The Blue Dandenongs

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February 24th 2006
Published: April 17th 2006
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Sculptures by William RickettsSculptures by William RickettsSculptures by William Ricketts

A place of beauty and tranquility
From any high point in Melbourne you can look to the east and see a range of mountains, the abundance of gum trees give them a hazy blue look so they are often called the blue Dandenongs. In this area are found some of Victorias favorite tourist sites , we were to visit three of them.

The Dandenongs are rich in spectacular sights, massive trees, large tree ferns and pretty picnic sites where you can feed the local birds. As you climb higher into the mountains the scenery becomes very dramatic with deep gorges and rocky outcrops.

Our first visit here was to the William Rickets Sanctuary. This is a fascinating place, which was the home of the late William Ricketts, a sculpter, who spent most of his life living with an aboriginal tribe.
His work reflects the culture and philosophy of these peoples. His workroom and kiln are still intact as are the remains of unfinished works. The sculptures are displayed in the natural forest setting that was his garden.
Water was also used to enhance the peace and tranquility which is to be found amongst these works of art.
In total there are 92 pieces of ceramic sculptures of people and animals which merge with the natural surroundings, many half hidden amongst the rock, ferns and tall Mountain Ash.
There is a connection felt between the earth and the spirit of the land,a place to stand and stare.

Our next place of interest was the steam railway known as Puffing Billy, the pride and joy of the Dandenongs, it is Australias favorite steam train
. It travels for 25km through towering forests and cool fern gullies. You are transported back to a time long gone.
The rail track passes over 5 trestle bridges which span the roads and gullies. Although they look old, they have recently been restored.
I was surprised to see all the children sat on the edges of the carriages with their feet hanging over the side. They were really enjoying themselves and waved to everyone as they passed by
. I felt as excited as the children to see the train on its way, puffing lots of steam and hooting as it rounded the bend.

We had planned to see as much of the native wildlife as possible without going to a zoo, but some things are almost impossible to see in their natural habitat because they are rare, protected, very shy, nocturnal or just inaccessible.
With this in mind we visited the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary in the Dandenongs. A zoo with a difference, the birds, animals and reptiles are there because some species need help to survive.
One such animal is the duck-billed platypus. This fascinating animal, lives in the river bank, being nocturnal they stay in the burrow during the day coming out at night to hunt for food.
The Platypusary is a new enclosure for the platypus families, where they can raise their young in safety. It is kept very dark for these nocturnal animals, so photographing them is too sophisticated for my camera, sorry no pictures but go to for more up todate information. A fascinating fact is that these mammals lay eggs and have a bill like a duck. the young are born in the burrow and suckle from birth.

We saw many other native species, amongst them were the Wedge-tailed Eagle, the Rock Wallaby and many others. The main cause of their plight is loss of habitat due to over hunting and de-forestation

Healesville run
Puffing Billy Puffing Billy Puffing Billy

One of the five trestle bridges
a hospital, the Austalian Wildlife Health Centre, where you can meet the vets and watch them at work. We saw two road accident victims, a common occurance, both recovering nicely.

I never thought that I would tickle a Wombats tummy or walk amongst pelicans.
If your interest is native wildlife then don't miss Healesville.

Additional photos below
Photos: 10, Displayed: 10


Puffing BillyPuffing Billy
Puffing Billy

what a way to ride a famous train

The Helmeted Honeyeater
Healesville Healesville

A peculiar bird is the Pelican, his beak holds more than his belly can.
Healesville Healesville

The Rainbow Lorikeets must be the noisiest feeders around, their fierce battles at the table can be heard everywhere, no need to announce feeding time.

Birth of a Dragon,he will grow to about 6ins long. the second egg is about to hatch.

5th June 2006

Looking at Downunder
Raymond and Lee are enjoying your pictures and comments from a screen in Ashton Library CU soon Ray

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