Chewton mines and bushlands

The August FOBIF walk attracted 17 walkers despite the extremely cold early morning temperatures. Fortunately it soon turned out to be a sunny winter’s day which was perfect for a leisurely bushwalk along the Poverty Gully Reservoir Track and water race. Many thanks to Richard Piesse for leading this interesting walk which was took in mining history and a range of late winter and early spring flowering plants. A highlight of the day was the wonderful display of flowering Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha

Golden Wattle. Photo by Liz Martin

Fungi expert, Joy Clusker, sent us the following fungi photos taken on the walk.

Left, Orange Jelly Fungi (Tremella mesenterica) and Peziza vesiculosa

And Liz Martin sent us these photos.

Liz Martin

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Fire consultations start

Fire Management officers are holding ‘open house’ sessions in our region in the next couple of weeks. Want to ask questions about about fire operations plans, project firefighter recruitment, firewood, pest plants and animals, traditional burning and related matters? Rock up and ask.

Fire officers say they’re interested in listening as well as providing info, so if you have a view on fire management, or knowledge of a particular area, go along and express it.

The two sessions closest to our region are in Castlemaine and Bendigo, as follows:

Bendigo Tuesday 22 August 4pm – 7pm Gateway Park Rotary Rooms,
22A High St, Kangaroo Flat 3555

Castlemaine Tuesday 29 August 4pm – 7pm Ray Bradfield Rooms,
Forest St, Castlemaine 3450

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Superb local resource launched

Wild Plants of the Castlemaine District by Ern Perkins had just been made available online! The guide gives identification, locations, preferred habitats and history of hundreds of native and introduced plant species found in Castlemaine and surrounding areas. It can be found here:

Chris Timewell from Connecting Country writes: ‘Ern’s passion for the understanding the intricacies of natural environment was matched by his passion for sharing his knowledge with others. A few months before his passing, he first launched this compendium of local plant species as a freely available resource via USB memory sticks. Ern had developed this guide based on information that he and others had collected and compiled over more than 40 years.’

Sample page from the online database.

For more information on the development of the guide and supporting organisations, see the Connecting Country site. FOBIF will soon have a permanent link to the site posted on its site.

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Gold kicks off

It’s not just on the stock markets that gold is doing well. The wattle season is now well and truly on. Although we have interesting variations around the shire, patches of wattles in bloom are pretty well everywhere. As usual, Spreading Wattle started the show, and Woolly Wattle has been abundant for a month in some parts of the region. Now it’s Golden Wattle’s turn. If you’re in the Newstead-Maldon area, it’s worth a short excursion into the Gough’s Range State Forest. This modest patch of bush has oceans of gold as its understorey.

Golden Wattle, Gough’s Range, August 8: this modest, much abused bush comes into its own in Winter and Spring.

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Good news! You’re getting a pay rise–something between $0 and $1 million!

Parks Victoria has released the results of its engagement activity,   ‘Strengthening Parks Victoria’. FOBIF had a go at this process last year [see our posts here and here].

As is the way of these things, a lot of energy has gone into finding out things that…well, that are reasonably obvious. Participants overwhelmingly agreed that

  1. Parks are vital to us and the state.
  2. Parks have some very real problems.
  3. Let’s realise the very real potential of Parks.

First, let’s give credit to PV for putting it upfront that Parks have ‘very real problems’.

Unfortunately the government’s response to this finding is pure self promotion: it’s all about the great things this government is doing, with the implication that we’re on target for perfection. We’re not.

The consultation reports are too long to summarise, and are unfortunately not available on the internet. We’ll just mention one area: staffing.

Almost half of respondents emphasised the importance of park rangers, and pointed out that ranger shortages are damaging to parks in various ways. The response: money will be made available for ‘up to 60 additional rangers’.

‘Up to 60’ is somewhere between 0 and 60.

Parks staffing shrank from 1100 in 2011 to 1010 in 2016, the main cuts coming in the period of the Coalition government. In the same period Victoria’s population grew by more than half a million people. Interestingly, Parks had 1010 staff in 2006.  Since then, Victoria’s population has grown by over a million people. The Parks estate has  expanded, and so have visitation rates: there were nearly 38 million visits to our National Parks last year. This figure puts paid to the drivel we sometimes hear about parks being ‘locked up’. It also highlights one of Parks’ problems: there are fewer people to do more work.

‘Up to 60’ new rangers will not bring us back to where we were 10 years ago.

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Mystery garden: who was the gardener?

At the junction of the Old Coach Road and the Fryers Ridge Road there’s an old fenced area, about 200 metres square. The fence isn’t in bad shape, but has been knocked down in a couple of places by falling tree branches, and tussocks in the enclosed area are clearly being grazed. Otherwise the vegetation in the enclosure is in pretty good shape.

Who put Who put up the fence? When?

This old metal tag is a sign that someone once took great care to identify plants in the Fryers exclusion plot…and the patch of Beard Heath it marks still survives, though a little bedraggled.

There have been a few initiatives in the past to protect patches of our bushland from overgrazing, mainly by sheep. One such was a proposal by Castlemaine Rotary in 1936 to establish wildflower sanctuaries around the shire. It seemed to run aground in the face of reluctance on the part of foresters to do anything about it. Could this fenced off area be the result of a community initiative which did get somewhere? We’d be interested in any informed answer.

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It’s always good to have an excuse to mention Silver Banksias. This time it’s the fact that they’re flowering on the Campbells Creek track right now.

Readers will remember that the once abundant species was almost wiped out in this region. Populations have been re-established by the Friends of Campbell’s Creek, and by Castlemaine Landcare on Forest Creek.

Silver Banksia (Banksia marginata), Campbells Creek, July 24: almost extinct in the region, it has a foothold thanks to efforts by Landcare groups.

When does it flower? Indigenous plants of Bendigo says between September and April. The Bendigo Field Naturalists’ Wildflowers of Bendigo says March to May. Leon Costermans  Native trees and shrubs says October to March. The Australian National Botanical Gardens says ‘can flower throughout the year, but mainly February to July.’ And they’ve been seen flowering on Forest Creek in January. That just about covers the options.

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FOBIF mosses go to China

FOBIF’s guide to mosses of dry forests in south eastern Australia is being tabled at the International Bryological Congress in China this month as a model of public education efforts to bring scientific knowledge to the wider community. The presentation has been a joint effort, involving bryologists from Macquarie University, the botanical gardens at Canberra and Melbourne, and the South Australian herbarium. Our publication sits modestly with some pretty impressive efforts by educational and community groups, and we’re flattered.

The moss guide continues to sell well, and at the present rate we’ll be into a third edition next year.

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Monster meeting site gets heritage recognition

The site of the 1851 Monster Meeting near the junction of Golden Point Road and the Pyrenees Highway has been placed on the state heritage register. The Monster Meeting is recognised as the first time workers had stood united in protest against the government. This meeting was the precursor to the Red Ribbon Rebellion (1853) and the Eureka Stockade (1854) which led to the introduction of the more democratic Miners Right.

‘There are few people who properly understand what a government is, or what it ought to be. It should be the chosen servants of a free people.’ [Mr Booley, a speaker at the Monster Meeting, 1851]

Late FOBIF President Doug Ralph was a leading campaigner for the recognition of the importance of this protest, and it was a nice touch that the declaration was made on his birthday. Doug was adamant that concern for the environment did not preclude due respect for cultural history.

The monster meeting was notable for the eloquence of the speakers, and for its forceful yet peaceful conduct. In that sense the metal statue on the highway nearby is quite misleading in representing a miner brandishing a gun.

The exact site of the meeting is difficult to determine with certainty. The Heritage Committee decided that ‘by reference to comparative analysis of the documentary sources available, the recommended extent of registration includes the most likely location of the Shepherd’s hut, the most likely location of the dray which stood nearby and upon which speakers stood, and, on the evidence, enough land to accommodate the approximately 10,000 to 15,000 diggers who gathered on 15 December 1851 for the monster meeting…the Committee is confident that the land of the proposed registration includes the epicentre of the Monster Meeting site…’

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Cultural burning returns to the region

This week the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio joined Aboriginal Elders from the Dja Dja Wurrung community to hold a ceremony celebrating the return of traditional burning to their lands.

Cultural burns were conducted in two zones, one in the Greater Bendigo National Park, and the other in the Timor forest, near Maryborough. Both were patch burns, each in areas of 20 hectares; the places were chosen by Jaara elders for their cultural significance, and will be revisited with fire as necessary.

In advance of the two traditional burns, Dja Dja Wurrung Elders had visited both sites and granted their approval — Wednesday’s ceremony marked their return to the site to perform a ceremony of celebration.

The return of Aboriginal cultural burning to this region after a break of 170 years is a historic event, and fulfils part of the objectives of the Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan: ‘Develop and trial a methodology for cultural burning on Dja Dja Wurrung Country that reduced threats to our living resources’ and ‘Increase the number of Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners employed as project fire-fighters.’

The CEO of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation Rodney Carter said this week that “Our Elders are, rightfully, proud of the work our young leaders have done in their roles here with Forest Fire Management Victoria to return traditional burning to our lands.”

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