Hanging Rock, the best playground ever

On Easter Sunday my kids and I headed out for a spur-of-the-moment drive to Hanging Rock. (No dad around – he has a sports competition every year at Easter, so he was away.) We’d been only once before, when the kids were small.

Hanging Rock is what the publicity blurb calls a “rare and mysterious” volcanic formation, about an hour north of Melbourne. In truth it is a special place – a towering stone maze rising incongruously from a pretty farming landscape. It’s best known as the setting of the classic Australian novel and film “Picnic at Hanging Rock”, which is about the mysterious disappearance of a party of schoolgirls at Hanging Rock. Cue lots of floaty white dresses, sexual tension, summer heat and sun-dappled eucalypts. The story is completely fictional – there was never a local girls school and no one disappeared or came to a bad end at Hanging Rock – but the mythology is so strong (and the film so evocative) that many Australians think it’s based on a true story. This perception is supported by an exhibit at the base of the Rock, which presents the story as though it were history. There are tales of aspiring researchers visiting the State Library of Victoria and bursting into tears when told by the library staff that there really are no newspaper records because it’s FICTION.

Anyway… here we were at Hanging Rock. After fortuitously running into good friends and arranging to meet later for dinner, we headed up the path that winds to the top of the Rock.

A little way up we decided to veer off the path and be “explorers”, tackling the long spiky grass, scrubby banksias and challenging boulders. This is when I discovered that Hanging Rock is a BRILLIANT place for middle-sized kids (mine are 9 and 11). Hanging Rock is climbing heaven. It’s made of pockmarked volcanic stone, split into pinnacles and boulders and liberally appointed with footholds, spooky canyons, hideyholes and king-of-the-mountain triumphal pose opportunities.

Climbing kids

Climbing into stone cavern

King of the mountain

Admittedly I have a pretty high level of risk tolerance and confidence in my kids’ good sense and climbing ability. I played lots of physically challenging games as a kid (my favourite was one I invented called “Daredevil” which basically involved climbing up and jumping off stuff). I’m willing to contemplate the possibility of broken bones, though my kids have managed to avoid this so far. I do draw the line at playing on the edge of sheer cliffs though… I have a great photo that I won’t post out of deference to my son’s feelings/pride, but it shows what an 11-year-old’s face looks like when he knows he just got too close the the edge and is backing the hell away.

Here’s the view from halfway up:



And the view from the top – with and without banksias!



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