Along the Maribyrnong River Trail to Afton Street Conservation Park

Friday 2 October 2020. Today, a sunny but windy day, an errand presented an opportunity once again to ride along the Maribyrnong River Trail, this time as far as Afton Street Conservation Park, a wetland and parkland reserve in Essendon West established over the past 20 years on former Department of Defence land. The park is located to the north of Chifley Drive Reserve, just side over the newly refurbished Afton Street bridge. I cycled through Footscray Park comme d’habitude and headed north along the river trail. Despite the wind, the weather had brought out large numbers. I turned off the trail at the more southerly of the Burndap Park wetlands to call on the by-now familiar Australian Wood Duck family. As usual the fearless waterfowl were basking on the lawn, oblivious to passers-by. Pressing on, I cycled along the west bank of Edgewater Lake, swung back onto the river trail, passed Jack’s Magazine and Frogs Hollow Wetlands, and arrived at Pipemakers Park. Here I stopped at the park’s wetland for a short while. A White-faced Heron was sitting on the dead tree in front of the jetty. Is it the same individual as last time? Pondering this, I continued north, following the river trail as it passed under the Raleigh Road bridge and wended its way alongside Chifley Drive to the Afton St bridge. I crossed the bridge and entered Afton Street Conservation Park. In contrast to the river trail, it was practically empty. It is also quite extensive; wetland trails and large open spaces invite the visitor to spend time relaxing, walking or playing. Those in need of greater exertion could climb the escarpment and walk along the ridge for fabulous views over the Maribyrnong river valley and across to Melbourne’s CBD. Alternatively one might sit quietly on a bench by the wetland, listening to the fairywrens and honeyeaters, or people-watch across the river, or even play badminton on the lawn. Today I was able to stay only a short while; I had a task to fulfil. Later, having discharged my duty, I rode back along the river trail, calling into Newell’s Paddock Conservation Reserve to visit the Black Swan family. Today they were mostly aquatic. As I watched, they glided across the middle lake, clambered onto the bank, walked across the path, and, waddling into the largest lake, set off towards the railway bridge. I bade them adieu and cycled home.

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