Progress in 2012
The Friends group has conducted regular working bees throughout 2012, continuing the work of the revegetating the disused former rail corridor between South Geelong and Queenscliff. Much work has been done particularly at Curlewis, Leopold and Newcomb by extending existing plantations whilst also developing new plantations to further enhance the rail trail at these locations.
Our group was selected as finalists and as such attended a Keep Australia Beautiful function at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 27. At that function, awards were announced in various categories to recognise the work done by groups and individuals throughout Victoria towards maintaining pride in their local communities.
Despite missing out on an award, to be chosen as a finalist is an acknowledgement that much has been accomplished since we commenced work 10 years ago in 2002 on this ambitious revegetation program. During those ten years, a total of more than 70,000 indigenous trees and ground covers have been planted, many tonnes of mulch spread whilst mowing and watering have continued. A very high rate of plant retention has been achieved as a result of this approach, despite the extreme drought conditions for much of this time.
This substantial accomplishment has involved many people who have regularly volunteered their time and effort to achieve the extraordinary transformation of an abandoned, disused rail corridor. As a result the trail is now a wonderfully practical, free to use, community asset of which we can all be proud. It is not only being well used by Bellarine Peninsula residents, but is attracting increasing numbers of visitors as a major tourist attraction within easy reach of people from surrounding districts, including Melbourne. More and more cyclists travel by train to Geelong and then ride the 33 kms to Queenscliff before returning to Melbourne, often the next day.
Walking groups also use the trail for excursions, and it is also gaining in popularity for charity fund-raising organisations. The Salvation Army conducted a walk from Queenscliff to Geelong in November 2011 involving nearly 400 walkers and which raised $15000 to assist homeless people. A similar event is to be held in November 2012, as explained at the Salvation Army website created for this event www.walkinghome2012.org.au where entry forms are available.
The story of the purpose and construction of the rail line is a fascinating part of the history of the Bellarine Peninsula, some of which can be read on signage installed by the City of Greater Geelong at the site of several former rail stations and sidings. A great example of this may be seen at Curlewis, where the rail line once crossed the Geelong/Portarlington Road, but which has now become a park-like environment with seating, picnic tables and a shelter for the use and enjoyment of those who wish to take a break from their cycling or walking activity on the trail.
The Friends group also take part in plantings with local schools to encourage young people’s interest in the natural environment. Recently, at Newcomb, we were joined by 38 students from three Geelong schools - St Joseph’s College, Clonard College and Sacred Heart College - who spent time working with us to add another 850 indigenous plantings along the rail trail at Newcomb, between the Bellarine Highway and Coppards Road. This joint effort with Year 7 and Year 11 students was arranged and co-ordinated in conjunction with Greening Australia and Alcoa of Australia, as part of the National Revegetation Project.
During July of this year, at the request of City of Greater Geelong, our volunteers conducted a working bee at Suma Park, refurbishing existing garden beds at the rail station by clearing/cutting back old vegetation, removing weeds, mulching and planting almost 200 shrubs and grasses. This station has been considerably improved as a result of Council installing a shelter with a table and seating and also up-to-date toilet facilities. These much-needed improvements to facilities at Suma Park station are vital to the running of the Bellarine Peninsula tourist railway and continued success of the very popular Blues Train.
We do welcome enquiries from schools or other groups who wish for a better understanding of environmental issues and would like to be involved in practical planting activities. We also look forward to building on our previous work and we welcome enquiries from local people who may wish to help as volunteers at our working bees.
Lone Pine tree planting
During April 2011 - prior to Anzac Day - our volunteers joined with members of the Ocean Grove RSL and members of Legacy in planting a Lone Pine tree in the Avenue of Honour on the rail trail at Curlewis. The tree is significant in being a direct descendant of the original Lone Pine seed brought back from Gallipoli, and is one of 18 in the Geelong and Bellarine region likely to eventually grow to a height of about 15 metres. The ceremonial planting was conducted by John Burton of Geelong Legacy, Alistair MacKintosh, President of the Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail, and Bill Huggins, President of the Ocean Grove RSL.
Alistair is seen here in the foreground on the day demonstrating his planting technique!
(photo by courtesy of John Dickinson from Ocean Grove RSL)
Scarborough Station Site
Recently we installed signage to indicate the location of the former railway siding known as Scarborough on the rail trail at Curlewis, immediately behind the Curlewis Golf Club. This siding handled outgoing produce from district farms and also served to bring supplies to local area farmers. In the 1880's, a group of investors bought and subdivided adjacent farming land in an attempt to develop the area but the financial crash of the early 1890's brought this ambitious venture to a close.
The railway siding was eventually closed down in 1914.
Queens Birthday 2010 Honours
Fred Cook, has been recognised for his tremendous voluntary contribution as Works Co-ordinator for the Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail, with a place on the Queen's Birthday Honours list for 2010.
Fred has been awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM) for leading this volunteer group in the revegetation work along the trail since 2002. The work goes on, but the trail has already been substantially transformed under Fred's supervision, with his constant planning, arranging of plant acquisitions, organising the volunteer working bees, and providing tools, water and mulch on site as required. Fred represents the organisation on the Bellarine Rail Trail Advisory Committee, and is also its representative on the Swan Bay Integrated Catchment Management Committee and the Bellarine Catchment Authority. His enthusiasm provides the essential motivation for the team of volunteers to continue despite cold or hot weather conditions, and to overcome the difficulties brought on by drought, so as to achieve a remarkably high retention rate for new plantings.
Fred Cook is deserving of the highest recognition for his efforts, which provide a wonderful example of just what can be achieved through the determined effort of volunteers in our community.
Rock Garden Development at Christies Road, Leopold
A new raised garden bed has being developed in the reserve adjacent to Christies Road. Several large rocks have been installed to provide an attractive visual feature, whilst at a recent working bee, 450 native seedlings were planted, watered, mulched and plant guards installed in this area. The rocks were provided by way of donation, and we also gratefully acknowledge the valuable assistance of Robertsons Transport who transported the rocks and positioned them on site.
Our volunteers have been busy constructing and installing two new picnic tables and seating in this reserve, and we hope to see future development of this area possibly to include barbecue facilities and playground to create a complete family recreational facility.
Environment Day Award
The Friends of the Bellarine Rail Trail volunteer group has been recognised by the City of Greater Geelong for their work along the trail, work which benefits all of the Bellarine community.
The presentation of an Environment Day Award was made on Friday 5 June 2009 by Mayor John Mitchell and Environment Portfolio holder Councillor John Doull, to key members of the group including Alistair MacKintosh of Newcomb, and Fred Cook and Trevor Jennings both of Leopold. The award reads "In recognition of outstanding services to the environment".