Sunday 12 September 2021. We’ve been very quiet of late, given Melbourne’s interminable sixth lockdown, but recently we did manage to visit Quarry Park in Footscray. Opened in 2019 and formerly the site of a quarry and then a rubbish dump, Quarry Park lies between Farnsworth Ave and Edgewater and extends from the top of the Maribyrnong Valley ridge down to the river flats, just to the northwest of Footscray Park. The park features a mountain bike circuit, a Korean War memorial and spectacular views.
We set off under a threatening sky along Commercial Rd, a quiet, tree-lined street with many older houses that runs between Barkly St and Ballarat Rd. It is undoubtedly one of Footscray’s nicest residential streets. In the wake of the Western Bulldogs’ AFL finals success, a number of properties were sporting the club colours of blue, red and white. Halfway along Commercial Rd lies a former milk bar, sadly boarded up, one of many in the neighbourhood – and indeed across Melbourne – to close down over the past thirty years or so.
At the top of Commercial Rd, on the corner of Ballarat Rd, Douglas’s Service Station, with its wonderful heritage garage and neon sign, (apparently) continues to operate. Here we turned right onto Ballarat Rd and walked east towards Farnsworth Ave. Posters of the AFL’s 2021 Most Valuable Player, Western Bulldogs captain Marcus Bontempelli – ‘the Bont’ – adorned the way.
On Ballarat Rd the old Kinnears rope factory has been closed since 2002 and is slowly being redeveloped into a residential, retail and community precinct. Already one mid-rise tower has gone up at the western end of the site; another half-dozen towers are set to follow. Thankfully, though, it appears that significant heritage elements are to be preserved as part of the development. After a few minutes we reached Farnsworth Ave and turned left. We crossed Kinnear St (named after the rope makers) and came to Footscray High School (Kinnear Campus).
Finding that the footpath alongside the high school abruptly and inexplicably disappears, to be replaced by an impassable agapanthus verge, we crossed over to the other side of Farnsworth Ave then recrossed once we’d passed the verge. How could council planners not see the obvious problem here? Regardless, having recrossed the road, we passed through a line of boulders and entered Quarry Park. We began to walk (and ride) uphill on a gentle gradient to the top of the Maribyrnong Valley ridge, the high school now behind us, looking almost attractive with its distressed, quasi-Brutalist concrete trim.
At the top of the ridge is the interesting and poignant Korean War Memorial, unveiled in 2019 by Korean and Australian representatives.
The views from the memorial are expansive and spectacular. To the southeast, for instance, we could see Footscray Park and across the Maribyrnong River (with a prominent Lynch’s Bridge) to Kensington, North Melbourne and the Melbourne city skyline.
Also to the southeast lay the new Joseph Rd apartment developments. Note the twin towers of Bolte Bridge in the background. Immediately to the northeast was Edgewater, a splendid urban-infill development occupying the site of the former Commonwealth Munitions Factory. The Edgewater estate flows down the escarpment and across the river flats to the Maribyrnong River and has its very own lake. Beyond Edgewater we could see across the far bank of the Maribyrnong River to Ascot Vale.
Due east lay Flemington Racecourse, looking resplendent under the lowering sky, while just to the south cranes had risen over the new Footscray Hospital site.
While overhead flew a pair of Australian White Ibises, a colony of which shorebirds lives in Newell’s Paddock, a nature reserve that lies in a bend of the Maribyrnong River to our southeast.
The main attraction at Quarry Park for younger people is perhaps the mountain bike circuit. Routes of varying difficulty run from the top of the ridge down towards the river flats.
After thirty minutes or so it was time to move on. We followed the bike circuit down the ridge to Hillsdale Ave and entered the Edgewater estate.
From Hillsdale Ave we turned left onto Bracken Ave and, after some minutes, right at Harbour Park, which leads to Edgewater Marina. The Little Black Cormorants were in their usual place on the jetties. We turned right onto the shared pathway that skirts the western side of Burndap (or Edgewater) Lake, heading south towards Footscray Park.
By the lake we paused briefly to admire some ducks.
We left the lake path and walked alongside Myers Rd, reaching and crossing over Farnsworth Ave at the Footscray Rugby Union Club.
A very short walk along Maribyrnong Blvd brought us to the road leading to Victoria University. We followed this and then walked up the steep bicycle stairway that runs between the university and the western end of Footscray Park’s beautiful Edwardian gardens – taking us in effect from the river flats to the the top of the Maribyrnong Valley ridge – to Mills Cl, just off Ballarat Rd, and next to Victoria University’s Physical Education and Recreation Complex, with its creepy quasi-Soviet bas-relief body sculptures.
Diagonally opposite from Victoria University, across Ballarat Rd, is Cornwall Reserve, home to monumental concrete sculpture ‘With and With Each Other’ by American artist Tom Bills (1998). The sculpture, which looks for all the world like a pair of kidneys, was originally located near Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market. It was mothballed in 2002 and appeared again in its current location in 2008. The sculpture has divided critics for twenty years.
We turned right onto Geelong Rd and embarked upon the home stretch. We passed what looks like a former electricity substation on the northwestern corner of Footscray High School (Barkly Campus), with an ornate design aesthetic.
Near the end of our walk we came to the (newly) bright yellow building on the corner of Barkly St and Geelong Rd. Having housed many business over the years, the site is now home to a cleaning supplies company. The yellow notwithstanding, it is an attractive structure, looking something like an American midwest gas station from the 1950s. It is diagonally opposite the famous Plough Hotel.
Very soon we were home. It was nice to be out, and it was especially nice to visit somewhere new. I am sure we will return to Quarry Park before too long.