Gardens for Wildlife Program Pilot for Stawell and Ararat

Gardens for Wildlife is a program that aims to make gardens a place that supports the local, native plants and animals. This can be done through planting native species and providing habitat features such as logs, ponds and bird baths. A new group based around Stawell and Ararat will bring a pilot of this program to reinvigorate our towns for wildlife. The aim is to conduct garden visits to interested residents and offer practical advice on what species to plant and where to attract wildlife such as native birds, lizards and insects. The pilot will be run as a collective with support from Grampians Australian Plant Society, Ararat Rural City Council, Friends of Grampians Gariwerd, Project Platypus, Stawell Urban Landcare, Upper Hopkins Land Management Group, Yarrilinks and DELWP.

For more information about the program, check out the Gardens for Wildlife Victoria website:

Next meeting at Pomonal Hall on 12th September at 10-12midday. RSVP needed.

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


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.

Tourism Update

Visitor numbers in the Grampians continue to increase, for better and for worse. 

The number of visitors visiting the Grampians increased in the past year by 15.7 per cent, with 931,000 visitors travelling to the Grampians between March 2017 and March 2018. 

The amount of expenditure in the Grampians has also significantly increased in the past year. 

Visitors spent 2,367,000 nights in the Grampians from March 2017 to March 2018 – a 26.6 per cent increase from 2016 to 2017. 

Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said the growth in tourist numbers and expenditure was ahead of both state and national averages. 

“It’s an amazing result for our region,” he said. 

“Our new multi-tactical marketing campaigns are working to increase visitor numbers, dispersing visitors across our entire region and importantly they are staying longer and spending more.” 

The marketing campaign includes promoting the Grampians region all year, as well as advertising specific areas such as Dunkeld and Halls Gap. 


As reported in the last newsletter, Parks Vic is encouraging us all to  register to become an official Parks Victoria volunteer by creating a user account and volunteer profile with details about your interests, skills, and contact information.

It is a way of registering special skills, interests and qualifications so they can contact us for activities etc and keeps track of paperwork such as accredited chainsaw training and working with children checks.

We can use it too to look for volunteer activities in other parks. Should be useful when on holidays.

It’s quite easy to register. You need to create a profile and a password of course.

Register now at Parks Victoria

Golton Gorge Project

After the fires of 2014 PV decided to close the picnic area and the track up the gorge. However this met with much opposition from many people who loved the spot. Now  a new track will be built by mainly volunteers. It won’t cross the main creek but take walkers up the left hand side. The volunteer work is being led by the Walking Track Support Group under David Witham and Graham Parkes using funds from the donation boxes spread through the park. They are being supported by various bushwalking groups and FOGG has agreed to join in. So as dates of working bees are settled we will let you know.

Snippets from Here and There

Cavendish RED GUM Festival

Three of us manned a stand at the festival featuring our FOGG Red Gum walk in the Victoria valley with posters, an A3 book on the history of our walk, and copies of the new Park booklet on walks for the less-abled . Despite the appalling weather and our subsequent relocation to the fringe of town we had quite a bit of interest. There were quite a few other environmental groups also involved and the day was a real success. Fogg member Jacqueline Ridler performed a poem celebrating red gums which I have permission to show.

Brothers in Arms

Old Man Redgum, if tales that you could tell,
Of a time before the white man, where thousands of you dwelled,

When your limbs reached out beside you and caressed your brothers’ hands.

Now you look so lonely, yet still strong, robust and grand,
The story tells that this spirit, of our Koori people past,
That the energy of their spirits, into you they would pass.

And I feel it in my soma, this awesome power that you know,
When I stand beneath your sheltering arms and feel the energy you bestow
And although you had to witness your family picked like weeds,
In a day of insatiable hunger, the clearing, the milling, the greed.

I offer a humbling offering for our generations past
To gather your seed and give it back to you, a token of my heart
To help your family grow again, so once again your limbs may meet
And when I pass I offer you, my spirit to yours to keep.

WAMA update

The feral proof fence around the Pomonal property is very soon to be constructed so that some trial reintroductions of threatened species can be undertaken.

Grassland Restoration Projects

There are at least two ambitious restoration projects underway close to the Grampians, one at Woorndoo and one with Jalluka Landcare near Pomonal. Both welcome volunteers who can learn species identification, seed production and harvesting techniques, propagation and direct-sowing methods.  Woorndoo has a facebook page, for Jalluka contact Neil Marriott

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo Count 2018.

This year’s annual count for the nationally endangered South-eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo will be held on Saturday the 5th of May. The count takes place at 60 sites in South Australia and south west Victoria, mostly in stringy bark forest.

To register your interest or secure a search area, please contact the Project Coordinator, Bronwyn Perryman on 1800 262 062, email , or fill out the registration form found at

Spiders in the Grampians

Did you see the articles in the Age and on ABC on new spider finds in the Grampians? With the exquisite photos by our ranger Dave Handscombe? Here’s part of The Age article…

Peacock spiders, which are only a few millimetres long, have captured the public imagination recently due to their colour and ceremony.
And thanks to a recent discovery, Victorian spider enthusiasts no longer have to go far to find them.

Five species have been discovered in the Grampians, one of which had never been observed in Victoria and one that had never been observed outside Tasmania, making the find quite a coup.

“These spiders, they’ve got to put on a really good display – because if they are not happy with it, the females will go and eat them,” says Grampians park ranger Dave Handscombe, who found the species in October.

Mr Handscombe has worked as a ranger for more than 30 years, “and I’m looking forward to retirement”, he says.

Mr Handscombe decided to see if he could find one in his ranges. He and two friends picked a few likely spots in the Grampians National Park – places where the vegetation wasn’t too thick and where there had been no recent bushfires – and went spider hunting.

“What you’ve got to do, is really concentrate on the ground,” he says. “The trick is moving your foot and trying to detect any movement on the ground. And because they are jumping spiders, they tend to jump out of the way of your boot.”

Only a single species of Maratus had ever been spotted in the Grampians, Mr Handscombe says. But as soon as his team started looking, they found dozens of the creatures. “They are not rare, but they are tiny – three to five millimetres in size – and so most people don’t notice them. You can find them pretty well anywhere in the Grampians.”

Other than boot-detecting, the best way to find Maratus is to look for long strands of web attached to plants. The spider is a bungee-jump hunter; it uses silk to attach a safety line to a tree before leaping at moving prey, catching unlucky victims mid-air.

Mr Handscombe advises anyone hoping to see the spider to head to the Grampians between September and December, when the spiders moult and the males reveal their colourful plumages.

Red Gum Festival

The Cavendish Community are very excited to be hosting the inaugural Red Gum Festival from the 13th -15th April 2018. As part of the event, they are aiming to provide the local community and visitors with a broad range of red gum and environmental related information, advice, opportunities and the chance to connect with relevant groups and organisations.

They have invited FOGG to participate and we will be contributing something about the history of our Red Gum Walk.