restoration

A Critically Endangered Grassland Oasis

This is a guest article by Louise Nicholas.

In 2016 I had the pleasure of getting to know a little grassland on the edge of Caroline Springs called Clarke Road Stream Side Reserve (SSR). As part of my studies (Diploma of Conservation and Land Management), I had to choose a natural area to conduct a full site assessment, create a monitoring program and write a restoration project plan. Sitting precariously on the edge of rapidly creeping urban sprawl and soon to be engulfed by a sea of housing, Clarke Road SSR is a haven for native flora and fauna and I quickly fell in love.

Many weekends were spent discovering the variety of native grass species, doing bird surveys, and stumbling over rocks to mark GPS points for the grandiose ideas I would map out in my restoration project plan. Now that I’ve finished my Diploma, it seems a shame for all that information to sit in a file on my computer. I feel like Clarke Road SSR needs some TLC, so I’ll start by describing its features and history in order to share the goodies that I found.  

Kangaroo Grass at Clarke Road Stream Side Reserve, Caroline Springs.  Image: Louise Nicholas

Kangaroo Grass at Clarke Road Stream Side Reserve, Caroline Springs. Image: Louise Nicholas

In the future, by the powers vested in me (as Secretary of the Friends of Kororoit Creek, ha ha!) I hope to encourage local residents to get involved in a revegetation project with funding to be sourced from Melbourne Water’s community grant program. In the meantime, Parks Victoria undertake ongoing weed control throughout the grassland. In addition, we continue to work together on a monitoring program to trial the effectiveness of an organic, plant-derived herbicide on Serrated Tussock.

But for now, here is an introduction to a grassland that I’ve developed quite a soft spot for.

Clarke Road Stream Side Reserve is a six-hectare, triangular area of remnant native grassland in Caroline Springs, bound by housing development and agricultural properties. It is managed by Parks Victoria; however, Melbourne Water are responsible for the bed and banks of Kororoit Creek, which runs through the middle of the reserve. Upstream from Clarke Road SSR, the creek currently flows through agricultural areas, although most of this will be turned into housing in the coming years.

The Ecological Vegetation Class (EVC) for the majority of this reserve is “132 Plains Grassland”, recognised as Natural Temperate Grassland of the Victorian Volcanic Plains, which is listed as a critically endangered ecological community under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. The grassland area has a variety of native grasses including Wallaby Grass, Kangaroo Grass, Speargrass and Silky Blue Grass. Other species include Pink Bindweed, Nodding Saltbush and Bluebells.

Wallaby Grass dominates the grassland.  Image: Louise Nicholas

Wallaby Grass dominates the grassland. Image: Louise Nicholas

A striking rocky escarpment, roughly four metres high, connects the grassland to the creek area and basalt rocks are dotted along the creek banks. Common Reeds line the creek and the area boasts a number of remnant River Red Gums. Towards the top of the rocky escarpment there are some large, remnant Black Wattle, Sweet Bursaria and Tree Violet.

Kororoit Creek provides habitat for a variety of birds, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. It is also an important source of food and water for many species of fauna including Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Swamp Wallabies. Considering the size and isolation of this reserve, a wide range of birds were observed, including:

  • Red-rumped Parrot
  • Flame Robin
  • Brown Falcon
  • Southern Boobook
  • White-faced Heron
  • Little Pied Cormorant
  • White-plumed Honeyeater
  • New Holland Honeyeater
  • Superb Fairy-wren

The main threat to the biodiversity of the reserve is pest plants. There are five Weeds of National Significance on the reserve: Serrated Tussock, Chilean Needle Grass, Gorse, Prickly Pear and African Boxthorn. Declared noxious weeds include Artichoke Thistle, Fennel, Sweet Briar and Spiny Rush. Dumped garden waste is also introducing new weeds to the grassland such as Kikuyu Grass and Couch Grass.

The rocky escarpment is crowned with old Black Wattles and Sweet Bursaria - a magnet for honeyeaters.  Image: Louise Nicholas

The rocky escarpment is crowned with old Black Wattles and Sweet Bursaria - a magnet for honeyeaters. Image: Louise Nicholas

The remnant River Red Gums attract parrots and birds of prey, and bees have taken up residence in the stump of a dead tree. Every tree is used to its full capacity here!  Image: Louise Nicholas

The remnant River Red Gums attract parrots and birds of prey, and bees have taken up residence in the stump of a dead tree. Every tree is used to its full capacity here! Image: Louise Nicholas

Residents and visitors may not be aware of the Indigenous cultural heritage and European history present in the reserve. Prior to European settlement, this area would have been used by the people of the Kulin Nation as an important source of food and water due to the creek and the high biodiversity of flora that thrived in the grassland. Evidence of early European settlement exists in the form of a dry stone wall along part of a boundary of Clarke Road SSR, and it is protected by a Melton City Council Planning Clause 52.37. Having an understanding of how this reserve was used in the past can help the community appreciate the value of the small area that remains today.

In addition, residents and visitors may also be unaware that this reserve is dominated by remnant native grassland which is classified as critically endangered under the EPBC Act. Similar grassland reserves, such as Evans Street Grassland in Sunbury, have used grassland flora and fauna species as a feature when designing interpretive signage. If funds were available in future, a similar approach could help to raise awareness of the special plants and animals in the reserve, and give residents a sense of pride for this rare natural feature in their suburb.

A dry stone wall is protected by a local council planning clause.  Image: Louise Nicholas

A dry stone wall is protected by a local council planning clause. Image: Louise Nicholas

Clarke Road SSR showcases the surprisingly high level of biodiversity of flora and fauna that can still remain in small pockets amongst suburban sprawl. However, as urban development expands in the coming years, the threats and pressures surrounding this isolated grassland will increase. Fostering community engagement and encouraging a sense of pride and ownership for this special area will play a key role in raising the profile, public awareness, and protection of Clarke Road SSR.

By protecting the biodiversity of this critically endangered ecological community and encouraging active and ongoing community engagement with the reserve, Clarke Road SSR has the capacity to survive, and possibly even thrive, amongst future urban growth.


Louise Nicholas is a writer and blogger at Outside Four Walls, where this post was originally published. It is re-published here with permission.


Banner image courtesy of Louise Nicholas.

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.

Endeavour Fern Gully

Sunday 31st July was National Tree Day and in classic Wild Melbourne style, we spent it planting trees, setting out camera traps and experiencing a guided tour in Endeavour Fern Gully: a beautiful 17.5-hectare expanse of remnant rainforest with a remaining 9.5 hectares gradually being revegetated. Playing a significant role in surrounding ecosystems, this is the headwaters of Stony Creek. Located in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula, the property is currently protected by the National Trust.

Photo: Robert Geary

Photo: Robert Geary

We had an enthusiastic group of almost 30 volunteers (pictured above) visit the gully on the Sunday, digging holes, planting approximately 350 tubestock, hammering stakes, setting up camera traps and enjoying a BBQ. The eight cameras that were set up will be strategically moved around Endeavour Fern Gully over the long term, with the images giving us insight into what species are in the area and how they are using the property.

Gillian Tolley, manager of Endeavour Fern Gully. Photo: Robert Geary

Gillian Tolley, manager of Endeavour Fern Gully. Photo: Robert Geary

After our working bee and lunch, the team also explored the gully and remnant forest with a guided tour led by Gillian Tolley (pictured above) and Rafael Heale, both of whom work hard to preserve and improve this hidden gem. We meandered along a two-kilometre walking loop which descends from the revegetated area into a breathtaking gully where one is surrounded by abundant birdlife, majestic manna gums, messmates and a lush fern gully. For more information on what you can experience at Endeavour Fern Gully, check out my Bush Beat on this unique location, or watch our Vox Pop below.

Thank you again to our friends at Endeavour and our volunteers for making this successful day happen -we look forward to the next! Endeavour also welcomes more volunteers – so come and get involved in the conservation of one of the Peninsula’s most incredible hidden gems.

If you’re looking to be immersed in nature, this tranquil gully is definitely worth a visit!

For volunteering information, please contact Gillian Tolley at gilliantolley@gmail.com. 

Endeavour Fern Gully is located at (with parking access):
195 Arthurs Seat Rd, Red Hill VIC

Before visiting, please be aware of any fire risks and that snakes and leeches do occur at the property.

All images by Robert Geary.