The Axe Creek Protection Project

One of the big drawcards for us moving on to this property in 2022 was the fact that one of our boundaries is formed by Axe Creek, a major tributary of the Campaspe River. While it is usually referred to as a “seasonal” stream that is dry for much of the year, there’s good evidence to suggest that this is only a recent phenomena. In fact, when we first mentioned to an old fisherman friend back in Mount Dandenong that we were thinking of moving here, he waxed lyrical about his time spent as a young man fishing for perch along Axe Creek at Axedale.

Streams of native Water Ribbons (Triglochin procera) at the tail of one of the pools on our property.

Nowadays however, the creek tends to flow well in wet winters and springs before drying up completely through summer – although we were lucky to witness an exception to that last year, thanks to the unseasonably wet spring. Of course, that unseasonable wet weather led to devastating floods in October 2022, with the creek bursting its banks multiple times and turning our paddocks into raging watercourses, taking our fences along with it.

Axe Creek resembled a large inland lake for much of September and October 2022.

Fast forward a year, and we’ve seen a couple of very dry months that have thankfully had little impact so far thanks to all that water last year, but which will no doubt start to bite as the weather continues to warm up. Whether you blame this on climate change, or natural weather cycles, or poor land management practices – or as I suspect, a combination of all of the above – it’s clear that the health of the creek has been suffering for many years, and so when the opportunity to become involved with a project called the Axe Creek Protection Project came along, we jumped at the chance.

Axe Creek at its most serene.

Essentially, what this project aims to do is to restore valuable riparian habitat along the creek, in the hope that improved erosion controls, better shade coverage and reduced weed infestation will all help to conserve water within the creek, restore environmental flows and improve the chances of native fish, amphibians and even platypus returning to the area.

A large area of cleared land beside the creek.

When our next door neighbour approached us about repairing the shared fence line that had been wiped out not once, but twice last year due to flooding, we agreed that it would be crazy to replace like with like and just simply put up another sheep mesh fence. Whenever the creek floods, the debris that is carried with the floodwater builds up in the mesh and acts like a dam, bowing and stretching the wire until the whole thing gives way. Instead we decided to run individual strands of wire that are much more flexible and allow all but the largest of logs and branches to pass right through. We also agreed that the initial 50 metre stretch back from the creek was the most prone to flooding, and as such we finished our fence shorter, creating a fenceless corridor that we could then devote to streamside revegetation.

One of the flood damaged fences, where debris has managed to build up along the sheep mesh.
Replacing the sheep mesh with individual wires should alleviate some of the issues with flood damage.

On our property especially, there are some magnificent River Red Gums that remain along the creek, but pretty much all of the native vegetation besides that has been removed. Through consultation with Tim Jenkyn of BushCo Land Management (the company leading the project), we’ve come up with a plan to return a small but significant area of grazing land to native habitat, and to diversify the number of plant species along our stretch of creek frontage.

One of the large River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) that dominate the lower part of the property.

The project has predominantly been funded via a $450,000 donation by Agnico Eagle, the operators of the nearby Fosterville Gold Mine, in collaboration with a number of community groups including Landcare, business groups, and the amazing volunteer group FOSSALS (Friends of Strathfieldsaye Streams and Land). More than 50 landholders, ourselves included, have signed up for the project and have given access to Tim and the BushCo team to conduct walkthroughs of our paddocks, identifying and spraying out any serious weed infestations and running rip lines along areas that are then going to be planted up.

A patch of Scotch Thistle that has been sprayed, and has started to die off.

Now before I go too much further, I do want to address the elephant in the room. There’s a small but vocal group of locals who are vehemently opposed to the gold mine and everything it represents. Mining companies, and especially multinational gold miners, don’t always have a great track record when it comes to the environment and as new arrivals to the area, the last thing we want to do is throw shade on these folk and their sometimes quite legitimate concerns. But at the same time, we’re also well aware that there’s a lot of good things that the mining company do for the local community, through sponsorships and grants, and if it means having to dance with the devil sometimes to get a positive outcome, then strike up a chord and let me put on my dancing shoes. Call it guilt money, or blood money if you like, but whatever the case, it’s money that is being handed back to the community, and I for one intend to make sure that it gets put to good use. Besides, with modern society’s love of technology, including mobile phones and electric vehicles, it’s not like we’re going to be curtailing our need for more gold any time soon, and we do happen to live smack bang on top of one of the richest gold deposits in the world.

Sorting out plants into buckets for dispersal among the volunteers.

With that out of the way, I can get on to describing the way the project is currently progressing. After a few false starts (why is it that it only ever seems to rain on a Tuesday?), the weather finally stayed clear enough in early October to allow about a dozen or so volunteers from FOSSALS to turn up for a tree planting day across the two properties here, and they managed to make short order of the 400+ native trees and shrubs that Tim had selected for our stretch of creek.

Planting underway.

At this early stage, we have concentrated on colonising Acacia species such as Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon), Early Black Wattle (A. mearnsii), Silver Wattle (A. dealbata) and Wiralda (A. retinoides). Along a slightly elevated line further back from the creek we’ve also planted Yellow Box (Eucalyptus melliodora) and down in the lower parts of the creek bank we have planted River Bottlebrush (Callistemon sieberi) and Tall Sedge, (Carex appressa). The plan is that once these plants become established, (and these are all fairly fast growing varieties), they will offer protection for a secondary round of planting that will include some of the more delicate, lower growing shrubs such as Correas and Grevilleas and native grasses and sedges.

The rip lines slowly started to fill up with trees and tree guards.
The planting extends along the creek edge across the two properties.
With a lot more young red gums on Fraser’s property, the species planted here were predominantly wattles.

With a dry summer threatening, the important thing now is going to be to keep the watering up to the plants, but thankfully we have recently had more than 50mm of rain, which has managed to penetrate a long way down into the rip lines. That should encourage these fast growing species to send their roots down deep into the soil, binding it far better than the pasture grasses could ever do, and helping to minimise any further erosion.

On some of the more slightly elevated areas on my property, we also planted a number of Yellow Box.
Within the confines of the creek banks, more than 40 River Bottlebrush were also planted.

In addition to the planting along the creek, I have been working closely with Tim on a plan to revegetate one of the main flood paths, directly above our dam. The large soak here is currently full of Juncus, but we want to diversify this to include swamp-loving natives like Totem Poles (Melaleuca decussata) and Heath Tea Trees (Leptospermum myrsinoides), as well as planting up the higher, erosion-prone top of the mound behind the dam with drier woodland species such as Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) and Red Ironbark (E. tricarpa), interspersed with Rough Wattle (Acacia aspera) and Common Fringe Myrtle (Calytrix tetragona). On the face of the mound, the plan is to have a mass of Gold-dust Wattle (A. acinacea), Showy Parrot Pea (Dillwynia sericea) and Cats-claw Grevillea (Grevillea alpina), which should create a stunning visual each spring that will be visible from the house.

The soak area around the front of the dam that is also going to be revegetated.
This lower area leading up to the dam was inundated during 2022’s heavy flooding.
This slightly elevated area above the soak will host a copse of Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii)

Unfortunately for most of the morning on the Tuesday, Fraser and I both had to work, with several remote meetings on the agenda, however we did manage to join Tim and the FOSSALS for a bit of morning tea (including carrot cakes supplied by Vanessa), during which the crew presented us with a couple of plaques to go on the front gate, celebrating the fact that we’re now making a contribution to such an important local project. We look forward to continuing this new collaboration for at least the next twelve months that the project officially has to run, but hopefully for many more years to come. It may not happen in our lifetimes, but hopefully somewhere along the line, a young fisherman might one day wander the banks of Axe Creek once again. And if he were to stop for a moment under the shade of a Blackwood tree to watch a platypus paddling in a deep pool, then I know I will have done my bit.

Commemorative plaques for the front gate.

A new home, a new look

Our previous web hosting company decided to increase our annual fee by 125%, so we’ve decided to move hosts accordingly.

Unfortunately, 3 years of accumulated crap across the main website and several sub domains meant that the migration of images & posts was turning out to be a bit of a nightmare, so we have decided to take it all down in the short term while we change the look and feel of the whole site.

Our main website, “” will now take on the name of our previous blog site “Greetings from Greatrakes” and will serve more as a blog, including elements of our former photo blog “Rexness Photography”. In the meantime, “Our Travel Diary” and “Vanessa’s Cakes to Share” will spend some time offline before returning as their own sub domains with a new look and feel.