The Emerald-Cockatoo Multi-Use Trail is a 14 km return trip. The trail starts at Emerald, in Kilvington Drive, just past the Gemco Community Arts Complex. You’ll take in views of the Puffing Billy track, making your way through Nobelius Heritage Park, Emerald Lake Park and through Wrights forest to Cockatoo.
The trail is lined with ferns and a mix of exotic and native flora.
The trail is marked along the way with yellow arrows in blue signs and it is fairly straightforward to follow.
The trail starts where the Puffing Billy train line crosses Kilvington Drive in the town of Emerald. In this area there is the Emerald train station, where Puffing Billy stops, a playground and some shaded picnic tables.
The trail, which is gravel with little stones, heads in an easterly direction and runs beside the railway line. In the immediate area there are a number of bins but no water tap. Along the initial part of the track there is a chance to see Puffing Billy steaming along and wave to all the people on board the train. There are so many people on the train wanting to wave to you, that your arms will be aching by the time the train disappears into the distance.
The trail is well signposted with the trail marked by yellow arrows on a blue background.
The trail passes through the Nobelius Heritage Park, which is the site of a former orchard, and has picnic facilities including toilets. It is the only nationally significant nursery collection identified in Australia that is housed in the same nursery grounds in which it was developed. Some interesting parts of the park include the Emerald Museum, an extensive rain garden, Nobelius Memorial sundial (which is a tribute to his contribution to the economic and social development of early Emerald and surrounding localities), Linton's cottage, Packing Shed, Gus Ryberg plague and Salvia display gardens.
Rain gardens are sunken garden beds planted with deep-rooted plants and grasses grown in a loamy sand material (fitter media). They treat stormwater runoff before it enters underground drainage systems that discharge into waterways. Before entering the rain gardens, fast flowing water is dispersed by the rock and mesh borders (known as gabions) The inlet gabion pond slows the flow of water coming from the pipe and the gabion step-downs control the water speed as it moves aver the change in levels. Stormwater then pools over the rain gardens for a short time, allowing it to filter naturally through the selected soil and vegetation before being collected by a slotted pipe at the bottom. In large storm events, the water overflows the rain garden weirs into the grated pit at the outlet. The Nobelius rain gardens have been planted with indigenous and native plants suited to wet and dry environments. Additional border landscaping includes ferns. strawberries and rhubarb.
Rain gardens are particularly efficient at removing nutrients (e.g. phosphorus end nitrogen), heavy metals, oils and other soluble contaminants from the stormwater runoff, as much of these contaminants are taken up by the plants and captured by the filter media.
Born of Swedish parents, Carl Axel Nobelius was a tall, strong and energetic gentleman, who arrived in Melbourne, from Finland, in February 1871. A trained horticulturalist, he soon acquired land near Emerald and began to build his nursery empire. By 1890 Nobelius had expanded his nursery to 50 acres, (including the current site of Emerald Lake Park), where he cultivated raspberries, strawberries and hard fruits to Melbourne and Sydney.
In these early days, one handicap to the business was the need to cart by bullock dray his produce to Narre Warren for wider transport. Once the Puffing Billy Railway was built in 1900, Carl Nobelius was able to further indulge his love of cultivating fruit trees, and business grew rapidly. By 1909 the business had boomed, and the nursery had expanded to 200 acres in size and was responsible for employing around 80 workers, which was most of the local population at the time. Gembrook Nurseries were advertising a holding of over 2 million stock trees, primarily apples, and pears, for export to other Australian state, and internationally to South Africa, New Zealand, India, Europe, Japan and South America. The annual shipments to South Africa alone were estimated at 400,000 trees.
However World War I in 1914, saw the collapse of the international market, from which the nursery never fully recovered. Nobelius died of pneumonia on Dec 31, 1931. His estate passed through hands, with the Emerald Lake Park area eventually being acquired by the local council for community use.
The trail then enters the Emerald Lake Park. The track goes through lovely areas of tree ferns, which form tunnels over the path, as it skirts its way along the western and then northern border of the Emerald Lake Park. When you reach the actual lake there are many attractions but most are probably not ideal for a dog.
Feeding of the native water birds at the lake is discouraged. Feeding of wild duck populations not only has severe health effects directly on the birds, but can also cause a dramatic drop in water quality for the other plants, and animals, living within the waters of the lakes. Bread is like 'fast food' to wild ducks, it provides no nutritional value, but is high in fats, sugars and preservatives. Ducklings, taught by parent ducks to eat bread, often display drastic deformation and underdevelopment. Feeding of bread, especially if it has developed mould, causes fatal diseases such as; Avian Botulism, and the lung infection, 'Aspegillosis'.
There are plenty of birds to spot around the lake and there are some signs to aid identification.
There are six interesting murals across the road on the north side of the lake plus toilets.
Between 1984 and 1986; the Shire of Sherbrooke Council and Emerald Lake Park committee of management, worked with local artist Jenny Saulwick and the community, on the innovative Community Use Sculpture project. Many of the shires residents and councillors were involved in the development of the project, which included, five amphitheatres and six concrete murals. The murals can be seen flanking the entrance to the Gus Ryberg Amphitheatre. The murals cover topics such as Nobelius, The Iconic Puffing Billy Railway, Portraits of writers (Susannah Prichard, Vance and Nettie Palmer, and C.J. Dennis), Traditional Ownership, Gold Rush, Loggin' and Drovin'
The path then passes through an area where you can hear the creek rushing through the fern tree lined gullies. After a while you come to a more open area on the northern side which has some paddocks and houses. The track leads to a bridge which crosses Wattle Creek. Turn right and the path then runs beside the gravel road until you reach the Wright forest which is 3km from Cockatoo. Follow Wright Road Track which goes past the Wright railway station stop on the Puffing Billy line. The path is well signposted using blue poles with yellow arrows and continues onto Boundary Track. It is thickly forested with native gum trees. Towards the end of the track through the forest there are houses on one side (with plenty of barking dogs behind the fences). The gravel stony path leads to a long wooden bridge which crosses the creek. The the west side of the track next to the Cockatoo creek is bush while the east side is open paddocks. The track finishes at McBride Street near the Anglican Church.
The trail has been extended to Gembrook. To continue to Gembrook from Cockatoo, you walk up McBride Street past the shops, turn right and follow the path past the Primary School, then on to Gembrook.