What do you do when confronted with a beaten landscape that’s just plain stuck in it’s degraded state?
Behind my home block in Castlemaine stretches a landscape turned upside down by gold mining. Apart from a majestic stand of old Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora), the only features to catch your eye are mullock heaps, degraded channels and an expanse of annual grasses that are cropped to dust in Summer by a resident population of 50 Kangaroos. Meet Victoria Gully.
Can this gully ever be more than a feeding ground for roos and a playground for occasional trail bikes? A group of local residents think so. We’ve been dreaming big about what to do with this landscape.
We hope the gully can provide a refuge for more wildlife than just kangaroos. In particular we hope local woodland birds can transit through the gully between forests of the Diggings Heritage Park in the South and Forest Creek to the North. Also, we hope the gully can be a space where the local community will want to spend time to enjoy their natural environment. We think for restoration to succeed in this landscape, we need to have a vision that the local community will want to get behind and act on.
At first we were overwhelmed by where to begin. Then someone suggested we approach the question of ‘what to do’ with the gully through the issue of water retention. Water is the key asset we have in this landscape. There are several stormwater entry points that gush every time we get over 10 mm of rain.
If we could harness this water and hold it in the landscape instead of letting it rush through the gully and straight to Forest Creek, we could begin to transform the gully into a place where the community and wildlife will want to be.
Once we realised that harnessing water could unlock this landscape, our vision literally flowed from there.
Our vision for Victoria Gully
Create a beautiful ephemeral wetland and chain of ponds that will provide a heartland for restoration activities and a place for the local community to enjoy; increase water capture and retention within the gully; use water assets to increase habitat diversity, increase frog abundance and extend water available to wildlife during dry periods.
With this vision to motivate me, I started dashing into the gully when heavy rains threatened to watch where the water flowed. My kids loved joining in these wild adventures. In one thrilling episode we watched ~60,000 L of water arriving in the gully from a stormwater outlet after a heavy 20 mm rainfall event. Water collected by 3000 square meters of sealed road feed into this one storm water drain, which then pops up in a neighbourhood lawn to travel overland and straight into the gully. What an asset in these days of climate change, when rainfall will be less frequent but in heavier bursts.
I quickly learned from my explorations that although the gully doesn’t hold water for long, a large volume flows through it. With a small amount of earthwork and some strategic planting I think we can direct and hold this water in the gully and harness it to create an ephemeral frog bog, a chain of ponds, improve water availability for restoration plantings and create a space where the local community will want to hangout.
Below is a pdf of my concept plan for restoration of Victoria Gully. I look forward to sharing our restoration journey with you as we refine this plan, apply for grants and listen to and work with our local community.