The Alphington Farmers Market is at the forefront of the next wave of sustainable food distribution. Not just a weekly market held every Sunday on a reclaimed refuse dump, but a place where local, seasonal food will become available to the public and chefs throughout the week through community supported agriculture. A commercial kitchen will soon be built on-site to enable small food production start-ups – imagine the best preserves made by newly arrived refugees. Already it is providing jobs to new members of the community and will shortly be a place where there will be urban agriculture, skills sharing in the way of cooking classes and a place where rural farmers can store their wares to make their lives easier.
2 Wingrove St; Sundays 9am-1pm; mfm.com.au
Old olive trees grow gnarled and crooked among the boulders by the banks of Darebin Creek. Below them are wild apple trees, their limbs unpruned, their fruit shared between foragers and birds. These are reminders that the flood plains of the Darebin were once rich farmland where olives were grown for oil and apples for cider. Nearby are the remains of a bluestone weir wall where water was redirected to irrigate the market gardens of the flats. Darebin Parklands is interlaced with tracks that allow you to explore this large park revegetated with river red gums and wattles with spaces for barbecues and picnics and areas for dogs to roam.
Darebin Parklands, Cnr Separation and Smith St.
Benjamin's Kitchen is a bright dining room on Alphington's main drag with bare wooden tables, white chairs, a cloud motif on the walls repeated with the cumulous light shades. The dishes are lovingly hand-made renditions of pan-Asian favourites: freshly made steamed minced chicken and water chestnut dumplings, in perfectly wrapped wonton skins. Regulars love the succulent calamari, finished with egg, spices and "cornflakes", a mix of cereal that makes a main course of this dish. Expect to pay a third less than the trendy city equivalents.
758 Heidelberg Rd; Tue-Sun 12pm-3pm, 5.30pm-10pm; (03) 9499 3743;
Darebin Creek Trail
You can follow the course of the Darebin Creek along a well-made path from near the Epping Metro station 25km south to the confluence of the Yarra River where it meets with the Main Yarra Trail. Through Alphington there are some spectacular crossings over the creek and under the railway viaduct. Perfect for a family bike rides.
It is worth exploring this strip of green on the edge of town that slips down the hill from playgrounds to playing fields into a wild riverside wonderland. At the northern end is the Alphington Bowls Club. Come here on Friday evenings in summer for a good feed; in winter come for the $3 pots. Down the south-east end of the park View Street does a dogleg taking you onto the river flats where you can see the backs of historic homes, an old horse paddock and a drive lined with towering elms. Walk towards the end of the lane and follow the paths to the river downstream and you will find the Alphington wetlands, a series of billabongs filled with frogs and birds. A little further downstream under a sprawling oak tree is the Old Alphington Pool. From 1924 until after WWII, this pool by the Yarra was filled with river water and in it locals would swim while others would promenade around the park.
Bill Tsigos was born in Thesprotia in Greece 83 years ago, and he started in his Alphington butcher shop 48 years ago. Bill is a wonderfully good-humoured man taking time to talk to the families who come to his butchery by the train station for his famous sausages. He stocks good meat, smallgoods, frozen spanakopita and the odd vegetable. The old wooden chopping blocks are worn and uneven and the few scraps left over he throws to an adopted magpie who pecks on the window. You can watch all this from the comfort of the bus seats inside the front door.
Alphington Meat Supplies, 40 Wingrove St; Mon-Fri 7am-7pm; Sat 7am-5pm; (03) 9499 4285
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