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Belgrave: End of the Line Festival

Today, a bunch of talented people came together in my amazing ‘hood to stage the inaugural End of the Line Festival.

When we moved to the Hills a couple of years ago, I’m not sure either Justin or myself realised how much we would fall in love with the place. Now I would never live anywhere else. Today only proved it more.

Back in 2010, we were sitting through another glum winter weekend. We’d had to (once again) clean and abandon our trendy on-the-market warehouse apartment to allow 40 odd people through for an open inspection, and while we were out, we were meant to search for another apartment close by to rent.

Except nothing was going our way.

Our apartment was taking a while to sell, we’d applied and been rejected from a few rental places already, and we felt totally in limbo. Part of the reason the apartment wasn’t selling was it was located in Coburg’s Pentridge Prison (yep, you read that right…our first digs were in a former high security prison). We lived beside the notorious H division and our back fence was a 30 foot bluestone wall with razor wire and a watch tower – very safe – but a little tricky to sell! We came to love the place, but not enough to buy, especially because it was on the market during the real estate boom and was totally overpriced. I loathed the stress of moving (I’d moved every single year, sometimes twice, for the past 10 years) and the bottom line was, both Justin and I wanted to lay down some roots and find a permanent place to call home.

Ever since moving to Melbourne, I’d developed a little habit, where if I ever had trouble relaxing on the weekend, I’d take myself to the Dandenongs and feel the stress melt away. It was totally my happy place, and this particular weekend was no exception. My best friend Jenny and her husband Michael had just bought a house in Belgrave and had been begging us to come out and visit, so instead of schlepping around to look at rentals, I called Jenny, and said “we’re coming over”.

To get here, you take either the train, the M1 or the Eastern, and on your journey you see a lot of…well…’burb. Justin grew up in these ‘burbs and as far as he was concerned, he was never going back. He was strictly an inner city guy. But he also had me to contend with. Growing up in country Queensland, basically anything within two hours of Melbourne was excitement plus for me, and like I said, I was so over moving every single year that I just wanted to settle down. If that meant a tree change, then so be it.

I’d visited Belgrave when I first moved to Melbourne, and as someone said to me recently, “Back then it was all wiccans and tradies.” I had to laugh. I do remember there being a lot of purple crushed velvet and utes. But this time, I noticed a lot of other things as well. When we got to the bottom of the hill, things got really pretty, really fast, and the second we start winding our way through the main street, a totally unique and altogether magical local culture enveloped us.

There was coffee (great coffee), incredible restaurants and new local artisan shops. The Cameo Cinema, Ruby’s Lounge and Burrinja Gallery were hosting loads of creative goings on (even Safeway had a busker when we popped in to pick up some drinks and nibbles), and we also met the much loved local wizard (yep, again, you read correctly). If like me, you dreamed of living in the Magic Faraway Tree as a child, then Belgrave and the surrounding hills are pretty much where you can live that dream.

We pulled up to Jenny and Michael’s house and our jaws hit the floor. Let’s just say that for less than our monthly rent in Coburg their monthly mortgage payment had bought them a character-filled 3 storey home surrounded by an acre of gum trees inhabited by parrots and cockatoos. They raved about the township and its people and enthused that “Every second person we bump into has just moved up from Brunswick or Fitzroy!”. It was sounding pretty good.

At a 45 minute commute, we were not sold on the distance from the city…until Jenny argued that even though we were just 9 kilometres from the city in Coburb, traffic congestion meant we had a hefty commute either way. She was totally right. Sometimes it took over an hour. And then Michael (who commuted every day) pointed out “Belgrave is the end of the line, so you always get a seat in the morning”. Justin’s ears finally pricked up. His morning train trip began with his face being pressed into a stranger’s armpit.

While we were still seated in their living room, we hopped online, and half-jokingly looked at what was for sale…ten seconds later…


The perfect little cottage – straight out of Enid Blyton land. We were smitten.

A week and a half later we were homeowners at the ‘End of the Line’, and have never looked back.

So like I said, today’s festival only cemented for us why moving here is just about the greatest thing we’ve ever done…We may be at the end of the line, but it’s the only end for us!

Love Sarah xo

Special thanks: everyone who let me take a photo of them (and their dogs) today! CJ and Brent from Limerence who put the whole thing together (and pulled it off a beauty), and finally, to our fellow townsfolk for their amazing contributions, not least the action group for No McDonald’s in the Dandenong Ranges and Burger Off who have dedicated unbelievable time and energy to a cause which we hope can preserve our stunning and precious surrounds.