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Friday, January 11, 2008

Fernshaw Park in Summer

Fernshaw (originally called Fernshawe) developed as a coach stop in the 1860s and, despite its isolation, grew to become a popular tourist resort during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

It is 72 km east of Melbourne, in the Yarra Ranges National Park, a few km past Healesville.

Fernshaw was located on the Yarra Track to the goldfields around Woods Point, and its first residents were teamsters, road makers, timber splitters and fruit growers servicing the passing trade. Two hotels were quickly established, Jefferson`s and Boyle`s, together with a school. By 1870 there were 11 households scattered through the forest in the area, and the settlement prospered as goldmining peaked at Woods Point.

By the 1880s, the Water Supply Board was investigating reserving the Watts River watershed for water supply, and the area surrounding Fernshaw was declared government forest.

Tourists had also discovered the township, which was larger than Healesville at that time.

Before its demise in the 1890s, Fernshaw became the base for walks and picnics, and was a Mecca for naturalists, botanists and artists.

The Vagabond, John Stanley James, described Fernshaw during a visit in 1885:

`The traveller`s first glimpse of Fernshaw is a clearing, a rustic boarding house, the ladies in sun bonnets carrying armfuls of woodland trophies; then a bridge over the laughing, gurgling Watts and a turn into the high street of the village. The road makes this main street. Two hotels, a post office, a state school and 2 huts form the village.`

Between 1885 and 1891 all alienated land in the Maroondah Catchment was purchased by the government, and all buildings in Fernshaw were relocated or demolished.The township site, however, remained a popular refreshment spot for tourists travelling over the Black Spur or walking in the surrounding hills.

The Board of Works erected `modern sanitary conveniences` at the Fernshaw Reserve in 1929-30 during the development of tourist facilities following the construction of the Maroondah Reservoir. In 1937-8, the Fernshaw Road from Healesville was rerouted at Fernshaw to create the Blacks` Spur Deviation Road.

The new road was constructed by the Board of Works under agreement with the Country Roads Board. At the same time the metalled road from the Grace burn Aqueduct to Fernshaw was sealed with bitumen.

In 1940-43 93 acres were planted with mountain ash trees to rehabilitate the area around Fernshaw following the devastation of the 1939 fires.

The Reserve remains today as a popular stopping point along the Fernshaw Road, now called the Maroondah Highway, and a section of the old road can still be seen leading down to the site of the old bridge over the Watts River.

I visited Fernshaw on January 10, 2008, a day where the temperature reached 41 degrees!

I completed about 2 km (4 km return) of the long Morley Walking Track, which starts at the picnic ground.The track winds it way past tall mountain ash and through beautiful tree ferns.Nothing remains of the former town, except the pine trees.

See the Photos

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