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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Briars Historic Park, Mt. Martha, Victoria

The Briars Historic Park is located on the Nepean Highway at Mt Martha, 45 south of Melbourne CBD.

It is based on an estate, which was established in 1840 by retired British army officer Captain James Reid. Reid named the 2000-ha property 'Tichin-Gorourke' (meaning 'voice of the frogs'), after the local Aboriginal name for what is now called Balcombe Creek. Alexander Balcombe who renamed it ‘The Briars’ after his old family home on St Helena took it over in 1846. Balcombe built the earliest section of the graceful 12-room homestead between 1848 and 1851 with extensions in the 1860s. He became a prominent local citizen of Mornington and helped establish St Peter's Anglican Church and Osborne School.

The house and estate remained in the Balcombe family until 1977 when all but eight remaining hectares around the home were sold to the shire. The house, with its old established trees, lawns, gardens and farm buildings was donated to the shire. Inside are items given by Napoleon to the Balcombe family, whom he befriended while in exile on St Helena in 1815. Historic farm machinery is on display in the farm buildings behind the stables.

Within the park is Josephine's Restaurant and an information centre with audio-visual displays, family photographs, artifacts, information and an aquarium presenting some of the local wetland fauna.

A boardwalk leads from the information centre to two bird hides situated within 30 ha of wetlands where there are more than 120 bird species, along with koalas, kangaroos and wallabies. There are also two walks, which lead through a large area of native woodland. There is signage relating to the flora and fauna and a viewing area overlooking the wetlands.

I visited this very large and magnificient Park on October 15, 2007, completing the Koala, Woodland, and Wetland Walks - about 7 km total.

Beware of Red Devils, which lurk in the Park...!

My pictures of the visit are at Briar's Historic Park

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