Movement at the horse paddock

Recently, while driving along Rainworth Road past the south-east corner of the governor’s property, I noticed something new. Running through this grassy area, which I understand to be the governor’s old horse paddock, were two rows of newly planted trees. Interspersed among the new trees, which still were housed in their protective plastic tents, were what looked to be some native grasses or lomandras.

The pond at the edge of the governor’s paddock. The two rows of newly planted trees can be seen in the background.

One of the two plantings follows a course that might be similar to that of the original stream of Western Creek, which once flowed through this land.

The two new plantings in the governor’s paddock at the south-east corner of the Fernberg property.

I’ve suggested previously that this piece of land is something of a missed opportunity. It is visually uninspiring, ecologically bland, and inaccessible to the public. Its one redeeming feature is the rehabilitated pond along the fence, the beauty of which only serves to illustrate what could be done with the rest of the site if the will was there.

These new plantings, while far from a full-scale restoration of the site, are a positive sign. I look forward to seeing how they develop, and to learning if they might be part of a larger rehabilitation effort.

Let’s talk about the weather

A new page is coming soon, I promise! But while that is still in the wings, I thought this would be as good time as any to talk about the weather. Can anyone remember when it last rained? I can’t either, but according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s records, it was the 19th of July.1

Daily rainfall data from the Bureau of Meteorology (station 040913)

Daily rainfall data from the Bureau of Meteorology (station 040913)

That’s 45 consecutive rainless days, with more likely to come (the current forecast for each of the next seven days is “Fine, mostly sunny”). For the most part, the lawns and trees around the place aren’t looking too parched just yet — no doubt thanks to the relatively good rainfall we enjoyed during the first half of the year. But there are some clear signs that the landscape is drying up. A really good example is the pond straddling the bottom of Norman Buchan Park and the Government House grounds. Here’s what it looked like back in October of last year:

The pond on the Fernberg grounds

The pond on the Fernberg grounds (Government House), October 2011

The pond by the culvert under Baroona Road at Norman Buchan Park

The pond by the culvert under Baroona Road at Norman Buchan Park, October 2011

And here’s what it looked like as I passed by this morning on my way to the markets (note that I did not take these with a before-and-after comparison in mind, so the angles are different to the previous photos):

The pond at the bottom of the Fernberg grounds, 2 September, 2012.

The pond at the bottom of the Fernberg grounds, 2 September, 2012.

The pond at Norman Buchan Park, 2 September, 2012.

The pond at Norman Buchan Park, 2 September, 2012.

On the Norman Buchan Park side, there is but one small puddle remaining, while on the Fernberg side the water level has dropped significantly. How long before it dries out completely? I’ve been told by one keen observer that this pond did not completely dry up even during the millennium drought, which lasted from around 1997 until 2009.2 If that is the case then it seems likely that the pond receives water from a source other than the surface drainage from the surrounding hills. One possibility is that it is fed by an underground spring. This theory is lent weight by historical anecdotes such as J.C Heussler’s letter to the Lands Department in 1864 describing a permanent spring nearby, and John Oxley’s discovery in 1824 of a chain of ponds in the area in the midst of another severe drought (see here and here for more about Heussler’s and Oxley’s reports).

I hope the current dry spell does not last too much longer. But if it hasn’t rained before next Sunday, I’ll be sure to have another look on my way to the markets.


  1. I’m not counting the 0.2mm that was recorded on 20 July or 1 September. These data are available from the Bureau’s web site.
  2. See here and here for some more information about the drought.

What’s in the Governor’s backyard?

Last Sunday was open day at Government House, the big white mansion at the top of the hill on Fernberg Road. These events only happen once or twice a year, so they are a rare opportunity to see inside the Governor’s backyard — and the Governor’s house, of course, if that takes your fancy.

This was the first open day since I started working on this website (there would have been one on Australia Day but it was rained out), so I did not want to miss the chance to explore and photograph those parts of the grounds that you can’t see from the outside. Along with the weedy scrub up around Tristania Drive and Stuartholme, these grounds contain the only substantial remnant bush in the Western Creek catchment. They also contain three ponds (one natural, two artificial), some steep overgrown gullies and even (thanks to the wet weather) a running stream.

I’ve put the results of my little expedition in a new page called Fernberg from the inside (Fernberg, meaning ‘distant mountain’, is the name given to the property by its first owner, Johann Heussler). I’d be interested to know what other people think about the Fernberg grounds, and particularly whether they could be improved or made more accessible to the public.

The lower of the two ornamental ponds at Fernberg

The lower of the two ornamental ponds at Fernberg