Date of Visit : January 2019
Being Melburnians one of the many privileges we have is living so close to Mount Dandenong . A volcanic formation that is steeped in spiritual and natural wonder and part of the verdant low mountain range commonly called “The Dandenongs”.
There are many attractions around the hamlets and towns of The Dandenongs, many of which I have visited but this comparatively small plot was never one of them and was high on my visit wish list.
We took to lunch in the hills and then onto the Sanctuary – or as Ricketts himself called it – “the forest of love”. Now run by Parks Victoria the website has, pleasingly, the accessibility very well documented right down to the gradients on various paths. We decided on taking the power chair as I generally do when wanting to meander around autonomously but also due to the step gradients stated on the website. A good idea as it turned out.
As we have a rear entry modified van we couldn’t use the access park outside the centre so turned into the designated and large car park across the road.
The ramp that has been created to go up to the road is too steep a gradient for my comfort so I chose to roll up the driveway instead. This was safe as it was very quiet and probably would be just as safe in busier times as it is a one way and wide driveway.
I wouldn’t enjoy rolling across the Mt Dandenong Road in high traffic times but we were fine getting over to the centre on the day we went. The entrance to the accessible Tourist Centre is accessed by a steeper than 1:14 gradient. This was ok in a power chair but a bit challenging for a less than fit person pushing someone in a manual wheelchair or some people self propelling. The map received at the visitors centre clearly laid out which paths had stairs or not and as we found out the sanctuary is not very large and it is easy to identify which path to take.
William Ricketts (Bill as he liked to be known) was a potter and later started sculpting with clay. His creations were then placed into and onto trees, logs and rocks. I previously knew nothing of the man except that he sculpted but I soon found out that he had bought this few acres in the ‘30’s as a retreat. His life work was his expression of how all beings are united and one with nature. He abhorred the murderous and violent subjugation of Australia’s Indigenous Aboriginal’s. Bill visited Central Australia several times to share his work and to bond in spiritual harmony.
Fortunately for me his retreat has smooth – albeit some steep and some staired and some narrow – paths created throughout and his original cabin is now an accessible hut in which videos and pictures of him and his life are shared with the public.
At most an hour would do for this interesting and tranquil area so combining it with a lunch and a shop at many of the lovely cafes and restaurants nearby is ideal. We found King Henry’s in Sassafras to be accessible offering terrific service, homemade tastiness and a lovely covered verandah.
I think that Parks Victoria has done a wonderful job in making William Rickett’s Sanctuary accessible in a mountain range that typically does not lend itself to accessible traversing. And finding out more about the fascinating people that make up Australia’s rich history is a great reason to get up to the Dandenongs.
Entry Fee: Run by Parks Victoria; admittance is free.
Notes: Check before going in warmer months for possible closures which occur when there is a Code Red Fire Danger Rating.