Friends of Monbulk Creek (Colby Drive group) … “Bottoms Up for the Bush”
LOCATION: The NW corner of Belgrave-Hallam road and Colby Drive, Belgrave Heights
SIZE: about 3 hectares
AIM: To restore and protect the natural bushland in this block of public land in Belgrave Heights in order to provide a beautiful environment which conserves the indigenous flora and fauna.
MEETING: Working Bee every Saturday morning 9-11am
This small but energetic group of enthusiasts for the natural bush environment in their Belgrave South locality was started in about 2006. A couple of friends saw a local corner block of public land that was infested by weeds, mainly English ivy, blackberry and honeysuckle, and decided that something needed to be done and they began to clean it up. Another joined and then another and so a “Friends of …” developed under the auspices of the Southern Dandenongs Landcare Group. Great results have been achieved in freeing the “block” of large tracts of weeds.
Now at least 3 regular members meet every Saturday morning and even though it is a very informal group some grants from Shire of Yarra Range, Parks Victoria and Melbourne Water have been achieved. These have provided some equipment purchases, contract weed spraying and the purchase of hundreds of seedlings to revegetate the block with indigenous plants.
It is a challenging site with road reserve, old drains and road but with beautiful Monbulk Creek, large trees and wildflowers it also has great rewards. The working bees are usually accompanied by kookaburras and other birdlife.
Enquiries to come along and join in the fun are always welcome. Contact can be made through the SDLC e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent article (2012) on this group, written originally by Ian Rainbow for the Southern Dandenongs Community Indigenous Plant Nursery and for SDLC, which has appeared in a local newspaper The Mail on February 28, 2012 tells the story of “Bottoms Up for the Bush”. It is copied here:
“Friends of Monbulk Creek (Colby Drive Group)
Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery (SDCN) in Birdsland Reserve, Tecoma provides plants for many revegetation projects around the Hills. Indigenous plants grown by volunteers from seeds and cuttings collected locally are then planted by groups such as the Colby Drive Group of Friends of Monbulk Creek. This small group of women, determined to do something about weeds choking their local bushland and creeks, was started 5 years ago by Merlin, Maria and Juliana and joined later by Dianne. They sought advice from the land manager, Parks Victoria on the best way to manage the site and the rest is history! Working for 2 hours every Saturday morning, these feisty ladies removed large woody weeds like pine, ash, broom and Sweet Pittosporum. Parks Vic thought this small group was doing such a fabulous job they funded contractors to spray blackberries which covered a large proportion of the site. Shire of Yarra Ranges joined in to prevent weed spread from the Colby Drive Road Reserve. A humorous highlight came when they removed a particularly large clump of blackberries to uncover a sign saying “Area closed for revegetation”! Clearly there has been interest in the site in the past. It was once a popular picnic ground with a toilet block and the Belgrave-Hallam Road once crossed the creek there before the road was re-aligned. Another humorous highlight is their sign, “Bottoms up for the Bush”, designed by Merlin because, she said, “The only thing that people driving past could see were four bottoms as we were bent over weeding! It is also a celebration of community action, hence the champagne glasses”.
Early in the project the group tried some wholesale clearing and waited to see what returned. In parts of the site this worked well, with indigenous plants regrowing to crowd out weeds. In more degraded areas only weeds emerged. Regular grants from Parks Vic have enabled the purchase of plants from SDCN, so the girls have adopted the philosophy of weeding and planting soon after in the cleared ground to try to shade out the weeds. Some plantings have been very successful, particularly those stabilizing the banks of a gully during very heavy rains earlier this year. Other patches, mainly on road rubble, have been less responsive.
The site has many challenges, with two main drainage gullies carrying weed seeds from all the roadsides, a broad central firebreak and cleared area harbouring weedy Kikuyu grass and a large area of road rubble which is difficult to revegetate. Many locals were appalled to see the damage to plantings done by recent sewage works near the bus stop. Such damage is probably inevitable with large and complex projects as it is hard to communicate between Friends groups and 3rd party contractors. The contractors made good by spraying, then cheerfully replacing the mulch. The area will now be progressively replanted.
“Drop in to say hello if you are driving past, another bottom is always welcome!” said Merlin. “Besides, you are out in the fresh air, getting exercise and doing something constructive for the environment. We feel great after our weeding sessions”.”