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Event Recap: Werribee Park – A Boxing Day Event for All Budgets 2023

From memory, the first of the Boxing Day drives was held in 2020. It was intended to be a nice little break from the lockdowns of the time, and a sort of rethink of an “orphan’s Christmas” – essentially, a way for disconnected souls to reconnect.

I found that first Boxing drive to be so enjoyable that I volunteered to lead the next one. And then, it seemed to have become my job from then on lol. Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel a relaxed enjoyment for the 2021 and 2022 drives – although, both were at very good venues (I will add links to those articles below). This year (2023), though, was to be an amazing and pleasant surprise!

We were off to Werribee Park. A very short and easy drive from all parts of Melbourne, Werribee Park is the home of the award-winning State Rose Garden, the renowned Werribee Open Range Zoo, and of course, the magnificent Chirnside family mansion – once the largest private home in the colony.

Arriving first at the rose garden, we were impressed by the sheer size of the place and the wonderful variety of roses it contained! The diversity of smells, sizes, shapes and colours was very impressive and this would be – should someone actually want to marry me – a beautiful place to make such an important commitment. There was even a sign that I was told should be my personal motto…

We then made the short walk up to the mansion. As mentioned earlier, when built, this was the largest private home in colonial Victoria – only Government House was larger. The beautiful man-made lake was never properly sealed during the time of the Chirnside family, and it required a gang of servants several days to fill the lake by hand-carting water from the nearby Werribee River every time the family held an important party. Later, the property was purchased by the Catholic Church who expanded the mansion and used it for their Corpus Christi seminary. Later still, the Church passed the property on to the State, and the majority of the property has now been returned to the condition it would have been in during the time of the Chirnsides – the exception being the wings added by the Church which are now, largely, part of the hotel.

I can’t really speak too much of the mansion – it is such a part of the fabric of Victoria that most of us would have visited it or seen it on television or in movies, but it was such a lovely joy to revisit the grand old building and muse about the lives of all that lived there – both “upstairs and downstairs”. Although, the socialist in me was morning the colossal waste of money use to construct the building and huge amount of social good that the family could have achieved should they have chosen to fairly share their (mostly stolen) wealth amongst the less fortunate in the colony.

For lunch, we decided to eat at the café in one of the wings built by the Catholic Church, but, seeing the prices, we thought we might like to go and look at the newly build, nearby, Wyndham Harbour. Being a holiday, it was closed. Trent then found us a nearby “general store”. What an amazing find. Only 23km from the CBD, in suburbia, we were surrounded by a crashing ocean, farmland, and bogans a-plenty – it could have been any country town. The food was old-style fish and chip shop, and totally amazing.
All-in-all, a wonderful day was had by all, and the rain held off until we were all back in our cars heading home.

It really is a wonderful feeling leading an event like this, and there is not a lot of organising that needs to be done. The current Committee have kept open much of the event calendar in the hope that some of our members would like to lead an event of their own. You don’t need any kind of experience or expertise, just and idea and a passion. Please contact the events team – – and they can talk you through the process.

Words and photos by Paul Hollingworth.

Paul Hollingworth

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