Article by Shane Dell 21/11/05
With the Aussie summer and school holiday season about to swing into action, many of you will be packing your bags for a trip to Victorian destinations or even visiting Melbourne from overseas.
For the cricket tourists among you, few would be aware that Melbourne and or selected destinations in the State of Victoria offer opportunities for you to catch up and indulge your love of the sport and refresh your knowledge of the history of the game via some terrific museums, historic places and destinations that cater for cricket lovers from far and wide.
Having visited some of these or heard reports about them, I thought I would share with you a little information that may entice you to visit them and indulge your insatiable thirst for all things cricket. As a cricket and gold rush history buff, my favourite destination would have to be the cricket ground at Walhalla, the town and itís surrounding districts which echo the history of cricket from days past.
Perched atop a hill overlooking the township of Walhalla, which in its heyday was a centre of gold mining activity is a cricket ground whose existence is not well known or obvious to visitors. Carved from the top of a hill by cricket starved gold miners and I mean literally carved, those who make the climb up the steep and narrow walking track from the main street are pleasantly surprised by the sight that greets them at the end of a rather arduous journey which is uphill all the way and very taxing in the summer heat. Itís not an easy climb and definitely not recommended for those who maintain less than an average level of fitness, but for those who get up the hill and stand on the ground, the chills will go down your spine when you realise nothing got in the way of those wanting a cricket match.
The great Warwick Armstrong aka the Big Ship once stood atop this hill and was challenged to hit a ball off it onto the roof of the nearby Star Hotel, one of the many pubs that existed in the town at the time and still a watering hole for thirsty travelers today. Did he win the challenge? I wonít spoil the fun and will let you find out when you visit.
Teams from far and wide traveled to play cricket at Walhalla in times now long gone, matches often lasted many days and it was common for visiting teams to walk for as long 5 days from the outlying gold mining areas of Aberfeldy, Woods Point, Donnellyís Creek, Jorgensen Flat and Edwards Reef when they were due to play at the Walhalla ground. A round trip by many of these teams could often last weeks when one considers the travel times and festivities that surrounded matches, but none-the-less when a match was scheduled the miners would down tools and march off in great anticipation of the challenge ahead, some no doubt with a willing eye cast to the social celebrations post match.
Walhalla Cricket Ground - Photo provided by the Walhalla Heritage and Development League
Situated about 50 Kms North of Moe in the Gippsland region of Victoria and accessed via the Princes Highway via Moe, Walhalla is a short trip from Melbourne and has more than enough attractions to satisfy the day tripper and those looking for a great weekend spent in a very historic region with more attractions and things to do and see than you can poke a stick at. This is a very historic town and you will need to spend at least a full day visiting, lots of history, historic buildings and some of the best scenery you will see anywhere. If you go for a weekend, donít forget to pack the fishing rod as Walhalla is just minutes from the Thomson river. Gold is still easily found in the Walhalla area, so you might also want to take a gold pan with you in anticipation of that big strike.
A few words of advice when visiting Walhalla.
If you donít like crowds, donít visit on the weekend as the town is often choked with tourists and camping facilities and or accommodation is very hard to come by. Day trippers would be well advised to take a BBQ or picnic lunch. Food and dining is available, but like most tourist spots...overpriced and the wait to be served is a killer on the weekend. For those of you visiting during the week, make sure you take that picnic or BBQ lunch as every time I have visited at such times, many of the local eateries are closed.
For the four wheel drivers among you, there are plenty of tracks to outlying areas that are easily accessible and very interesting to visit. I recommend, Beardmore on the Woods Point - Walhalla Rd, where you can picnic or camp at the Aberfeldy river bridge and camping area. A quiet place during the week, it is often best avoided during the weekends due to the number of campers who go there with their VERY noisey motor bikes. But, during the week, you would be lucky to see anyone else. Other areas that may interest the 4x4 drivers are Jorgensen Flat, an area known for itís cricket matches played in the only open area you will see nestled on the banks of Donnellyís Creek and the Donnellyís Creek camp ground. which in gold rush times was the actual cricket ground where matches were played by the miners and residents of the area. A serious word of caution though, tracks into Jorgensen Flat and Donnellyís Creek camp ground are NOT suitable for anything other than four wheel drive vehicles and those going to the camp ground will need to cross at least one creek to get there. And keep an eye on the kids in this area during summer as it abounds with Tiger and Brown snakes. The area also abounds with many mine shafts, so donít let the kids wander on their own or go trudging through the bush unescorted.....they just may not come back! If the tigers snakes donít get them....the mine shafts will.
For those of you who would like to visit Beardmore - Aberfeldy River Bridge Camping Area, Jorgensen Flat or Donnellysí Creek camping ground, you can use the following GPS coordinates to get there. The datum used is WGS84.
Beardmore - Aberfeldy River Bridge Camping/Picnic Area
S 37į 51.309 - E 146į 25.993
S 37į 44.906 - E 146į 24.743
Donnellyís Creek Camping Ground
S 37į 44.902
E 146į 26.516
Further, be aware that petrol or auto LPG is NOT available in Walhalla, so make sure you fill up at Moe or Rawson if you need to. The nearest petrol when travelling on the Woods Point - Walhalla Rd is at Woods Point, but be aware as a remote township you will pay very HIGH prices. A recent report from Wally Webster at Walhalla tells us that petrol may not be available at Rawson either nowadays, so make sure you play it safe and fill up at Moe before traveling north to Walhalla or further destinations.
If ever you get to these areas for a visit, keep your eyes skinned for a white Subaru station wagon and donít forget to say hello if you spot it. I visit this area regularly on prospecting trips and to soak up the local bush, so maybe weíll see each other one day.
Located just outside Daylesford in Central Victoria, Shepherds Flat is home to the Field of Dreams, a cricket ground and village built by the Tinetti Family and now the home of the great Julian Millichamp, one of the worldís finest and best known pod shavers (cricket bat maker).
Better known now as Cricket Willow or Bud to Bat, this place has to be seen to be believed. Driving out of Daylesford in the direction of Shepherds Flat, which is basically nothing more than a name place nowadays, you will be more than surprised to come across this fantastic cricket tourist attraction that has EVERY facility ANY cricket tragic could ask for including, one of the finest cricket grounds in Victoria, first rate training facilities, a museum and the atmosphere of an English village with itís surrounding cricket theme buildings. Bud to Bat is also home to one of Australiaís only cricket willow plantations that has been revived by the Tinettiís and is now used in the manufacture of their own brand of bats, which you can see being hand made on the premises.
The Field of Dreams at Shepherds Flat is apparently open weekends and holidays, but it should be noted when we visited during a previous period of school holidays, the place was locked up tighter than a bank with no customers. Donít know if this has changed nowadays, but I would certainly give them a telephone call before driving up from Melbourne for a visit. For more information on Cricket Willow and the Filed of Dreams visit www.cricketwillow.com.au
Detailing the cricket achievementís of one of Australiaís first, but little know international cricketers is the Johnny Mullagh Cricket Centre located at Harrow in Western Victoria. A little far from Melbourne for a day trip, but worth a visit if traveling to the region, this museum celebrating the life of Johnny Mullagh is a must see for cricket history buffs who will no doubt recall that Australiaís first touring team to England was made up solely of indigenous Australianís, of which, Mullagh was a star of the team and an outstanding all rounder. For more information visit www.westwimmera.vic.gov.au/main.cfm ?contentfile=infopage&categoryID=4&topicID=48&infopageid=161
Very similar to the Field of Dreams at Shepherds Flat, this cricket ground and centre is again modeled on an English village ground. Not quite as much to see as Cricket Willow, this ground and visitor centre seems to be more utilised for social and corporate matches than cricket tourism or history buffs. Yet, that shouldnít deter you from visiting the Hume and Hovell Cricket Ground as from all reports the hospitality is fantastic and the region it is located in is home to some very fine scenery and wineries which abound. Probably suited more to group tours than individual day trippers, more information can be obtained from their website at www.humeandhovell.com.au
No visit to Melbourne would be complete for any cricket fan without visiting the MCC Museum, home to one of, if not the finest collection of cricket memorabilia in the world. Itís all here and you can get very up close to some of cricketís most legendary artifacts belonging to some of the greatest cricketerís of all time. Donít miss this museum and donít miss a tour of the hallowed turf on which the Melbourne Cricket Ground rests. Situated just a five minute tram ride from Flinders St station, there is absolutely no excuse for not visiting. For more information on the MCC Museum visit www.mcc.org.au/default.asp?pg=museumsdisplay&articleid=583
Not well known to anyone is the fact that the great Don Bradman is believed to have played in at least one cricket match on this oval situated on Cranbourne Rd in Frankston next to Chisholm Institute. The Don who it is believed was stationed at Mt Martha for a short period during his second world war service, is believed to have played for a combined services side against a Frankston xi. However, there is not much to see at Samuel Sherlock Reserve nowadays as for years it was neglected by the local council and is now being redeveloped by them into a much needed regional skatepark and recreational bmx facility. Just a pity they couldnít erect a plaque to recognise the past history of cricket on this reserve, maybe the kids would be inspired to give up their skateboards in preference of taking up a cricket bat. Still, if ever you are in the Frankston area, go stand in the middle of this oval and savor the moment of when one of the worldís greatest wielded the willow. The ground at the time of Bradmans appearance would have been known as the Cranbourne Rd Reserve. For more information about Samuel Sherlock Reserve and itís early history visit www.frankstontomatoes.com.au/homebase.html
No doubt many more cricket attractions await discovery in Victoria, so if we have not listed one or you know of an area with historic cricket significance worthy of a visit, send us an email and tell us. Just click the contact link above for details on how to send email to Shane.