North East Living Magazine - - Contents - words Steve Vi­vian and Pam Zierk- Ma­honey pho­tos Pam Zierk- Ma­honey and con­trib­u­tors

The al­lure of Mans­field, its breath­tak­ing land­scape and com­mu­nity spirit has drawn vis­i­tors and new set­tlers for gen­er­a­tions.

The al­lure of Mans­field, its breath­tak­ing land­scape and com­mu­nity spirit has drawn vis­i­tors and new set­tlers for gen­er­a­tions.

THE Taun­gu­rung peo­ple, Mans­field’s proud first in­hab­i­tants, said that “to know which coun­try you are stand­ing on is to work out which di­rec­tion the water in creeks and rivers flow”. Mans­field has many rivers hail­ing from many moun­tains and many faces too, from the foot hills of Bon­nie Doon, the breath­tak­ing val­leys of Jamieson and Mer­ri­jig, to the slopes of Mt Buller.

In the present day, while many ru­ral Vic­to­rian towns en­joy an over­ar­ch­ing, bind­ing iden­tity, Mans­field is a town harder to de­fine. The di­ver­sity within it gives the town no one true de­fin­able qual­ity, so Mans­field’s per­son­al­ity flows like the rivers, mean­ing many things to many dif­fer­ent peo­ple, be they town stal­warts, fresh lo­cals or vis­i­tors.

It has been said many times by many peo­ple who now make Mans­field their per­ma­nent home “we came for a hol­i­day and are now here for the rest of our lives”. Such is the at­trac­tion to the High Coun­try – it has a magic at­trac­tion, al­most a mag­netism to it – which keeps draw­ing peo­ple back.

From the Taun­gu­rung peo­ple’s 2000 gen­er­a­tions of stew­ard­ship to the min­ers, bushrangers and the cur­rent day in­hab­i­tants, the un­du­lat­ing ter­rain of Mans­field’s moun­tains, rivers and lakes have formed the lo­cal his­tory and peo­ple.

The recorded his­tory of Mans­field, which dates back to the 1830s, is a story of fluc­tu­at­ing for­tunes. The first Euro­pean set­tlers came dur­ing the squat­ting boom of the late 1830s and dur­ing the 1840s. The gold rush struck around 1856 af­ter gold was dis­cov­ered in the Jamieson River, and later at Woods Point, bring­ing great change to the built land­scape and pop­u­la­tion of the area. The most suit­able route for trans­port­ing min­ing ma­chin­ery was through Mans­field, so it played the role of sup­ply town for an im­por­tant chap­ter in the area’s his­tory.

Mans­field Shire was first pro­claimed on De­cem­ber 31, 1866, at that time hav­ing two schools, two ho­tels, a court house, a steam flour mill and a hos­pi­tal. To­day, the town lever­ages the hard work of pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions and the in­cred­i­ble beauty of the nat­u­ral land­scape to drive tourism in the area.

Mans­field Shire’s Mt Buller, Mt Stir­ling, Lake Eil­don and Lake Nil­lah­cootie are im­mensely pop­u­lar recre­ational des­ti­na­tions in both sum­mer and win­ter. In sum­mer, hik­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, boat­ing and fish­ing are the pur­suits of choice while in win­ter, Mt Buller is one of Aus­tralia’s most pop­u­lar ski re­sorts. The bush­land around Mans­field is ideal for horse rid­ing, trail bik­ing and four­wheel driv­ing on ex­ten­sive tracks wind­ing through­out the re­gion. >>

The movie “The Man from Snowy River”, fa­mous for its ma­jes­tic moun­tain scenery, was filmed around Mt Buller and Mer­ri­jig (the High Coun­try) in 1982. Al­though orig­i­nally de­signed as a movie set with a façade only built on Clear Hills, Craig’s Hut was re­built af­ter the movie be­came fa­mous and is now one of the re­gion’s most vis­ited at­trac­tions. With a swathe of recre­ational op­tions few shires would dare claim to have avail­able, Mans­field’s present day dy­namism is based on the back­bone of its nat­u­ral beauty.

The cul­mi­na­tion of Mans­field’s his­tory has led to a town of rare sub­stance, where those who work hard thrive, and those who want to en­joy the charm of the High Coun­try and a for­ward think­ing, cos­mopoli­tan cul­ture just two hours from Mel­bourne, can have their cake and eat it too.

It’s all on show dur­ing Mans­field’s High Coun­try Fes­ti­val. When spring is in full bloom and Mans­field’s beau­ti­ful weather is hit­ting its peak, lo­cal com­mu­nity groups, busi­nesses and pro­duc­ers put on an in­cred­i­ble event fea­tur­ing vil­lage fairs, food and wine events, arts and ex­hi­bi­tions, and a pa­rade. This year the fes­ti­val will be held over five days from Fri­day, Novem­ber 3 un­til Mel­bourne Cup Day, Tues­day, Novem­ber 7, end­ing with Mans­field Cup race day.

When Mans­field’s pop­u­la­tion surges over the hec­tic hol­i­day pe­ri­ods of Aus­tralia Day, Easter, Queen’s Birth­day and be­fore Christ­mas, the town holds its fa­mous Bush Mar­ket mak­ing lo­cal pro­duc­ers and en­trepreneurs the cen­tre of at­ten­tion. On a smaller scale, the town’s monthly Farm­ers’ Mar­kets, held on the fourth Satur­day of each month, are con­stant re­minders of the vi­brancy and in­no­va­tion of small lo­cal busi­nesses.

Un­der­neath it all, Mans­field is a town with a keen streak of in­di­vid­ual suc­cess and com­mu­nity to­geth­er­ness which is per­haps re­flected most clearly in its rich lin­eage of sports stars. It’s a cliché, sure, but of­ten the peo­ple of Mans­field say “there is some­thing in the water here” that helps the town breed suc­cess. It’s in the blood too, as per capita the town is nearly un­ri­valled with the num­ber of much-loved lo­cals who make it to pro­fes­sional lev­els and even be­come world cham­pi­ons, in­clud­ing names like Cather­ine Skin­ner, Si­mon Ger­rans, Alex “Chumpy” Pullin and An­ton Grimus.

The pas­sion for sports can be traced back 131 years ago to the run­ning of the very first Tolmie Sports, which is still as strong as ever to­day. Held in Fe­bru­ary each year and fea­tur­ing tra­di­tional en­ter­tain­ment in­clud­ing horse events, wood­chop­ping, foot races and food stalls, Tolmie Sports is pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies vis­it­ing the quiet lit­tle ham­let of Tolmie.

For lifetime res­i­dents Mans­field is “just a nor­mal town to live in the coun­try” but for new res­i­dents, or “blow-ins” as they are some­times re­ferred to, Mans­field holds a spe­cial place in their hearts.

Dr Will Twycross is a well-known iden­tity who is very in­volved within the com­mu­nity. He be­lieves ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, both past and present, are very much de­fined by their ge­og­ra­phy.

“It is a huge ad­van­tage for a re­gion to know its bound­aries, and so to be able to clearly iden­tify its com­mu­nity of in­ter­est,” he says.

“I al­ways think of Mans­field town­ship as the hub of a culde-sac sur­rounded by moun­tains, a bit like the an­cient Greek city states. Sit­ting at the base of, or on, the nearby moun­tains are a num­ber of smaller com­mu­ni­ties that all clearly iden­tify with one cen­tral town­ship where the schools, the churches, the ser­vice clubs, the shops, and the cul­tural and sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties draw peo­ple to­gether. In the 1990s, the state lost sight of the fact that lo­cal gov­ern­ment is meant to be de­fined

by ‘com­mu­nity of in­ter­est’ and amal­ga­mated two very dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. It is what makes com­mu­ni­ties strong, and why it was so im­por­tant to de-amal­ga­mate the De­latite Shire, which has reaped huge ben­e­fits.

“At the heart of it sits the re­gion’s ge­o­graph­i­cal rich­ness, which is so im­por­tant to pre­serve, along with the re­gion’s In­dige­nous and post set­tle­ment his­tory, which have also been very ge­o­graph­i­cally de­ter­mined. The dis­trict’s great sto­ries, the Taun­gu­rung mi­gra­tions for the Bo­gong moth, the lo­cal po­lice and the Kelly Gang, the High Coun­try cat­tle graz­ing, and many oth­ers are all prod­ucts of the ge­og­ra­phy of the Mans­field val­ley and its sur­round­ing moun­tains.”

The Poole fam­ily came from Ade­laide, South Aus­tralia more than a decade ago, at­tracted to the area for its snow sports. They set­tled in Bon­nie Doon leav­ing be­hind a ca­reer in casi­nos and night clubs.

“The rea­son we came to Bon­nie Doon was we loved ski­ing and al­ways came over to Mt Buller dur­ing win­ter,” Deb­bie Poole said.

“Be­cause Buller had the best ski school for our boys (Tyson and Korey) we came across for about three years be­fore de­cid­ing we wanted to re­lo­cate – we just loved it. But to make that move we had to have an in­come - jobs - and when we found what was then known as Clancey’s Store (road­house) at Bon­nie Doon up for sale, we de­cided this was it. That was 12 years ago.”

But what the Poole fam­ily learnt over this time was how wel­com­ing a com­mu­nity can be. Ac­cord­ing to Deb­bie the boys have had the best time grow­ing up in Bon­nie Doon.

“I have made some great friends here and we are very happy – we will never go back to Ade­laide,” she said.

The Belles, Dean and Gill and their chil­dren Daniel and Indi, are an­other fam­ily who have made Mans­field their home over the past 12 years. Dean said af­ter nine years in Thredbo and nine years at Mt Buf­falo, fol­lowed by a stint on the low­lands, the moun­tains drew the fam­ily back.

“There is also the prox­im­ity to Mel­bourne, be­cause we just love our arts and theatre, and to be able to get in and out of Mel­bourne is pretty good,” he said.

“And one of the ex­tra ben­e­fits of mov­ing here is that we have ended up with a lot of theatre and cul­ture and arts in Mans­field it­self. Mans­field’s arts com­mu­nity has grown since we have moved here. Gill has ended up heav­ily in­volved with the arts coun­cil and our busi­nesses have also grown.”

The Belles now op­er­ate two busi­nesses, the Re­gional Pro­duce Store, with its homely, wel­com­ing at­mos­phere, and the mod­ern, eclec­tic and very fam­ily ori­en­tated De­latite Ho­tel.

Dean said the kids were quite young when they ar­rived and there were good op­tions for school­ing, while Mans­field’s lo­ca­tion made it easy to com­mute to Mel­bourne or to head up the moun­tain and ski. He de­scribes the at­mos­phere of the town as “en­gaged”.

“Peo­ple are in­volved – they are a real part of the com­mu­nity and they con­trib­ute to the com­mu­nity – they are not just con­sum­ing other peo­ple’s ef­forts,” he said.

“Ev­ery­one does some­thing for some­body, whether it’s pony club or lit­tle ath­let­ics, foot­ball, the arts - ev­ery­one we mix with has some­thing they sup­port.”

Gill re­called that some weeks ago she was asked if they would con­sider mov­ing to the city, now they are “get­ting older”. “Why would we move to the city?” she said. “We have a great com­mu­nity, we have a fan­tas­tic hos­pi­tal and are a part of a very vi­brant town – I can’t imag­ine mov­ing to the city and leav­ing any of this.”

LIFE IN THE COUN­TRY / Gill and Dean Belle (top) were “drawn back to the moun­tains”, while ( be­low) Mark and Deb­bie Poole, with spaniel So­phie, left Ade­laide to make Mans­field their home. Both fam­i­lies en­joy the re­gion’s nat­u­ral beauty, café lifestyle...

AC­TIV­I­TIES FOR ALL SEA­SONS / Horse rid­ing, ski­ing, cy­cling and water sports all at­tract vis­i­tors to the Mans­field re­gion. Pho­tos: Mans­field aerial photo ( left) by Dragon­fly Aerial Pho­tog­ra­phy, Lin Baird rides Joker (above left) by Sharyn Cairns, Mt...

HIGH COUN­TRY HER­ITAGE / Craig’s Hut has be­come one of the re­gion’s most vis­ited at­trac­tions. PHOTO: Steve Thomp­son

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