The Wallan Environment Group has successfully been awarded a 2022 Victorian Landcare Grant. The $19,785 grant will be directed at the removal of woody weeds from within a section of the former Wandong, Heathcote, Bendigo Railway’s reserve, which adjoins Hidden Valley and Wallan. While the last train went through this area 54 years ago in 1968, it is fortunate that this remaining 1.2km section of the railway has virtually been ‘locked away’ since 1888 from being cleared and developed for other purposes.
Claudia James, President of the Wallan Environment Group (WEG) said “Our aim is to conserve the high biodiversity values of the Hidden Valley Rail Reserve understorey”. One of the attractions of many railway reserves is that they are often the last preserves of locally indigenous flora. “The issue to be addressed in this reserve is woody weed control, mainly gorse and blackberry, because currently these are endangering the biodiversity and environmental values of the reserve. The hiring of contractors to spray those weeds will initially address this issue, then comes the removal of dead weed material and further work.” said Claudia.
Other community groups such as Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail-Trail (FBKRT), Mitchell Bicycle Users Group (MBUG) and the Mitchell Australian Plant Society (APS) members have attended working bees at this site, to help remove many of the minor incursions of these woody weeds. WEG and APS members have helped MBUG and FBKRT members with plant identification and eradication techniques. Support has also been provided by the Merri Creek Management Committee and the Upper Merri Landcare Coordinator, by mapping the weeds in the reserve. “The current status of this land remains under the jurisdiction of VicTrack, and WEG have been communicating with VicTrack in regards to this project.” stated Claudia.
Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail Planning Team Chair, Lindsay Clay, who has been involved in seeking to return this former railway reserve for community use, said. “It is fantastic that WEG has been able to obtain this grant. Our group has been working with WEG and other members of the Mitchell Shire community, to plan for a safe off-road trail between Wallan and Kilmore.”