Monday, October 3, 2016

Walhalla - Immersing Myself into a Setting.

Back in September, I took a much needed trip back to my home town in Gippsland, Victoria to visit family and celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday. Nana has been a huge influence in my life and has been one of my biggest champions of my writing career, so I was really pleased to be able to share in her birthday celebration. 

While I was in Victoria, I took the opportunity to visit a place that is very special to me. It is also the setting for my new work in progress, a romantic fiction novel that carries the working title "Walhalla". 

Walhalla - the township - is a picturesque little mountain hamlet, situated roughly a 2 hour drive east of Melbourne. It's origins go back to the Victorian gold rush of the 1850's when, in 1862, prospectors exploring the mountains in that region happened upon a natural valley and creek flat that was, not only, suitable for settling, it was also the site of a rich gold deposit. So rich was this deposit that the resulting township became one of the richest mining towns in Australia. By the 1880's, Walhalla supported a population of thousands and was considered a regional center, rivaling that of Ballarat to the west of Melbourne and yielding gold hauls that were unprecedented.

(Walhalla c. 1897)

By the 1910's however, Walhalla's gold rush was in a stark decline and the narrow gauge railway the township had fought for decades to get, arrived just in time to hasten the exodus from the town. However the town itself refused to die, despite dire predictions for it's future. For decades it languished in obscurity, with a permanent population that fluctuated in the dozens. However in the 1990's, a group of locals came together with a dream to resurrect the town's narrow gauge railway in the hopes of kick-starting a tourism renaissance. Their efforts paid off and a section of the line was rebuilt, from Walhalla to the Thomson River a little over 4 kilometers away. 

Today, Walhalla is experiencing something of a tourist boom, with people visiting from all over the world to take in the gorgeous mountain town with its rich mining and railway history, its beautifully preserved architecture and its seductive romance. 

(Walhalla c. 2015)

For me, I have had a life long fascination with this little town which has refused to die and I'm really excited to be setting my next novel there. In the context of the story, Walhalla serves as a place of healing. A young doctor returns there in the aftermath of his wife's infidelity and reconnects with a cast of characters who influenced him during his childhood. At the same time a young mother, escaping a violent past, seeks to resurrect the township's long dormant Bakery in the hope of making a new life for herself and her daughter who is profoundly deaf. 

I spent a morning in Walhalla, taking a series of photographs and video footage as well as talking with some locals, to reacquaint myself with the "feel" of the township so I can translate that faithfully to the page, albeit in a fictional setting. I want to immerse myself, not only in the physical appearance of the township, but the smells of the place, the flora and fauna, the sounds of the mountains, the trickle of the creek that meanders its way through the township. And I also wanted to experience the people in-situ - to get a feel for their daily lives so that I can infuse some of that into the cast I have created for this new story. 

So here's a little sampling of my visit there.

Elliot's Bakery.

Walhalla Lodge Hotel.

Town Center with Post Office & Mechanics Institute Building.

Magnolias in bloom.

Spring in the Mountains.

Windsor House.

Mechanics Institute & Free Library.

Trembath's Corner Stores.

A working breakfast.

Trembath's Corner Stores.

Spring Blooms.

Spring Blooms.

Post Office in frame.

Feel free to hit me up in the comments if you'd like to know more about the specific buildings featured herein. Of course, I'm reluctant to divulge too much about the story I'm writing - for obvious reasons. Know this though - it will be a return to my romantic roots which fans of The Hambledown Dream will enjoy.



  1. What a wonderful, quaint looking town. Reminds me of small towns in Colorado. So glad you are up to traveling and it looks like you are able to enjoy that delicious looking breakfast! I will be watching to this next book.

    1. There are some records of American miners making their way across to Australia during the height of the gold rush in the 1880's and I'm sure some Coloradans would have been among them.

      Walhalla was the birthplace of Broadway star Suzanne Bennett who trod the boards in New York during the late 1920's. There are also unconfirmed reports suggesting that the late actor Patrick Swayze spent time there when he was a teen but I haven't been able to prove the veracity of these claims.

      And I did enjoy that breakfast very much.