Rainfall patterns have shifted since European settlement of Melbourne, largely as a result of the slow but inexorable deforestation of the hills surrounding the city. Nowhere has this process been more notable than in the hills to the north east of the city, the broad area running roughly from Plenty to Lilydale. As a result, the tributaries of the Yarra in that area, from the Plenty River and all the smaller creeks and streams lying between it and the Yarra’s headwaters and running into its northern banks, have all diminished in flow over the years.
Nowhere is this process more clearly seen than in Hurstbridge, along the course of Arthurs Creek. When the area was first explored, the watercourse was wide and notable enough to be called Arthurs River. A bridge crossing it, leading on to Panton Hill and St Andrews, was built only at great expense. The sandstone used in its construction ended up giving the area its name – quarried at Sandhurst, far to the south, the bridge became known as the Hurst Bridge. Originally, this was merely the nickname given to it by the workmen who constructed it, but it was soon adopted for the area as a whole.
But even before the bridge was completed, the depth of Arthurs River had diminished. It would continue to do so for many years afterwards, until today the amount of water that courses through Arthurs Creek reaches 2% of its further volume only in particularly rainy winters. The bridge itself was accidentally destroyed by American soldiers in World War Two, when they attempted to drive a quartet of Sherman tanks over it, only to discover that without the pressure of the water to hold them in place, its foundations had become unstable. It is a minor miracle that there was no loss of life in the fall of the bridge. Today, no sign of it remains, its few standing remnants having been used for target practice by the tank crews.
Suburbs near Hurstbridge: