And by the entrance to the Bushland Park and the Centenary log - the sad memorial to the war dead. A very plain one here in Gembrook. But so many plaques commemorating so many places where young people have died. Some are wars, and some are conflicts and some are peace keeping operations. Old old notorious names and very new ones.
For a taste of the sublime forest which used to cover everything around here walk downhill from the main drag for maybe five minutes.
Mountain ash and mountain grey gum, and messmate stringy bark - and two non indigenous redwoods planted in the 1920s or 30s. And down in the damp gullies, tree ferns.
This is a small stand of trees - about 29 hectares - and they are young. They don't look young mind you, they are towering, glorious specimens of arboreal nature, but they are no more than a hundred years old.
But if you want a taste of the forest here it is. There are marked paths and you couldn't get lost and the day I was there it was deserted.
You might see a wombat or hear a lyrebird. Though as lyrebirds imitate everything under the sun unless you see a brown bird (something like a drab pheasant) emenating noises like Metallica or Kiri Te Kanawa or a chain saw or a camera shutter, you wouldn't know you had heard a lyrebird.
They are called a lyrebird because the males when courting erect a tail shaped like a lyre.
I love gum trees because they loose their bark and it catches on the lower branches and they stand like nubile artists' models holding their draperies.
Don't risk going deep in here on fire hazard days.
Not every town has an Avenue Of Honour - a tree for every man lost. I like to think all the trees flourished. They all seem well grown and burgeoning.
The one I took a photo of is for G. Raleigh. It makes me think up stories, about who he was, where he died. Somewhere in France maybe. Or at Gallipoli. Anyway, he was from this district and he never came back.
Maybe he still has relatives here. Grand children even.
There are two cafes in Gembrook (and a pizza joint and a greasy spoon and the pub which has food in the pricier range) and I like Charlottes the most for a quick bite.
My coffee was reasonable - I'm not a huge fusspot - and their cakes were delicious. You could get coffee and cake for $7-50 which is a bit of a bargain and their lunch dishes (quiche etc) ranged from $8 - $16.
They do breakfast too.
The ambience is great and the staff are pleasant.
I did pick up a hamburger from the greasy spoon later (the pizza joint was closed) and oh dear me - not good.
This is a cafe, book shop, Vintage Motoring museum and collectables shop - all banged up together in an olde worlde service station called The Motorist.
It was a public holiday so the cafe had a limited menu - but the coffee was ok.
(Was puzzled why they weren't going full steam ahead on a public holiday when folks are out driving around and looking for a cafe, but hey. Maybe the staff wanted a holiday too.)
The motoring museum had quite a steep entrance fee and I am not that stoked about cars so we didn't do that.
But husband was thrilled to see an old Rolls-Royce parked around the back.
The collectables shop had some great stuff, I enjoyed poking round in there.
My thrill was to find two great books for 3 bucks. Woo woo!
This is such a fun thing to do - especially for kids - and big kids too.
A darling old steam train choofs slowly through the Dandenong Ranges.
You can have meal or a devonshire tea while you travel, or sit in the open carriages and perch dangerously on the side - like I saw people doing the other day going over the wooden viaduct.
The trip from Belgrave ends up here at Gembrook. I am pretty sure you get time to stroll around the town before you make the return journey.
Well at least there are all sorts of different journeys and packages, some timed to coincide with local markets.
Check out the website.
Update - The market at Gembrook has been closed due to public liability problems.
Update - I heard on the grapevine you are no longer allowed to sit on the side of the open carriages and dangle your legs out. Something to do with insurance too I reckon.
The 695 bus to Gembrook leaves from Belgrave Railway Station. And takes about 40 minutes. So technically it would be possible to do a day trip from Melbourne. The train to Belgrave takes about an hour.
Check the timetable carefully - there are not a plethora of buses. And they don't run very early or very late. But they do run on a Sunday which not all buses out here do.
The trip over is very pretty - you pass through some lovely country.
And it is very cheap. All you need is a Zone 2 daily ticket or if it is a weekend your Weekend Saver - which is about three bucks. Buy your ticket from a manned station or at a newsagent or corner store. The machines at the stations do not sell Weekend Savers. You have to be prepared.
If you are coming out from Melbourne on a week day you would need a Zone 1 and 2 daily ticket. If you are leaving after 9am save a bit of money and get an offpeak. On a weekend you are sweet - the Weekend Saver covers you all the way and back again.
Bit of a trap though - to use a Weekend Saver you have to buy a 5 trip ticket. And it can only be used for one person at a time. You can get a one trip Sunday Saver though.
If you have a Victorian concession card you are sweet also. On Sunday you travel for free anywhere and the rest of the week it is maybe 3 bucks. I cannot wait to be 60.
I know it is complicated but I didn't make up these rules.