Westerfolds Park on Cup Day

Tuesday, 3 November 2020. Melbourne Cup Day is always an occasion for a day out in the Handel household. On previous Cup Days we’ve visited, among other places, Steiglitz in the Brisbane Ranges, the Werribee River picnic area in Wombat State Forest and Doongalla picnic ground in the Dandenongs. This year we set out to find a hitherto unvisited site as close to the periphery of our 25-kilometre coronavirus lockdown radius as we could. It was not quite a case of sticking a pin in a map, but almost. We fetched up at Westerfolds Park in Templestowe, which pleasant suburb lies about 20 kilometres to the northeast of Melbourne’s CBD and whose northern boundary is demarcated by Melbourne’s famously muddy Yarra River. Located within a bend of the ‘upside-down’ river, the semi-wild park is one of a series of open spaces that follow the course of the Yarra, forming a green corridor that runs southwest–northeast from the inner suburb of Kew to the hills beyond Melbourne. It was already hot as we arrived at the Porter St carpark. We carried our chairs, food, Thermoses etc to a spot a little removed from the Porter St picnic area. The scrubby vegetation – eucalyptus and wattle trees, shrubs and grasses – was home to numerous bird, insect and lizard species, and snakes too no doubt. As we set up the picnic a raucous cockatoo welcomed our return to the bush after three months of tighter lockdown. It was lovely to be back. After a lingering lunch we set off for a ramble around the park. We walked down to see the Yarra, then took the circuit track to a viewing platform over some rapids. They weren’t terribly startlingly but were nice all the same. At this point, due to the increasingly strident nature of the youngest Handel’s requests to go back to the car, we cut short our circuit walk and returned via a lesser, more direct track to the Porter St picnic area, just in time for the call of the Cup. Junior Handel, no longer disgruntled, joined in enthusiastically as we gathered around the radio to follow the fortunes of the horses as they raced at Flemington. He may even have won the sweep.

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