On Sunday, a walk was organised by the City of Wyndham and Parks Victoria (PV) to visit part of the Western Grassland Reserve, Wild Dog Gully. This was the first of what will be regular walks, with the aim of building community interest and understanding of the various reserves.
If you want to know some of the background of the reserves, check out this link which also has a map. The Western Grassland Reserves will cover two areas of land outside the Urban Growth Boundary south-east of Melton and west of Werribee, that connect the You Yangs area to the Werribee River across the volcanic plains.
The Victorian Government has committed to setting up two grassland reserves to protect endangered native grasslands and threatened species, as well as mitigate any potential impacts of urban development on grasslands removed in the growth corridors. The reserve will eventually cover about 15000 ha, with the first property purchased in 2013. To date only about 1200 ha are in the hands of PV to manage.
We visited two sites with the first being one of the more challenging area and the second site, a good representation of a quality native grassland. Site 1 was adjoining Cobbledicks Ford Road and beside the Werribee River. A path follows the river and a few large Werribee Blue Box were a highlight. Occasionally there were pockets of native plants in among the rocks and a few walkers came across a tiger snake, which disappeared between some rocks.
Once I realised that the reserves are not all about grasslands, even though it is called the Western Grassland Reserves, I saw the landscape and cultural values on offer. Many people who visit this area would just see a range of different plants and not categorise them as weeds as I do. They would enjoy the wide-open space and views and the chance to be ‘out in nature’.
As we walked along in the river valley and up the gully, there was discussion about what the site could look like in the future.
The second site was the Mt Cottrell Nature Conservation Reserve on Troup’s Road, Mt Cottrell. While overgrazed by horses in the past, at least it was not cultivated. The vegetation quality apparently differs across the block and the front section is a lovely, diverse native grassland. If there are more remnants such as this one, it will be worth joining the next walk to see some other gems.