Many years ago the town of Wallace in Melbourne’s West, near Ballarat, was bypassed. The road that runs through Wallace was once the main highway between Melbourne and Ballarat, which was the trail set by earlier settlers and those driven to the nearby goldfields. Then came the cars, and more vehicles until the road became unsafe and busy. The highway was replaced by a high-speed freeway, cutting the old road up and bypassing these small towns in the hope of faster and safer trip — this little timber cottage, hidden from the abandoned road and an overgrown garden. Cars and trucks thunder along the freeway less than 100m away, no one even noticing that this house still stands.
Fences and gates closed, locked up someone seems to want to protect the property. But it was clear no one lives here. As I find a gap in the hedge, I step through to the yard. A dozen rabbit tails light up in the dim light. Their little white fluffy tails were flashing on and off as they made their way to the safety of their burrows. The smell of recent rains and pine needles from the trees fills the air. The air is fresh and cold, but the scent of decay also floats past from the house ahead.
The former owner must have been a cycling enthusiast, maybe even repaired bikes of those attempting to ride between Melbourne and Ballarat. Old tyres are stacked in the garden, becoming brittle trying to return to the earth. Nearby an old rusting bike frame is disappearing into a tangle of spreading weeding. Towering overhead giant cypress with big broken limbs handing, feeling like they are trying to grab those who come too close.
Maybe the owner was a sheep farmer. In the middle of the front garden is a decaying stone and timber stock loading ramp. I can imagine the shouts and the whistles, cattle dogs nipping at the flanks of sheep loading on to a truck. Broken beer bottle conjures images of country mates having a beer after the hard work of mustering the livestock. Maybe on the front verandah which has now collapsed. The timber posts that once held it up now are gone. So is the deck that would have also been along the front. Most of the windows have smashed or have fallen out. As I look in, it seems that the previous owners just stood up and never come back. Maybe an old man trundled off to the hospital and never returned.
An old armchair sits in a front room it’s fabric rotting and the stuffing hanging. It has changed from a place to sit and relax to home for rats. Old bed frames stacked in dark, dank rooms. The smell of possum urine fills the air making the territory of who runs this house at night.
Over the years these towns started to decay. No longer attracting new families and young people moved away to the larger urban areas. These areas, instead of being transformed by development; they are processed by decay and neglect. Timbers rot and or eaten by termites, fungus and mould; metal rust and even absorbed into trees and the ground. In time only the plastic and stone will be left, and with enough time these will also be gone, buried under leaf litter, then soil to maybe rediscovered again.