I have edited the article , you can read the full article on Trove here http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article197424726
It is once in seven years that I visit the fen country. That period I hold to be about the proper interval of time between one visit and another to a district that one is not intimately connected with by either birth or business. It is sufficiently long to note any progressive changes that have taken place in the scenes around one; and it is sufficiently short to enable the memory to recall the exact state of former things. My late visit has been superinduced in this way. Having occasion to penetrate into the County of Mornington the length of Cranbourne, not so much to refresh myself as the little nag that carried me thither, I pulled up about midday at a respectable place of entertainment 'for man and beast.'
After the usual salutations, ‘and something more’ with mine host, this town, said I, inquiringly, is the capital of Mornington. 'It ought to be' said my sonsie [healthy, robust] friend but at present it is stripped of its dues.' 'How so?' said I. ' Not,' replied he ‘because it lacks any of the natural advantages that are essential to constitute a fine inland toon. We have around us the finest agricultural land, plenty of wood, and water, honest men and bonny lasses; but that outlandish place, Berwick, has taken the agricultural show from us, for this season.' 'Is Berwick not equally suitable as a showground?' said I. 'Bless, you’ said my friend, 'will William Lyall, with his hares and pheasants and partridges; with his ponies and racers and Punches [type of draught horse] and with his enormous English sheep, and white-faced cattle, go there? Not he; it is too far away, and what can be the good of the show?'
I stood the whole of this lively recital with admirable composure, until mention was made of the ' white-faced cattle,' when former recollections of 'Old Star' and her offspring rushed in upon me, and the disposal of the morrow was very summarily' decided. A few more minutes and I was jogging on my way….. in the direction of- Tooradin, the nearest homestead or 'head station’ as we used to call such establishments, of the father of acclimatisation in Victoria - William Lyall.
This is the Acclimatisation Society's medal - which shows some of the animals introduced to Victoria - deer, ostrich, pheasant, swan, rabbit and hare.
State Library of Victoria Image IAN20/06/68/8
My way, for a considerable distance after leaving 'the toon o' Cranbourne,' lay through a track of country extremely dreary and suggestive of immediate action on the part of the Acclimatisation Society, in stocking its heathy hummocks with grouse and blackcock from the 'Land o' Cakes’ Then I wended on through a stunted forest of the unenviable sort of timber commonly called ‘bastard box,' from which I at last emerged into a prairie of considerable extent, and, as far as I could judge perfectly level. This plain, through some agency that I do not here undertake to explain, is evidently year by year becoming larger. The trees are decaying all around its margins, and stand there in thousands, branchless and bleached with the action of the weather. And here, as everywhere, else, where this decay of the forest sets in, the pasturage is very perceptibly improved. The surface soil, in the first place, is being materially enriched with the deposit shed from dying timber; while the subsoil is not only spared the former exhaustion through the medium of the root, but is actually benefited by the presence of that root now in a state of decomposition.
The improvement which took place in this Plain of Sherwood [Parish of Sherwood], since my former visit, may therefore be partly ascribed to this mysterious decay of the forest, partly to the present treatment of the pasturage (sheep grazing), and in a great measure to the free and fertilising action of the sun upon the surface. This plain, in fee simple, I am informed, is the property of an old and well known colonist, who is now for some years absent from the colon - Mr John Bakewell. It does not require the precision of prophecy to foretell that it will become, at some future day, a princely estate. It already, in natural richness and levelness, invites the presence of the steam plough; but while in a sort of reverie…. I arrived at my destination for the day, Tooradin.
This is William Lyall (1821 to 1888) on the left and John Mickle (1814 to 1885), taken in 1853.
Photo from The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson
Mickle, Lyall and John Bakewell (1807 to 1888) were business partners who in 1851 acquired the Yallock Run (based on the Yallock Creek, south of Koo-Wee-Rup). In 1852 they acquired the Tooradin run and in 1854 they acquired the Great Swamp run and at one stage they occupied nearly all the land from Cranbourne to Lang Lang. Lyall's sister Margaret was married to John Mickle.
I had the good luck of finding the 'Laird' at home; but the day was too far gone to admit of seeing anything in the way of stock, beyond what some fashionable writers of the day call 'the sires of the season' The writer then goes on to describe the horses, including the redoubtable Dockin, famous in every show yard as the first prize Shetlander. He was supposed to be good when first purchased, in his native little island….twelve or thirteen years ago; but he is now known to be good, not wholly for winning so many fields, but for getting an innumerable race of crack animals.
The next day Lyall and the writer reviewed the sheep - These are exclusively of pure Romney Marsh blood, and spring from six or seven ewes and a ram of that breed imported by Mr Lyall nine or ten years ago. He was induced, I believe, in a greater degree to try this breed on the Fen country from the adaptability its name indicated, than from any personal knowledge he has had of this variety of sheep; however that, maybe, the experiment has resulted to his satisfaction. The little 'mob' now amounts to about seventy head and all of them, from the patriarch of the flock to the youngest lamb, are in fine blooming health.
They then go to view the white faced cattle and …there beamed the lovely countenances of 'Old Star' and her numerous offspring. There, the old cow stood, on the eve of bringing the thirteenth calf (her fourteenth, should she bring twins) within ten years. At the R.A.S show at Salisbury in 1857, where she stood first as the ‘best heifer in milk in calf’ she was probably as perfect a specimen of the Hereford breed as was ever seen.
The writer then has a number of paragraphs about Lyall’s cattle when they then went to see Lyall’s house, Harewood, which was under construction. Here tradesmen were busy in finishing a mansion, intended for the laird's residence. This is built of brick, on a sand hill, on the very shore of Western Port. We soon toddled up stairs to get a survey of the outlines of the district. The dimensions of the windows were just sufficiently liberal herein to gratify my curiosity. These I found, when my surprise subsided a little to be somewhere about eighteen inches in breadth, and about four feet in height. 'What on earth' said I, 'induced you to have the windows so small?' 'This, my good fellow, in our climate, is the right sort,' replied the laird.' You never saw a more absurd or unprofitable thing' continued he ‘than first to make large windows to let in the whole blaze of day light and heat upon you, and then to send off the dray for a load of 'soft goods' to keep that light and heat out again’.
Harewood. Photographer: John T. Collins, taken April 1975.
The photo clearly shows the windows that are about eighteen inches in breadth, and about four feet in height that raised the curiosity of the writer.
State Library of Victoria Image H97.250/1833
My eye, by this time, was ranging to the far north, where the Dandenong mountains towered up to the clouds. Nearer to me, in that direction, not a feature was sufficiently prominent to attract my attention. The whole expanse was one dead solitude….On turning to the south, there, away in the distance, gloomy and sombre, lay French Island and the whole bosom of the calm bay between us, thickly dotted with sea fowl and waterfowl of several varieties, whose names were as unknown to me as was their gabble, which, at moments of apparent excitement, became a perfect 'Babel.' In fact, the whole scene became too grand for a person of my temperament. I began to get a little melancholy.
Off we were again to Yallock, Mr Lyall's furthest away station. It is here the sheep are washed and shorn, for here is a running stream of fine soft water [Yallock Creek], and clean pasture to preserve the fleece, in the interval between washing and shearing, in a state of purity. The woolshed is here, too, but at the present juncture, it is converted into a stable for the colts which are undergoing a slight modicum of training, ere being brought to the hammer during the present month. ….. And, to be candid, I saw something else here that please me more than any sight of thorough-bred colts would. 'The man who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before is a benefactor to his country.' But at Yallock, four blades are growing now to the one that grew there during my former visit. The various kinds of clovers sown around the swamp and on the sheepfolds are spreading fast and taking possession of every spot of broken surface. The close and cutting treading of the flocks too is polishing and consolidating the surface, and thus effecting a constant improvement. In fact so rapid, now-a-days, is the march of improvement in the Fen country that henceforth I see clearly, if I am , to keep myself properly posted up, I must reduce the period between my visits to one-half its former duration, that is, from seven to three and a-half years.