Messing about in boats

Ivor''s favourite subject was the sacred kingfisher from day 6.187815_01

By Michael Doran

A 13 day kayaking odyssey from Warburton to Williamstown in early 2018 is one way ‘to dare’ yourself to do something.

Ivor Wolstencroft, a former vet living in Warburton, is a man who likes both rivers and journey’s so combining the two seems a logical thing for him to do.

Ivor grew up in Yass, NSW, near the Yass River which he described as a smaller version of the Yarra. “One day I was walking along the rail trail near Launching Place and I suddenly had this urge to go back on the river,” he said.

“From reading Maya Ward’s book, The Comfort of Water, I knew I could walk the river to Williamstown and thought wouldn’t it be great to go down the river in that same meditative, slow state.”

Maya Ward’s book is about four friends who walked from the sea at Williamstown to the source of the Yarra River and how the greatest of the world’s attractions are often on our own doorstep.

“I didn’t need to get any permission to go on the river and I thought what’s the worst that can happen? The consequences of getting stuck didn’t seem that great.”

He had one rule for the journey; it had to be achievable by public transport and one car as he returned home each night to Warburton.

After a quick internet search and $100 later he had an inflatable kayak and the trip was off and running. So with little preparation and no training day one started near the Redwood Forest.

“Once on the river I capsized frequently and quickly learnt that for many stretches I had to get out of the river and carry, drag or float the kayak to make any progress.”

At the end of the day he had made it to Millgrove where he deflated the kayak, walked out and caught the bus home, his routine for the next 12 days.

“I liked the idea that you could do it by public transport but it can be complicated, like from Woori Yallock to Healesville where it took an hour to get back to bus, lugging the kayak on my back.”

His most memorable experience came on day six near Healesville. “The whole day I was attracting birds and then I saw this sacred kingfisher. One of my best memories of the trip was seeing the sun reflecting off this deep azure blue bird as it was flying away from me, it’s imprinted in my mind and is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.”

After that I had a sacred kingfisher follow me on most days and I later learnt that indigenous culture says that means the bird wanted to say something to me.”

“When you are on the river you don’t really have to do anything, the river is taking you where you want to go so there is a force that’s moving you. It is quite addictive.”

“After a while I started to feel part of the river and it was just good fun.”

“I think the river has a lot to offer and the more people that use it the better. Kayaking does not foul the river in any way and there is a lot of enjoyment to be had on our doorstep.”

Not content with making the journey, he also decided to capture each day in a series of 13 paintings, depicting a memorable moment from each days travel.

Selected works from the series are on display at the Warburton Waterwheel Gallery until 27 November and unsurprisingly the Sacred Kingfisher is the centerpiece.

This painting has been enlarged to 2.5 by 3.8 metres and is made up of 73 A3 images stuck to the wall, no doubt a reflection of how the kingfisher left its mark on him.

“From Healesville to Richmond most days I saw just one and it was that bird I wanted to capture on the painting. I actually painted five 5 images but then painted over them , except for the last one.”

“There were different images I was playing around with to try and capture the beauty that was imprinted on my brain.”

The two other paintings exhibited are of a bull about to charge in Yarra Glen and a wharf scene in Templestowe. A collection of 13 postcards tell the story from start to finish and are also on display.

“I’m not unique at at all and there were signs that other people were out there doing the same thing. If I did it tomorrow it would be a completely different story.”

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