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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sherbrooke Forest Walks


The Sherbrooke Forest is a large section in the Dandenong Ranges National Park, 35 km east of the Melbourne CBD.

In 1987 Sherbrooke Forest, Doongalla Reserve and Ferntree Gully National Park were combined to form the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Covering 3215 hectares, the park plays an important role in protecting a population of famous lyrebirds and other fauna, as well as protecting the forests and fern gullies of the Ranges. Since June 1997 Olinda State Forest and the Mt Evelyn Forest have also been included in Dandenong Ranges National Park.

The first white man to claim dominion over part of the Dandenongs, was James Clow whose land stretched from the present city of Dandenong to Olinda and Monbulk. He named his property after the aboriginal name “Corrhanwarrabul”.

Other settlers followed and soon the whole of the Dandenongs was included in settler’s runs.

In the 1850’s, the Dandenongs attracted the notice of many people with a botanical bent, including the famous Baron von Mueller, Victoria’s Government Botanist.

In the 1870s, von Mueller set up a semi-permanent camp at the Basin in order to make an intense study of the Dandenong's flora. The worth of the mountain ash was recognized by these early adventurers and some were felled for use as masts in the sailing ships of that time. Hence the name “Mast Gully” creek.

They were soon followed by the timber getters splitting the logs for palings which were used for sides of houses or fencing material. A timber camp was opened at Olinda in 1855 and another at Kallista in the 1860s, followed by one at Sassafras in the 1870s. The timber was taken out by a track via the present Ferntree Gully to Oakleigh where the nearest main road existed. The transport was mainly bullock teams.

During the 1880s and the 1890s the Dandenongs' forests were decimated mainly as a result of poverty stricken city folk being allocated 10 acre farmlets in the Dandenongs on which to make a living. Imagine being shifted from Melbourne to the forest of the Dandenongs and left to fell timber, build your house with your own hands, create a garden to provide food and try to raise enough provisions to survive. It took sturdy folk to see this through.

The present-day Grant's Picnic Ground was the site of a sawmill in the late 1880s to about 1920. Terrible bushfires in 1920 destroyed much of the forest. Many of the tall trees still standing in the Sherbrooke Forest escaped the 1920 fires. Major fires raged through the area in 1926, 1939 and 1983.

I visited the Forest on March 26 2008, exploring the Margaret Lester, Hardy Gully and Lyrebird walking tracks, which radiate from Grant's Picnic Ground, Kallista.

See the Photos of this adventure

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