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Small idea big results

Bringing back our grasslands

The land mentioned in this article forms part of the Country of the Peramangk people. The area around Tara Hills was formerly a Peramangk gathering ground now known as Native Valley. We pay our respects to Elders, past, present, and emerging and realise that there is still so much we can learn about caring for Country from the original custodians.

It all began with an idea.  Could we turn the small area of grass close to the outdoor seats at Tara Hills into a native grass/native wildflower area?  I enlisted fellow Lifeflow member and ‘all things native expert’, Marne Durnin to help. ‘Well yes it could be done’ said Marne, whilst looking across the valley to Peppertree, ‘but do you realise that there are patches of native grass in this environment.  Not many, but perhaps enough to warrant conserving what we already have’.

I received my first lesson in native grasses that day, learning that if they die from over-grazing, they are replaced with annual grasses or weedy broadleaves. Having witnessed devastation from the Cudlee Creek fire of late 2019, it became even more crucial to move the property back to perennial ground cover. Native grasses do this superbly: they are deep-rooted, drought tolerant, love the Peppertree environment, and are lower in biomass (compared to annual grasses) leading to reduced potential fire fuel.

Peppertree is our beautiful gum studded 65-acre property surrounding Tara Hills Retreat Centre.  Initially it was purchased to provide a buffer for the retreat centre and ensure that the peace and tranquillity of Tara Hills was maintained.  The property, which Lifeflow purchased through a generous bequest in late 2013, has been heavily grazed for at least 70 years. 

Starting in 2017 with low ground cover due to the decades of overgrazing and signs of soil erosion, the conservation project was born. A soil assessment report was developed along with a management plan, courses attended in land management, dam recovery and regenerative farming to boost skill and knowledge base, site visits from experts in the field of conservation and the formation of a Friends of Peppertree group to help with projects.

Last year Lifeflow was awarded a Gallagher Landcare electric fencing grant to construct permanent electric fencing at two sites on Peppertree.  One of these sites will be our trial plot area for testing what native plant species can be brought back into the environment.  The second site cordons off the dam area (seen from Tara Hills) to return a suite of water-loving plants to the property. This project is ongoing; however, we are hopeful that the new fencing will increase the diversity of water birds, frogs, and reptiles into this area as habitat grows unhindered from kangaroos (they love eating the young plants), rabbits, and the occasional rogue cow that likes to test the current fencing. 

It is a pleasure to witness the native grasses and herbs starting to come back into the landscape.

Ann Calvert

The Life of Lifeflow 40 years Tara Hills

Some of the longer retreats at Tara Hills include a guided walk on Peppertree. You are also very welcome to join Friends of Peppertree if you have an interest in helping with conservation work. Email through to info@lifeflow.com.au and we will notify you when events are happening.

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