Guerrilla Restoration

This is a guest post by Jordan Crook.

Along the railway lines in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, the remnants of the bushland that once stood there still grow amongst the weeds and rapidly expanding suburbia. These living museums of the local flora are very special places in our urbanised environment but lie neglected, forgotten and unknown to many people who walk past them every day.

For the past few years, a small group of community members has been weeding and managing a patch of remnant valley heathy woodland: a rare type of native bushland along the Belgrave railway line, almost in the centre of the township of Ferntree Gully.

Just some of the beautiful floral species to be found in the restored reserve. Image: Robert Pergl

Just some of the beautiful floral species to be found in the restored reserve. Image: Robert Pergl

The patch of bushland was rediscovered by Robert Pergl, who was riding his bike past the site every couple of days when heading to school at Swinburne University’s Wantirna Campus. He studied the trees and understory of local indigenous plants and observed the ever-creeping threat of weed invasion and inappropriate mowing. Based on his studies, he concluded that the site was worth looking after due to the many rare and threatened plant species found here.

After gathering a group of mates to help out, a guerrilla friends group arose to care for this piece of bush. Guided by the practices of the Bradley sisters, the grandparents of modern bushland management practices and methods, the area was now feeling the love.

A section of the reserve prior to wood weed removal. Image: Robert Pergl

A section of the reserve prior to wood weed removal. Image: Robert Pergl

The same section of the reserve following wood weed removal. Image: Robert Pergl

The same section of the reserve following wood weed removal. Image: Robert Pergl

Over the past three to four years, guerrilla bushland workers have brought the reserve back to life, reducing the threat from grass weeds by hand-weeding and excluding mowing from sensitive parts of the area. The worst weed is quaking grass (Briza maxima), but with “Briza Blitz” themed working bees, the impact of this species has been significantly reduced.

Through monitoring and surveying of the site, we have found over 50 indigenous plant species present, with more returning following continuing weeding works. Among these species are wildflowers, native orchid species, sundews (Drosera sp.) and the critically endangered matted bush pea (Pultenea pudunculata).

Watching the area come back to life with the dedicated work of volunteers has been amazing. What began as a small group of friends managing the area as guerrilla bushland workers has resulted in the obtaining of a lease over the site through the help of the Knox Environment Society after many years of lobbying.

An exquisite chocolate lily (Arthropodium strictum). Image: Robert Pergl

An exquisite chocolate lily (Arthropodium strictum). Image: Robert Pergl

Margaret Mead, the academic and activist, said‘ ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.’ And that’s true. We took it upon ourselves to bring this area back to life and reverse the global trend of declining biodiversity. It may only be a small patch, but if we all take on responsibility in our backyards and local areas, we can slow and reverse the tide of extinction affecting the plants and animals that we're lucky enough to share this beautiful country with.

As the restoration of this location has always been about community involvement, we would like to open the opportunity up to the community to help name the site!  We would like it to be a wildflower reserve named after a significant local conservationist, plant, or animal. So put on your thinking caps and email your ideas to jcrooka@gmail.com with the subject “FTG Bushland Name”. We will announce the name on August 4th 2017.


Jordan Crook has a Diploma of Conservation and Land Management from Swinburne University. He is currently completing a Diploma of Arboriculture at Melbourne Polytechnic and can be found on Twitter at @JCrooka.


Banner image courtesy of Robert Pergl.