ELTHAM IN THE SHIRE OF NILLUMBIK
Eltham is a residential township 20 km north-east of Melbourne. Situated where the Diamond Creek flows into the Yarra River, it was first surveyed in 1840. During the period of the Caledonia gold diggings, Eltham’s population grew as a town and became a food, produce and supply centre for the mining communities of St Andrews and Panton Hill (1860s – 1880s). A post office was opened in 1854 and a flour mill, brick works and tannery later in the decade. The railway came to Eltham in 1902 and bought excursionists, many to pick wattle during its flowering season. It also centered the business area around the railway station. Eltham was a picturesque village with the advantage of proximity to metropolitan Melbourne as well as to attractive countryside with farms and uncleared stringybark forest. It was described in 1940 as “residential, horticultural, dairying and grazing… a beauty spot for artists and picnickers”.
The artist, Justus Jorgensen built the notable Montsalvat group of buildings, several in adobe and rammed earth during the 1940s, influencing a taste for mud-brick house construction. Some local architects later specialised in that form of construction. Montsalvat is in the next street to Eltham South Lodge and is an interesting place to explore and enjoy a coffee or meal at the bistro.
EXPLORE ELTHAM AND SURROUNDS
Despite its growing population, Eltham still has a village type community. It is easily accessible for those wishing to work in Melbourne and still enjoy the fresh air and the healthy lifestyle that Eltham offers. Eltham is renowned for its mudbrick buildings which include the Eltham Community Centre and the award-winning Eltham Library – a ‘must-see’ for visitors. You can’t miss the Library, it is in the Eltham Town Park right by the historic trestle bridge that carries trains on the metropolitan line from Eltham to the City.
Eltham has restaurants and cafes to suit all tastes and budgets. Its shopping centre serves as a hub for surrounding, smaller communities. Most recognised religions have churches in the town, including St Margaret’s Anglican Church which is heritage listed. It too has a mud-brick building in its church hall.
Eltham is home to the Diamond Valley Model Railway with over 2 km of track in Eltham Lower Park. The variety of locomotives including electric, diesel and steam are a delight for young and old. On Sundays the ‘young’ can also enjoy a led pony ride in the park. Bicycle tracks follow the Yarra River through parklands all the way into the City (the weary return by train). In summer the visitor can join a ‘possum prowl’ organised by the rangers in Westerfolds Park. Edendale Farm is a popular attraction for families with year round activities.
Sporting venues in town include the Leisure Centre with gym, squash and swimming facilities, a bowls club and tennis club. The nearest public golf course is at Yarrambat, roughly 20 minutes away.
Apart from the local churches, wedding venues include Montsalvat, Ballara Receptions, Inglewood Chapel and many of the wineries in the Nillumbik area, Yarra Glen or Healesville.
Eltham is an excellent base for visitors wishing to explore Melbourne and the wineries of the Yarra Valley. Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary is less than an hour’s drive through some spectacular countryside. The weekend Market at St Andrews is just a short drive away and this is surrounded by boutique wineries which are producing some excellent wines. Eltham, too, has a an outdoor craft and produce market in the Eltham Town Park, as well as a weekly farmers market.
For further information visit:
Diamond Valley Railway: www.dvr.com.au
Edendale Farm: www.edendale.vic.gov.au
Eltham District Historical Society: http://www.elthamhistory.org.au/