Jun 212020

Each week a group of easy walkers meet together to enjoy a good walk, lots of chat and (of course) exchanging of thoughts and ideas. We regularly solve the problems of the world whilst we huff and puff along the pathways of Nillumbik Shire and surrounds. It's a great way to start the week, especially since the easing of some of the restrictions.

As our walks meander along, I am always amazed at the range and number of interesting snippets of conversation I hear and (of course) take part in.

A few weeks ago, as we walked on the path in the lower reaches of Westerfolds Park, I happened to mention to my companions that I and others from various community groups helped with the plantings of all the native trees and understory plants in the park. People were surprised when I spoke of how the park had developed.

When one walks through the many winding pathways of the area, one tends to think it has always looked as it does today. That is not the case. The hundred year old river red gums were always there, but all the small (now 30 foot high) wattles and gums were planted out in the early 1980s. They now provide screening and habitat for all manner of creatures, as well as shade and visual appeal as they flower and grow towards maturity.

From my memory, I seem to recall that, when the park was declared in 1977 by the then Melbourne Water Authority, it was rolling pasture and grazing land for the old Manor House property. The imposing Manor House was built in 1936 and stands now empty as a reminder of a bygone era.

During the rapid expansion of Melbourne, many farms and local orchards were subdivided for housing. However, because of the regular large floods in our area, the Manor was not sold off and (of course) our community are the beneficiaries.

When the park was first laid out, it looked so stark with its bitumen pathways crisscrossing the pastureland of waving grasses with all those old river gums standing like sentinels guarding the former property and (of course) the land of the indigenous owners the Wurundjeri people of the first nation.

It wasn’t long before a Friends of Westerfolds Group was formed and, through the efforts of that group and many other groups including Manningham and Eltham councils working alongside park’s staff, the park was transformed into a sea of green plastic tree guards with thousands of carefully chosen indigenous plants beginning to spring up along pathways and in creek gullies.

We are lucky that so many people cared for this area and helped to establish a great recreational and cultural asset for us all.

So, many years later, it gives me pleasure to see that our many hours of work planting and sharing post-planting tea and scones have brought this place to life. This park and the wonderful river are all part of our local environment.

We are all charged with the responsibility of seeing it preserved and well used long into the future.