"Friends” is an incorporated environment group which was formed in April 2002. All members are voluntary and there are no paid staff.
The group is committed to the indigenous revegetation of the 16 kilometre section of the Bellarine Rail Trail, between South Geelong and Drysdale Railway Stations. We work in close collaboration with the trail managers, the City of Greater Geelong (COGG)
Meetings: Meetings are held at 7pm every 3rd Tuesday of the Month at the Leopold Uniting Church cnr Bellarine Hwy & Ash Rd Leopold. All members are invited to attend, as are people from the local community who may wish to have input into the future development of the Trail. Our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Funding for our activities results from successful applications to Federal or State governments, to the City of Greater Geelong or to local private sector companies. These grants enable our organisation to carry out specific tasks on the trail. Working Bees are held mostly on Wednesday mornings, whilst some take place on a Saturday to cater for those members who may have full time jobs. We have also assisted at COGG special event family days held at Drysdale. The majority of the trees, shrubs and grasses planted are those which we propagate from seed at the Karingal Community Nursery (formerly Barwon Water Community Nursery), located in Swanston Street South Geelong.
Since our beginning in 2002, the members of the group have attended many working bees not only planting a variety of trees, shrubs and grasses along the trail, but have also spent many hours mulching and watering to ensure plantings are successful, despite the difficulties faced during years of drought. In addition to work done on the plantations, many hours have been devoted to construction and installation of picnic tables and seating at various locations along the trail.
Distance Markers: These have been installed along the Trail at every kilometre point between South Geelong and Queenscliff and are each individually numbered to serve as location markers as a guide for emergency services (ambulance, fire brigade) to attend should the need arise.
We are a not-for-profit, volunteer, environmental group committed to the indigenous re-vegetation of the Bellarine Rail Trail between South Geelong and Drysdale Railway Stations, a distance of some 18 kilometers. The group was initiated in 2002 with the support and encouragement of the municipal body responsible for the management of the rail trail – the City of Greater Geelong. It is this council which supervises the trail work carried out by our members.
Two of our current members actually started habitat work on the trail prior to the group being formalized. Alastair Macintosh started working in the Moolap Station Road area in 1998. Fred Cook began his efforts at the former railway station site at Curlewis, in early 2002.
On the Labor Day holiday weekend in 2002, Col Sheppard and other Council staff organized the first tree-planting day on the trail – in the area adjacent to the Geelong Show-grounds. The public were invited along to assist in this working bee / BBQ, and were encouraged to bike a section of the trail, to personally visualize the future potential of this community asset. Given the initial hot summer the ground was rock hard, and despite the severe drought conditions, a large majority of plantings have, with the help of some TLC from our members, survived and prospered.
The Trail follows the old railway line which runs from Geelong to Queenscliff. Much of the railway line has been removed between South Geelong and Drysdale, however, the section from Drysdale to Queenscliff is still used by the Bellarine Steam Preservation Society as a tourist railway.
The “Rail Trail Reserve” that surrounds the walking / riding track, has an average width of 30m but the width expands into five larger areas (old railway station sites and adjoining council reserves). This reserve today features remnant and (newly planted) indigenous vegetation, creating a safe and tranquil environment for users. Unfortunately the original remnant habitat was scattered, small in area, and low in diversity of species.
The City of Greater Geelong do provide a lot of the necessary day-to-day working funds for the group, that include Councillor Community Grants for specific projects such as building, and installing, distance markers, trail seating and picnic tables. Other funds are donated from generous individuals and the private sector, along with successful grants from government, such as the Envirofund Program run by the Federal Government. The group was successful in 2006 in receiving a $11,830 grant in this program, the outcome being 12,500 plants installed and rabbit-proofed.
Two Friends members are part of the council rail trail Advisory Committee and the ‘annual work program’ for the group is determined by negotiation with the council officer. Council ground staff prepare the areas to be planted and supply mulch that ensures good plant survival rates.
The Friends re-vegetation program on the trail will link areas of existing vegetation to create a continuous green belt corridor through the heart of the Bellarine Peninsula. Landcare Victoria encourages adjoining landowners to complement their private plantings with the Trail, thus creating linking wildlife corridors.
A real positive for the group is its relationship with the former “Barwon Water” Nursery in Swanston St. Geelong - now the Karingal Community Nursery. This facility allows our volunteers to propagate plants, from seed and cuttings, thereby lowering the cost outlay of procuring plants. The storage and automatic watering systems inherent in this facility have greatly reduced our workload. The nursery staff are always willing to give good advice when required.
Monthly meetings are held to review working bees, funding, safety, equipment acquisitions and other trail issues that arise from time to time. Our Works Coordinator, Warren Long, is central to this organizational planning and eventual outcomes. In 2010, our former Works Coordinator, Fred Cook was awarded an OAM in the Queen’s Birthday Honour List - for his achievements in this field. The group was also awarded the City of Greater Geelong Environment Award in 2009 in recognition of the work achieved by our volunteer team. Over the 14 year period since 2002, some 50 active members have been associated with our group., with a great membership blend of young and old, male and female.
During the 1850s in most parts, the land on the Bellarine Peninsula was heavily timbered with fine trees - tall red-gums and everywhere the sighing she-oaks, so named because of its resemblance to the American shee-oak. From that time settlement saw the destruction of a majority of this natural habitat.
Our re-vegetation efforts since 2002, along the trail, now display a ‘part replica’ of that original habitat – now evidenced by the Moolap grasslands, the Sheoaks through Leopold, the variety of gums and under-story plants adjacent to the Curlewis golf course, and the plantations on both sides of Jetty Rd, Drysdale - where the growth has been prolific throughout.
Today, more than 88,000 indigenous plants have been installed, ranging from grasses, ground-covers, shrubs, climbers and large trees, covering over 70 specie. Volunteer hours worked by our members total over 20,500 hours. (A lot of volunteer hours are spent on controlling / removing invasive weeds such as Gorse, Carpet Weed and African Broom.) Plant survival rates exceed 85%.
Major Trail Development Projects
The following list indicates projects planned in our early days which have all since been largely completed, but improvement works continue from time to time:
As a community service, we also undertake the following activities to promote our agenda:
We acknowledge the invaluable assistance of the following sponsors/donors:-
Alcoa (Tools & Safety Vests)
Barwon Water (Use of plant propagation facilities at the now named Karingal Community Nursery at South Geelong.
Leopold Community Bank (Bendigo Bank) (Car trailer, water tank, ride-on mower, defibrillator)
Corangamite CMA (Admin costs)
Cycling Geelong (Provision of materials for tables and seating)
Geelong Touring Cyclists (Provision of materials for tables and seating)
Landcare & Point Lonsdale Nursery (Plant donations)
Member Chris Baker (Initial Website design & hosting)
Ocean Grove Barwon Heads RSL
Parks Victoria (Garden Materials)
Private sponsor - Brendan & Jo Heatlie of Leopold
Tattersalls Melbourne (Club Mower)
Tuckers Funeral and Bereavement Service (Remembrance Trees)
Victorian Surveyor General (Surveyor Markers on Trail at Whittington)
Plant Species Used