Sanctuary

I’d nearly run out of petrol when I reached Ricketts Sanctuary. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to fill up. The week had been stressful and I just wanted to reach the forest as fast as possible. Should I try to find a petrol station? I asked myself, No, the petrol can wait! I If I’m gonna run out, better to do so after bathing in the Mountain Ash sanctuary air! I affirmed as I shifted the gear stick into neutral and rolled into Rickett’s Sanctuary car park.

It was a cold and quiet Thursday in June and nobody seemed to be around. When I entered the Santuary the winter sun streamed though the treetops to touch my face. William Ricketts’ love seemed to emanate. Winding through the space, I felt the devotional air for both the earth and for first peoples of this country. The clay sculptures appeared to merge with the forest mass. I imagined William sculpting amongst the ferns after coming home from a sabbatical up north with the Indigenous tribe he held so dear.

I made my way to visit the Ash where William rests, a magnificent tree with a trunk as big as a bedroom reaching tens of metres into the air. On a more modest tree stump nearby I found a tiny little heart-shaped mushroom in moss near the intricate pattern of felled tree’s centre. I took a picture then headed for respite from the morning cold in the small cottage where William dwelt.

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In the warmth of Willaim’s cottage I sat and closed my eyes. I imagined the roots of the Mountain Ash surrounding deep underneath, their trunks climbing around me and the view from the top. My mind finally felt clear of the haze that had hung for the past week.

On my way out, I asked the friendly Parks Victoria assistant where the closest petrol station was – ‘Montrose or Ferntree Gully, either way a 15km drive.’ Will I make it or will I be walking? I thought to myself. Ok, which way?  Montrose, I decided. The car park at Rickett’s is a steep accent; up I went then turned left on Mount Dandenong Tourist Road. It was down-hill as far as I could see, I cruised in neutral gear. Brett laughed at me when I told him this was a way to save petrol, I’m not completely sure it is, but to my delight the road to Montrose was all down. I made it!

After filling the tank, I headed back to the Dandenongs tourist road. I’m hungry now – I thought. I had left my messy house that morning without breakfast or a coffee. All I wanted was warm place with a fire and a good coffee. I was hoping for ‘Eden’, the cafe across the road from the sanctuary, but an Ash recently fell there and builders were restoring the place after the trees descent. ‘Maybe I’ll find some other cosy abode, I thought to myself, luck is on my side today.

I kept my eye out and came to a cafe that advertised its recent award for best coffee. Perfect. I walked into to find shelves of books, an open fire-place and welcoming staff.

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The coffee at this cafe called ‘Brunch’ was great and everything on the menu looked delicious. I plucked a Margaret Atwood book from the shelf and ordered the most expensive meal on the menu – French beef daube, a delicious slowed cooked beef casserole in red wine ($21) and a glass of red to go with it ($9). The food and wine hit the spot and I felt completely welcomed to settle in with the novel by the fire. After a long relaxing rest I ordered Frangelico Affagato – ice cream, espresso coffee and liquor – yum ($9).  I complemented the chef on my way out who happened to be the owner of the place, her name, Louise. I’m coming back, I told her! Her husband Mark showed me the room out back where there was a large shelf of kids’ books and a giant Teddy. Mark told me they let every kid who goes to the cafe take a book home with them. I’m coming back with my kids, I told him.  The manager Jay suggested I make a reservation, the place gets packed on weekends and we sometimes have to turn people away. He said.

I’ll make sure to book then! I said before tipping him and saying goodbye.

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After lunch I drove a few 100 metres beyond the café and discovered the entrance to a track into the forest. I parked at Mount Dandenong Primary School, hopped out of my car and read the sign that said ‘Mechanics track, 2km to Olinda Falls’. After wine and ice-cream, a winter walk seemed the perfect idea. The track led deep into the belly of the forest. Mud squished under my boots as the sound of lorikeets and flowing creek water filled my ears. I took a moment to pause, looked up at the fern umbrella branches above and then touched the bark of an Ash that towered to dwarf the giant ferns. The smell of moss and eucalypt brought a broad smile to my face. I remembered yesterday’s headache and the sinking feeling that lumbered my chest, its gone, I delighted.

I reached Olinda Falls to find a young couple with their eight-week-old baby. The father took a photo of the mother with her babe in arms. The three of them cuddled then walked on. I took my own moment to listen to the cascades then tracked back through the lovely mud towards my car. When I finally arrived, rain began to fall.

I drove home in the rain feeling complete bliss.

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Join us on our next Free Grace Day, July 2nd for relaxation at Ricketts Sanctuary, a bush walk to Olinda Falls and High Tea at Brunch cafe. For more click here

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Family Friendly Free Grace Day Retreat

The Valley and Eagle Nest Loop with Yoga Meditation and Relaxation

(special needs friendly pace)

 Pack you lunch, blanket and hiking boots for Yoga and Adventure in the Dandenong Ranges National Park. This retreat is one for the whole family and we will be taking things at a special needs friendly pace.

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The Valley and Eagle Nest Loop starts at the Valley picnic Ground parking area near Olinda.  This  3km walk takes you through lush forest and is pram accessible. Our Free Day Retreats  include Yoga, Meditation and Relaxation and are not for profit events. Simply meet us at the starting point, and breath out for bliss.

To book an All-Terrain Wheel Chair press here


Meeting Point: 11am sharp at the Valley Picnic Ground, Olinda 

Yoga stop:  11.45 – 12.15pm gentle yoga movement at Eagle Nest Picnic Ground

Relaxation:  1.15 – 1.30pm  Yoga Nidra relaxation at Vally Picnic Ground

Picnic Lunch: 1.30 – 2.30pm at Vally Picnic Ground


Go to get there: Head in to the Dandenong ranges towards Olinda. At Olinda, turn into Olinda-Monbulk Rd (C406). Pass the National Rhododendron Gardens and the Golf Course. Turn right into Chalet Rd (If you miss Chalet Rd, turn right into Woolwich Rd). Stop at RT Hamer Arboretum if you need the toilet (last access to public toilets – from then on it’s bush style peeing only!). Drive on a little way then turn left at Silvan Rd, keep driving for a couple of kms then take another left onto Boundary Rd until you reach Valley Picnic Ground parking area.

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Please note these are community days and all participants are responsibility for their own safety and well-being. Participants must acknowledge that Grace Touring is not liable for any accident or injury. We advise that participants pack sunscreen, a small first aid kit, wear suitable hiking shoes, comfortable clothes and have adequate supplies of water and food. We also suggest to pack a towel, sarong or light blanket to sit on for yoga and lunch. This day retreat is suitable for the whole family and will be paced slowly for those with special needs.

For more information or to register your interest please contact us

Your Guides for the day are Rebecca Sullivan and Brett Gili

Rebecca is trained extensively in Yoga and Mindfulness and Brett is a master at keeping a serene pace

Testimonial from prior retreat:

“Was such a great day! Bec and Brett created a perfectly balanced combination of an energetic walk in a beautiful location, with a yoga practice under a tree canopy and a meditation. There is something quite special about yoga under tall trees with a bird song soundtrack. The yoga nidra, gratefully appreciated after the walk, giving us a chance to appreciate and connect with nature in a unique, peaceful way. A great concept that we are lucky to have offered. And a chance to meet some lovely like-minded souls. Will be at the next one!” – Charlotte Aberhart

The Dandenong Ranges

With respect to Elders past and present we acknowledge that we walk on Boonwurrung Country 

IMG_3225I Hour Drive from Melbourne’s CBD Find the Dandenong Ranges. A great walk starts deep in the Ranges at Eagle Nest Picnic Ground.

National Rhododendron Gardens is also great place to take the kids for a picnic. Paved paths also make it a excellent place if you have a to pram to push around or require wheel chair access. Located near Mount Dandenong and  just east of the Olinda township.

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After your adventure in the gardens, head back into Olinda, (maybe grab a coffee or some Devonshire tea if that’s your thing) then keep going along the Mount Dandenong Tourist road to find

William Ricketts Sanctuary  – Situated among the mountain ash, this is a place that is both beautiful and tranquil. In this natural setting, beautiful sculptures can be found half hidden among the ferns. William Ricketts’vision was one of a modern Australia that embraces Aboriginal spirituality and respects the natural world. A peaceful place for the whole family to meander.Find more adventures in The Dandenong Ranges here

To find one of our Free Grace Day retreats in the Dandenongs click here

To read an adventure story set in the Dandenong Ranges click here