Hartwell is a little hamlet in Melbourne that time forgot and that most people have never heard of. The people that live there revel in the obscurity of their habitat and are happy to not tell anyone else too much about it.
Fortunately for me – the lazy cyclist – the village falls on the Anniversary Bike Trail which is another piece of Melburnian delight. A long stretch of track connecting the Gardiner’s Creek Trail near Malvern to the Yarra Trail at Studley Park, the Anniversary Trail follows parts of the defunct Outer Circular Railway and the (still live) Melbourne to Alamein Line.
Sir John Monash took his some of his first working photos and notes along the Outer Circular Railway around 1888 when, as a young engineer, he was tasked with inspecting the new line.
There is still a train station at Hartwell where happy and relaxed passengers disembark into an arcadian village green peppered by European oaks and partner gums. Magpies wander about gurgling at returned residents and cawking at newcomers.
There are some signs of new life in the Fordham Village Shops opposite Hartwell Station. The local milkbar has been tenderly revived by the sale of coffee and cake by bright young people and the Melbourne fashion of taking these blessedly legalised substances out of doors.
There is a second-hand shop with interesting objects and bits to browse and a newly opened craft inspired establishment with wares suitable for the fashionable homemaker of the area.
Further on from Hartwell the Anniversary Trail dips and climbs through the hollows which tunnel under the old roads at Canterbury and Camberwell and connects the leafy suburbs with parks and playgrounds.
The travel time by bike along this stretch is faster than navigating the road network from the south to the north of eastern Melbourne which is a mess of intersecting freeways, rail crossings, tramways and shopping streets. (I don’t mind this as I rarely drive anywhere and I never drive in a hurry but I can see how the daily road user could become exasperated.)
While the early Victorians understood the need for a metropolis to have an outer rail line which would have served us amazingly well today, their descendants baulked at the cost of the service in subsequent lean times. Since the line failed to survive as intended there remains no easy way to traverse Melbourne’s SE and NE suburban rail network other than via bike! Thankfully the bike track was established rather than allowing further development of the land.
But there are signs of encroaching development with even the low-key Alamein line being eyed greedily under the new planning regulations along any bit of rail track. So Hartwell’s hidden green space may soon be invaded by that common menace – smart-townhouse-blight-infestation.
Below: In the current Demolition Melbourne era developers buy up three Californian Bungalows in a row under dubious means, get their requirements immediately passed through a dodgy planning process and throw up block after block of dog-boxes paraded as snazzy and desirable human dwellings. These three old homes near Hartwell will soon meet their death by bulldozer.
I wrote an earlier (cross) post on this in Death of the Bungalow.
Meanwhile, some more soft development and revival of spaces like the Fordham Village shops should be applauded.
For other short stories about Melbourne’s village life on the Western edges see
Nosing around in Newmarket (one of my most visited posts!) and
Fordham Milk Bar’s facebook page can be visited at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fordhams-Milk-Bar/