FoG Workparties

FoG workparties give members and other the chance to engage in some hands on work with grassland with a bunch of knowledgeable people. Get involved!

Workparty sites come and go. Current ones are:

Workparties at Scrivener’s Hut, Stirling Park and Yarramundi Reach

FoG works with the National Capital Authority (NCA) and Greening Australia on conservation work in three areas in central Canberra. For details on current workparties, see the FoG calendar.

Workparty dates for 2021

Work parties will generally be held on Sunday mornings between 9 am and 12:30 pm:

The work includes weeding, planting and rubbish removal. Herbicides are often used so these events are not suitable for young children.

Work parties will be cancelled if: a) the forecast is for 35 deg C+, b) it is a total fire ban day, c) there is lightening, or d) there is heavy rain.

Work party sites

Scrivener's Hut is a small but ecologically important grassy woodland on the western side of Capitol Hill, between Capitol and State circles, ACT.

Stirling Park (52 ha) in Yarralumla, ACT. It has a big population of the endangered Button Wrinklewort and grassy woodland.

Yarramundi Reach is on Lady Denman Drive, ACT.

More info below.

   woody weeds in Stirling Park plant survey at Yarrmundi Reach

Left: woody weeds in Stirling Park

Right: plant survey at Yarramundi Reach

History

There were 16 FoG working parties across the three sites in 2013 following the commencement of mid-weekly events in Stirling Park and increased support from residents of Yarralumla. FoG supporters contributed over 1,000 hours in volunteer work in 2013, for a total of 3,860 since 2009. Around 1,200 m3 of woody weeds were cut, for a total of over 2,900 m3 since 2009.  For more information on FoG's work see the Annual Reports.

The statistics for our volunteer efforts in 2015 showed that over 17 workparties, 192 people volunteered for 651 hours and we cut an estimated 1,053 m3 of green weeds. More importantly, we made significant progress in clearing Stirling Park of woody weeds and in replanting key areas of both Stirling Park and Yarramundi Reach.

Thanks to an ACT Government Environment Grant of $19,010 in 20013-14, FoG was able to engage contractors to spray key weeds at the three sites.

Stirling Park park is named after Admiral Sir James Stirling, the first Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Western Australia (who had no known association with Canberra). Wikipedia says "In October 1834 Stirling led a detachment of 25 armed troopers and settlers .  .  . that attacked an encampment of 60-80 Pindjarep Aboriginal people.  .  .  . Settlers accounts claim between 10-80 Aboriginals died compared to Aboriginal oral history which claim 150 people died. Stirling remained entirely unsympathetic to the needs of Aboriginal people in Western Australia, and never recognised their prior ownership of the land despite the fact that the Buxton Committee of the British House of Commons informed him that this was a mistake for which the new colony would suffer. Stirling mentioned in dispatches that the Aborigines 'must gradually disappear'."

General update, February 2018

Stirling Park is in much better condition than over the past decade thanks to our efforts and those of the NCA. The last of the ‘old growth’ woody weeds should be dispatched this month. Concerted spraying of Briar Rose, Blackberry and St John’s Wort over the last two years has greatly reduced their populations. We hired a contractor this summer who has significantly reduced infestations of Fennel and Everlasting Pea. Our plantings of eucalypts, wattles and other shrubs have suffered some losses but surviving plants are thriving. Most exciting is the spread of a number of species wildflowers that we planted with Greening Australia in three plots, with wind-blown seed aiding the recolonization of weeded grassland. The Attunga Point shoreline remains largely weed free after our work to mop up after the NCA contractors, who removed major woody weeds. Happily, dense indigenous regrowth (good small bird habitat) is maturing following the removal of over 200 weed trees on the western side of Stirling Ridge three years ago.

Challenges remain, including finding the right method to kill Blue Periwinkle infestations. We keep finding more African Lovegrass and Serrated Tussock incursions. Illegal dumping of garden waste (e.g. lawn clippings and autumn leaves), especially off the Fitzgerald Street car park, is one source of these weeds: FoG wrote a letter to local residents in April 2018.

At Yarramundi Reach our battle against weed grasses (African Lovegrass, Chilean Needle Grass and Paspalum) continues. Blackberry and St John’s Work are considerably reduced. The NCA’s enhanced burning program is helping to create the right density of grass cover to allow other wildflower species to thrive.

The NCA is supporting FoG again in 2018 with a $6,000 grant to pay for volunteer training (anyone keen to help with ChenCert III or First Aid certification, please contact me), tools, plants and weed control services.

Friends of Grasslands has thanked the new Chief Executive of the National Capital Authority, Sally Barnes, and her staff for allocating additional FY19 funds to manage the significant grassy woodlands at Stirling Park and grasslands at Yarramundi Reach. In April 2018, Sally Barnes visited Stirling Park with FOG to discuss future land management. The recent Federal budget has allowed a modest increase in funding to undertake essential maintenance of the National Capital Estate. The critical management activities to be funded by the NCA in 2018-19 are:

Stirling Park and Yarramundi Reach are already benefitting by the NCA’s investment in conservation planning, fire management and weed control. FOG considers that these additional interventions will significantly enhance conservation of cultural and natural heritage of these national lands. The work will enable greater public appreciation and use of these park lands. FOG is committed to continuing our volunteer contributions to conservation of these national lands in partnership with the NCA. We congratulate the NCA for their strategic investment in better management of these national lands.

General update November 2018

I’m still tallying up the stats but by my reckoning all three sites are substantially healthier thanks to our work:

Photo: Paul Ratcliffe and his victims at the 28 October 2018 work party. Our work party cleaned out woody weed regrowth on the west side of the Ridge - Gurubang Dhaura, maintained plantings, collected rubbish and sprayed St John’s Wort.

News February 2019

At the State Circle woodland work party on 17 February, eight volunteers for our first work party of the year undertook maintenance of the State Circle woodland. Happily we managed to eliminate virtually all regrowth woody weeds and remaining blackberry, St John’s wort and African lovegrass. We sprayed the blue periwinkle infestations with a new herbicide mix and removed a lot of rubbish. It is really pleasing that our efforts have turned this weed-ridden site into a place that can be conserved with a modest annual work party.

On 25 February a number of FOG committee members and volunteers met with the board and senior executives of the National Capital Authority at Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura to discuss management of high conservation value national lands. The NCA unveiled two signs for Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura that were prepared in consultation with FOG and the Ngunawal nation. FOG asked the NCA to consider rezoning the land to prevent development and to increase funding for management, including weed control and track maintenance. The NCA thanked all of us for our volunteer work to maintain the natural and cultural values of the national lands.

Stirling Park and Scrivener's Hut

Regeneration of forbs at Stirling Park FoG and Save Stirling Park Group, with strong support from the NCA, are working together to eliminate the infestations in the park of cotoneaster, pyracantha (firethorn), hawthorn, olive trees, Cootamundra wattles, photinia, privet, blackberry, fleabane, St John’s wort - the list goes on. We are also planting a substantial number of species native to this area including eucalypts, kurrajongs, bursaria, acacias, small native plants and ground covers (forbes).

In January 2014, FoG President Sarah Sharp coordinated a re-survey of weeds and also threatened plants across key parts of Stirling Park. A number of the quarter hectare survey quadrats were almost completely free of woody weeds following volunteer restoration efforts since 2009, especially at the southern end of Stirling Ridge. Many thousand individual plants of a number of threatened species were counted. Sadly, other quadrats at the northern and eastern ends are still thick with weeds. The survey will help us target our future workparties to best effect.

A huge volume of woody weeds was cleared by the May 2014 workparty. Much of it was box thorn which left its mark on a few arms and legs but it was all dragged onto the pile outside the fence opposite the rusty sculpture in Alexandrina Drive. We had twenty-two workers ranging across students, Friends of Grasslands and Save Stirling Park Group.  It is pleasing to note that the numbers of volunteers continues to grow as more people realise the importance of retaining Stirling Park and of removing exotic and non indigenous  interlopers. These are the infestations of cotoneaster, firethorn (pyracantha), box thorn, olive trees and the Cootamundra wattles which have spread prolifically and impede the growth of species indigenous to this area.  Where the Tasmanian blue gums were felled and burnt was not pretty, but Friends of Grasslands planted 200 locally indigenous trees and shrubs.  As these start to grow, and other local species and wild flowers begin to re-populate the open space, the visual effect will increasingly improve for all those who walk run, learn or otherwise benefit from Stirling Park.

The ACT Government’s natural resources management program granted FoG $6000 for 2014–15 to control key weeds and do some planting at grassland sites on national lands (thank you ACT Government). FoG’s contractor sprayed Vinca, St John’s wort, african lovegrass and Chilean needle grass at the Scrivener’s Hut site, which should put it in excellent shape.

The site at Stirling Park in Yarralumla was heavily infested with Chilean needle grass and once this was sprayed in 2012 there was little remaining groundcover alive. In 2013 FoG and the Greening Australia planted 200 forbs in a section of the sprayed area. Fifteen months on (photo at right), Leucochrysum had gone from 40 to nearly 300 plants, with the second generation flowering and throwing seed. Little haloes of seedlings were starting to appear around both of the Chrysocephalum species planted. Eryngium had survived and was starting to flower. There were still issues with the roos, rabbits, a dry summer and emerging weeds, but the site was looking much better than it had two years earlier. In May 2018 FOG weed control contractors – Robert, Carl and Brent of EnviroAg – sprayed 4,250 litres of herbicide on large patches of Chilean Needlegrass on the eastern and northern lower slopes of Stirling Ridge. The weed grass sprayed is in areas where sufficient native grasses and forbs survive to recolonise the sprayed out areas. In April 2019 nine volunteers focused on restoration around the Westlake clearing. Around 45 shrubs were planted on disturbed lands, which should form small bird habitat. Woody weeds were felled and Blue Periwinkle mowed in preparation for spraying. Our Westlake ground cover plantings were freed from the decaying carton plant guards, so we are hoping for a magnificent wildflower display next spring.

Photo of people in fire fighting clothing working on edge of a smoky fire in woodland 16 May 2015Fire is an essential management tool for native grasslands. FoG worked with the National Capital Authority and Rural Fire Service volunteers to burn patches of Stirling Park on 16 May 2015. following our volunteer efforts to weed the Scrivener’s Hut / State Circle woodland in recent years, the NCA and Rural Fire Service conducted a control burn on the site in April 2018. The burn went very well and should aid further weed control.

Update December 2019

Yarramundi Reach grasslands

On December 2nd, 28 people from the National Capital Authority, ACT Government, Greening Australia, several ACT Landcare groups and FOG attended the wrap-up of FOG’s Yarramundi grassland demonstration revegetation project funded in the ACT 2018-2019 Environment Awards. It was an opportunity to thank the many parties involved in the project and to illustrate the project’s findings. Shortly after this, a FOG project team finalised a plant list and compiled an abundance/cover score for each plant species. This followed-up a partial survey undertaken on 29 September.

Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura

Volunteers at the November 24work party at Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura watered our recent plantings of grassland wildflower species opposite Lotus Bay. We also cut and daubed many Privet seedlings and dug out Ivy and Purple Top by hand. The photo above in November of last year’s wildflower plantings shows how well they have prospered despite the drought, with the various daisy species producing seed and leading to the spread of these species on previously weed-ridden land.

Summarising our 16November wildlife walk, Andrew Zelnik reports: “Among sightings of our eagle-eyed spotters were a pair of magpies (an adult and juvenile) initially greeting us, nesting Galahs, an abundance of spiders (on the ground and in trees), a Bark Cockroach Calolampra sp., a Marbled Scorpion (Lychas marmoreus), a roosting Noisy Miner, the ubiquitous presence of Common Brushtail Possums, and a Sugar Glider (possibly one of the pair we saw in March). The spiders spotted included a redback, wolf spider (at least two species), trapdoors, and huntsman. Also flying overhead on a mission, high above the tree tops, we spotted what looked like Grey-headed Flying Foxes (a listed threatened species nationally and in NSW) and Little Red Flying Foxes. To see what we’ve found and other flora and fauna sightings go to Canberra Nature Map https://canberra.naturemapr.org/ and type Stirling Park wildlife into the search box.”

2019 wrap up

In the past year 104 volunteers at Stirling Park and 18 at Yarramundi Reach contributed 445 volunteer hours of work restoring national lands at 12 work parties. Since 2009, we have held 118 work parties involving 6,627 volunteer hours of work and cut over 5,000 m3 of woody weeds. FOG’s partnership with the National Capital Authority has seen many welcome advances, including installation of signs at two key entry points to Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura, the first trial in the ACT of soil scraping in the Yarramundi grassland demonstration revegetation project, and extensive weed control. Woody weeds have been reduced to negligible levels across the 52 hectares of Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura and many weeds species have been virtually eliminated. Our plantings are gradually restoring the most damaged areas of Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura despite some losses to drought. Our work has been facilitated by annual funding of $6,000 from the National Capital Authority. This year we had the opportunity to meet and brief Authority members on site to reinforce the importance of conserving biodiversity on these national lands.

Key priorities for 2020 include:

Further wildlife surveys, including the first survey of Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura for reptiles (see below);

Update June 2020

After extensive consultation with FOG and local residents, the NCA has felled the pine plantation at the western edge of Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura. In order to take advantage of faster site preparation than planned and excellent planting conditions, the NCA, Greening Australia and FOG brought forward the initial planting of the major trees. In May and June 2020, 340 eucalypts, wattles and allocasuarinas (for cockatoos) were planted, watered and mulched. A major revegetation community event is planned for the site in autumn 2021 that will plant grassy woodland understory species.

In addition to their excellent work replacing the pines, the NCA is making a number of very welcome investments for better management of Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura. A second round of spraying of Vinca (Blue Periwinkle) infestations has reduced the weed cover by around 80%. Hopefully, follow up control in spring can eliminate regrowth. Work has been completed to install drainage lines to control the erosion that was damaging steep sections of tracks through the park. Arborists are felling many of the remaining weed trees in the park and at Attunga Point. Trunks will be left on the ground to provide large woody debris habitat for animals like echidnas. Small branches will be left for FOG use to protect plantings. The collapsed white timber safety rails over two culverts along Forster Crescent will be replaced.

News August 2020

Blue Gum Point project

The ACT Government has awarded an Environment Grant of $20,856 in FY21 to Friends of Grasslands to restore grassy woodlands at Blue Gum Point (east) in Yarralumla. FOG will work with ACT City Services to restore ~8 hectares of box-gum grassy, an ecological community that is listed as nationally endangered. The site contains populations of the nationally endangered Button Wrinklewort (Rutidosis leptorhynchoides) and Golden Sun Moth (Synemon plana). A rare population of Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii) will also be conserved through supplementary planting. The work will extend the restoration of flora and fauna habitat from adjoining land at Gurubang Dhaura – Stirling Park. Most of the funds will be used to employ contractors to undertake weed spraying and removal of large woody weeds. FOG volunteers will undertake follow up control of herbaceous and woody weeds, lake shore planting and rubbish removal. FOG has scheduled two volunteer work parties, namely for weeding on 8 November 2020 and planting on 14 March 2021.

News, Octcober 2020

This damp spring has highlighted the impact of our restoration work at Stirling Park - Gurubang Dhaura. The photo above from Vince McMahon shows one of a number of areas where Hoary Sunray are proliferating in areas that we have been weeding. There is an impressive display of Bulbine Lily across the park and easily seen in the horse paddock, and various other daisies are doing well too. There is a big population of Blue Devil that will flower in the coming month. The thousand or so trees and wildflowers that we planted in the past year are doing well too. Now is a great time to visit to enjoy the fruits of our labours. Stirling Park and Yarramundi Reach are now their own ‘places’ on Canberra Nature Map online (CNM; web and mobile phone app). This means that there are photographic guides to the recorded plants and animals in these park lands. You can also photograph wildflowers or animals and upload them for identification by CNM’s expert moderators. Stirling Park’s is at: https://canberra.naturemapr.org/locations/guide/122.

News, January 2021

Our last work party on 31st December 2020 successfully completed planting indigenous trees and ground covers on the shoreline at Attunga Point. Thanks to Allan and Pam who have taken on the task of keeping the plants watered over summer (and Pierrick for the Lotus Bay plantings). Sadly, in the following week some clowns decided that the tree guard stakes make good firewood for their (illegal) fire at the Point. If you see a fire in the park lands, please ask ACT Police to investigate by calling 131 444, and where possible, get the number plate and description of the offender’s car. In recent weeks, volunteers and our EnviroAg contractors have sprayed a lot of weeds across Gurubang Dhaura / Stirling Park and Yarramundi Reach, including Blackberry, St John’s Wort, African Lovegrass, Vinca and Verbascum. Recently, the NCA and FOG met with the Chinese Embassy to agree on weed control on the national lands around their annex.

Yarramundi Reach

In July 2014, a small team of volunteers planted about 700 seedlings of nine different forb species into grassland at Yarramundi Reach (on Lady Denman Drive, ACT). These were clustered into a few areas that had earlier been sprayed for Chilean Needle Grass and St Johns Wort under the environmental grant ‘Grassy Ecosystem Restoration on National Lands in Central Canberra’ from the ACT Government. Many places at Yarramundi Reach have good stands of grasses but very few forbs, so the addition of other common species was undertaken to improve biodiversity as well as enhancing areas of dead weeds. The work was carried out by volunteers from Greening Australia Capital Region (GA), and all the plants had been propagated in GA’s nursery facility in Aranda. Despite some dry and warm times since July, several of the species have gone on to flower and set seed in their very first season. One of the most striking has been Wahlenbergia stricta which showed up dramatically early in November with many flowers in several of the planted areas.

Workparties may be cancelled in the event of extreme weather.  For details and contact information for forthcoming workparties, see the current Calendar.

Hall Cemetery

FoG conducts occasional workparties at Hall Cemetery. See the Hall Cemetery webpage.

Franklin Grassland

The Franklin Grasslands Parkcare Group is organised by FOG and ACT Parkcare. Work parties have largely focused on plant identification and removing weeds, and some planting of grasses and forbs is planned. We are working closely Ranger Martin Bajt. This is a great opportunity for participants in the group to learn about grassland plants and weeds and their management, and more generally on how to restore our precious grasslands, including selecting, growing and reintroducing plants. See the FoG calendar for currently planned events. To inquire and to register, contact: margaret.ning@fog.org.au.

Top Hut

FOG  has been granted a five-year management lease on Top Hut Travelling Stock Reserve, Dry Plains Rd, 30 kilometres northwest of Cooma NSW from mid 2020. It is a magnificent grassland site, rated as extremely high conservation value by Rainer Rehwinkel. FOG’s Top Hut Group plans several work parties during 2021. See the FoG calendar for currently planned events. For inquiries, more information and to register contact margaret.ning@fog.org.au.