Forest And Creek Rehabilition
  Friends of the Trestle Bridge
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The Friends of the Trestle Bridge is a volunteer non-profit group committed to caring for the Monbulk Creek and lower Clematis Creek Valley environment and habitat and the area surrounding and associated with the historic 1899 vintage Puffing Billy Railway Trestle Bridge
This location was recently incorporated into the Sherbrooke Forest National Park

The bridge, situated at Selby in The Dandenong Ranges, some 26.5 miles by rail east Of Melbourne, carries the Puffing Billy Heritage Narrow-Gauge (2'6") Railway over the Monbulk Creek and is part of a working railway that now carries considerably more traffic than in it's prime working era of the first 30 years of the 20th century

A Unique Location

The importance of this area of the Monbulk Creek Valley lies in it's botanical features and historical associations

The area downstream, west of the bridge contains a Wet Forest plant community* along the creek and slope
The area immediately upstream is significant as the creek flows through a creek flat populated by a locally rare pure stand of the lovely tall white Manna Gums (Eucalyptus viminalis) changing abruptly into an almost pure stand of Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua) on the steep north slope as one proceeds east up Nation Road

The bridge crosses a creek gully that hosts the meeting of the Clematis and Monbulk Creeks, between them, draining the entire Sherbrooke Forest.

It straddles the transition zone between the sheltered Wet forest (Eucalyptus Regnans dominant) at the Belgrave (up) end and the Mountain Grey Gum (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa)/Messmate "Damp Forest" plant association that begins on the drier opposing slope at the Gembrook (down) end
This is the predominant plant community along most of the rest of the Belgrave-Emerald Ridge

The original settlement of this area still lives on in the form of overgrown original house gardens in the forest
They have contributed to the weed problems and also provided many large mature, non-invasive exotic trees, including dozens of conifers of many types, scattered throughout the ferns, blackwoods and mountain ash forest giants and is a special part of the character of the gully

A mixed goods and passenger train bound for Gembrook, from a pre-1920's postcard.
A man is standing on the refuge platform near the centre of the bridge. Beyond, the Emerald road can be seen with a post and rail fence along the property above it. A strip below the bridge is kept bare to prevent it from igniting during a bushfire or from train sparks or ash.
The Grey Gums and Messmate Stringybarks in the background were possibly damaged during the extensive conflagration in 1896 that laid waste the forest and destroyed many Selby houses. Both these tree species are more tolerant to large fires and develop new epicormal growth from under the bark to recover.
The Mountain Ash on the wetter slope we're standing on rely on seedlings to regenerate.
This, for the tree, had proved a fine strategy prior to the human disruption to one's normal Large Wildfire Cycle, normally measured in hundreds of years. Big fires can kill the biggest and oldest of these Eucalyptus regnans. Another fire within a few years kills the young regrowth and the species will not regenerate.
This happened to large tracts of the Sherbrooke Forest after 2 wildfires in the mid 20's. These bare areas were planted with Pinus radiata until the 80's, since reseeded with Mountain ash, though all the forest species now grow there. A species with a 400 year lifespan is only a toddler at 30 years and a teenager at 100
Rehabilitation results, 20m from the Gembrook Road culvert. The left bank of the creek is a bamboo thicket, while the right side has been restored by the simple expedient of removing the weed species. There is a pile of cestrum and assorted other beasties in the background. There is an emergent sycamore maple and some cestrum up closer while the black sticks are sycamore. Virtually everything else is natural regrowth. If we had more hands we could do a lot more of this kind of thing.
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