Wallaby Gully
Sunday - 9 March 2008

Frances, Irene & Daryl met at Exford to spray weeds on the hillside (phalaris & serrated tussock) in the1.5 hectare planting area enclosed by the rabbit exclusion fence above Wallaby Gully. Thistles & Patterson's Curse were cut out by mattock.

Despite the drought we noticed several kangaroo grass tussocks sprouting. With the assistance of Mowbray College we planted about 1,000 grasses in this site last year but losses were heavy due to the drought, so it was good to see grasses starting to grow.
We were joined on the inaugural walk into Wallaby Gully by John Smith.

The main purpose of this walk was to asses what vegetation grew within the gully & to plan what weed management strategies would be needed for its restoration.

Descending into Wallaby Gully

The entrance of the gully was choked with fallen branches, rocks & phragmites rushes, making initial progress into the gully difficult. Obviously it had been many years, decades perhaps, since anyone has had reason to enter the gully.

Picking a path up the gully

Walking along the narrow gully floor
Near the entrance were several Blackwood wattles growing on the floor & sides of the gully. Seeds will be collected from these in spring for subsequent replanting as part of environmental restoration of the gully.

The gully is actually a steep sided gorge, about 150metres in length, with sheer walls of vertical basalt walls & tumbled down rocks. Rocks that had fallen from the rocky walls littered the floor of the gully.
Shortly into the gully we disturbed the pair of Black Wallabies that give the gully its name. They were obviously not used to intruders as it was some time before they broke cover from the tall phragmites rushes near our feet & bounded deeper into the gully. A network of wallaby tracks indicated that this has been their home for quite some time. Several pairs of wallabies make their homes here, & in the adjacent Werribee River & lower Toolern Gorge rocky gorges, unseen among the rocky escarpments.

Deeper in the gully we surprised the wallabies once again, obviously thinking themselves secure deep in their isolated rocky gorge. They bounded up the sheer vertical rock walls, to double back behind us. John found where one wallaby track led down a sheer drop over two metres high, with only a couple of tiny footholds down the steep rock face. Hopefully these wallabies, & those living in the nearby rocky escarpments, will continue to find refuge here on the edge of Melton.

At the head of the gully

John Smith at the head of Wallaby Gully
At the head of the gully was a steep rocky wall that is obviously the result of large volumes of water rushing over the top in wetter times. This would once have been the site of a raging waterfall in times of heavy rain. The entire gully would have been formed by a rushing torrent of water. Peppercorns & boxthorns grew heavily up the rocky walls.

Rocky walls above Wallaby Gully

Peppercorn tree deep in Wallaby Gully
Scrambling over the rocks & bushes are masses Bridal Creeper although it has not achieved an intensely heavy infestation yet. Dead corms litter the gulley floor, indicating that that the drought is taking its toll on Bridal Creeper also. Control of this creeper is seen as a prime priority to prevent its taking hold of the whole gully. Peppercorns & Boxthorns are also a high priority here, as is control of phalaris grass.

John Smith's experience & expertise was invaluable as we assessed the weeds & discussed on site the best means of weed control.

Heading back along narrow path below the head of the gully

John Smith in a thicket of Boxthorns

Collecting Fragrant Saltbush seeds for propagation & subsequent replanting