Friday 30 March 2018

The Historic Tree of Albury, Australia

Between Christmas and New Year's Eve last year, Narrelle and I stayed in Albury for a few days.

To anyone fascinated by borders (as I am), Albury is an interesting place. It lies on the north bank of the Murray River, which is the boundary between New South Wales and Victoria.

On the south bank, Wodonga is its Victorian twin; together they form a busy regional centre of about 100,000 people.

We arrived at Albury's impressive railway station (see photo, top right) via the XPT train which runs twice daily between Melbourne and Sydney.

It's a grand edifice partly because of its lofty station building, which marked its importance in the 19th century as the crossing point between colonies.

Another impressive aspect is its very long platform, a product of the insanity by which each colony had different rail gauges. Until 1962, passengers on the Melbourne-Sydney journey had to change trains here, crossing from one side of the platform to the other.

We walked to our accommodation at the Best Western Hovell Tree Inn, on the western edge of the city centre near the banks of the Murray. The river here is fringed by a beautiful section of parkland, the Noreuil Park Foreshore, a lovely place to walk and a credit to the city.

Nearby is Hovell Tree Park. One day Narrelle and I were sitting at a barbecue area there, eating something we'd bought from a bakery across the road, when I found myself wondering what and where exactly was this Hovell Tree?

So I walked across the grass toward the river and found the tree!


It was marked by the explorers Hume and Hovell on 17 November 1824, on their epic expedition from Appin, south of Sydney, all the way to Corio Bay near where Geelong now stands.

This journey took place over a decade before Melbourne was founded, so much of this terrain was unknown to the white newcomers to Australia, though had been inhabited for millennia by Aboriginal peoples.

They were apparently surprised to encounter such an impressive river as the Murray, and had to jerry-rig a boat using a tarpaulin, in order to cross it.

The rest of the trip was equally eventful, with many difficulties involving the crossing of rivers and mountains, with occasional backtracking; you can read about it here.

Anyway, it was interesting to discover a fragment of colonial history across from our hotel, almost by accident. I felt a bit like an explorer myself.

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