I'm a Melbourne girl, born and bred, and new resident of Geelong. Fantabulous adventures await as I explore my gorgeous new city and the stunning Surf Coast. But don’t worry—I’ll be crossing the bridge regularly to get my Melbourne fix.
Published September 1st 2015
A suburban bushland trail with some hidden surprises
I've ridden my mountain bike through the section of the Dandenong Creek Trail between Burwood Highway in Vermont South and High Street Road in Wantirna South hundreds of times. It's a brilliant path to take to get to Jells Park and beyond, and it doesn't matter how many times I have ridden it, I never tire of it. But, I realised the other day, I've never actually walked through it—so this weekend just gone I left the bike at home, put my walking shoes on instead and off I went.
This section of trail starts just above the intersection of Burwood Highway and Morack Road in Vermont South
It's true that you can see so much more of our fabulous city and surrounding suburbs by bike rather than car, but sometimes you can see even more by foot. And this little section of the Dandenong Creek Trail is perfect to wander around and explore if you have an hour or two up your sleeve and would like a bit of fresh air.
This is a lovely little stretch of trail, surrounded by trees and bushland
The section of trail begins at Burwood Highway in Vermont South, just where it intersects with Morack Road. There's a skateboard ramp at the foot of the trail, and the trail then follows the road up the hill past the Whitehouse Recycling and Waste Centre. Yes, I know—a rubbish tip in other words. Not exactly conducive to a nice leisurely stroll among the trees. But take heart in the fact that the fresh smell of green waste being mulched at the centre actually overpowers pretty much anything else. And it really doesn't take long, and before you know it, you're deep into the bushland behind the waste centre and you really wouldn't even know it was there.
The wide, gravel trail climbs up surprisingly high and a brief turn of your head when the path starts to flatten out a little rewards you with lovely views of some paddocks in the distance, even with a few cows lounging about (I'd love to know whose cows they are, and how they've ended up there, hanging on to a few patches of green as roads and houses and the EastLink tollway have been built up around them). But—and this is where your feet come in more handy than your bicycle pedals—if you're looking for an even better view, you can veer off the main path a little for a bit of a hidden surprise peeking up from behind the trees.
Don't forget to look over and see the cows peacefully grazing on the green grass in the distance
Take the somewhat rough and ready steps on your left, just as the trail begins to head downwards again, and you'll reach a bit of a clearing, and then lo and behold, a timber lookout tower structure thing (very untechnical way to describe it, but I really don't know what else to call this thing!). It has a curved ramp on one side, and a fairly steep set of steps on the other side, both access points leading to a platform at the top. The structure has seen better days—the timber is a little weathered now, and the chicken wire fastened on the walkway to prevent slipping is starting to buckle and come up at the edges in some parts—but it still looks safe enough to me. Perhaps I'd avoid it in the somewhat unlikely event of a hurricane hitting Vermont South one of these days, but on a dry day in August, it was perfectly fine.
Once you reach the top, just pause for a moment and take in the views. You can see towards the mountains of the Dandenongs in one direction, and then over to Glen Waverley in the other. I imagine that when the tower was first built, the views would have been even better. But the passage of time has meant that the surrounding trees have now grown to a point where some of the vantage points are a little obscured—rather pleasantly obscured mind you, for a view that is a little blocked by trees is much more preferable than a view blocked by buildings!
After my surprise discovery of this almost-hidden away lookout point, I headed back down to the trail on the other side of the hill. It eventually connects back up to the main Dandenong Creek Trail that I have pedalled over oh so many times, but there are also little offshoots of trail that zig-zag and criss-cross the hill, giving you a bit more of a chance to explore. The deeper you delve, the quieter it is—virtually silent in some parts. Wattle trees with bright bursts of yellow pop out here and there between the gum trees, and as you head a little further down the hill, the trail-namesake Dandenong Creek suddenly appears. The creek is narrow and gentle in this section of the trail, and trickles by slowly—a perfect match for the calm pace this area exudes.
A little way along the creek, and I'm in for another surprise. A quaint little bridge—once bright with red and green, but now a tad faded—crosses the creek and leads you to a darling little playground. It reminds me of that old childhood fable of billy goats gruff and trolls living under the bridge, and for a brief while, you could pretend you are in a land far, far away, and not a mere few hundred metres from busy Burwood Highway.
The other side of the playground sees the return of quiet suburban streets and pleasant-looking brick veneer homes, and I wonder how many of the local residents even realise what is hiding just over their back fence. After all, it has taken me some years and many, many a cycling trip over the gravel paths before I even took the chance wander around properly. And I'm glad I did…for I never would have remembered the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff otherwise!