A Warrandyte swimming hole odyssey
by BILL McAULEY
6th April 2020
Photo: BILL SANDEL
AS KIDS, DURING the summer months, back in the 50s and 60s, our life was defined by Warrandyte’s many swimming holes.
Each well-known spot had its own nickname and peculiarities.
Sometimes we would enjoy a monster river swim and visit all of the swimming holes in one day.
We’d leave our towels and belongings at the west end of the town and troop up to The Island behind the stone built Selby Store [now known as The Yarra Store].
We’d hit the water there, beginning our half-swim/half-float with the current journey home.
The first spot we would arrive at was the Diving Rock where we would clamber out and execute a few running dives and bombs from the rock into the swirling current then continue on our way.
The Willows was next situated just on the Ringwood side of the bridge.
We’d often swim past Helen Couch as she conducted her swimming lessons under the willow trees that grew profusely along the northern bank.
Many local kids learnt to swim in the river here under her instruction.
The willows dangled their elegant swaying branches over the water as the current rushed us underneath them and straight towards the bridge.
We rode the rapids right under the bridge, looking up at the newly constructed span that had recently replaced the old wooden bridge.
We’d float down to The Rope situated opposite the wood fired Bakery.
Naturally, we’d stop and have a swing on the rope that was hanging from a tree on the northern bank, flying across the water and letting go as we neared the middle of the river.
Next stop was The Cliffs, one of the most exciting and most dangerous spots along our river odyssey.
We’d climb up the towering cliffs until we were over 35 feet above the water and launch ourselves out from the dangerous cliff wall and land in only eight feet of water.
Some of the more adventurous lads would dive face first from the cliffs but most were only game enough to jump.
But whichever way you got your kicks, it was an exhilarating ride!
After our dose of adrenaline, we’d shoot the rapids below today’s dog beach near the Dairy and float down to Hussey’s Pool.
Here, we’d luxuriate in the natural harbor that was created by a huge rocky barrier that stretched more than halfway across the river.
The pool was a great place to swim without being bothered by the currents.
It was a beautiful place to break our journey under the giant oak tree that presided over this special swimming hole, where I learnt to swim in 1956.
Next stop was at least half a kilometre from Hussey’s, so we’d float and swim along, past the picnic shelter, and enjoy the beautiful bush on both sides of the river.
We felt safe, for it was rare for a giant tree to fall over into the river in those days.
I once saw a local guy, Chris Emery, dive down in this stretch of water and return to the surface with a gold nugget clutched in his hand.