The Battle of the Patch

Joint Strike Force: Meralin, Glenda and Alan

Or ‘How a chance remark turned into a 3 month battle by 3 antagonists against weeds, invasive kikuyu runners growing through and over the top of native trees, bushes and grasses’.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We should have printed t-shirts that said “It seemed like a good idea at the time”.

Encouraged by the favourable comments of several people that had used the walking tracks, we, 3 members of the Tambo Bluff Landcare Coastcare group, were looking for a project to get our hands on that would fill in some time before the next round of scheduled plantings.

The main entrances to the Wallaby Creek Walking Track were targeted by the TBLC, to present an inviting face where the newly erected informative signage now took pride of place.

The odd man out was the large unkempt patch at the Peter Street gate entrance, which had hunkered down in a classic takeover manoeuvre and had been rejecting all advances.

Planted with a total of 400 trees, shrubs and grasses back in October 2012, the area was a nightmarish invasion of foreign bodies mainly kikuyu runners and dead weeds, which had buried nearly all the plants. Only a few tall trees extended above the impenetrable mass. There was an informative sign here with a pocket for maps, but the backdrop let it down.

So in answer to a question about what do you suggest we tackle next, I heard myself say “What about the Patch?”

October 4, 2017

Reconnaissance meeting on the battlefield to plan a methodical strategy and plan of attack. Photos were taken as soon as work commenced, just in case there was to be a court martial at a later date.

The big guns were brought into play right at the start, with a brush cutter and a swathe was cut with a ride-on mower through the top end so the foot soldiers could see where the survivors were bunkered in. There were casualties, and a few grasses lost their heads.

After the first few hours, enthusiasm slumped and I heard “Whose bright idea was this again?” With 3 people working solidly for 3 hours, a tiny section was exposed. It was an uplifting start, and the troops headed for barracks tired, hot, hungry and sore. Suggestions of razing the patch to the ground, poisoning the whole lot or digging it all out with a bobcat and starting again, were bandied about.

Two or three times a week for one month, the stripping, digging and trimming continued. Slowly but surely little sections appeared to take on the appearance of order. Grasses began to reshoot. New leaves appeared with each meagre rainfall. Injuries took their toll, and time between each attack was needed for recovery.

Piles of kikuyu runners and dead plants and weeds were starting to pile up. Several piles of weeds were removed to a secure government holding facility to be disposed of in accordance with strict environmental regulations. Mulch piles mysteriously appeared by Stealth Command. We pressed on. Suddenly we could see across the Patch, through the trees, and the overgrown sections began to shrink. Troops were rallied.

November 4, 2017

Half way through the battle. With binoculars we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Mowing the grass several times was accomplished before poisoning was to be systematically carried out in sections.
Luckily Major Smith’s Ordnance Depot was close at hand, and supplies were procured. More mulch piles appeared. The pressure was on as dignitaries were rumoured to be coming on parade at some time in the future.

November 25, 2017

More photographs were taken of the progress.

Recruits were deployed to the Patch after previous location for maintenance was abandoned at the last minute. Hopefully the new personnel in attendance will return for future Landcare missions.

Early December 2017

The intensive bout of rain was promoting new growth in the plants and the kikuyu, which, despite being poisoned twice was refusing to die.

The last fringes of the patch were knocked into shape and the battle to dig out the kikuyu runners from around each plant was tackled. The rain helped soften the ground, but this part of the work was slow and tough with mattocks being the weapon of choice. After three applications, the poisoning slowly achieved its purpose and large dead patches appeared – parts were finally ready to be covered in the mulch.

December 12, 2017

Mulching finally starts in earnest and the ride-on mower with the wagon proved to be the tank we needed to get the mulch to the hard to reach places. Raking and more kikuyu removal followed.

In future, sporadic weeding and trimming will be all that’s required here.

So far, predominantly 3 volunteers consistently working over 140 hours on this tough restoration project have achieved a massive impact, with the resurrection of a patch of previous Landcare plantings that were badly in need of rescuing.

Hopefully the mission will be accomplished by early 2018 and ongoing surveillance by surrounding command posts will continue to monitor the situation. Victory is in sight.

This Patch will soon be a fitting entrance to some of the most interesting walking tracks in the region, and can be enjoyed by all who pass by.

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