The Fish Falls Seat Saga (Bill’s name)

Once upon a time there was a Zumsteins Friends Association, formed originally to campaign that Parks look after their heritage. When they felt that their concerns had been listened to they closed down and gave FOGGS the money left in their account. FOGGS decided that it would be good to use it by placing a seat on the path from Zumsteins to McKenzie Falls. But at that stage, I think, the path was still closed. Then came years of fires and floods. Then we had a look and decided it could best go near Fish Falls and sent a note to that effect to Parks.

Update to 2019 and the committee decide to get it done. But the note has been lost. So we start again. What sort of seat and where? Bill, Rodney and Leigh met with Hannah and chose the spot. But what sort of seat? A recycled plastic one was our choice, only to find that Parks have moved away from these back to timber. Bill did a lot of research and came up with several timber seats on the market. But which is the most environmentally responsible? Many committee emails back and forth, and Hannah kept very busy but quite determined that a new seat would be in by the end of the year. Hooray, there is now one ordered and we hope we can help install it.

Thanks to Bill for his persistence and and Hannah for her patience.

Halls Gap Botanic Garden

Halls Gaps Grampians Flora Botanic Garden is devoted to the plants that grow in Grampians Gariwerd. FOGGS held their AGM there last year and also helped a bit with weeding.

The BG committee learnt that there was an opportunity to apply for grants to regional Botanic Gardens and so we set to work. One project we very much want to do is to improve our information about indigenous knowledge and use of plants and state our appreciation to the original occupants of this area. FOGGS have offered us a financial contribution plus contributions of time and muscle in installing new signs etc. We’ve asked for other things as well, so now we just have to wait and see what we get.

Grasslands: Biodiversity Of South-Eastern Australia App – Free App

Australia’s native grasslands are some of our most critically endangered ecosystems, home to many endangered fauna and flora species. A new, free comprehensive field guide app for iPhone and iPad, Grasslands: Biodiversity of South-Eastern Australia, is now available. It introduces users to, and aims to build an appreciation of, the unique biodiversity of south-eastern Australia’s temperate native grasslands.

It is a collaboration between the University of Melbourne team that published Land of sweeping plains: Managing and restoring the native grasslands of south-eastern Australia and Ecolinc, a Department of Education and Training Specialist Science Centre focusing on environmental science curriculum programs for P–12 students and teachers.

For more information contact Associate Professor Nicholas (Nick) Williams, Urban Ecology and Urban Horticulture, School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Melbourne via email: .

Pomonal’s Biggest Science Experiment

Denis Crawford, who has several times been a speaker on insects at FOGG events, joined with WAMA and Anthea Nicholls to host a science event in our area to get the whole community involved in doing science. Once again Covid restrictions has made it very difficult, but during National Science Week 15 – 23 August 2020 .there will be an online presentation of various community projects. A Pomonal 15 yo looking at local orchids, HG primary school is doing something on ants, as is the HG Botanic Garden, plus a presentation on the Dark Matter Laboratory in Stawell.

More information on their website

Grampians Rail Trail

There is now a bike path from Stawell to the Grampians following the old route of the train line that carried stone from Heatherlie Quarry to Stawell and thence to Melbourne. It doesn’t actually go into the park but does go through the Illawarra Fauna and Flora Reserve then joins the Mt Dryden Rd. A hard working volunteer group in Stawell has put a lot of work into this and the views towards the mountains must be very rewarding.

Maps are available at

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.