The little town of Marysville is about 100 km NE of Melbourne. It was virtually wiped out in the bushfires of ‘Black Saturday’ in 2009. It’s slowly coming back, but I guess that only about half of the original number of houses have been rebuilt and there are still lots of vacant house lots throughout the town area. I have just spent a couple of days bushwalking in some of the forest areas around the town with my good mate Bob Neal.
Some of the forest is recovering from the fires and there is a good deal of wildlife in the area. We saw at least six Lyrebirds which are very shy and generally hard to see the dense rain forest. In addition, we must have see a dozen or so wallabies, but we lost count on the second day. Many of the trees in this type of forest will regenerate after a fire but the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus Regnans) do not. New trees of this species will only grow from the seed that they drop (and that’s why there is a dense forest of thin saplings growing in the forest). They do not recover by coppicing as other varieties of trees do. In the areas affected by fire there are stark skeletons of dead trees standing like sentinels throughout the entire mountain range.
We spent half a day exploring the old town site of Cambarville (between Marysville and Warburton). There is nothing there now but a few relics and the remnants of some streets and a few buildings. Cambarville was established as a timber mill town in the 1940’s to salvage timber from the earlier disastrous bush fires of 1939. It had a one-teacher primary school, which opened in 1943, closed in 1945 due to lack of pupils and then re-opened again in 1946. It shut down for the last time in 1968. Life in Cambarville was probably very difficult, especially for any women who lived there. There was certainly no access to luxuries such as refrigeration or other electrical appliances. Single men were housed in huts provided by the logging company, and were provided with meals from a boarding house in the main street. The saw mill was destroyed twice by fire, the last time in 1971 and the town’s population rapidly dwindled after its closure. It was a little erie looking at the information signs around the town-site that pointed out various features and buildings. I’m used to visiting very old historic places, but some of this is within my living memory.
Near the old town site is a grove of exceptionally tall Eucalyptus trees (Mountain Ash). These are some of the tallest trees in the world – certainly the tallest flowering trees. This tree, simply called ’The Big Tree’ once stood at 92m, ( 301 feet ), but was reduced to 84m, ( 275 feet ), by a wind storm in 1959. The Big Tree’s girth is 5.2m, ( 17 feet ), three metres above ground level. It takes a lot of ‘neck craning’ to see the top of the tree when standing at its base.
Throughout the forests around Marysville there are many creeks and rivers. Their valleys provided a beautiful rainforest environment for us to walk through. Some of our walks were quite short – only a kilometre each way, and others were longer (up to a five kilometre loop) The forest is damp and we were found by many leeches over the two days of our walking. I have no idea where they come from, or how they find an animal (or human) to feed from. They don’t hurt at all when they bite. They just pump some form of anticoagulant into the skin and then start sucking. The bite bleeds for a little while afterwards and it is not until you feel a trickle of blood running down your leg or arm, that you know you have been bitten. On the next day the bites get itchy but the trick is not to scratch them to avoid them becoming infected. After a couple of days everything is OK again.
One of our leech infested walks was to Keppel Falls on the Taggerty River, These are named after the brothers who found them in the early 1880s. They consist of a series of cascading drops over a number of tiers. It was an easy and very enjoyable walk of 2km (return). After a lot of rain over the last few days, the falls (and rivers) in the area were flowing strongly. We also visited Phantom Falls and tried to get around to a reportedly beautiful area known as ‘The Beeches’. However, the road was blocked by a fallen tree and we later found out that the walking track there is closed anyway.
Throughout most of the areas in which we walked, we could see Mother Nature doing her work. Over time, the skeletons of the Mountain Ash which were burnt in the fires will fall and decay, providing nutrients to the newly growing forest. We could see this occurring in many places along the walking tracks where beautifully coloured, and patterned, fungi were growing on rotting tree stumps and logs. This dense pattern of fungi on a rotting log certainly caught my eye!