Inner city Yarra River walk

As my youthful son trained on the Yarra, I revelled in my Sunday mornings spent exploring its banks. I loved to follow the path between Herring Island and Princes Bridge.

Before describing this delightful path, I’d like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri, the people to whom this land belongs and  from whom it was  so cruelly  taken.

“From its source in the Great Dividing Range to the north-east, the Yarra winds its way towards Port Phillip Bay. By the time it passes through Prahran and Richmond, the River is a large, slow-moving, and at times dangerous, river that has claimed many lives since Europeans first settled near its banks in the mid-1830s. An island in the middle of the Yarra and a boulevard along its banks are two notable features of this part of its course.

Herring Island is the Yarra’s only island. Floods have always presented a threat to property development along the lower reaches of the Yarra River. In part, this is because the numerous bends in the river restrict the rate at which water can flow towards the Bay. One approach to minimise the impact of heavy rain on river heights was the excavation in 1929 of a channel to allow water to by-pass one major bend. The channel cut through an abandoned bluestone quarry hole in Richmond, and Como (later renamed Herring) Island was created. In 1932/3 levee banks were built on the Island and trees planted. These measures, however, could not withstand the worst flood on record; in 1934 the banks and trees were swept far out to sea.

From 1951 to 1970, the Island was leased to the Scout Association, who renamed it Herring Island after their Chief Scout, Sir Edmund Herring. From 1970 the friends of Herring Island attempted revegetation and maintained the Island until its management was overtaken by Melbourne Parks and Waterways in 1994. Since then, the 2.8 ha Island has been redeveloped as an environmental sculpture park, and the old scout hall converted to gallery space.

Prahran’s stunning riverside boulevard, Alexandra Avenue, is a relatively recent creation. Until the 1930s, the Avenue progressed no further east than Chapel Street, though plans for its extension were prepared long before the money became available. At the height of the Great Depression, in 1930/31, the Victorian Government granted unemployment (“sustenance”) relief money for the project. This paid for one week’s work for a total of 720 men during the winter of 1931. They were employed regrading and carting land-fill. All the work was done by hand, using horse drays. Many of the men were not used to manual labour and most were poorly nourished. Every day Mrs Jannese, the foreman’s kind-hearted wife, provided a bowl of homemade soup for each man’s lunch. Additional funding for the roadwork was provided by Sidney Myer the following year.”¹

Today, my favourite among the magical buildings along this grand boulevard is perhaps not one of the majestic old dames, but a perky newcomer who combines audacity with the abstract and angular, and prefers imagination to memory.

Can you spot Saturday night’s revellers, nursing Sunday morning’s blues, and barely balanced, precariously, on the brink of the river?


Herring Island
Herring Island








Along the Yarra













Chapel Street
Chapel Street
Sunday morning coming down
Sunday morning coming down
Melbourne High School
Melbourne High School




Grand Dames
Grand Dames
Dorrington House
Dorrington House
Durham Hall
Durham Hall – Jill’s place!
Photo LeeB
The clock on the silo says 11 degrees, I remember, I remember

The Punt Road silos in a perfectly accurate, if somewhat stiff, rendition of Paul Kelly’s iconic song


Leaps and Bounds

I’m high on the hill

Looking over the bridge

To the M.C.G.

And way up on high

The clock on the silo

Says eleven degrees

I remember I remember

I’m breathing today

The month of May

All the burning leaves

I’m not hearing a sound

My feet don’t even

Touch the ground

I remember I remember

I go leaps and bounds

Down past the river

And across the playing fields

The fields all empty

Only for the burning leaves

I remember I remember

I go leaps and bounds

I remember everything




¹text from City of Stonnington signboard on the bank opposite Herring Island

Photos: LeeB

Music: Paul Kelly


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2 thoughts on “Inner city Yarra River walk”

  1. Toliko visoke umjetnosti i visoke razmišljanja. To je velika da su ljudi poput tebe mogu koristiti internet za povezivanje čovječanstvo. Voljela sam Paul Kelly “zajedničku notu” da biste se vratili na Zemlju iz svoje mistične visine.

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