Here is just one of the stories our roving reporters from the future have submitted as part of our ‘Type of Town’ project happening at the Warehouse – Clunes at the moment. A timely tale given the Transport Consultation that happened last night at the Warehouse:
A day trip to Clunes, Victoria is like a trip back in time. At one of the entrances to the town there’s a water trough where coaches stopped to refuel their horses. Testament to an era before automobiles became the most common way to travel. It’s important to note because this nod to alternative modes of travel seems to have set the tone in this old gold town and as a result, shaped life in Clunes in 2050.
Opposite the water trough there was a pub. It’s easy to picture how busy it would’ve been. Coaches and horses crossing the nearby bluestone bridge before pulling to a halt to eat, drink and refresh themselves. It’s not hard to imagine the hum of conversation that would have existed as people tipped their hats, brushed the dust off their clothes and exchanged civilities before heading home on foot, or continuing on their journey.
Commuter junctions like this were common place 100 years ago, but now we are used to the cold, impersonal nature of huge train stations, fast-paced freeways or airports where people who stop and chat are suspect, rather than friendly. So you might think it’s strange that I can easily visualise how Clunes might have been long ago.
It’s not strange, because while the pub is now a B&B, everything else I describe is much the same. Somewhere in time, Clunes became a town that decided to forget conformity and carve out its own reality. There’s a museum in the main street. It dominates the streetscape with appealing outdoor spaces on either side of it and a bustling program of activities happening in the old hotel wrapped around it. Ancestry searches, old trades and high-speed wifi make it an appealing destination for visitors from near and far. Here it’s easy to trace the origins of Clunes’ self-determination. This town has been innovative from the very beginning. The mine it was first built around was recognised world-wide for its innovations, and while the town has consciously moved away from the practices that stripped the land of its resources, it’s remained unashamedly innovative.
Take the carpark for example. It’s underground. Built into the hills surrounding the town, the visitors carpark is connected to the mainstreet by winding pathways that are peppered with GPS guides and storytelling touchpoints that kick in as you pass. I’ve a dodgy leg. So while I’d love to walk these paths and see the platypus they tell me are nearby, I’ve opted to ride the electric bikes provided at the carpark. I’m not the only one.
Locals and visitors alike are all on bikes rather than in their cars. Visitors stick to the inner circle of the town (controlled in part by the battery life and coding of the bikes), while locals can be seen further afar. Like most of Victoria, the land around Clunes can be very dry, but careful planting and thinking about walkways had made this a particularly walkable town. An ageing population (an issue anywhere in this country) has probably given rise to the electric bikes with their nifty shade sails?
Easy spots to pull over and chat are evident everywhere in town, even wider afield where you can see that those living on the land or travelling also stop to chat. How do I know this?
Each of these spots features trees, drinking taps and a solar charging station for bikes. Like the trough I first saw when I entered the town, these spots are commuter junctions and they are a big part of the appeal of living in or visiting Clunes. It is social, sustainable, and downright practical and at the same time, blends in with the land. If you look closely at the base of the drinking tap you’ll see an etching carved into it that looks like the water trough that I first saw when I entered town. The etching is another nod to the past, and one that didn’t happen by chance. But then I suspect, everything I see preserved and alive today in Clunes is here because it’s a community that has chosen not to leave how it lives just to chance.
Submitted to the ‘Clunes Star’ in May 2019: from 2050