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How to get there (Google maps reference): -37.159167, 144.077027
Rise and Shine walk notes
Parks Victoria acknowledges the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Victoria – including its parks and reserves. Through their cultural traditions, Aboriginal people maintain their connection to their ancestral lands and waters.
An ancient river bed
This walk through Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve passes over the path of an ancient river, which flowed some time between 5 and 35 million years ago. This river has left traces which have affected the living things that have used the reserve since – both plants and animals, including humans, both indigenous people and later settlers. All these living things have in turn left their own marks.
- The traditional owners of this land are the Jaara Jaara people. Before European settlement, the Jim Crow Creek, to the east of the reserve, was an important resource supplying food and water. It is likely that the people camped on the higher slopes towards this reserve as protection from the weather and from floods and to ensure the safety of their water supply. The area that we call the Rise and Shine would have also provided some essential supplies, as we shall see.
- Looking around, you will see two local native plants that have often been mistaken for weeds. Cassinia arcuata (Drooping Cassinia, Coffee Bush or Chinese Scrub) is the fine leafed light green shrub that stands about a metre high. It is a very important coloniser of disturbed ground. It stabilises the soil and catches leaf litter and seeds, which helps other plants to regenerate. Cassinia is used by many birds both for nesting in and for nesting material. Acacia paradoxa (Hedge Wattle) is the large prickly shrub with short green leaves lying along the branches. It too provides very important habitat for many small birds.
- The ground here is covered with a crust of lichens and moss. These reduce erosion and catch seeds of other plants, helping with regeneration. The mosses come to life after rain and remain green throughout the cooler months.
- The old river flowed northwards from the Great Dividing Range. 350-400 million years ago, quartz had crystallised out of water in cracks and faults in ancient rocks. The old river broke this quartz into pebbles and rocks. The rocks and pebbles that once lay in the river became welded into a sheet of coarse sedimentary rock. Local councils scraped this rock away to obtain gravel for road building until the 1980s. This large tree predates the gravel collection – you can see how much soil and gravel were removed. Looking on the other side of the track, you can see natural regeneration occurring slowly but surely on the rocky surface. You can also see some trees that have been planted in past regeneration attempts. As many of them are not local plants, they haven’t done very well.
- Notice the hollows in these larger trees. Tree hollows are essential for nesting for many species of native birds and mammals. Usually a tree has to be larger than 600 mm diameter at breast height (DBH) to develop good hollows. As trees in this area grow at about 3mm (DBH) per year it may take about 200 years for a tree to develop hollows.
- This walk will introduce you to three types of plant communities. This one, called “Heathy Woodland”, is adapted to life on the dry, poor soils of the ridge top. The trees are Long- Leaved Box (with long drooping leaves) and Red Box (with round leaves) and an understorey of small shrubs, mostly Daphne Heath, with some Downy Grevillea and Showy Parrot Peas.
- Here the rock that is the bed of the old stream is clearly visible underfoot.
- Here the variety of stones from the old stream is apparent. The Jaara people used larger, rounded rocks as grinding stones to make flour from the seed of the many wattles that can be found in this reserve. They made damper and Johnnycakes from the flour and cooked them on hot rocks. The Jaara also fashioned cutting tools out of quartz and various types of sandstone were used as different grades of “sandpaper”.
- Gravel quarrying has left a number of “artificial” waterholes. They now provide habitat for frogs. Birds have carried in native water plants such as Juncus and Schoenus.
- The tree with the bright green foliage is a Cherry Ballart. This native tree taps into the roots of other plants and steals their nutrients. Its small and tasty fruits were important bush tucker.
- This water race was built using “Sustenance” labour during the Depression of the 1930s and brought water from Daylesford to the Newstead reservoir until the 1980s. On the far side of the race, a fence encloses a stand of Bulokes, the trees with long, needle-like “leaves”(these are actually branches – the leaves are tiny serrations at the joints between small segments of the branches). Their seeds only germinate after 2 consecutive years of good rains and the young plants are favourite food for wallabies. The fence will help to ensure that the next generation of bulokes gets to grow up. Bulokes were favoured by the Jaara people for making boomerangs. The other trees here are Grey Box (with rough bark) and Yellow Gums (with smooth bark). This vegetation community is called “Box-Ironbark Forest”. The trees are taller and there are no heathy plants.
- Along with quartz, gold crystallised in the old rocks. These mounds and holes are the shafts of gold mine from the 1850s-1860s. Here the miners worked for themselves, digging down to the old riverbed. Here they looked for nuggets that had washed into the old river with the quartz. There was no processing of these diggings to extract smaller gold particles.
- The tree on the other side of the fence has some bunches of leaves that look a bit different. This growth is mistletoe, a semi-parasitic native plant. Mistletoe does not kill a tree, but may heavily infest a tree that is already unwell. Mistletoe is an important food source for many birds. The Mistletoebird and several local butterfly species are dependent on it. The fruit of the plant is very sticky, requiring the Mistletoebird to wipe its droppings off on branches of trees. This is how the mistletoe spreads. The fruits were important food for the Jaara people who also used the swelling where the mistletoe joins the tree’s branch as a club.
- Dead wood on the ground provides very important habitat for insects, reptiles, frogs and many birds. It reduces erosion and the fungi and termites that decompose it become food for other animals, like Echidnas. Watch for the characteristic scratchings of Echidnas as you walk. These finish with long narrow holes where the Echidna pushes its snout into the soil as it hunts for ants.
- One side of this fence is very different to the other. The Government kept the land that was thought to be gold bearing – like the land on this side of the fence. Other land could be sold and became farmland. The Crown land was used as a source of wood for the mines and factories and retains some native vegetation. Farming land was mostly cleared.
- Here the lines in the rock run North-South. These Ordovician rocks were the bottom of an ancient sea, laid down 450 million years ago and pushed up as Australia was squeezed from East to West. A major thrust 400 million years ago pushed up a range 1500m high – the top of this range has eroded to expose these old rocks. The old stream flowed across these rocks and has been raised
- It seems that there are a number of young trees here. However, an old tree was cut for timber here many years ago. The tree has survived underground and sent up new trunks – coppices. The old stump has mostly rotted away, but we can see it was about a metre across at the base, which would make it over 200 years old when it was cut.
- This area is lower in the landscape, so the river is closer to the surface. Here the gold diggers did not have to dig so far to get to the gold bearing riverbed, so there are no mounds. These are also very early gold diggings.
- This plant with long blade-like leaves, which were used by the Jaara people for weaving baskets, is called Black-anther Flax Lily (Dianella admixta). It has blue flowers in Spring followed by purple fruits in Summer.
- These large old trees are Yellow Box. They have survived because they are not very good for building or firewood as due to its spiral grain the wood does not split well.
- Yellow Box (with rough bark and small leaves) and River Red Gums (with smooth bluish bark) denote the community called “Alluvial Terraces Herb-rich Woodland”. Erosion from the ridge behind you has produced a deep alluvial soil. This area is richly endowed with species of small native plants (or herbs), which are often only seen in spring. Many of these plants were bush tucker for the Jaara people, including Bulbine Lilies and Yam Daisies, which had large edible underground tubers. This type of vegetation community is now uncommon as it mostly occurred on good farming land.
This walk was developed by Newstead Landcare Group with the assistance of David Bannear (Heritage Victoria), Bambi Lees (Indigenous Project Officer, Parks Victoria) and Garry Cheers (local naturalist) and funding from Parks Victoria. This walk is dedicated to Con Krokos and has been made possible by donations made in his memory.