Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Nature News – July 2016: Nature Recovering in the Muckleford Valley

Posted on 22 August, 2016 by Connecting Country

In July’s installment of the Nature News in the Midland Express (pg 26, 2 July 2016 edition), renowned local ecologist, Paul Foreman shared his insights from getting to know his new property in the Muckleford valley – encouraging us to think about how the landscape works in both space and time.

In January this year our family moved from Castlemaine to a 46 ha property on the margins of the Muckleford Creek valley, Walmer. Though our initial focus has been settling into the house and establishing a garden, it has been interesting starting to get know the land we now own and its surrounds.

I automatically think about landscape in terms of how it all works in both space and time. One the earliest records for this area is found in Major Mitchell’s 1836 journal. Between Newstead and Castlemaine, on September 28 he fleetingly notes: “we passed alternately through strips of forest and over open flats well watered, the streams flowing southward; the country….. at least as fine as that we had left”. Although Mitchell tended to ‘gild the lily’, one of Australia’s first travel writers, William Howitt, who sailed from England to the Victorian goldfields in 1852, had a similar opinion of Muckleford valley: “[the township of Muckleford] lies in a splendid expanse of the richest meadow land imaginable, on the banks of a good creek.” Given these descriptions, it isn’t hard to image Aboriginal people long occupied and exerted an influence over this area.

Aerial photography from 1946 (above) and today (below) shows a landscape in recovery.

Fine country indeed! A landscape that has fared relatively well since the arrival of Europeans; avoiding the worst of the rapacious diggers with a terrain mostly suited to pastoralism. In view of both Mt Alexander and Tarrengower, our place has a mix of habitats: box-ironbark forest on the low sedimentary rises and a strip of what was once open grassy woodland on the margins of an unnamed side valley. (Perhaps being a ‘blow in’ I could be forgiven if I referred to said valley as Ottrey’s Creek, on account of the nearby ‘scrub’ from which it substantially drains. But I digress.) Although the hill country is entirely regrowth and the lower slopes only support fragments of the original bush, the last few decades has seen rapid ecological recovery, documented by aerial photography.

The constrained land use history has bequeathed us a surprisingly resilient landscape. The drainage lines are intact and there is little sheet erosion; the ground layer in the regrowth is diverse and abundant; and we are surrounded by a large expanse of remnant bushland. There is even widespread Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii) regrowth (literally thousands of them) and a few Blue Devils (Eryngium ovinum) coming back!  Along the roadsides and scattered across paddocks throughout the catchment there are still quite a lot of large habitat trees. I’ve already heard of numerous Tuan sightings since arriving and I’m told Swift Parrots can be ‘twitched’ at Muckleford Station most years. And on top of all that, amazingly, we are also blessed with no rabbits (our neighbour reckons the paddocks literally moved with them before calicivirus).

It is a privilege to be part of nature recovering, but not in a passive way. There is much we can do to make sure the environmental healing process endures. Connecting Country’s resources pages offer ideas on how you can better understand your land and take action to help its recovery: visit

3 responses to “Nature News – July 2016: Nature Recovering in the Muckleford Valley”

  1. Greg Waddell says:

    Great stuff Paul!
    Loving that you and Kylie have your hands on some nice remnant and we know that it is in good hands… would love to see it sometime… I’m excited you say the drainage lines are still intact… does this mean veg as well as no erosion?? Looks like from the aerial there may be a couple of LOTs too?

  2. Deane says:

    Oops, I meant to add that we do have rabbits, gorse, blackberries and hopefully no more wheel cactus! With the plan being to eradicate these undesirable co-habitors.

  3. Deane says:


    Great article and good to have your local knowledge and keen eye for for the ecological history of our valley. We are keen to see further regeneration and restoration of the land as the soil returns to the health that it almost certainly had prior to intensive agriculture over the last 150 years which has resulted in considerable soil compaction, acidification and consequent run-off. By returning the carbon to the once ‘rich soils’ of the valley we increase the chances of improving the soil hydrology, holding the water and helping the now itinerant streams to flow more regularly. Our dream for the Muckleford Valley is to have a rejuvenated landscape, greater biodiversity, agricultural productivity and a vibrant ecosystem and community.

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