Barkers Creek Restoration

Barkers creek restoration

You would think that being the Barker’s Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group, restoration of the creek would be a priority. And so it is. But it would have to be said that for many decades prior to the commencement of our Landcare activities the creek was no one’s priority.

For our original members removing all the Broom and Blackberries at McManus Road Reserve was their first major project. It has to be said perseverance pays off. What has followed in more recent years has been a concerted effort to engage all the creek line property owners by encouraging them to join what we called the Big Barkers Creek Blackberry’s Blitz.

Check out the film clips below, from the 2017 Victorian Blackberry Taskforce case studies, featuring our work with the Barkers Creek Blackberry and Gorse Action Group.

Approximately 90% of property owners joined us and this was our first major effort to clean up our section of Barkers Creek from Blackjack Rd to McManus Rd (about 4 kms). That perseverance continues today and now we have ongoing projects at McManus Road, School Road, Little Red Apple and White Gum Gully.

There are still a few gaps to be filled and yearly follow-up is required to make sure all the weeds don’t reappear. But we’re committed to that.

Natural Features Bushland Reserve

People removing broom at Bushland Reserve

What I remember was Bonnie Humphreys, a staff member at Connecting Country, who was working on the Yellow Box Woodland Project saying to me one day – ‘Hi guys we’re just wondering what you’re doing for the next five years and whether you’d like to look after a Bushland Reserve … it is only 35.5 Hectares and its right in the middle Barkers Creek’.

My first thought was – Why isn’t it called The Barkers Creek Natural Features Bushland Reserve (it will be one day).   My second thought was why not? So our Exec had a chat, then the rest of the group and we decided to take on management of this site for five years – 2012 to 2017.

Well that is not how it all got started. The truth is this is our first and biggest ever I.M.B.Y. project. It all started with Kirsten, who had noticed our group pulling Broom along blackjack Road, and wandered over to check us out, and then promptly joined our group. The next week Kirsten was walking her dog through the Bushland behind her home and upon seeing all the weeds and the rubbish she approached Connecting Country to ask who looks after it? Well the answer appeared, at the time, to be no one (we now know Parks Vic is the responsible authority) so Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife group took over this project … what a massive (35.5 hectares) I.M.B.Y.

Connecting Country gave us some initial funding particularly to spray Bridal Creeper, Blackberry and Gorse and for some plants. First priority was to pull out all the Broom, then to collect all the rubbish. (Oh, have I said before that the bush in Barkers Greek was seen for many decades as a good place to dump rubbish).  For many of our projects the first step is to clean up the rubbish.  This was massively true of the Bushland Reserve with piles several metres high being collected.

Once again it is amazing what can be achieved by a group of dedicated volunteers. For a little while we also had the help of the Green Army who did a whole lot of Gorse removal and re-planting. We have now finished this five year agreement but we are continuing our work into the future. For many of the local residents this area is now unrecognizable – no rubbish, weeds almost eradicated and now some indigenous plants to compliment what is already a quite diverse environment.

Roadside Weeds Removal Program

Broom weeds on White Gum Road

“Mount Alexander Shire Council has a funding agreement with the Department of Environment, Water, Land and Planning (DEWLP), for priority roadside weed control works – the Roadside Weeds and Pests Management Program (RWPP). Council desires to ‘plan and implement control activities for the long-term management of ‘regionally prohibited’, ‘regionally controlled’ and ‘restricted’ weeds on rural roadsides.”

As a local Landcare Group this is where we came in. Each of the last three years we have successfully gained a small Grant to assist us in weed control along our rural roads. If you look at our page on the Top 10 Weeds they are all present in our area. If you had a look at the photos (before and afters) you will see that in White Gum Road alone there was Broom, Blackberry, Gorse, Briar Rose, Patterson’s Curse … and the other day I spotted a Gazania (Oh dear!). So we cover White Gum Rd, Hillview Rd, Karingal Park Drive, Carrs Rd, Peelers Rd, Blackjack Rd, Specimen Gully Rd, Congdon Rd, School Rd … and more.

As local Community members of Barkers Creek we decided that we have a vested interest in making sure that all these weeds are cleaned up properly. So we are happy to do this on behalf on the Council and the State Government – DEWLP.

Really it’s great fun, particularly if you like walking a few kilometres.

What we hope now is that Council and the Government renew this funding for the next three years … because we all know if you don’t keep treating weeds then they will come back.

Restoring Old Tip Site in Barkers Creek

Planting a tree

Up until about 20 years ago this area was used as the Harcourt Tip. When the Mt. Alexander Shire consolidated to one major refuse site in Castlemaine, this area was capped and left. Because it sits right beside the Bushland Reserve, that we have been working on for the past six years, we asked Council whether we could take responsibility for the Old Tip and do some re-vegetation. Council agreed and gave us a small amount of funds to cover the cost of plants and mulch. Barkers Creek Landcare covered the cost of the stakes and guards.

Once again, what a difference you can make when you have a willing Group of volunteers. We are still hoping that Council will enter an MOU with us which will guarantee its care into the future.

As it is with this site, much of the work our group undertakes is through partnerships. We work with the Mt Alexander Council on the Old Tip and the Roadside Weeds Program. We partner with Parks Victoria for the Bushland Reserve, the National Heritage Diggings Park and the Walmer Bushland Reserve. The State Government, through DWELP and the North Central Catchment Management Authority have been instrumental partners in assisting us restore our entire section of Barkers Creek.

STOP PRESS – we are currently in discussions with Vic-Roads to become an Adopt-A-Highway partner so we can clean up all the weeds in our section of the Midland Highway between Harcourt and Castlemaine. Stay tuned!

National Heritage Diggings Park

Gorse in the National Heritage Diggings Park

Did you know that Barkers Creek was the site of the first ever GOLD found in central Victoria?

It’s true … apparently, shepherds (employees of Mr Barker) who clearly were not watching their flocks by night but doing a little bit of prospecting on the side made the discovery.

As a result over 30,000 miners descended on Barkers Creek (and the Castlemaine area) and proceeded to turn the entire area into a moonscape and cut down every available tree for a multitude of uses.

The National Heritage Diggings Park is the result. We work with Parks Vic on this area but unfortunately over the years it has probably gone backwards in terms of its level of weed infestation. About 15+ years ago Boxer (local member, jack of all trades … and King of the kids) was one of a works team that bulldozed and burned all the Gorse. But as we all know if a site is not maintained all the weeds will come back. Now, not only is there a massive amounts of Gorse but it is full Bridal Creeper as well. The photos tell the story.

We will have to keep you posted on this site!

McManus Road Reserve

Two people with baby standing at McManus Rd Reserve

Starting in 1998, this was the first major project tackled by the Barkers Creek Landcare and Wildlife Group. At that time this Reserve was an almost impenetrable wall of English Broom as far as the eye could see (which doesn’t really make sense). The group started on the left side of the bridge pulling broom but pretty soon there was a huge pile of plants which needed to be burnt off. To ensure this was done safely the Harcourt Fire Brigade did the burn as a training exercise for their members.

In 2003 this project was a part of a major Enviro-fund project ($70,000) which included seven sites “demonstrating protection and enhancement of fragmented and degraded valley remnant vegetation”.

In more recent years the group has moved to the right side of the bridge continuing to remove Broom and re-vegetate the Creek line. McManus Road reserve is now a great example of ongoing care. The 2 metre high English Broom is now almost totally eradicated and has been replaced with a wonderful mix of local grasses and shrubs.

Little Red Apple

Tree plantings on the river

The Little Red Apple is the home of the Award Winning – Harcourt Apple, Pear and Dry cider. (There is no harm in a free plug).

The owners Simon and Vicki first came on board when we did the Big Barkers Creek Blackberry Blitz. Yes, along that section of Barkers Creek there were plenty of Blackberries but even more so an enormous number of Willows. Simon had a vision of one day creating an outdoor picnic area alongside the creek. But preferably one that looked a lot better than what it did nearly a decade ago.

So, over the years we have removed the willows and the blackberries and done quite a lot of planting. Unfortunately, Mother Nature has intervened on several occasions when the creek flooded (three times in 2010–11) and then again in 2015–16. Many of our plants were washed away and then in the last flood so was Simon’s footbridge. Now rebuilt and re-planted (again) we hope all will resist the next lot of flooding.

White Gum Gully

White Gum Gully

For years we could see the potential. Just to the right of White Gum Road this gully meandered through a property and joined Barkers Creek at the bridge beside the Little Red Apple. However, for many years the property was for sale and obviously the current owners weren’t interested in doing anything to clean up the enormous amounts of Gorse and Blackberry.

Eventually the property sold. A young family bought it and at that time we were doing the Brilliant Barkers Creek project. So our project worker paid the young family a visit and offered some assistance in clearing up all the weeds. They said yes (Yeah!) and that began a process that now gives the family (and all the locals) a picturesque outlook. Of their own volition they are now steadily replanting and in time this will be another wonderful restoration of our creek.

School Road

Planting along the Creek at School Road

One of the most interesting things about our section of Barkers Creek is that it is primarily private property with small sections of public land e.g. McManus Rd Reserve.  Both sides of Creek at the School Road Bridge are privately owned so as part of our Blackberry Blitz we organized with the property owners to help them get it all cleaned up. One of the owners were a very old couple who were really distraught with the amount of Broom, Blackberry and Gorse along the Creek but no longer had the capacity to do anything.  They were delighted when we offered to get in there and change it all.  In those early years we probably averaged about two working bees each year at this location.

Now, as with McManus Rd and White Gum Rd, we schedule a visit each year. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up that is our mantra and every time we re-visit there are always more weeds that need to be taken out.

In My Back Yard (IMBY)

Hundreds of new plants

How often do we hear about people who do not want things happening near where they live?  Well our I.M.B.Y. project is the opposite. It is all about members of our group who want to take responsibility for areas where they live. It could be pulling a few weeds or collecting rubbish at one of our Bushland Reserves. It could be whilst taking the dog for a walk or just a spare half an hour here or there. It is no big deal to do a little bit extra. In fact this is how we got started on the Natural Features Bushland Reserve. Kirsten was walking her dog through this area and upon seeing all the weeds and the rubbish she approached Connecting Country to ask who looks after it? Well the answer appeared to be no one, so Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife group took over this project … what a massive (35.5 hectares) I.M.B.Y. 

The I.M.B.Y. approach is particularly helpful when we may not have an organized working bee at that spot for a few months. For example: pulling Broom is much easier when it’s only foot tall rather than 4 foot tall.  The Walmer Bushland Reserve is a perfect example where a little bit of maintenance is enough to keep it neat and tidy.

Walmer Bushland Reserve

This little Reserve at the corner of White Gum and Hillview Roads is the site of the very first Working Bee of the Barkers Creek Landcare & Wildlife Group. In 1996 when the group began this area was full of rubbish, including car bodies. Back then, and even still today, the Bush was often seen as a dumping ground.

Little Habitat Heroes

Mount Alexander is definitely in our back yard, in fact quite a lot of our members have views of the Mount from their properties. So when the Castlemaine Mothers Group and Connecting Country came up with the idea Little habitat Heroes as a way of investing in their children’s future , we were happy to help out. The goal was to re-vegetate the Old Silkworm farm up on Mount Alexander with indigenous Sheoak, Banksia and understory plants. The first step was for our Barkers Creek B-Team to weed spray 900 x 1m diameter spots and put in a stake. On 17 June about 200 people turned up and put all the plants in the ground including stakes and guards. It was a fantastic sight to see – stacks of kids with their mums, dads, grandparents and quite a few members of our local landcare groups.

Helping Kirsten plant out her block.

This is literally Kirsten’s backyard.  Actually, when Kirsten (our lovely Secretary) bought her house she also bought a block next door with the goal to create a lovely area for recreation surrounded by  indigenous plantings. Once again, a bunch of friends and some of our members turned up one Saturday and put several hundred planets in the ground for her… and look at it now.

Nico & Tony’s Gully of Rubbish

Nico is a wonderful gardener (and is now propagating her own vegetable seedlings for sale, if you are interested) so, together with her partner Tony, decided that they would build a massive ‘no dig garden’ to supply all of their vegetable needs. However, once they started to prepare their backyard they discovered more and more rubbish. Not to labour the point, but have I mentioned the amount of rubbish dumped in Barkers Creek? Anyway, I digress, what they discovered was that a gully that previously ran through their backyard had been totally filled with all sorts of waste. So, they organised a working bee with friends and members of our local landcare group. One was not enough, so on at least three occasions this group gathered to remove all the rubbish and put all the dirt back.

This really was an example of helping out in someone’s backyard.

40 000 Trees Project

Logo for the 40 000 Trees Project

The Idea

40,000 Trees – 1 day, 1000 volunteers, 40,000 seedlings. (Across multiple planting sites within an 8km stretch of Harcourt North).

A grand and somewhat crazy project captured the imagination of the Barkers Creek Landcare Network. The aim was to save 40,000 seedlings with only 8 weeks to make it happen.

40,000 seedlings of local provenance to the Mt Alexander area were propagated by Middleton Prison as part of the Victorian Government’s 2 Million trees project. Unfortunately, the proposed projects for these plants did not proceed. To ensure the seedlings weren’t wasted, the (informal) Barkers Creek Landcare Network – Barkers Creek Landcare and Wildlife, Harcourt Valley and North Harcourt/ Sedgwick Landcare groups, took up the challenge to get them planted. Fortunately, the idea captured the imagination of sponsors, landholders and the general public. A timetable was developed and the 40,000 tree project was launched.

The Results

On the 11th July, 2015 in 6 degrees with 6mm rain over 600 people planted over 30,000 trees and shrubs in one day. In one of the coldest weekends in many years, it was amazing that so many volunteers turned out to the event. While we did not reach our volunteer targets, we were pleased that so many people braved the freezing conditions. Over one hundred additional people registered on the day! Can we do it? Yes we can… and yes we did.

The Big Thanks

“40,000 Trees has been supported by Landcare, Connecting Country, City of Greater Bendigo, Mt Alexander Shire, The Hub Foundation, Mash2, Tread Cafe and the Harcourt and District Lions Club. Many more have contributed, you know who you are. Most of all thank you to all the volunteers who braved the weather to create these wildlife corridors for our future. Thank you.”

Download the report below to read the whole story!