|The Ruffey Lake Park Heritage Trail is about 3 km long and has interpretative signs and heritage photos along the trail which describe various features and history of the Ruffey Lake area.
Topics covered include:
The area of indigenous vegetation immediately is one of the last remaining areas of relatively undisturbed natural vegetation to be found in Ruffey Lake Park.
The remaining eucalypt woodlands in the Park have characteristics in common with Box Stringybark Woodlands and Yellow Box Grassy Woodlands, once typical of this region. The eucalypt canopy is in reasonable condition but the shrub layer is markedly depleted and the field layer is severely depleted.
The remnant riparian (or streamline) vegetation along Ruffey Creek is characteristic of Swamp Gum Woodland dominated by Swamp Gum and Swamp Paperbark, which would have formerly occurred along much of Ruffey Creek.
Several areas of the Park are now being managed to encourage the regeneration of the native species and understorey vegetation and it is imperative that these areas remain undisturbed.
Species in the Park's Remnant Woodlands
Yellow Box - Eucalyptus melliodora
Red Stringybark - Eucalyptus macrorbycha
Mealy Stringybark - Eucalyptus cephalocarpa
Narrow Leaf Peppermint - Eucalyptus radiata
Long-Leaf Box - Eucalyptus goniocalyx
Swamp Gum - Eucalyptus ovata
Black Wattle - Acacia mearnsii
Blackwood - Acacia melanoxylon
Lightwood - Acacia implexa
Cherry Ballart - Exocarpos cupressiformis
Sweet Bursaria - Bursaries spinosa
Hedge Wattle - Acacia paradoxa
Tree Violet - Hymenantbera dentate
Austral Bracken - Pteridium esculentum
Grasses, Lilies, Herbs
Weeping Grass - Microlaena stipoides
Kangaroo Grass - Themeda triandra
Pale Flax-lily - Dianella longifolia
Wattle Mat-lily - Lomandra filiformis
Variable Sword-sedge - Lepidosperma laterale
Bidgee-Widgee - Acaena novae-zelandiae
Williamson's Dairy Farm
This section of the park bordered by Church Road, King Street, the Boulevarde and the row of Monterey Pines used to form part of the Williamson family's "Springfield" dairy farm.
Robert Williamson arrived in Victoria from Scotland in 1854 with his new, young wife Elizabeth. in 1855, he took charge of the Carlton Estate its the Parish of Bulleen and acted as Bailiff of it for 15 years. In 1858, when the estate was subdivided, he bought 250 acres of it, including 100 acres in Middle Road (now Williamsons Road) for 746 pounds, where he established 'Springfield' farm and raised his 12 children.
In 1863, Robert Williamson was elected a Bulleen Shire Counciller and later became a Justice of the Peace. The Williamson family continued dairying operations until 1969 with a mixed dairy herd of jerseys, guernseys, shorthorns and fresians, supplying milk to dairies in Doncaster, Box Hill, Mitcham, Balwyn and East Kew and cream to butter factories in East Melbourne and Fitzroy. Hand milking continued until 1939 when a Boltie-Simplex milking machine was introduced. Crops grown on the farm included oats, field peas, millet, maize and hay, which were all used as fodder for the dairy cattle and horses.
Monterey Pine Windbreaks
The rows of Monterey Pines were planted as windbreaks by the pioneer orchardists to protect their fruit from wind damage.
The Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) is an evergreen native to the west coast of the USA (but not to the Monterey Peninsula as the name suggests), with a life span of 100 to 150 years.
Introduced commercially to Australia in 1857, Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, the first director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, distributed large numbers of young pines to all parts of Victoria in the late 1850s and 1860s.
The pines were easily propagated and grown by the early orchardists as they were quick-growing, drought-tolerant, disease-resistant and well suited to the local soils.
As the pine trees matured, they became a problem in some areas. Their roots would encroach into orchard land, taking water and nourishment away from nearby fruit trees, hindering their development. In these situations, the larger pines were removed and their timber used for fruit cases, then new seedlings were replanted in the gaps.
The early settlers of Doncaster and Templestowe laid the foundations of a horticultural industry which made the district one of the most prosperous primary producing areas in Victoria by the 1920s.
The pine plantings that remain today as visual landmarks on ridge lines and hill tops throughout Manningham serve as a physical reminder of our pioneer heritage.
Woodcutters & Coke Burners
By 1841, Melbourne had grown to 11,700 and land clearing in surrounding districts was providing much needed fire wood and sawn timber for the rapidly growing settlement.
During the 1840s and 50s, itinerant woodcutters and charcoal burners camped beside Ruffey Creek to be close to a constant supply of fresh water and fuel timber. They felled trees along the banks and dug charcoal-burning pies on the eastern slopes of Ruffey Creek, west of Church Road (then known as Strip Road). Cut firewood was carted to Kew and Melbourne on drays drawn by horses and bullocks, and brought fourpence to one shilling per hundredweight (about 50 kgs).
These woodcutters and charcoal burners probably helped clear the land leased by Ambrose Pullen on the west side of Church Road from 1842 to 1854. Pollen was then able to grow wheat on this land.
Charcoal was in great demand for blacksmiths' forges and charcoal burning continued until the 1880s when coke became available from gas works.