Walking One Tree Hill

I took a morning off from working on our video exploring the benefits of mapping marine species movement, and drove out and into the Sugarloaf catchment – Christmas Hills area – and the Warrandyte Kinglake nature conservation reserve (that abuts the Kinglake National Park)..

This is the Happy Valley track – it isn’t a long walk, or even a difficult one, but it is certainly beautiful, ascending up one tree hill through beautiful dry sclerophyll forest. At first, you could think it a place of uniform, consistent bushland. However, taking a refined look will expose a stretch of gully woodland, red box dry grassy forest, herb rich foothills, and messmate damp forest – seamlessly blended together as only nature can..

I’d been here before, and knew exactly where I was going, allowing me to amble knowledgeably uphill. The weather and time of the week provided me one of the best days of the year so far – low twenties, crystal clear blue skies with not a cloud in sight, plus it was a tuesday. perfect..

Pausing for drinks, I pulled out the notepad and started writing: sounds, colours, the absence of immediate personal despair. the sun was painting the world the colour of autumn – that golden wash – amid the returning greens that summer had scorched, and the shadows not yet coated with cold as it soon will be. caught sound of frogs in the distance – water trapped somewhere ahead..

A clearing opens away to your left – unlike the other side of the road where open dry forest stands with little to no under storey, this anthro-gully sits lush with rushes and reeds, quietly fenced with three to four metre ferns. Moss covers the immediate earth, and the layers pile on top of each other until the canopy. Birds weave in and out of the vegetation – wrens, honeyeaters, wagtails, whilst a pair rosellas join in from above, feasting on a growth of mistletoe. Sitting atop the up-turned roots of a rough-barked eucalyptus, i admire and learn from my surroundings..

Much of this vegetation is listed as vulnerable, in that only ten to thirty percent of what existed prior to European settlement remains. Areas like these provided early colonisers with a brilliant selection of timbers, and hence their decimation. Places like happy gulley can help you imagine what the whole outer north/north east of Melbourne used to/could be like: smooth, white trunks of the manna gums, coarse dark barks of the peppermints, or, my personal favourite (the dominant reminder of home) the solid red box..

Last night my sister and I talked our way through a myriad of topics, one of which was the increasing intensity of appreciation that coincides with the gaining of specific knowledge..

One skill I’ve picked up in the past few years, one enhanced remarkably with even a basic knowledge of flora growth, is acknowledging signs of human disturbance – however aged. A mine shaft, or a upturned rusty water tank are somewhat obvious remnants. They may have been there for a couple of decades (or in the case of a mine, a hundred or more years – gold mining begun in christmas hills in the late eighteen-fifties). There’s the remnants of roads once carved into the hillside, now an elongated slope or step in the bush. scarred hills bare of certain vegetation. Or slump piles from the still-operating mine upstream covered in mature, and yet by no means massive, eucalypts. (I wish I could say human disturbance is confined to the past, but unfortunately at times you can still catch the sound of distant farmers, drivers and aeroplanes)..

There’s a tree above the banks of the Yarra River, on the hills where the river cuts through from yarra glen, that is thought to be a few hundred years old. It is massive. Absolutely massive – a size probably non-existent anywhere anymore. Once observed, you can appreciate then the youth of the bush surrounding you, as well as the extent of timber harvesting in the area..

However, disturbance aside, it still remains a brilliant spot in the outer north-east! Remember, there aren’t many places (if any) where you can escape completely from society in the Port Phillip catchment..

With this writing complete, I return to my hot crossed bun, and the thought of a bigger breakfast..

I know a wishmaker..

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