From The Editor

Welcome to our summer newsletter.  Please note that our first activity for the year is on Sunday March 3, We are having our annual cleanup activity followed by a BBQ lunch. See the poster.

We have a mix of familiar and new faces on our committee which is very healthy. A big welcome particularly to our new President Catherine Pye, and thanks to Rodney for his work over the last couple of years.

Some years back our dedicated volunteer webmaster set up a system that allowed us to have email addresses for President, Secretary, Treasurer, Editor etc @friendsofgrampiansgariwerd. We are finally starting to adopt them and as Rodney wrote last year “The legitimacy it lends us as an organisation when communicating with government departments, filing grant applications, and press releases etc is useful. It also is helpful for continuity when people change roles.”

After a quiet few weeks over the Christmas break I am being bombarded with emails and newsletters, and I’ve selected some to share with you. Then, just as I was trying to get the newsletter finished, comes a media storm over planned restrictions on rock climbing in the Grampians. This had been discussed at the Advisory Group meeting last week (see the Advisory Group Report), It was good to see in PV’s response in this statement by the CEO Simon Talbot.

“Our main priority is protecting the natural and cultural values of this precious landscape that is the Grampians National Park. We are working to support climbers and other park users to find alternate locations in the Grampians to climb. We’ll also work with local businesses and Licensed Tour Operators over the coming months to clearly identify where climbing can continue.”

Enough of my soapbox. I have run out of space.

Prez Sez

Hello Friends!

What a great start to the year with the wonderful talk by Neil about our great birds and animals and where to find them locally.  Thank you Neil.

Our next event is Sunday March 3rd, ‘Clean up Australia Day’ meeting at 8.30am in the Halls Gap Park opposite Visitor Centre.  I look forward to seeing you there.  For those who can’t make this please arrange your own community clean up – hopefully the Shires will have their tips open for free that day.

Well we’ve had our first committee meeting and have planned out a year of exciting activities.  These can be found in the Calendar.

In July, we invite Friends to our property at Fyans Creek for a plant out to coincide with Planet Ark National Tree Day.  Clive and I bought our place about 5 years ago and have slowly been renovating the farm house and undertaking various land care activities on the property.  We have a lot of red gum regeneration, but are lacking in understorey so we collected some local tea tree, melaleuca and sheoak seed which we are now growing for the plant out.

In February 2018 we made the exciting discovery of southern brown bandicoots on our property in an area of dense bracken.   The bandicoots were seen on our wildlife cameras which we have been putting out regularly to see what animals  we have.  On subsequent camera monitoring we have recorded bandicoots at 14 locations.   The area where they live has a mixed redgum/yellow box overstory with medium to very dense bracken understorey.   We would be happy to show you this area and the diggings at the plant out.

Kind Regards, Catherine Pye

Committee Meeting – February 2

Our main item of business was deciding which of the many suggested activities for the year we would choose, and which month was the most suitable. We had decided at our November general meeting that it was a good idea to join with other groups interested in our unique environment, and this has happened on several dates this year.

Schedule of events is in the Calendar.

Another decision was to proceed with reprinting the book by the late Ian McCann “The Grampians in Flower”.  Margo is exploring some options, but would love any help that members can contribute.

Other items included

  1. Discussion of what topics we would like to discuss when the committee has a meeting with Parks staff on 20 Feb (just too late for this newsletter. Report next time.)
  2. Discussion of what activities of other groups should be emailed to FOGGs members (decided that three committee members to agree on each case).
  3. Members will be encouraged to sign up and Bill is  the person who will edit our site, all activities to be posted through the secretary.
  4. Margo to write a letter/ card to David Handscombe on behalf of FOGG.
  5. Our finances are pretty healthy and we received a surprise gift of $250 from the Australian Field Naturalists Network after a visit to the park, much appreciated. We still have funds earmarked for a seat along the walk from Zumsteins to McKenzie Falls, and of course the Ian McCann book project won’t be cheap.
  6. We have been given two books for our library: “Tree walk in Drouin”, gift of a visitor to our area, and a personal memoir of Chataqua Peak by Marian Colton

Activity Reports

AGM and picnic in the Halls Gap Botanic Garden November 30, 2018

It was a perfect evening for our AGM, which is reported elsewhere. Some of us cooked on the barbecue, to the appreciation of the local kookaburras, at least one of whom managed to grab a sausage from the unwary. Then we walked around the garden to look at the collection of Gariwerd plants, and appreciate the work of the volunteers who have been providing names for many of the plants, and for the work done to make the garden attractive to children.

Bird Walk and Talk Saturday 2 February, 2019

Such a hot day! Would there be any birds to be seen in the dry surrounds of Brambuk? Our secretary had done a good job of advertising the event on ABC radio, and Alison had it in Halls Gap’s monthly newsletter. So around 30 of us assembled at 4 pm, and some joined us later. FOGG member and bird expert Neil Macumber led us to a spot where we were under tall eucalypts and on a bank high above the almost dry creek. And we did manage to see quite a few of the more common birds including kookaburra, blue wren, scrub wren, tree creeper, finches

Then we moved inside to look at some of Neil’s superb photographs and learn about our resident birds and our visitors. There were so many! Birds from the bush, the plains, the lakes. Large ones, like brolga, emu, wedgetail eagle, little ones like wrens, finches and mistletoe birds.

Neil also showed us animals of the Grampians, this time not all his own photos but most were. Again, so much to learn.

Afterwards about 20 of us adjourned to the local hotel for dinner together and more discussion of birds and possible FOGG projects. An excellent way to start the year.

From The Park Desks

ASSETS AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Recovery (2014 Fire and Flood)

A number of road, walking track and park asset redevelopment projects were completed late last year and focus now shifts to completing the following projects:

  • Nagamadjidj walking track, carpark and art site interpretation signage redevelopment
  • Stapylton loop walking track repairs
  • Zumsteins Cottages Pise repair works
  • Zumsteins heritage site interpretation signage
  • Coppermine 4X4 bush camp and Group Hikers Camp redevelopment
  • Longpoint west Hikers camp redevelopment
  • New Dead Bullock Creek (Barriguwa) campground development. Replacement of Troopers creek.

There have been alignment changes to Briggs Bluff and the Mt Difficult walking tracks. Check for alignment updates at Brambuk prior to venturing out.

Roads

Unsealed roads have been upgraded throughout the park as part of flood recovery works. However, dry summer conditions have resulted in many dusty and corrugated sections. Note unsealed roads cannot be graded until there is an increase in soil moisture.

ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE

The Grampians team was successful in receiving funding for Biodiversity Response Planning last year. The funding will be used to run research and monitoring projects and on ground management of environmental threats.

New technology is assisting with monitoring of the reintroduced Rock Wallaby population.

Hard rubbish dumping is fast becoming a major issue in our smaller reserves surrounding the Grampians. The team is responding to a number of reports of household and commercial waste being dumped in reserves near surrounding townships.

FIRE AND EMERGENCY

While there have been numerous total fire bans and severe and extreme fire danger days, it has been a relatively quiet summer in the Wimmera and South West Fire Districts. The Halls Gap fire crew have continued with fire line slashing works, burn preparation for the Autumn and Spring program, and have also assisted the wider team with Junior Ranger education programs and a safer together community information stall in Halls Gap.

Did you know? Parks Victoria is part of Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV). To learn more about FFMV’s role and responsibilities please visit https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/who-we-are/forest-fire-management-victoria.

VISITORS AND COMMUNITY

The summer holiday program has been a fantastic success this year. Our Summer Rangers have delivered a range of Junior Ranger programs to over 200 participants.

To assist with emergency response Parks Victoria has recently installed over 110 emergency markers throughout the National Park. These can be used to quickly locate lost or injured walkers, and reduce response times of emergency services.

Grampians Peaks Trail Update

The Peaks Trail team send out a community report every few months. The last one was in November so I won’t put it here but can forward it to you if you ask. Or you can learn more by registering on   to get it mailed to you.

Just a very brief summary: Though summer weather conditions have been harsh, construction works on the Mt Difficult to Halls Gap section remain on schedule for completion by Sept 2019. Parks Victoria is working to identify Cinnamon Fungus, along the trail alignment. Cinnamon Fungus, a microscopic, soil borne pathogen attacks and destroys plant root systems causing plants to die through lack of water and nutrients. It is found across the Grampians and is commonly spread through the movement of contaminated soil and gravel carried by vehicle or foot traffic.

Hiker camp construction is set to start by April.

Follow the progress of the GPT at: https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/grampians-national-park/plans-and-projects/grampians-peak-trail

Farewell And Thanks Dave Handscombe

Dave is probably the ranger FOGGS has had most contact with over the years. Starting on 4th January 1982 with the Forest Commission as a technical assistant with the School of Forestry and Land Management in Creswick, Dave did four and a half years before being seconded to the Alpine Planning Team to work on the proposed Alpine National Park.  In 1988 Dave transferred to Mt Buffalo working as a technical assistant (a.k.a. Ranger) focused on campgrounds and patrols including cross country ski patrols.  In 1989 Dave got offered the job as the Dunkeld Ranger in the Grampians.  ‘Unfortunately’ the job offer was just too late into Winter and the removalist truck couldn’t get into Mt Buffalo because of the snow so he was ‘forced’ to do another snow season on ski patrol.  Dave then got offered the Walking Track Ranger position based in Halls Gap and has worked in the Grampians from late 1989 until February 2019.

Dave helping out at the Red Gum Walk (1998)

It is quite hard to conceive what the Parks Victoria Grampians Team will look like now that Dave is retiring after almost thirty years. Thirty years of working to protect the park, thirty years of learning its treasures, especially its plants, thirty years of sharing that knowledge.

Dave explaining the use of GPS devices (2004)

Though never actually officially our “contact ranger”, Dave has been one of the rangers FOGGs have seen the most. Working bees at the Red Gum Walk, examining sallow wattle near Beehive Falls back in the 2000’s are just two of our activities where he features in our photos.

Is his nickname still “Horrible”? Apparently he once reprimanded a tourist, I think with a dog, and she complained about “that horrible ranger”. Whereupon his mates called him “Horrible Handscombe” for quite a few years. Within FOGGs he was for a while called “Ranger Dave’ because we at that stage had so many members called Dave that I remember adapting the Dr Seuss poem for our newsletter:

Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, ‘Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!’ she doesn’t get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!
This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves’
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.

So goodbye Dave (and Linda), enjoy your retirement, spend time studying peacock spiders and orchids. Come back regularly, maybe tell us gently what we should be focusing on, and thank you again.

 

Grampians Rock Art In The News

EXCERPTS FROM AN ARTICLE IN THE AGE JAN 13

The AGE had a long and chatty article on a fascinating newly discovered art site. It is far too long to copy here, but I do recommend that you read it on line – The Age

Or you can contact me (Margo) and I can send it to you.  It is the need to protect valuable sites like this one that makes it so important to educate rock climbers, and where necessary ban some sites.

‘Now the legendary bunyip has been found – or ancient rock drawings of it at least – in a shallow cave atop a cliff in the Mt Difficult Range. Four bunyips, to be precise, lurking in a sandstone shelter on an outcrop that commands sweeping views of the plains of north-western Victoria.

It was a find that would shine new light on an age-old story – that of a cosmic struggle between creator spirit and his monstrous enemy – purport to explain why mother- and son-in-laws should never mix and forever change the way you see a double rainbow.

The rock art was found in the Mt Difficult Range and tells a story which links the cave to two other sites which can be seen from the clifftop.

It was in May 27, 2016 that park ranger Kyle Hewitt – marking a new track that will form part of the Grampians Peaks Trail – entered the sandstone shelter and brought its bunyips back from oblivion.

Since then the rediscovery has been kept secret. Only a handful of traditional owners, park rangers and archaeologists have been allowed to enter the cave.

Even now, its exact location cannot be revealed.

The cave was the latest and most significant of about 40 rock-art sites to be rediscovered in the last seven years in the Grampians – or Gariwerd as they are called by the people whose ancestors drew those bunyip.

That has taken the tally of rock-art sites in Gariwerd to about 140 – or 90 per cent of all the known such sites in Victoria.

Jake Goodes began his life as a park ranger in Gariwerd hunting goats. Now, 15 years later, he hunts rock art. As Parks Victoria’s Aboriginal Heritage co-ordinator for western Victoria and, at 36, an archaeologist in training, Mr Goodes was among the group that first recorded the bunyip cave.

Goats are one of the primary threats to these ochre bunyips, as they are to all Gariwerd’s rock art. Like people, goats are drawn to these shelters, and like to scratch their coarse and oily hides against the sandstone.

On the hike to the bunyip cave, Mr Goodes points out signs that indicate the bunyips survived another close encounter. It’s there in the blackened stringybark trunks, the thick regrowth of leaves, the fields of white everlasting daisies.

Fire has the potential to destroy the whole site,” he says.

It heats the air within the rock and then it pops the rock like popcorn.”

But people are the ones who do the most damage to any site,” Mr Goodes says. “Which is unfortunate. The rock art of the Grampians is rich in symbols, some of which are found nowhere else and much of which has meanings yet to be relearned.”

The article goes on to tell a story about Bunjil, who is depicted in Bunjil’s cave not far from Stawell. Mr Goodes calls this tale a lore story. Its survival too, is a small miracle. It came to him by way of research done by historian Ian Clarke, who dug up a newspaper article published in 1925 by a reverend, who was told the story by an Aboriginal source he refers to only as “a woman from the Wimmera”.

(Remember that Ian Clarke told us about this in a talk last year.)

Nature Glenelg Trust News

The Upper Wannon River floodplain is adjacent to the Grampians National Park in western Victoria. A large proportion of this floodplain was drained from the 1950s for agriculture and later converted to a Tasmanian Blue Gum plantation forest. Nature Glenelg Trust (NGT) has been progressively working to restore the wetlands of the floodplain across public and private land, with successful permanent works now completed at Brady Swamp and Gooseneck Swamp in the Grampians National Park.

A recently awarded Victorian Government Climate Change Innovation Grant (via DELWP) is funding major on-ground works over the next two years that will see Walker Swamp transformed into a community demonstration site for sustainable floodplain restoration and management; by removing the plantations and reversing artificial drainage across the more than 440 hectares of land now owned by Nature Glenelg Trust.

These activities will restore natural river floodplain function, recreating wetland habitats for threatened and iconic species, like the Growling Grass Frog and Brolga. The works will also buffer the site against climate change, by retaining significantly more water in the landscape in the future.

A minor restoration trial on the deepest part of Walker Swamp has been in place since 2014, giving a taste of what is to come, but the major on-ground works as a result of NGT securing the site – including the backfilling of over 20 kilometres of artificial drains on the floodplain – are due to commence in autumn 2019. So we have an exciting year ahead!

The project is being delivered by NGT in partnership with the Glenelg Hopkins CMA and the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club, with grant funding support from the Victorian Government, and support from the wider community (including FOGGS).

FOGGS will be visiting the site on Saturday 14th September.

Editor’s Piece

Welcome to our late late Spring edition. The last couple of months have been a very busy time for many of us, and I do apologise for the lateness of this issue. There’s only one important date as we head towards the summer period and that is our AGM on Friday November 30. We won’t have a December meeting, but will let you know in plenty of time how we will start the 2019 programme. I do want to emphasise the importance of our AGM where we will be electing office bearers, hoping to continue with mixing newcomers and longer term members. It is vital that we ensure that we remain relevant to both our long-term members and newcomers.

We have good news about Park staff, and funding, as you will read further in. We particularly welcome our new Ranger in Charge, Rhonda McNeil, and our new Volunteer Co-ordinator Hannah Auld. We look forward to continuing our good relationship with our staff as we work together to look after and protect our Park.

Please note that if you have not renewed your membership your period of grace has expired and this will be your last newsletter. Our Park needs Friends in so many areas. We always have advocated on behalf of the Park, we have given feedback to management, we have sought to educate the public. But there are always new challenges and new opportunities and your membership is important in our advocacy role, even if you find it difficult to come to our activities.