Wallan rail reserve showing eucalypts with a grassy understoreyA hidden natural gem has been re-discovered by members of the Wallan Environment Group (WEG) in the far upper reaches of the Merri Creek catchment.

The 1.2km section of the former Heathcote Junction to Bendigo railway line near Hidden Valley in Wallan has been unmanaged and unused by trains for more than 50 years, however the significant natural values of the site have persisted. The area has remnants of the native vegetation that once covered the surrounding area. Otherwise these are limited to small, fragmented patches on roadsides.

The native vegetation however is under pressure from weed invasion especially large patches of Gorse and Blackberry, as well as Briar Rose and other woody weeds and the emerging and highly invasive South African Weed Orchid (Disa bracteata).

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WEG members held a working bee at the reserve in late 2021. The focus was to start removing the woody weeds in the south-eastern section; it was also an opportunity to further explore the natural values of the site and to look closely at the wonderfully diverse range of wildflowers, lilies, orchids and small shrubs.

Upper Merri Landcare Facilitator, Chris Cobern, showed the group how to identify and safely remove the South African Weed Orchid. Fortunately only 3 plants were found and the group then spent the morning exploring the area and cutting and painting woody weeds as they went.

WEG and the Upper Merri Landcare Facilitator (UMLF) are mapping the weeds and gathering information on the natural values and threats to the reserve. This information will help WEG and the UMLF to develop a restoration project including things such as weed control, revegetation and the installation of nesting boxes for wildlife. Community engagement events could inlcude a spring wildflower walk, National Tree Day community planting and maybe even a night walk-spotlighting activity to see what nocturnal creatures inhabit the area.

Wallan has a shortage of bushland areas set aside as public open space. This reserve offers the opportunity for locals to enjoy and appreciate a nearby natural bushland area and also offers a safe place for locals to cycle - especially children and those with limited cycling experience. Enhancing the reserve will hopefully lead to better walking/riding connections with the rest of Hidden Valley and Wallan.

The activity was also attended by members of the Mitchell Bicycle Users Group, the Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail Trail, Mitchell Shire CEO Brett Luxford and South Ward Councillor Rob Eldridge.