Summing up the Walker Swamp community celebration – a wonderful day with friends, old and new!

Thanks to over 100 donors, volunteers and supporters who attended our community celebration at Walker Swamp on the 23rd of September, this special day was a great success!

A morning cuppa by the campfire as the crowd gathered, was followed by the formalities of a few introductory speeches by NGT (Mark Bachmann) and our major partners in the project, the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club (Dave Munro) and the Glenelg Hopkins CMA (Debbie Shea). Special thanks were also extended to the Victorian Government’s Our Catchments Our Communities program and theĀ Virtual Centre for Climate Change Innovation, programs delivered by DELWP, for providing the grant funding support that has also been fundamental for getting the project up and running.

Last but not least, we also recognised the wider community, who have helped reduce NGT’s remaining shortfall on up-front land purchase costs significantly, to a much more manageable level. It was certainly nice to be able to say “thank you” to so many of these wonderful people in person. In case you are wondering, at the time of writing, the community fundraiser is almost up to $100,000 – which will be a tremendous milestone to reach, noting that donations can still be made by clicking here.

and the live tally is…

Mark Bachmann from NGT welcomes everyone to Walker Swamp and briefly explains the key events of the past 4 years that led to this special day
Lachie talking about water management

With the formalities out of the way, it was time to properly show our guests around the Stage 1 project area of Walker Swamp for the first time.

We split up into three groups who rotated around three sites over the subsequent hour and a half in the lead up to lunch:

  • I spoke about the history of the site and how NGT began working in the area from 2013.
  • Lachie took a group to the restoration trial structure, to discuss the trial that commenced in 2014 and future wetland restoration plans. Rose and Nicole accompanied Lachie’s group to look at the waterbugs of Walker Swamp.
  • Greg hosted a group at the bird observation tower, to talk about early works, the next phase of restoration and environmental monitoring. This group also got to enjoy the view and the use of the spotting scope for checking out the birds on the wetland!
Waterbugs with Nicole and Rose

The three groups gathered back at our home base for a fantastic BBQ lunch, very generously cooked up by our friends from the Willaura Lions Club, followed by a really fitting acoustic musical performance by the region’s own Neil Murray.

Neil Murray performs at Walker Swamp

For thirty-five intrepid souls, the day continued with an afternoon hike around the Stage 2 project area, which included a visit to Brady and Gooseneck Swamps and the neighbouring Grampians National Park.

Given the long and arduous journey that leads to a project like this getting off the ground, it was truly wonderful to spend the day with so many friends of NGT – both old and new.

On that note, I would like to give a very special personal mention to:

  • Our several major private donors, who I named on the day and whose incredible generosity has underpinned the success of our public fundraising campaign.
  • Ian and Carolyn Walker and family, who joined us on the day and are direct descendants of the original Walkers of Walker Swamp. It is going to be fascinating to return Walker Swamp back into something that more closely resembles what it looked like when John Walker and his two sons first arrived here with their stock in the early 1880s.
  • Carolyn Vivian, who joined us on the day with her family and I hadn’t seen in over a decade. Carolyn is an old and dear friend of mine who I worked with many years ago (in 2003/04), and I credit her with challenging me to take a wider interest in wetland issues beyond karst rising springs. Needless to say, thanks for giving me that nudge long ago Carolyn!
  • Gavin Cerini, who has been a mentor to me since we started NGT. I first spoke to Gavin in the weeks immediately after NGT launched in January 2012, and his willingness to share decades of his prior knowledge, experience and practical interest in wetland restoration in western Victoria has helped guide and inform many of our wetland restoration success stories so far, especially those on or near Public Land (e.g. Long Swamp, Brady Swamp, Gooseneck Swamp – to name a few). It was wonderful to see Gavin again at Walker Swamp, and to share a very brief moment of satisfaction for what our collective efforts, three decades apart, are now delivering for this magnificent chain of Wannon River wetlands. Thanks Gavin!
Gavin Cerini and Mark Bachmann, taking in the view over Walker Swamp at the Celebration Day in September 2018. Gavin’s vision for the wetlands of the Wannon River floodplain, which first commenced in the 1980s when Gooseneck Swamp was added to the Grampians National Park, is now becoming a reality. Photo courtesy of Liz Fenton.

If you would like to know more about the project at Walker Swamp, volunteer or arrange a visit to the site, then please contact our property manager and Senior Ecologist, Greg Kerr (click here to email) or keep an eye on future blog updates for the latest news.

PS – the Hamilton Spectator ran a nice little story on the day that can be viewed below, or downloaded as a pdf by clicking here.

Page 21 from the Hamilton Spectator, 29th September 2018
Mark Bachmann