Wybejong Park (Riddells Creek)
A Streamside Reserve dedicated to Native Plants in Riddells Creek.
Wybejong Park in Riddells Creek was formerly called Stone Reserve, a place where basalt was extracted to build road and railway bridges. For decades this long, narrow strip of crown land (about 3 hectares) along the creek and central to the township was burnt off, leaving a blackened landscape visible from the road.
Wybejong is managed by 'Greening of Riddell' which was originally formed to promote the undergrounding of power lines in Station Street in Riddells Creek. In 1991 the concept of developing the reserve into a park with indigenous species of plants was conceived. In 1997 Greening of Riddell obtained permission from the Victorian Place names Committee to rename the area Wybejong, the name of a corroborree ground situated two kilometers upstream. John Ball, one of the founding members sought permission from the Wurundjeri, and two aboriginal people came to the first planting to redevelop tribal links with the area.
Volunteer labour, and funding grants from the Macedon Ranges Shire Council and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment initially enabled development of the park to proceed. The original planting was carried out with help from local school children and volunteers from the neighbouring Church of England. More recent developments have benefited from the labour of the Green Corps and the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Recently Melbourne Water has become the authority responsible for waterways in the Upper Maribyrnong Catchment and we have received grants from them and from the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority. Parks Victoria is the management authority of Wybejong Park. Greening of Riddell works closely with our regional Parks ranger in park management issues and Parks Victoria grants which fund the development of the park as a place of recreation.
Wybejong is adjacent to the W C Smith Reserve – Lake Park which has large exotic trees and ducks on the lake. It was established in the 1880’s and is now a popular picnic spot. Bordering Wybejong is an historic Cork oak (Quercus corcus) said to be the ‘signature tree’ of Baron Von Mueller, an early director of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. One kilometre upstream is the site of Smith’s Nursery, which supplied plants to the growing horticultural industry and gardeners for some years in the late 1800’s. Greening of Riddell’s long term aim is to build a walking path from Lake Park, through Wybejong to Smith’s Nursery.
The park’s proximity to the town, the steep nature of the site, and the lush regrowth of annual grasses each year meant that burn-off was the most practical way of reducing the annual fire risk. When revegetation was commenced, an agreement was reached between Greening of Riddell, the local CFA and the landowner DNRE which stipulated that:
- no rough barked species be used
- the area was not to be completely planted out so that fire trucks could get access
- no understory be planted
- the area be kept mown in summer
- eucalypt species be kept to a minimum to reduce the load of species with volatile oils.
Thus the area was to become a managed park, not the re-establishment of typical bushland.
The first planting included manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) (to encourage roaming koalas), silver wattle (Acacia dealbata), and blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) which were later interspersed with Banksia marginata, tea tree (Leptospermum lanigerum )and sickle leaf wattle (Acacia implexa).
In 1996(?) a cliff top fence was constructed to make the escarpment safe for the public. In 1997 a comprehensive management plan was written. The park was delineated into ten areas, weed species noted and future work plans formulated. The riparian zone was an impenetrable wasteland of weeds – hawthorn, briar rose, gorse, blackberry, ivy, angle onion, phallaris and willow. With the help of two Green Corps teams and an ATCV project it has been transformed into the start of a beautiful river red gum lined native plant enclave. A grant from DNRE has enabled plans to proceed on stairs to be built up the steep cliff face to encourage less robust walkers to explore the whole park. A set of steps is also being built at the eastern end of the park for access from the car park – toilet block area which is across the stepping stone creek path. In May 2000 the Planet Ark project supplied us with plants to revegetate the creek side near this path site.
Each year progress is made on various pest plant infestations. A patch of serrated tussock has been held in check, phalaris is now less rampant, blackberry in the upper zone is minimal and the invasion of angle onion is being curtailed. When weeds are eradicated native species are planted to recolonize the area, and sometimes remnant species reappear because of the lack of competition.
In Spring 2000, Greening of Riddell tackled the steep hill behind the Church as it has always been a problem to mow its lush growth. The area was sprayed with RoundUp in May and then again in September, just before 2000 Common tussock grass (Poa labillardieri) were planted with the help of Interact, a local youth group.
The Bradley method of bush regeneration (1) has been a guiding principle. This technique for bringing back the bush suggests working from the areas of mild weed infestation to the bad areas, not clearing more weedy areas than you can maintain and minimal soil disturbance. Ten years on we can see acacias self seeding, sedges and rushes reappearing after blackberry eradication, native grasses spreading in large patches, and delicate natives like Pelargonium rodneyanum and milky beauty heads (Calocephalus lacteus) flourishing.
The aim of the Greening of Riddell group is that Wybejong be maintained as a streamside reserve for community use. The major users of the park are walkers, both local and city visitors, dog walkers, groups of people fishing, horse riders and student groups from the Riddells Creek Primary School. A Waterwatch project with the local school will engender their understanding of land care, teach them to collect data and to ascertain water quality. Other areas in the Maribyrnong catchment zone where revegetation is proceeding have good populations of platypus. Our aim is to have optimum water quality to encourage the food source for platypus. To encourage biodiversity we have focused our attention on the serious waterway weed – willow (Salix spp.), including crack willow (Salix fragilis var fragilis). Like other winter deciduous trees willows have a cycle completely at odds with Australia’s flora and fauna. Their heavy foliage makes the streamsides and water dark and cold in summer and the sudden drop of leaves in winter drains the water of oxygen, as their decay begins effecting stream life. Few bottom-of-the-creek dwelling organisms can survive under willows and indigenous streamside plants like the silver wattle disappear as seedlings die because of the poisons in the willow leaves. Willows reshoot from waterborn twigs and branches and with kilometres of willow trees upstream from Wybejong.Public education is needed for any eradication program to be successful.
Greening of Riddell has an active membership base. We have community meetings around numerous environmental issues. We hold a working bee at Wybejong Park at 9:30 am on the first Saturday of the month. As a group we are diverse in our skills and abilities and our members are represented in the network of environment organizations such as Landcare, the Jacksons Creek EcoNetwork and the Australian Plant Society. The challenge for the future is to involve younger people in caring for Wybejong.
In ten years Wybejong Park has gone from a rubbish strewn, weed infested tract of land to a recreational park where we can enjoy nature and collect seed and inspiration for other landcare projects.
For an update of what happening in the park, go to Greening of Riddells/Wybejong Park website.
1. Bringing Back the Bush by Joan Bradley
Catalogue of plants in Wybejong Park *
|Gold dust wattle||Acacia||acinacea|
|Late Black wattle||Acacia||mearnsii|
|Spear grass||Austrostipa spp.|
|Lemon beauty heads||Calocephalus||citreus|
|Milky Beauty heads||Calocephalus||lacteus|
|Small leafed clematis||Clematis||microphylla|
|Spreading Flax lily||Dianella||longifolia|
|Tasman flax lily||Dianella||tasmanica|
|Giant hop bush||Dodonaea||viscosa|
|Common spike rush||Eleocharis||acuta|
|Narrow leafed Peppermint gum||Eucalyptus||radiata|
|River red gum||Eucalyptus||camaldulensis|
|Red fruited Saw Sedge||Gahnia||sieberiana|
|Crane’s bill||Geranium||retrorsum indig?|
|Purple Coral Pea||Hardenbergia||violacea|
|Prickly tea tree||Leptospermum||continentale|
|Woolly tea tree||Leptospermum||lanigerum|
|Spiny-headed mat rush||Lomandra||longifolia|
|Wattle Mat rush||Lomandra||filiformis|
|Magenta Stork’s bill||Pelargonium||rodneyanum|
|Common Tussock grass||Poa||labillardierei|
|Victorian Christmas Bush||Prostanthera||lasianthos|
|Large Kangaroo apple||Solanum||laciniatum|
|Yellow Rush Lily||Tricoryne||elatior|
|Angled onion weed||Allium||triquetrum|
|Beaked hawk's-beard||Crepis||vesicaria ssp. haenseleri|
|Panic veldt grass||Ehrharta||erecta|
|Flatweed / Cat’s ear||Hypochaeris||radicata|
|Toowoomba canary grass||Phalaris||aquatica|
|Cherry plum||Prunus||? serrulata|
|Variegated milk thistle||Silybum||marianum|
|Narrow leaved vetch||Vicia||sativa ssp. nigra|
This list was originally compiled by Di Jenkins and added to by Ian Taylor, Lyn Hovey and Russell Best.