The adage “Familiarity breeds contempt” is a truism that I am often guilty of. Not in all aspects of my life, but most definitely when it comes to recreational activities and places of interest to visit within my home town. Often not even taking a moment to pause and consider the local possibilities on offer, I cast my net much further ashore, looking to interstate and international destinations instead. Now just to clarify, I do that simply because that is where my heart is. “I’m in love with cities I’ve not yet seen and people I’ve not yet met”. With the rugged drop of Santorini’s Caldera, white washed buildings perched cliff-side, as though arranged by a tetras game player. I’m in love with Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes, which is solely responsible for my inability to concentrate on what my husband says at breakfast on Saturday mornings as I leaf the glossy International Traveller Magazine (magazine’s fault, not mine). How does authentic Italian Gelato taste, I wonder as I drive the car. I need help! Is there a cure for this? This awful, wonderful, all-consuming thing called ‘wanderlust’ that has become intravenous.
With thoughts like this it’s no surprise that one of the loveliest weekends that I recently experienced with my family nearly never happened. Sherbrooke Forest, in the Dandenong’s of Melbourne is so accessible and yet I never knew it existed. I unintentionally discovered it when talking with a friend and I’m so glad that I did. The first thing you’ll notice as you step out of the car is the considerable difference in temperature. Sheltered by an expanse of trees and vegetation, the whole area is cooler. Entering the gates and it’s within moments that the garden begins to close around you. Not in a claustrophobic way, but more as though you’ve found a secret garden (and in my case that is what it was for years).
Trickling water from mini waterfalls, (it’s no Niagara, but the water flowing is very soothing) lush greenery, bridges that lead to nowhere, except for a photo opportunity and wonderful sealed footpaths for strolling. This really is an oasis that makes escaping Melbourne possible, without the need to actually leave Melbourne. Pack a picnic basket (I wish I had have thought of it), bring a blanket or a rug, book and camera, and bring the people that make your life worth living – share this moment with them. As I looked around at lovers sprawled under the shelter of trees, shadowed by tree branches, kids barefoot playing in the shallow water and runners sweating it out I couldn’t understand how it had been possible to live in Melbourne all my life and not have come here sooner. It’s free. It’s serene, and it’s an escape from city circus of business. A word of caution, if deciding to visit in summer, ensure you first refer to the CFA’s (Country Fire Authority) website, as this area is heavily treed, but that is also part of the attraction.
So yes, my heart is still consumed by distant lands, but in the interim the grass was pretty green in my own backyard on a February weekend in Sherbrooke Forest. Here time stood still – even though my children didn’t.