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Tourism

Tourism

afternoon tea
Afternoon tea in a giant tree at Gilderoy
Photographer - N Caire
Source - National Library of Australia

From about twenty years after the first European settlement of Victoria, the Mountain Ash forests attracted visitors from Melbourne. They came to the hills to admire the trees and ferns, to refresh their spirits, and to collect plants, animals, photographs and memories to take back to the city on the plain.

Timbered country, either the Dandenongs or Mount Macedon, can be seen beckoning in the distance from most parts of Melbourne. The tall trees provide a great contrast with the suburbanised landscape. As the city grew, the forest was promoted as a place to go for spiritual and physical refreshment, or to renew one's soul. The Mountain Ash forests were promoted as 'the lungs of Melbourne'; they were seen as a health-giving environment, 'a sanitarium for all time', and they were enjoyed for their beauty and recreational value.

fern trees
Fairy scene at the landslip - Black's Spur
Photographer - N Caire
Source - National Library of Australia

Some of the earliest popularisers of the mountain forests were painters influenced by the European artistic trends of the Picturesque and the Sublime. An influential early painting was Eugene Von Guerard's oil, Ferntree Gully in the Dandenong Ranges, painted in 1857. It was quickly approved as an accurate and emotive view and was reproduced in the Melbourne Illustrated News in the next year. It was one of the first of a long series of similar representations of wilderness subjects: of deep fern gullies, towering trees, plunging waterfalls and narrow valleys, often unpeopled, or showing humans standing on the edge of the scene, dwarfed by the grandeur of Nature.

Nineteenth century photographers, too, tried to capture the special nature of the mountain ash and fern forests. Nicholas Caire's images of the Black Spur and fern gullies around Marysville were among the most effective; they prompted Melburnians to visit and investigate the forests, and were used by tourism authorities for many decades to promote travel to the forests.

fallen monarch
'Fallen Monarch'
Source - State Library of Victoria
beech forest
Beech Forest
Source - State Library of Victoria

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