First published on 7 May 2012. Updated on 21 Jun 2012.
One of the few compliments you can bestow on Ringwood is that it’s the gateway to the Dandenongs. Travel just 10 minutes past the home of hydroponics and you’ll encounter some of the most beautiful scenery Victoria has to offer. With rolling hills meeting lush pastures, it’s a bit like a quaint English shire, only bigger and greener and not in England at all.
The jewel in this leafy crown is Belgrave, home to Puffing Billy, Sherbrooke Forest and the generously named 1000 Steps. It’s also home to music mavericks Dave Graney and Clare Moore, who reside here when they’re not hiding in Rock n Roll.
“We moved to the Hills in 1996,” says Graney. “I kept driving around the outer edges of the city looking for a place called Gruyere, because it was where a young, doomed ’70s poet called Charles Buckmaster came from.”
Maybe it was the slow pace of the Dandys that caused Buckmaster to top himself in 1972. Or maybe it was the release of ‘Puppy Love’ by Donny Osmond. Whatever triggered the demise, his literary spirit lives on a million miles from the chaos of Melbourne and its mingling hipsters.
“I was talking to a friend at a show in town and he professed a sense of ennui and fatigue with the social world. He lives in the part of town where all that happens,” says Graney without a trace of urban nostalgia. “I realised that, living on the edge of the city, I come into these situations from outside and then leave as well. I wake up somewhere else. In my own life.”
Ah, sweet isolation. And with it the secure knowledge that there’s little to be swallowed up by development.
“Some roads have been improved and the freeways make travel easier,” reflects Graney. “Summers and the threat of fire are stressful some years more than others. But it’s quite a nice place, as opposed to the badlands in between us and the city.”