"Welcome to Marysville" - after the fires
I first stayed in Marysville at about aged 11 and for many years, went there during the school holidays. We always stayed at the same magnificent old 2 storied guesthouse - Marylands, which was a time warp from the 1920's, and over the years of visiting became modernised. My father brought us there for one week in the August (winter) school holidays and sometimes too, the last week of January. They were happy days of growing up as a boy and then through my teenage years. The guesthouse catered for all tastes and the school holidays were almost a continual whir of events ranging from the sporting during the day, to concerts and trivia nights in the evenings - we all took part and interspersed with the all-inclusive meals that some viewed as an interruption to the day or night pursuits.
I returned for a few visits to Marylands in my early 20's and then during the 1970's returned with my wife and 2 daughters for two more holidays - the difference was that I was doing the paying rather than my father. I also went to Marysville and stayed at the hotel for a company paid conference - and did we drink too much!!!!!
On what has become known as "Black Saturday" 7th February 2009, I heard on the radio that one of my favourite places - Marysville - had been destroyed by the bush fires that swept in on a fire storm, taking with the smoke, lives and property. I felt a deep sense of loss of a small town nestled in the mountains and bush and only 100 kilometres from Melbourne.
Monday 20th April 2009 we journeyed back to Marysville and saw the devastation for ourselves. We were overcome with sadness at the tragic loss of such a beautiful town.
The drive from the Maroondah Highway was almost a scene from a disaster movie - kilometre after kilometre of blackened trees, yet we saw life returning in the form of the moss like growth from the gum trees and natures way of healing. From experience that "moss" will sprout and form small twigs with gum leaves attached. The strongest will survive and in time become the new branches attached to the blackened trunks. Over time the fire-scarred bark will peel away and the trees will return to full life. The undergrowth will regenerate and again, over time, the bush will return to its former glory - not so the lives of the people of that town. Some 50 lost their lives on that terrible Saturday and many others received terrible burns that, unlike the trees, will not fully recover.
There is almost nothing left of the many structures in that town, except rubble and ghoulish sculptures of twisted and blackened corrugated roofing iron. Marylands, that place so deeply etched in my heart, is today a pile of rubble awaiting removal. We saw quirky remnants of the past in signs advertising the former businesses now lost. One said, "Anastasia - Fairy Tale Cottage" and then listed that the premises was a B&B with log fires, undercover BBQ and fed native birds, The scorched sign underneath said it all - NO VACANCY. Behind the singed sign, another ruin of a building easily visible through more blackened tree trunks. There was yet another business "Yarra Valley Fudge Kitchen" with 2 un-touched-by-fire, low, lovingly painted in 2 colours timber gates. One bore a sign with more than a touch of irony, "This Property Non Smoking," and behind those gates a large pile of burnt and twisted iron and rubble. Next door was a another business now lost and next to that a clearing where the Police Station once stood. How did I know that was the location of the Police Station? The large sign has been left in place. One side almost perfect, the other a melted remanent.
We saw flowers blooming in gardens, we saw some bird life had returned and we saw that there was one business up and running and serving up great bakery produce, freshly cut sandwiches, coffee, cold drinks and my favourite - country baked fresh pies (see my one and only tip).
I well remember my early visits to Marysville. While the mountains were cloaked in bush land and trees, there was a vast number of skeletons of trees that had perished in the fire storm that ringed Marysville on Black Friday, 13th January 1939. Each year there was less and less evidence of those trees from '39 and by the time of my last stay in Marysville in 1977, all the scars of 39 had disappeared. It had taken almost 40 years for the bush to heel and sadly it will take another 40 years for the scars of 2009 to disappear.
Marysville will be re-built, sounds and sights of happy families will return - one day, but I'm not sure that I want to return to a new Marysville while the old is so much in my heart.
More photos and descriptions can be found on the travelogue - click below.