Where has the old port gone? | Letters to the editor

By Riverine Herald

Ian Malcolm, Vermont, Victoria

OH Campaspe Shire, what have you allowed to happen to the old Port area?

We have been regular, although not that frequent, visitors to the Echuca Old Port area for more than 30 years.

On our latest visit, early October 2019, we noted an even further deterioration in the environment and facilities of the Port area.

The area has become sterile, the environment is seditionary and full of signs and posters instead of attractions and activities.

The Discovery Centre is a good "static" museum with lots of historic information, but the outdoor displays are run down, not very active and only a hint of what it could have been like in times past.

It should be full of sights, sounds and smells of yesteryear.

Sights of industry of the time, the blacksmith heating and beating his metal, the sawmill in full swing with timber being sawn and manhandled, the wood turner plying his trade and all other manner of tradespeople and artisans going about their businesses.

Sounds of the blacksmith pumping the bellows to heat up metal in his furnace then beating the metal into shape.

The noise of steam hissing and spluttering from the machinery of the sawmill as timber moves from point to point associated with the sounds of the production processes.

The sound of the woodturner trimming and finishing his timber products.

All this together with general street and commercial activities associated with the times.

Smells of wood burning to create the heat for the blacksmith to heat his furnace, the saw mill to create steam to drive there machinery, the different scents of the various timbers of the wood turner, the smell of fresh baked bread and other old time delicacies.

And yes the animal odours, that are still a fact for country people, but long forgotten to cities.

And what of the Wistaria Tearooms, bought by the shire in 1975 to protect the heritage value of the Port area and then operating as the Wistaria Tearooms from 1982.

How pleasant it was to sit on the front veranda at the Singer sewing machine tables enjoying a tea or coffee and watching the historic world go by.

But no longer!

And Oscar W’s restaurant?

Yes it obviously needed work, and stabilisation of the river bank below was imperative, but to have a static ‘pop-up’ park with temporary wire fencing covered in mock brick shade cloth!

Surely something more active or visual could have been thought of.

What about a temporary farm yard, with sheep, chooks and other small animals.

Children and overseas visitors love to interact with animals.

Thankfully the river boats are still very active and a most enjoyable hour or more can be experienced for a very reasonable cost.

What better sight than a majestic riverboat steaming along with paddles turning, steam and smoke coming from the funnel, with the sound of the paddles beating the water, whistle blasts and the smell of the redgum timber burning in the boiler.

On our recent overnight stay with two grandchildren, we spent about $500 in Echuca on accommodation, meals, souvenirs and tours etc.

The river boats will probably keep us coming back, but without them, I don’t think we would bother to visit the Old Port area.