Growing groundcover: Friends of Black Hill Reserve’s secretary and president, Neil Huybregts and Jeni Eastwood check on the park’s developing native garden. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

Reserve’s native flora flourishes with a little help from its friends

August 1, 2020 BY

THE Black Hill Flat Native Garden is thriving with the help of the Friends of Black Hill Reserve as they facilitate COVID safe working bees on Sundays.

FOBHR secretary, Neil Huybregts said volunteers are welcome by the banks of the Yarrowee River, just below the hill, from 1.30pm to contribute to the ongoing project, offering TLC to the bushland while social distancing.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of trees that were planted mostly by kids from St Alipius, and they’re maturing now, need to be thinned out and need an understory of plants growing underneath,” he said.

“The City of Ballarat are now supplying mulch regularly, so we’ve started mulching it and planting it out will small stuff. There’s a native pelargonium which is pretty, veronica gracilis is a native groundcover with tiny flowers, and we scored some indigenous hardenbergias.

“We’re planting on mullock. All of this land is reclaimed and mullock has zero nutrition as basically ground up rock, so it’s a bit tricky with what lives and what doesn’t. We’ll focus on planting things that are hardier.”

A small native mint garden is currently developing in a damp area by the creek, with plants from the City of Ballarat’s indigenous nursery.

FOBHR was established to protect and celebrate the Black Hill Reserve as an “inner city park” which offers quiet, secluded green space while still right in the heart of Ballarat.

“Black Hill Reserve is actually closer to the Town Hall than Lake Wendouree. It’s a bush reserve, it’s a walking route, a cross country and downhill cycling venue.

“You often meet people who are lost. You’re a 20-minute walk from the Town Hall, and these people are lost in the bush,” Mr Huybregts laughed.

“It’s a fantastic space to have so close to the centre of town. The Friends group is about protecting that, building on it, and doing what we can to help out.”

As a historian, the value of the stories of mining days gone by, told by the landscape, are not lost on Mr Huybregts.

“The first known gold discovery in Victoria was at Black Hill in 1845. Where the native garden is, we had the biggest quartz crushing and stamping mill in Ballarat. It had 80 heads, and in the first half of the 1860s, it was running 24-seven,” he said.

“It must have been so noisy and incredible. The open cut mine down the centre of Black Hill is a real legacy of the transitioning between diggers and mud, to big company mines.”

If you’re interested to help, please make contact first via the Facebook community at facebook.com/groups/1684095331806476 or by email at [email protected], to ensure COVID compliance is maintained.