JournalOpen Day at Surbiton Park

Pinkerton Landcare & Western Land Services planting at Class A Gully

Between 16th – 18 July Pinkerton Landcare & Environment Group planted hundreds of plants at two sites (Class A Gully and Pinkerton Flat) beside the Werribee River adjacent to Western Water’s Melton Recycled Water Plant at Surbiton Park. These are amongst the most dramatic scenic sites on the river, with steep rocky escarpments dropping down to the river.

Class A Gully is a short but steep gully that runs into the Werribee River at Surbiton Park. The gully begins immediately below Western Water’s new Class A recycled water treatment plant, hence the name. The head of the short gorge is capped by a precipitous sharp escarpment, indicating that there may have been a waterfall here in wetter ages. The gully is said to present a spectacular sight during high rainfall events. Numerous Werribee Blue Box trees are a feature of this sites, as well as occurring sporadically along the entire Werribee River.  The presence of Blue Box trees here would seem to confirm that this site is an artefact of wetter climate in ages past; as Blue Box trees are usually found only in deep valleys in East Gippsland & along the east coast of Australia. Platypus have been seen in the pool at the bottom of the gorge, further making this site of biodiversity importance.

The gully, as well as being spectacular, presents a challenging site for environmental activity. Boxthorns were once a prominent feature of this steep rock landscape. Their removal has involved highly skilled work by environmental contractors, often involving abseiling; funded by grants from several bodies such as Western Water, Melbourne Water. Restoration of this nationally rated scenic Werribee River volcanic gorge of the Werribee Plains has been overseen by Western Water.

The site was prepared prior to planting by Western Land Services. Boxthorns & other weeds were removed & holes drilled, to better facilitate later planting.

The actual day of planting were cold & wet, & the steep slopes were slippery with sticky black mud. Three volunteers (Frances, Mark & Daryl) planted in the rain & mud, assisted by Peter & Mick of Western Land Services. One man cycled from Melton to participate: an admirable feat considering the miserable conditions of the day! Bright orange hi-visibility tops were soon stained with mud after many slides in the mud.

Pinkerton Flat is a river flat beside the river, a few hundred metres downstream from Class A Gully. The Flat is of heritage and historical value as well as environmental value. The original European settlers here, the Pinkerton family, had situated their homestead here, in the mid Nineteenth Century. The ruins of the bluestone building can still be seen here. There is also much evidence of the Aboriginal people who lived here for many thousands of years prior to European settlement. The river here flows in increasingly long and deep waterholes as it flows toward Werribee and eventually the sea. The Pinkertons named their property Woady Yaloak (big water in the old Wurundjeri language); perhaps this reflects the original native name for the site. Again, Platypus have also been seen in the river here. Much of this river flat was for many years a market garden, bounded by stone walls.

We planted Blue Box, Red Gums, Melicitis, Woolly Teatree & River Bottlebrush as well as Poa tussock grass; grown from seed collected locally from indigenous plants. These planting days were part of the Ecological Restoration of the Werribee River Volcanic Gorge Project. This ambitious project is a partnership between Pinkerton Landcare and Environment Group, Western Water and Melbourne Water; to restore the natural environment in this spectacular gorge.