You see Dulcie Sanderson, 90, has for 66 years been treasuring her extensive garden, on land where her father and grandfather once grew wheat, using horse teams to plough and sew the crop. She has never forgotten her grandfather telling her of the beautiful band of self-mulching clay soil which which extends from the main Melbourne to Sydney railway line right through the 120 acres he bought in the 1920’s, to what was then the Hume Highway. The Benalla Village Caravan Park is on part of that original block.
The good clay loam continues right under her garden and has made it possible for Dulcie to grow practically any plant which takes her eye. That has even included tropical seedlings given to her by local botanist Kay Fairley, who recognised Dulcie’s green fingered ability and willingness to take chances.
One of those, a rainforest black bean tree, looks perfectly happy in a sheltered spot not far from the back door.
But 67 Sydney Road has never been a peaceful spot. When it was for many decades the Hume Highway, trucks thundering past, albeit much smaller than today’s B-doubles, clashed with the quiet green bubble of Dulcie and then husband Ron’s glorious half acre garden. They married in 1952 and Dulcie has lived there ever since.
So, traffic is much reduced these days, but is still quite busy during morning and evening peaks, which mainly comprise Schneider employees coming or going to work.
Glider tow planes are another noise hazard, as they start their initial climb after take-off to the west, sometimes immediately overhead. However, Dulcie says some of the two pilots make an obvious attempt to turn slightly right or left to avoid flying directly over her house.
One, a 90 hp De Havilland Moth Major two-seater 10 years younger than Dulcie, climbs slowly though, heading directly it seems to her, into the branches of some of her bigger trees. No pilot is allowed to turn a plane at a height lower than 1000 feet, because of noise implications for Benalla hospital patients. So, as a pilot who once inadvertently few through tree branches on take-off, I can understand the hazard Dulcie’s very healthy and numerous tall trees pose to Mark, the Benalla owner and pilot.
One day recently when I was visiting Dulcie, another high-flying adventurer also seemed to be facing the distinct hazard of falling to earth in a messy way. A young man, 20m high in the topmost branches of a gum tree, was trimming with a chain saw, branches threatening a major powerline on the old highway. He was no doubt well roped in but still looked vulnerable.
Dulcie still manages to keep her garden spick and span with a little outside help. And the lovely clay loam paddock her father once farmed and treasured, now restricted to grazing Hereford cattle, still stretches from her garden fence to the train line. No doubt pilots too, in the remote possibility that their plane’s engines stop when they are doing their damnedest to gain height quickly and safely, hope that paddock remains free of houses too.
All power to you, Dulcie.