Woodlands Historic Park
Gellibrand Hill

map legend Satellite Image of Gellibrand Hill

See area 6 on map at right or Map of Whole Park. Note that Swain St. is closed to vehicles, but it is possible to walk along it from Mickleham Road where there is space for a few cars to park. There is no wheelchair access.

Area 6 was included in the back paddock until 2002 or so, apart from a strip along the eastern boundary and the part extending to Mickleham Road. At that time a new fence line was bulldozed to exclude the summit area from the back paddock.

In 2010 the whole of area 6 was excised from the back paddock. Horses now have access to the whole of area 6. Thus, the permitted usage of this entire area, or at least the permitted usage as perceived by the public, has been radically changed from what is described in the management plan.

Sweet Bursaria Blossom on Gellibrand Hill
Sweet Bursaria Blossom on Gellibrand Hill in Woodlands Historic Park

Most of the area would have been Red Gum woodland, but much of it has been cleared. The rocky area to the west of the summit was described by Robertson as an open scrub of Drooping Sheoke, Sweet Bursaria, Lightwood Wattle, Hedge Wattle and Tree Violet. The first three of these are small trees while the others are shrubs (despite the name Tree Violet). Sweet Bursaria is more common than the other trees and perfumes the air in January when it is flowering.

A Swamp Wallaby in the scrub on Gellibrand Hill
A Swamp Wallaby in the scrub on Gellibrand Hill in Woodlands Historic Park

You may catch a glimpse of a Swamp Wallaby in the scrub, but they are much more numerous in the Back Paddock. There are many young Tree Violets less than a metre tall, and these obviously form the main food for the Wallabies (assuming there is more than one). I saw only one seedling of Sweet Bursaria, which had grown in the protection of a fallen branch, and there are only a few young Hedge Wattle and no young Sheokes. For at least 20 years this area has been heavily infested by Bridal Creeper, which may affect regeneration of the native plants.

Bridal Creeper climbing on a mostly dead Tree Violet on Gellibrand Hill
Bridal Creeper climbing on a mostly dead Tree Violet on Gellibrand Hill in Woodlands Historic Park
The base of a Sweet Bursaria with only a narrow strip of bark keeping it alive
The base of a Sweet Bursaria with most of the bark eaten by rabbits, on Gellibrand Hill in Woodlands Historic Park

In the northern part of the scrub the Sweet Bursarias have all had the lower bark eaten off, to a maximum height of 60cm. This probably occurred when the area was still part of the back paddock. Some have died, but most are surviving with just a narrow strip of bark joining the upper trunk to the roots. I don't know what animal has eaten the bark, but similar damage is being done by Swamp Wallabies in the Back Paddock at present.

The Sheokes, Wattles and Tree Violets north and East of the summit have been planted since the park was formed. The derelict rabbit proof fencing was to assist with the latter stage of this. Some Red Gums may have been planted but there appears to have been considerable natural regeneration of these after cattle were removed in 1982.

It was always difficult to control the rabbits in the rocky areas, and there are still many large warrens all around the summit.

Bunya Pine near Dundonald ruins, with Norfolk Island Pine in the background
Bunya Pine and Norfolk Island Pine near Dundonald ruins on Gellibrand Hill in Woodlands Historic Park

The exotic trees near the Dundonald homestead site include two Bunya Pines, four Norfolk Island Pines and one Moreton Bay Fig. These Australasian sub-tropical species show no signs of reproducing. There are also Pencil Cypress and Monterey Cypress, including a golden form.

Stone Pine on the south side of Gellibrand Hill
Stone Pine on the south side of Gellibrand Hill in Woodlands Historic Park

On the south side of the hill is a Stone Pine (from the Mediterranean region) which the Restoration Plan said "must be among the finest and healthiest specimens of it's kind in Victoria". It has a lot of offspring already producing seed of their own, which need to be removed before they become a forest.

The overgrown hedge around the homestead site consists mainly of the orange flowered Cape Honeysuckle, although there is a lot of Boxthorn mixed in. Other exotics nearby include Hawthorn, the creeper Blue Periwinkle, the giant succulent Century Plant and three patches of English Ivy.


In 1981 Robertson mapped the entire area as having a ground flora of high diversity dominated by Wallaby Grass and Spear Grass, except for the shrubland (high diversity Kangaroo Grass), the erosion zones to the south, and an area around the ruins of Dundonald homestead which includes a large patch Kikuyu. Robertson noted that after he produced his map, Kangaroo grass had regenerated in the Gellibrand Hill area following the removal of cattle. Patches of Kangaroo grass still exist, mainly south of the hill.

The most common native grass in the shrubland area now appears to be Weeping Grass, and this also seems to be virtually the only native grass in the reasonably flat south-eastern portion of the area. My guess would be that this portion was once cultivated, and it is hard to believe that it had a high diversity any time since. There are large patches of Chilean Needle Grass here which have obviously encroached from the old back paddock fence line. There are also patches of CNG on the eastern slopes of the hill and on the summit itself, areas where there has been a lot of vehicle traffic and slashing. Patches of Phalaris also occur north-east and south of the summit. Serrated Tussock is at moderate levels in the open areas but there are some dense patches near the summit and in the shrubland.

Serrated Tussock east of Dundonald Homestead site
Serrated Tussock east of Dundonald Homestead site in Woodlands Historic Park

Erosion Zones

The most prominent feature visible from the air is the large, pale, semi-rectangular area. This is where the owners sold off the topsoil in the 1950s for use at Essendon Airport. Within 5 years, the resulting erosion gullies were big enough to trap a cow.

Erosion Gully South of Gellibrand Hill, Mar. 2015
Erosion Gully South of Gellibrand Hill in Woodlands Historic Park

According to a 1985 report (Monash1987 p. 70) planting of the usual wattles and Red Gums in this area had already taken place in an attempt to control the erosion, but with only 20% survival rate. Further planting took place in 1992 after construction of a rabbit proof fence around the site. In March 1993 Kangaroo Grass seed (thatch) was spread. Although the current recommendation is to spread the thatch in spring, it appears to have been successful, as the lower half of the site has a cover of fairly sparse but almost totally weed free Kangaroo grass. There are also trees and shrubs, including three Sugar Gums which were almost certainly planted by mistake. They continuously germinate in the nursery because it is unfortunately overhung by trees.

None of this re-vegetation has done much to stop the erosion, with the possible exception of the Gold Dust Wattle which is useful because of it's suckering habit. Obviously it is not enough to plant on the area where the erosion is taking place, one also has to stop water running into it. The largest existing erosion gully starts 90m downhill from the top of the area where the topsoil was removed, and in this 90m there is almost no grass. This is the main problem, although it could also help to plant trees further up the hill from here, which was recommended in 1985 but never done.

Uphill from the Erosion Gully South of Gellibrand Hill
Bare Ground Uphill from the Erosion Gully, South of Gellibrand Hill, Woodlands Historic Park

A new attempt at erosion control was made in 2011 on part of the site. This involved filling in the existing gullies, establishing a new diagonal drainage pattern, and sowing a mix of (exotic) pasture grasses. These have not grown very well on the very poor soil. The healthy Kangaroo Grass lower down shows that native grasses are likely to be more successful, if only seed were available. The other problem is that since this area is now outside the Back Paddock, Kangaroo numbers are too high to allow re-vegetation without expensive new fencing.

The new drainage lines have eroded to a maximum depth of half a meter so far.