A walk on misty Mount Alex

A solid group of walkers was guided by Jeremy Holland through some remote corners of Mount Alexander east on Sunday. The walk started with a pleasant stroll  along the water race, before angling up the mountain south of Aqueduct Creek: a reasonably strenuous ascent through lovely bushland [including some magnificent Red Gums and monumental granite boulders]. We returned along the Ballantinia Track. The walk was enhanced by a dense mist, which obscured possible views but more than made up for it by endowing the bush with an intriguingly mysterious air.

Is anybody there? Jeremy Holland and Lionel Guerin survey the mist.

Many thanks to Jeremy for navigating us through a route none of us had seen before, to corners of the Mount rarely visited. And our thanks to Coliban Water for permission to walk along this closed section of the race.

Part of the group negotiating the ridge through Manna Gum woodland south of Aqueduct Creek, ascending to Ballantiinia Track.

June’s walk will be led by Ian Higgins along Campbell’s Creek. Check the walks program on this website for details.

St John’s Wort is a terrible pest on the Mount, but on Sunday it hosted hundreds of picturesque spider webs, like this one. Photo: Dominique Lavie


More walk photos follow:

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What’s the Diggings Park good for?

Parks Victoria has released the results of its survey of users of the Castlemaine Diggings NHP.

There were 265 responses to the online survey. While such a voluntary survey has inbuilt problems of reliability, the results are probably a good indicator of public attitudes to the park.

The following details are worth reporting:

Hunts huts, Browns Gully, CDNHP: the recovering vegetation tells a story as eloquent as that of the ruins. It’s important that those presenting the Park to visitors acknowledge this fact.

‘Comparing the reasons for visiting to the frequency of visiting revealed that those who visit for ‘walking or hiking’ are the most frequent visitors, followed by those who ‘enjoy nature, birdwatching’, and ‘cycling, mountain biking’…

‘A key purpose of the online survey was to understand the importance of CDNHP to visitors. Looking at five implied values – aesthetic, historic, scientific, social, spiritual – ‘Historic’ values were the most commonly mentioned, followed by scientific/natural values and aesthetic values. ‘A place for prospecting’ was also an important value or activity associated with the park…

‘High priority overall was given to: tackling vandalism; reducing weeds; and addressing fire risk. The next highest priority actions were: information to help me find specific sites; better standard of access tracks; and restoration of specific structures. Other suggested management activities were: improved signage; interactive and digital interpretation; reducing weeds; and preventing disturbance from prospecting’…

In the ‘site walkovers’ organised by Parks, it’s worth noting that ‘Discussions referenced the ‘multi-layered’ landscape and a timeline of pre-gold rush Jaara landscape followed by the gold rush period and the post-gold era recovery. There were also references to tranquillity in the forest, bird-life, native flora and the importance of low-key ‘atmospheric’ sites requiring sensitive management.’

Parks has produced a set of direction themes as a result of the process:

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FOBIF gears up for a Wattle guide

Spreading Wattle (Acacia genistifolia). Walmer, April 2017

FOBIF has undertaken the production of a field guide to local Acacias, modelled on its guide to local Eucalypts. Like the Eucalypt guide it will be directed at beginners, and will be generously illustrated with photos to help identification.

The project is a tribute to the work of the late Ern Perkins, a fundamental figure in field naturalist studies in this region for many decades. At the launch of the Eucalypt guide last September Ern, though in frail health, was heard to declare, ‘Now for a wattle guide.’ The current project will start from the many leaflets and guides Ern produced over the years.

The wattle project is financed by FOBIF, and supported by donations from Connecting Country and the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria. It is supported by Castlemaine FNC and local landcare and Friends groups.

We thank members for their generous donations this year.  These funds will go towards the development and publication of the Wattle guide

Publication is set for April 2018.

Hedge Wattle (Acacia paradoxa). Walmer, April 2017

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Roadsides: some questions

FOBIF has written to the Mount Alexander Shire asking for a meeting to discuss the Council’s plans on roadside vegetation [see our Post]

Our concerns relate to work in progress maps we have seen which seem to completely overlook some ecologically important roads in the shire.

The relevant parts of the letter follow:

‘We understand that Council is preparing a planning scheme amendment to insert a Vegetation Protection Overlay (VPO) on some roadsides into the planning scheme.  We congratulate the Council on this project which aims to protect some of the Shire’s valuable flora.

Faraday road: road reserves  ‘support a significant proportion of native vegetation in Victoria’s fragmented landscapes. [They] make a major contribution to ecological connectivity and in some landscapes provide key habitat for many species.’

‘However we are deeply concerned that the VPO mapping we have seen excludes many Shire roadsides with valuable flora, including Victorian-classified threatened species and locally rare species.

‘We have some questions about how the VPO has been planned, and the criteria for selecting roads, and so are requesting a meeting with the relevant Council staff to help us understand the methods used and to help get the best outcome for the project.  We think it would be useful to seek more input from other local environment groups, some of which have expert local knowledge of roadside flora.

‘From our previous experience with planning scheme amendments, we think it is vital to be able to have meaningful input before the amendment is exhibited, as once exhibited, any changes normally have to be re-exhibited.’

Of course, production of documents is one thing: they are only useful, however, if the material in them is persuasively presented to the public, and if council is prepared to follow up by paying close attention to what is actually happening on the roadsides. This is no easy task, of course.

This exercise is no trivial matter. Roadsides really do matter. As the Victorian Environment Assessment Council puts it: road reserves ‘support a significant proportion of native vegetation in Victoria’s fragmented landscapes. These linear reserves make a major contribution to ecological connectivity and in some landscapes provide key habitat for many species.’


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Launch of interpretive signage of Forest Creek

Project co-ordinator Jennifer Pryce explaining the project.

On Sunday 7 May more than thirty people gathered to launch some new interpretive signage of Forest Creek. Part of the signage design can be seen in the photo here taken at the Monster Meeting site and we encourage people to have a look at this and the other two other signage sites at Chinamans Point and Expedition Pass. A tremendous amount or work and community consultation has gone into this project with terrific results. 

You can find a full account of the launch and more photos on the Chewton net facebook page

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Update on FOBIF exhibition at TOGS

Our FOBIF Flickr site now has some stunning photos on this year’s exhibition theme, Mountains and Waterways. The exhibition dates have been moved to August/September but there is still plenty of time to send in your photos.

Details of how to be part of the exhibition either through Flickr or your photographs being chosen to be hung at TOGS Cafe can be found here. The closing date for photos is now 1 August 2017 and the show will run from 24 August to 28 September. If you have any queries about submitting photos, contact Bronwyn on 54751089 or bsilver@mmnet.com.au.

View from Mount Alexander at dawn. Photo by Bernard Slattery, June 2016

River Red Gum, Loddon River, Vaughan Springs. Photo by Damian Kelly, April 2017

Golden Orb-weaver, Mount Alexander. Photo by Noel Young, March 2017

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2017 Wetland Plant Identification Course

Registrations are now open for the Wetland Plant Identification Course run by Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes. The course starts on 18 October 2017 and runs for 3 days. Participants can elect to do 1, 2 or all 3 days.

Each day will focus on a different wetland habitat and be timed so as to follow the wetting and drying of the stunning Reedy Lagoon at Gunbower Island or nearby wetland.

More information, the 2017 flyer, program and to view feedback from past participants please click hereYou can go straight to the registration page here Previous Wetland articles are here.

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Doug Ralph celebration day

Doug Ralph Celebration Day

Teana Amor has just completed a film, ‘Doug Ralph Celebration Day‘, which is available through YouTube. This is a comprehensive film about the day people came together in the Botanic Gardens on 7 March 2015 to remember Doug who was the founding president of Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests. It includes the many speeches, crowd scenes, photos of Doug and has a great musical accompaniment. 

A 2015 FOBIF post on Doug’s life can be found here

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Geological tour of Castlemaine

Sections of the sandstone wall in Mostyn Street, opposite the Anglican Church

On our second FOBIF walk for the year on Easter Sunday local geologist, Clive Willman, led a group of 16 through Castlemaine streets and up to the Burke and Wills monument. Along the way he discussed the type and source of rocks that were used in historic buildings such as the 1857 Telegraph Station and 1873-4 Post Office in Barker Street, and the 1860s Lock-up in Hargreaves Street. The walk finished with a terrific geological slide show at the Midland Hotel.

Clive brought along an array of photographs and drawings to help explain geological history of the area. 

Clive in front of the anticlinal fold in Lyttleton Street holding an historical photo of the site that shows its unchanged form.

Clive explained that the basalt used for the Post Office steps was easily cut and the slate he is standing on would have come from the Harcourt area.

Walkers enjoying the view just below the Burke and Wills monument.

Thank you Clive for leading this informative and enjoyable geology tour. Our next fobif walk is on 21 May to Mount Alexander.

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Roads aren’t just roads [1]

With apologies, here’s a statement of the obvious: roads aren’t just bare surfaces for carrying vehicles. They’re framed by roadside reserves, which carry some very important vegetation.

Mount Alexander Shire Council is preparing a planning scheme amendment to insert a Vegetation Protection Overlay (VPO) on some roadsides into the planning scheme. FOBIF strongly supports such a project, and has approached council seeking input into the process.

Regeneration of Buloke [Allocasuarina luehmannii] along the Baringhup Carisbrook roadside. Buloke is endangered because of widespread clearing.

This is not the first attempt to look at ways of protecting the values of our roadsides. The last produced the Mount Alexander Roadside Management plan in 2012. It can be found online here.

Before that, a Roadsides Management Strategy was produced in 1998. In some respects this was a model document, because it carried appendices totalling 144 pages of detailed assessments of the ecological values of almost all the rural roads of the shire. This was a massive achievement of painstaking on site study by Castlemaine field naturalists over five years.  Although time has modified the assessments in this study, most of it remains very pertinent to present conditions, and we hope that Council in its present deliberations will check on its assessments. In 2008 the Catchment Management Authority also did a study of our roads. The very informative maps from this study can be found here.  It found that  19% of Mount Alexander Shire’s roadsides had high conservation value, and a further 28% were of medium conservation value: that’s 1090 kilometres of roadsides with interesting stuff worth careful management. Given the shire’s responsibilities in the matters of safety, fire management and weed control, that’s no easy task—which makes the present project all the more important.

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