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Going postal

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Last year I was attempting to climb Martyr Road in some truly horrible conditions. This is one of Australia’s steepest and toughest residential streets. Much of this climb is around 30% in gradient, and it felt like there was concrete weighing down my shoes. After just 50 metres of trying to climb this monster my lungs were on fire.  I was screaming in pain and every fibre of my body was telling me to get off and walk. Failure was not an option and in desperation I was forced to deliver the mail and Going postal.

Image taken by Ewan Hilsdon; Martyr Road
Delivering the mail is a term relating to a cyclist who come across a hill so steep that they need to

“zig-zag from one side of a road or path to the other in order to attempt to reduce the gradient”

Delivering the mail really sucks.  Maybe its the speed you’re going at.  Or should I say lack of. When you come to changing directions.  You get that horrible feeling that you won’t be able to turn the wheel and drop the bike.  It’s hard enough just to climb. Avoiding potholes, debris or turning the bike is a bitch to do.  It’s something I never want to do again.  Its so much easier climbing in a straight line.  Anything else is just a waste of energy.  Why?

  1. It increases the distance you have to climb which invariably;
  2. Takes you longer to get to the peak of the climb which will;
  3. Friggin hurt (welcome to the pain cave). And there’s a possibility that;
  4. You may have to get off to walk. Which is truly embarrassing,but worse still;
  5. You fall over (then the ill fated question; is the bike ok?)
Please don’t try this at home. This was a trained professional

Sure there may be times when its necessary.  But trust me.  You don’t want to be Going postal

Tikalara Park climb Melbournes toughest climb

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Distance: 200 meters
Average Gradient: 9%
Maximum Gradient:  close to 40%+
Difficulty: Extreme
Surface: Horrible
This climb is also known as “The Wall”

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

 Heads up that this is arguably Melbourne’s toughest climb.  It should only be attempted if you have a very high fitness level and don’t mind walking your bike.

This climb was once the steepest bitumen road in Australia, and part of the hill climb circuit. They first raced cars here on 12 March 1951.  The circuit consisted of a 967 meter loop featuring an insane climb half-way through.  The last race was held there on 6 December 1987. If you truly consider yourself a hill climber you will want to give this one a go.  The climb is part of the Tikalara Park, which is a large area of preserved land in the Yarra Valley parklands. The park consists of wetlands and bushland, and is just off the main Yarra Trail.  Which is one of Melbourne’s most popular shared bike paths.

The park has a variety of paths including paved footpaths, gravel tracks and wooden boardwalks.

Start of the climb is just off the Parkway (Templestowe).  After you cross the bridge there’s a sign on the left hand side of the road for the hill circuit climb.  Follow the trail and its only a short ride to the base of the climb.

The Tikalara Park climb

The climb to the base is over loose gravel, with a couple of bumpy sections.  You’ll find a sign indicating the start of the climb, and the surface changes.  The climb itself is on bitumen, which has significantly deteriorated over the years.  You may have to work your way left to right to find a decent riding line.  The first 100 meters gradually gets steeper and steeper as you round the bend.

When you round the bend I will guarantee you will shit yourself.  There’s scary, and there’s scary.  The Tikalara Park climb is something on a whole new level.  It just gets steeper and steeper, and its hard to tell how steep it gets as the segment is too short, & there’s no way you will take your eyes off the path to look at your Garmin.  I would guestimate that it peaks over 40%.

This is a climb that if you go too hard, you will end up cooking yourself and have to get off and walk. If you go too slow. You won’t have the ascendancy to climb and you will have to jump off and walk.  A word of advice that if either of these situations occur.  Try not to fall over……

Please don’t try this one if getting off and walking your bike humiliates you!

This climb is nicknamed ‘the Wall’.  You’ll work out for yourself pretty quickly.

2/3 of the way up is winch corner, and you will see a rusted winch just off to the side of the path.  Its tempting to go and tie a rope to the winch to pull yourself up.  For many, that’s the only hope you will have of getting up to the top.

You may not be able to get up this one but how would you know if you never give it a go…..

End of the climb. Hopefully before you fall over.

What to expect

• This is a shared path. Please be courteous to walkers
• Keep an eye out for wildlife in particular Kangaroos
• Rough uneven surface
• An incredibly high level of fitness is required to even attempt a climb of this difficulty
• Toilet, Café & Picnic areas available nearby

How to get there

Access is off The Parkway or Arlunya Place (Templestowe), or the main Yarra Trail if you felt like taking the bike track.

Tour de Pharmacy preview

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The HBO special by Andy Samberg and Murray Miller is a cycling classic.  Boasting an all star-studded cast taking a swing at cycling’s doping past.

The Tour de Pharmacy is a sports comedy which doesn’t hold back.  Right from the outset you see Orlando Bloom.  Clad in Lycra and sporting some pretty impressive 80’s facial hair hurtling down a mountain.  No one realises that he has died from a drug-induced heart attack whilst his penis dangles all over the place until he flies off a cliff.

Image courtesy of HBO

The film follows a fictitious 1982 Tour de France which claimed to be one of the most outrageous in the tours history.  Early on a mass pile-up of riders led to a massive punch on.  In the aftermath of the fight a doping needle is discovered in a water bottle, which leads to an investigation into who in the Peleton is doping.  165 riders were subsequently disqualified for doping.

The Tour de Pharmacy follows the exploits of the five remaining riders on their quest to ride one of the world’s most famous races.  The Tour de France.

This is a film which never takes itself too seriously, and takes on the taboo subject of doping in professional cycling and turns it into a good hearted fun comedy.

This film has an all-star cast of celebrity actors, sports stars, directors and a number of celebrities that I’m sure you’d recognize.

If you’re a passionate cyclist would you enjoy watching a film which takes the mickey out of the world of cycling?  Guess there’s only one way that you can find out…………..

Running time: 43 minutes

Director

  • Jake zymanksi

Writer

  • Murray Miller

Just some of the All-star cast

  • Orlando Bloom
  • Dolph Lundgren
  • Kevin Bacon
  • Danny Glover
  • Adewale Akinnuove-Agbaje
  • J.J Abrams
  • Mike Tyson
  • Chris Webber
  • John Hamm

 

Australias first bike safety program 1977 – 1982

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it is clear that the transport future will include far more ways of moving people around cities that exists today.  Not everyone will ride a bike but a great many will do so.  Geelong Bikeplan is planning for those changes.  It is appropriate now to place greater emphasis in encouraging more people to use bicycles and make the general public more aware of the rights of cyclists” – Geelong Bike Plan

On Friday 8th July 1977 Geelong launched an audacious plan to improve safety on its roads, in what was to become Australia’s very first bike safety campain.  The aim was to encourage more people to ride their bikes.  Its motto was;

every street is a cycling street

 

Image courtesy of Bicycle Users Geelong

A number of safety initiatives that we appreciate today we can attribute to the city of Geelong.  This bike plan was introduced to help improve road behavior of car drivers and cyclist and for its time implemented a number of radical changes.

These included:

  • Trialing reduced speed limits in residential streets down to 40 km/h
  • Building segregated bike lanes on some roads.  In total there were 14 km of bike lanes introduced
  • Signage was put all around Corio to help educate motorists and cyclists
  • Detailed bike maps were produced for local residents
  • Investing in bicycle infrastructure such as warning signs and bike racks for public use to encourage people to get out and ride more
  • Introducing a publication on cycling safety to be introduced to the curriculum of local schools
  • Opening their first bike path.  This connected the Norlane area north of Cowies Creek to North Geelong High School and Bell Park Technical School.  This path was primarily set-up to provide a safe way for children to get too and from school
  • Using law enforcement to improve the safety of cyclists.  Two full-time Police officers were appointed for a four month period.  These officers reviewed alternative approaches to bicycle enforcement and to observe the road behaviour of motorists and cyclists. During this period over 2,000 warnings were issued to motorists and cyclists.  120 motorists were fined as well
  • During 1980 a 12 minute film was produced for the Geelong Bikeplan
  • This campaign was marketed in newspaper, T.V, and safety fliers were developed to help educate everyone
Image courtesy of Bicycle Users Geelong

The government enlisted the help of one of Australia’s most famous cyclists Hubert Opperman to join the fight.  Opperman had served 17 years in parliament representing the city of Corio from 1949 to 1967 before retiring from politics.  Opperman was a widely respected member of the community.

He added a major presence to the campaign.

This trial was a huge success and was widely recognised at the time as a model for bicycle planning around the country.  We can be thankful that the bike infrastructure that sometimes we take for granted today.  This may not have been possible without the hard work of the Geelong Bikeplan some 40 years ago.

Image courtesy of Bicycle Users Geelong

Sources:

Images courtesy of the Geelong Heritage Centre

View the Geelong Bike Plan 1979-80 brochure (PDF).

http://www.bicycleusersgeelong.org.au/geelong-bike-plan-1977-82/

Red Rock Reserve climb

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The Red Rock Reserve is located 17 km north-west of Colac.  It is a major Volcano site which has seen many violent volcanic eruptions that have resulted in the craters and lakes found in the area.  Around 40 ‘eruption centres’ have been identified in and around the township of Alvie, near Colac.  Some of these eruptions helped to form some of the biggest lakes in the area such as Lake Purdiguluc, Lake Werowrap and Lake Coragulac.  Red Rock Reserve itself is made up of several large Maar craters, and a very popular tourist attraction.

The Red Rock Reserve was named after the distinctive outcrop of volcanic ash, and this reserve offers the choice of two very scenic climbs.  Both offer impressive views of the surrounding areas, volcanic craters and lakes that the region is renowned for.

Start of the climb: corner of Red Rock Road Reserve and Corangamite Lake Road (Alvie).

Both climbs are the same distance and start from the same spot.  Given they’re so short you should try to drop down and do both climbs in the one ride.    Whichever climb you choose, they both have gradients which hit double-figures and are a lot harder than the average gradient suggests.  Both climbs offer amazing views, including Lake Coragnamite which is the largest permanent salt water lake in Australia with a surface area of 25,160 hectares and lake Colac which is just as impressive with a surface area of 2,778 hectares and a circumference of 33 km.  The views of the surrounding areas are just as impressive.

This is a climb which is perfect to go and watch either a sunrise or sunset.

Climb 1 (Western lookout)

Distance: 1.1 km
Average gradient: 3%

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

This is the most popular and easiest of the two lookouts.  There is a short and sharp pinch leading up to the turn-off for the Soldier memorial.  Followed by a 400 meter flattened out section.  The last 300 meters is quite brutal leading up to the lookout car park.   There are impressive views from the car park, and a set of stairs leads to a secondary lookout where you can take in 360 degree views of the surrounding area.

Climb 2 (Soldier memorial)

Distance: 1.1 km
Average gradient: 4%

Click here for link to the Strava segment.

This is the harder of the two climbs with the steepest gradients and little respite in-between.  The turnoff for the soldier memorial is 850 meters to the left of the climb where you will find the gradient going well into the double figures and a real grind.  This climb offers much more spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding areas.  The Soldier’s memorial signifies the end of the climb.  As you can see in the photo above the road continues onto a second lookout.  There is less than 50 meters of climbing to get up to that lookout and you will feel every single meter of it.  That last pinch is brutal.

Red Rock Reserve climb

  • Offers incredible views (photos are a must)
  • Last erupted 8,000 years ago
  • Use extreme caution if climbing on a windy day
  • Soldiers memorial (south lookout)
  • For the wine lovers, Red Rock Winery is located at the base of the climb

 

The Dirty Dandys ride

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There’s something special about bringing together a group of strangers and introducing them to new roads.  I put together this little event which included some of the Dandenong Ranges finest gravel climbs.  I invited a small number of riders to join me for a Dirty Dandys ride.  We had rain forecasted overnight.  It was supposed to dry up by the time the ride was due to start.  On the drive up it was raining quite heavily and just kept on raining.

I was really excited about this ride.  There were a number of riders who were travelling quite a distance just to eperience this ride.  All the way from the western suburbs, & one of the riders ventured all the way from the beach to join us.  There was going to be two groups with the second group due to meet us in the Basin car park at around 8:00 am.

Basin Olinda Road

The first group consisting of Adam, Geert & Fabian headed out to Old Coach Road.  This is a climb which I found so hard that I’ve only ever done it once.  Old Coach Road is a dead-end road, which then turns into a walking track.  Most riders are turned off venturing up it due to the dead-end sign (plus the fact its ridiculously steep).  Very few have done this climb.  When you get to the gate which leads onto the National Park, this is super steep and littered with really wet rocks and debris all over the path.  There was very little in the way in traction, and was really hard work to get up today.

The guys worked out pretty quickly that this wasn’t going to be an easy ride.

Climb no# 2 was up Basin Olinda Road which is easily the Dandenong’s most popular dirt climb.  Its a stunning road to climb which is easy to access and located right next to the start of the 1 in 20.  The road was wet and slightly muddy and everyone had to work overtime to climb.  It was great conditions to ride though.  We were treated to a low hanging mist on the second half of the climb. Things were going well until the skies really opened up on us.  I love riding when it rains, but these were conditions where the last place you wanted to be was on a bike.  As everyone crested the climb, we weren’t giving each other high fives.  Everyone went and huddled under the shelter next to the shops to hide from the rain.

Many were wondering whether to pull the plug and head home.

 

Not night time. 8:30 in the morning.

We descended down to Olinda Creek Road and made our way across to Silvan Road.  This is a climb which is 6.7 km in length with an average gradient of 5%.  I felt sorry for those sitting in the wheel of the rider in front of them.  The roads were wet and muddy and all they were doing was eating mud.  By now everyone was well and truly soaked to the skin.

Silvan Road is quite a hard one to climb.  The gradient is nice and easy down the bottom and steadily gets steeper until it hits you in the face at 13% in a number of places on the climb.  With rain adding to the misery there were a lot of riders in the pain cave on Silvan today.  Near the top is the R.J Hamer Arboretum Gardens and one of the finest lookouts in the Dandenong’s.  Today there wasn’t much in the way of a view, and there’s sill a bit of climbing to get to the top.  One of the riders spied a shelter, and the climb could wait.

Everyone agreed that it was a good time to shelter from the rain.

Image taken by Mesh Gammune

Everyone looked shell shocked. Soaked to the skin, yet somehow there were grins on the guys faces.  We had all traveled up some truly stunning roads, in conditions that most would not dare ride.  You want all your rides to be special, and sometimes it just happens.  There was 11 riders on the ride, and for most the course was completely new to them, and they didn’t quite know what to expect.

It was a bit daunting the fact that we weren’t even halfway through the ride.  There was still five climbs to go.

Brad Akers in his VeloOne kit

Warwick Farm Road was next.  I don’t know how it was possible but it started to rain harder.  A few of the riders were physically shaking.  One of the guys came up to me and said;

we’re having a great ride but the conditions are just too bad.  We’ll have to finish this up“.

Warwick Farm Road was now set to be the final climb of the day.  We weren’t even half way through the course, but I was relieved that we were going to be pulling the plug.  I would hate for any of the guys to get sick after a ride like this.  There was some very exhausted looking riders at the top of this climb.  Some were still able to smile.  Then my ears perked up when I heard my favorite words.

One more climb!

Down the base of Perrins Creek Road is a dirt climb up Coonara Road.  Its this great little 2 km climb with a fairly consistent gradient which joins onto one of the Dandenong Ranges most iconic climbs.  The Wall.  Earning itself the nickname of being “the Dirty Wall“.  I have climbed Coonara Road a number of times, but today it was at its most stunning.  The road is surrounded to either side by imposing Mountain Ash, and ancient ferns which can grow over 10 meters in height.

The mud was being thrown around thick & fast.

This was definately going to be the last climb for the day.  If any of the riders had energy left this climb was guaranteed to suck the life out of them.  At little over 5 km in length, this is a climb which many underestimate, and is quite a difficult climb to do.

Coonara Road

From here everyon headed back down to the Basin for a Coffee except for Geert Vercruysse “aka Geert the vert”.  He was loving the conditions and kept on riding.  Geert headed down Falls Road, past the National Rhododendrom Gardens and then up to climb Olinda Creek Road.

Overall this had been an incredibly hard ride.  But not all bad experiences are bad and a ride like this, even though it was hell may turn out to be one of the most memorable rides of the year.  The forecast had given everyone false hope that the ride would be dry.  Instead, it rained on us for 3 and a half hours straight.

Has the weatherman ever told you stories that just make you laugh?

-The Strangers, Always the Sun.

It was wet, cold and very muddy which was the story of the day.  A number of riders got back to the Basin and started to shake uncontrollably.  Everyone was soaked to the skin.  Covered in mud, and freezing cold.

Brad Akers commented: “How good was that ride!  Really didn’t want it to end

Sing Ling commented “Ain’t no sunshine in the hills, only rain and mud. Lots of mud“.

Mark Skinner said “S0 many great climbs and due to the cold we were praying for climbs ha ha

A big thankyou

A massive thank you to Mesh Gammune who drove as a support car & course photographer.  Taking some very incredible photos on the day.

A big thanks to everyone who helped out with this ride.  During the week my young son gave me the flu and I was knocked for six.  I was forced to pull out of this ride at the very last minute.  I witnessed a truly epic ride and gave Mesh some company in the support car.  Even though I didn’t get to ride I had an incredible day, and hope to put together another ride like this one at some point in the future.

The Dirty Dandys ride

If you want to learn more about the dirt roads of the Dandenong Ranges click here.  Some of the best roads out there are the one’s you are yet to ride on.

Image taken by Mesh Gammune

2017 Melburn Roobaix

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The Melburn Roobaix has been running since 2006, and easily one of Melbourne’ most iconic cycling events. It is hosted by FYXO who have embraced the spirit of one of Europe’s most popular one day bike races.  The Paris-Roubaix which is renown for its challenging cobblestone sections.  The Melburn Roobaix explores the bumpiest sectors of cobbled lanes and alleys.  As well as the lesser ridden bike routes.  Hoping to introduce riders to hidden parts of the city and offering a sense of adventure.

Sector 9

There were thousands who showed up to the Hawthorn Veledrome to take on this years event. One thing that always stands out are the large number of riders who come along and dress up in costumes and ride the craziest of bikes.

 You kinda feel out of place if you’re not dressed up.

You are given a rider pack with an assortment of goods to complete the ride.  Along with many a keepsakes and a map.  My orientation skills are on par with how well I know my way around the city.  Pretty much non-existent.  I had a look at the map and already felt lost.  Maybe I could follow someone who knew where they were going…..

The first road out of the veledrome was short and steep, and the course offered a surprising amount of challenges along the way.  The Melburn Roobaix isn’t a race.  It’s an adventure and you want to take your time soaking up the sights and sounds that Melbourne is famous for.  I was taking it easy, constantly pulling over taking photos but as the ride wore on, the crowd was thinning out and found it harder and harder following riders. After each sector there was a familiar site of riders pulling over.

Searching through their maps.

My mountain bike ate up the cobbles.  Between the bikes suspension, and wide tires I was really gliding seamlessly across them.  I kinda rued not bringing the road bike which would have offered a much different experience.  There were twelve sectors of cobble all up.  Each with their own reputation and own name:

  1. Hem
  2. Bon Vent
  3. Sur Shackell
  4. Wallers
  5. Bavarder
  6. Halpin-en-Hunter
  7. Biere a l’Avance
  8. Coup Droit
  9. Pas de Marche
  10. Tres Rade
  11. Muur d’Elm
  12. C’es Facile

I loved hitting the cobbles!

It wasn’t all that easy trying to find the right racing line.  Just when you were seamlesslyg gliding across what seemed a perfect line.  You would find a pothole or small bit of road traffic to dodge.  With so many riders around, you always had to be mindful of the terrain and what was around you.  As the lane ways were pretty narrow.

I was pretty much lost after the first street.  Occasionally I would come out on a road that I recognised.  But largely I was a tourist rediscovering my own city, and was lucky to join a couple of riders who seemed to know their way around.  It helped to break up the ride chatting away. Particularly as the second half of the ride really wore me down.  They had certainly come up with a challenging route for the 2017 edition.

After a brief visit to the Beer temple, we eventually we made it out to the Brunswick Veledrome.  Its a joy to do the iconic lap of this historic venue, and I ended up doing several laps.  Soaking up the sites and sounds.  There were a number of riders already ahead of us.  Everyone with a smile on their face.

Brunswick Veledrome

Many thanks to Andy White and FYXO for putting on such a great event.

If you find yourself riding past a cobbled alleyway.  Consider to make a short detour and explore the hidden parts of Melbourne.  You never quite know what you will find……

Scorecard for the first half of 2017

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In 2016 I was sick and injured a grand total of 46 weeks. 2017 couldn’t get much worse could it?

A torn tendon in my rotor cuff saw me off the bike until late March, & it wasn’t until mid-May that I was free of pain. My recovery was long and slow, and things were starting to look good. I then broke quite a few bones in my body at the end of June.  You can probably guess how I’ve seen 2016/17…….

Way back in 2012 I did the Superman on my Mountain bike on the way to work. I was thrown well over three meters over my handlebars, landing nose first. I managed to protect my helmet with my face. My glasses smashed but didn’t go in my eyes. My lip was ripped up, but I didn’t damage any teeth. No neck or spinal damage. No blurry vision, dizziness or concussion. It was lucky that I didn’t kill myself.

The next day was my 5 year wedding anniversary, which I ended up spending at the Dandenong Hospital getting plastic surgery to my nose. The surgeon asked me if I wanted to know where he was taking the skin from. “How bout you just do it and surprise me” I told him. I rode three days later. My nose still swollen and clogged with blood. It was hell breathing. That weekend I did my first ever 150 km ride, struggling to breath and suffering the whole way.

That’s who I am. That’s what I do.

Tarra Bulga National Park

Sadly I had a very serious crash on the 25th June.  Here’s the list of the major injuries:

  • Broken collarbone
  • Fractured elbow
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Fractured forearm
  • Fractured knuckle
  • Strained wrist
  • Knocked out over 3 minutes

Yup it hurt!

With a young son I guess my priorities have changed.  Riding bikes isn’t as essential as it once was and having two serious injuries so close together is not something I’d wish on anyone else.  I plan on taking an extended period of time off the bike which will mean I won’t be writing about my adventures for quite awhile.  I’ve got a number of climb reviews that I had been working on which will be publishing over the coming months.

Here are some of the great rides I’ve managed to do since coming back.

In 2017 I amassed a whopping 1,372 km.  I used to average this each month many years back.  Whilst the prospect of at least another 3 months off the bike isn’t appealing. At least I can look with pride at the riding I did get in this year. There were many places tat I went and experienced for the first time, and had a blast.  Brad Lyell and Geert Vercruysse were the guys I mainly rode with this year.  And cannot thank them enough for all their support through what has been a very difficult year.

Here are some of the best rides I did this year.  If you haven’t read any of these I would really love it if you can.

Waiting for the Ambulance to pick me up

2017 has been one of the most challenging years of my life.  I’m a firm believer in remaining positive, which has been made easier without the support and well wishes that I received from you guys over the year.

Thanks for reading.

I will be back…..

Alfred Nicholas Gardens

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The Alfred Nicholas Gardens are a delight to visit all year, and are renowned for their picturesque waterfalls, water features and its iconic ornamental lake and boathouse. The gardens are located in Sherbrooke in the Dandenong Ranges.  The 13 acre property was originally owned by Alfred Nicholas, who purchased the property in 1929.  Nicholas made his fortune developing the first Australian Aspirin and named it ‘Aspro’  painkiller formula.

Nicholas had a dream of having the best gardens in all of Australasia and a dream home to match which he named Burnham Beeches.  This Estate was designed as an Art Deco masterpiece, & likened to the lines of an ocean liner.

The gardens were donated to the Shire of Sherbrooke in 1965 and were named the ‘Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens’, which are currently managed by Parks Victoria.

Alfred Nicholas  (1881-1937)

Alfred Nicholas with his brother George developed the Aspro painkiller formula.  Becoming the first to officially patent the formula after it was lost from general use after the First World War.

Nicholas purchased the property around 1929, and had grand visions to build a dream home with gardens to match.  60 workers were hired to clear the grounds, and Alfred traveled to many parts of Victoria and overseas to look for established trees to populate his gardens.  Designing it with a lake, rock pools, and numerous ornamental designs. Nicholas hired an expert gardener by the name of Percival to help with the creation of his prized garden.  150 trees were then shipped from England to Melbourne and then on to the gardens.

The gardens were a sense of pride to Nicholas, but sadly Alfred Nicholas never got to see the full extent of his legacy.  When he passed away in 1937, the gardens were still not complete.  His widow Isobel was then left to look after the property.  Which resulted in the gardens falling into a state of deterioration.

Visit the gardens

Take a self-guided tour and explore the Alfred Nichols Gardens.  The gardens itself are now owned and operated by Parks Victoria. Significant restorations were undertaken in the late 1990’s, which transformed the Alfred Nicholas gardens into the place that we know and love today.

At the top of the gardens you will find several moss-covered ponds, next to the mansion.  These ponds have small bridges crossing.  Throughout the park is an abundance of wildlife, with a blend of native and exotic trees including mountain ash, ginkgoes, maples and liquid ambers.

Towards the bottom of the park you will find a waterfall that empties into an ornamental lake with a small boathouse that reflects over the lake.  There are walking trails around this lake with several bridges crossings to give you a view of the lake from all angles. And park benches which you can rest and take in the beauty of the gardens.

The park is great to visit all year round.  

The walk down to the lake and boathouse is downhill.  Be mindful that the paths are quite steep.  A high level of fitness will be required if you want to explore deep into the gardens.

Burnham Beeches

The Burnham Beeches Estate was named after the English National Forest of Beech trees in the county of Buckinghamshire, near where Nicholas’s United Kingdom Aspro factory was located.

Photo taken in 1947. Image courtesy of State Library of Victoria

Norris’s design was for a three-storey mansion in the Art Deco style, which was completed in 1933. The lines are said to be reminiscent of an ocean liner. The zig-zag motif was used as decoration on the decorative wrought-iron work and the balcony balustrades. The exterior of the house was of reinforced concrete, painted white.

The house has had a number of owners during the years.  In 1941, during World War II, the house was loaned as a children’s hospital. After the war from 1948 -1950 it was redecorated by Nicholas’s widow who lived there on and off for several years before moving to their Toorak house in Melbourne in 1954.  The house has been used as a hotel a research facility in the 1950’s, with new extensions added to it in the 1950’s and 1980’s.

The Estate was most recently purchased in 2010, and is currently in the process of being upgraded and refurbished to modern standards.

Alfred Nicholas Gardens

  • Moderate to high level of fitness required
  • Toilet facilities available
  • Great for picnics
  • Great photo opportunities
  • Dogs allowed

Address:

1A Sherbrooke Road
Sherbrooke, VIC

Daily operating hours:

 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily

 Emailinfo@parks.vic.gov.au

Car parking is available directly opposite the garden entrance.

The garden may close during dangerous weather conditions, high fire risk. Check current conditions on the day of your planned visit to confirm it is open.

Sources

  • http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/nicholas-alfred-michael-7836

Why let mountain bikers have all of the fun

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Located just 38 km east of Melbourne is Lysterfield Lake.  This is one of Melbourne’s most popular mountain bike parks which was really put on the map when it hosted the 2006 Commonwealth Games.  Some of the tracks that were specially built for the games still remain today, and are just as hard.

With a rise of popularity in gravel grinding.  It’s a wonder that many road bike riders haven’t realised that many places such as Lysterfield Lake and the You Yangs.  Places which are traditionally seen as mountain bikes only parks, actually have some great fire trails which you can easily ride a road bike on.

Today Geert and Brad came out with me to explore some of the wonders that this park holds.
Trig Point

We were treated to yet another beautiful crisp winter’s morning.  The sun was yet to rise and we hit the trails with our lights lighting up the path in front of us.  The park his home to quite a large population of Kangaroos, and for much of the ride we were dancing in and around them.  It was unpredictable which direction they would choose to hop off onto.

We were lucky see some of the mothers with their joey’s poking their little heads out of their pouch.

We made our way up to Trig Point.  The highest point at Lysterfield Lake, and the 3.2 km climb is quite a challenging one.  This climb has a nasty bite towards the top with the gradient going upward of 18% on very loose gravel.  And very little traction.  I’ve climbed it enough times to know all you can do is suck it up and pretend there’s no pain.

We were treated to magnificent views up top, and of course more Kangaroos.

From here we descended down to the Churchill National Park.  I prefer riding around here as the climbing is very steep, and usually you get the place to yourself.  We made our way around the only flat part of the park.  My intention was to take them up Bellbird track.  Which is quite challenging, but felt they could do it.  Next to this climb is the “Link Track”.  This is a climb that I’ve always avoided like the plague as it’s just too hard to climb (see image below).  I’ve only been up there once in the 50 odd times I’ve ridden around this park.

One of the guys pointed out the crazy track that goes up the side of the hill, and could hear WTF!  I couldn’t help it, and made a change in plan.  At the last second I swung my arm out and turned up this insanely steep path that’s quite corrugated and littered with loose gravel.

I won’t repeat what was said behind me.  Suffice to say they left a nice tip in the swear jar.

 

This climb scares me and I was only expecting to get halfway before jumping off to walk.  The boys, were sitting on my wheel and guess I figured if they could do it then I had to keep climbing.  Halfway up I was feeling ok, and looked over my shoulder and had dropped them somewhat.  I kept gliding and suddenly I had a feeling that I was going to do it.  I chucked a quick glance over my shoulder, and noticed that Geert & Brad had gotten off to walk.  Can imagine that they weren’t liking me at the moment.

The peak couldn’t come quick enough, and a major relief to crest the climb.

With limited time we only had time to do one more climb, so being me.  I picked the hardest one I could think of.  The Powerlines climb is over 1 km in distance averaging over 11%.  Given a third of the climb only averages around 5%, you can imagine how steep this sucka is.  Given that the path is quite rutted in places, and a tonne of loose rocks which offer nothing in the way of traction.

This climb has hurt me every single time I’ve climbed it.

Powerlines climb

Long story short, Geert & Brad got off to walk and I got cursed more.

Maybe it wasn’t the best of experiences, but I’m sure they’ll be back for more!

 

It was a shame that I had to get home to head off to work.  But even a short ride is a good ride.

Both Lysterfield Lake & the Churchill National park have some amazing fire trails which are really enjoyable to ride.  Just keep an eye out for those Kangaroos.  We ended up seeing over 100 on our ride.

If you want to plan around Lysterfield Lake or Churchill National Park I have put together a number of pieces on all of the best climbs.  Please click on the links below:

Click here for link to my Strava Activity.

Why let mountain bikers have all of the fun