature, as witness our efforts to preserve what remains of our beautiful heritage in as near as possible to its primitive state. We may have influence and authority, we do not I am sure flaunt it on others. Surely, Mr. Sidgwick, the mere exercise of our minds must do something to ennoble our rather indefinable immortal being, residing as it does rather uneasily between our flickering minds and swinging legs. How much better, surely, to discuss and consider the problems that beset us on our journey through this temporal world. How much better to admit that they exist and to discuss them with one another, rather than skate around them as we did when we were jelly fish. What better place to discuss them than in the setting that we have walked in for so long. For in all the hundreds of thousands of years that we have been walking the advent of the road is a most recent development – a most artificial one.

Mr. Sidgwick wrote mainly of England, and of walks along roads and country lanes, stopping frequently for jugs of ale and other refreshments. Our walking is sterner stuff and even in our own beautiful hills around Melbourne we can spend a weekend walking with seldom a sight of habitation; further afield we must carry food enough for a week or more. It is on these trips a good companion is as indispensable as one’s rucksac or boots. The success of the journey depends not on the miles covered, the mountains climbed nor the prize-winning photos collected. Even the scenery is not the most lasting impression, nor is it really diminished by tired feet or aching back. The paramount and valued gain is the happy memories of the talks on the track and the yarns around campfires. These are the values that the philosophers of other days called the highest good.

I contemplated this a while and felt happier; felt, in fact, Mr. Sidgwick had made his remarks with a smile on his lips, with the solemn intention of provoking something that could be argued about for hours: Whether we should talk as we walk.

australia bushwalking essay Historical Literature Philosophy Vintage

Why do we walk?

This question sits with the Order of Walkers. Even after a most difficult walk and the passage of time, we are drawn to a new invitation to wander.

I am presenting a response by Norman Richards of the Melbourne Bushwalkers in the 1953 edition no 4 of the “Walk” magazine. Not much has changed.

This is a question that has been worrying most walkers ever since they first got the idea of going out of doors and spending their leisure time in such an abnormal manner. The walking, mountaineering and camping journals of the world have all published contributions by people trying to do themselves justice by explaining their actions to a doubting world. It is human nature to be interested in the logical justification of one’s actions, especially when, as in the case of bush- walking, the rigors of the game often by no means make for personal comfort.

Many good reasons have been advanced. For some the lure is purely and simply the desire for physical exercise, either for its own sake or for the physical fitness which ensues. There can be no doubt of the sense of well-being invoked by steady exercise taken in the fresh, clear air of the hills. There is also the satisfaction to be derived from the self-reliance essential for a trip in a remote area. Others are attracted by the companionship to be found on the track. No matter what your vocation or station in everyday life, once you join a walking party you get a new start; you are accepted for yourself. The pleasures of camp life away from all reminders of your ordinary existence cannot be under-estimated. Companionable sing-songs around the campfire leave many happy memories, as do days spent just soaking up the sunshine, or maybe paddling around the quiet pools of some mountain stream. The clock, although it still exists, ceases to dominate; where at home seconds are important, in the bush the unit of time can quite easily be the hour, or at worst the half-hour. Then, too, many people praise the charms of the scenery to be found away from the motor roads when one has the leisure provided by travelling per Shank’s pony. Especially in Australia where most of our scenery is not publicised but needs seeking out, does this leisureliness pay dividends of enjoyment. To us is often given the privilege of seeing things that few who do not walk can ever set eyes upon. If ever they should be able to drive over our routes we would know that the very road they travel changes the scene we knew. Finally, there are some who have been accused, often with some justice, of being attracted by the paraphernalia and gadgetry which some manage to introduce into their walking; the desire of the juvenile mind for fancy dress.

Any of the above reasons may be sufficient in some cases, but really most of us respond in part to a synthesis of them all, although there are many who do not waste time thinking about the matter at all; they walk because they enjoy doing so. Let’s all just enjoy it, and maybe in that way we’ll really get the most from our walks. The real enjoyment of a walking trip does not lend itself to logical analysis; in it there is much of the spiritual. Bushwalking demands an act of faith; we must put forth the effort before we can know that there is any reward. Once having made the effort we have no doubts. We just enjoy our walking.