Melbourne is more than just chic locales; the ‘Woodlands Homestead Living Legends’, for example, is a tranquil meadow in Melbourne, housing champion race horses. A visit to this park with kangaroos springing near you would definitely charm your spirits.
Australia, as a country, is compelling if you delve into its sports habitats and their utmost honesty towards the props of their passion. Be it the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), its time-warping museum or this carefully built homestead tailor-made to offer a refuge to the retiring racehorses. It was February 2014, and my Melbourne diary had just started at an overnight hotel near the airport. My anticipation grew on rational grounds as I, like many in India, am a horse racing enthusiast and the enigmatic experience of watching it from clubhouse galleries.
Visiting the horses
The recent trend in business travelling involves at least a couple of incentive trips, especially when there is a travel industry event on the calendar. I was in Australia to attend the Asia-Pacific Incentive and Meetings Expo (AIME). Being part of a group of journalists and bloggers, and looking to pen my experiences at venues where a group meeting or a relaxed conference can be organised, I was more intrigued by the horses. The historic Woodlands Homestead was established way back in 1843 and is a treasured part of Australia’s Victorian heritage. Abode to the champion legendary horses and fondly known as the Living Legends, the area in and around the Woodlands is probably one of the most serene thoroughbred properties in the southern hemisphere.
I remember a few of those enchanting names; Silent Witness, Might And Power, Apache Cat, The Cleaner. These are the horses that made fortunes for thousands of people in the Melbourne Derby. There are guided tours everyday where one get into the horse paddock area and pat the big animals and click pictures with them. If you are a racing enthusiast like me, you will also enjoy the short history of their golden times on the tracks. The weather at these parts of Australia is quite unpredictable, keeping rain, sun and the wind roughing you up throughout the day.
I remember the man Andrew Clarke, the CEO and the person who calls the shot at the place. Clarke took us to the Melbourne Cup winners and showed the clippings of those riveting races from the late nineties. I remember Might and Power and Silent Witness the most and their gentle neighing was translated by Clarke as their form of gratitude. “We try to keep them in the best condition possible and if you visit them, you will understand how kingly they are. Most of the horses were heroes in their times. And, when people come to see them in such close proximity, they love it,” Clarke said.
The Woodlands Homestead is also a place to spot kangaroos from a handshaking distance. While the huge property would give you surreal glimpses of metal birds hitting the ground at a distant horizon, there will be these queer little creatures in herd gleefully watching every footstep of yours. Trying a selfie with them will be a challenge, but, you can easily capture them from a distance of fewer than 10 metres. Horses and kangaroos in a warm Australian summer morning seemed like a perfect Victorian outing for me.
On the map
The Living Legends is based at Woodlands Homestead in Woodlands Historic Park, off the Oaklands Road in Greenvale, just north of Melbourne Airport (six minutes’ drive) and about 20 kilometres northwest of the city centre. It remains open for the visitors daily from 10 am to 4 pm.