The long awaited fourth Cluster Walk in April 2011 once again followed a circular route starting and finishing at the Cherryville Hall. Although hard to organise logistically this formula works well in that we are not faced with ferrying people back to their cars at the end of the walk.
It was a strenuous walk in dramatic, steep country completed on a showery day. As with previous walks a large group of landholders, their families and friends took part.
Because of the generosity of participating landowners this walk provided an opportunity to walk through several fantastic, productive properties which were settled in the second half of the 19th century in an isolated and uniquely demanding landscape. We saw the area at the peak of the harvest season and the range of fruits grown here is spectacular. It is a picturesque, productive and rarely appreciated part of the Catchment with its own special local history. As in the Basket Range area descendents of at least one of the original families, the Bungey’s, are still represented in the community today.
We walked from Cherryville down a private road towards Wendy Willow’s property. There are a number of private houses and gardens along this road, some old, some new and even one under construction. This was once part of “Sunnyside”, the property settled and (fruit) farmed by another tough pioneer family, the Merchant’s. To quote from Toilers of the Hills, “So steep is the ground that walking underneath, or rather through the splendid bending branches, over lumps of rich loamy soil is exceeding laborious work, specially so to a townie on a hot summer’s day” (p.42). Fortunately the day is not so hot for we modern-day townies.
Mick Brew, a member of the Rare Fruit Society of SA kindly set up a tasting table of fruits he is growing and we were amazed to be sampling subtropical fruit such as white sapote, jujube, custard banana, tamarillo and macadamia nut. All of these plants surprisingly are flourishing here on this north facing hillside.
Wendy Willow then led us down a steep fire track through her mainly bush property to the Sixth Creek creek line. The wonderful bush we passed through which can be appreciated in the accompanying photos is testament to more than 10 years of bushcare and weed control undertaken by Wendy with the assistance of the Sixth Creek Project. Extensive infestations of blackberry and then broom and a few olives have been cleared from the bush and false bamboo from the creek. Regeneration of native species has been largely natural and the condition of the property now as a healthy ecosystem provided inspiration to all of us facing similar issues. As we enjoyed the easy walk down we all commented that we had a steep climb ahead of us back up to Cherryville!
We were surprised and delighted to discover the collection of whimsical structures Wendy has established over the years in the cleared area adjacent the Creek. Miraculously they provided shelter from the first of several showers at this point while Wendy explained in detail the history of her ownership and custodial care of this special property. Especially interesting were the three distinct plantings in the riparian zone, showing how the species-mix, plant spacings and weed management reflect the changing theory and practice of bush and creek regeneration over the decade. We’ve all been learning as we go, even the “experts”.
From here we headed north along the creek line following a fire track that took us past a section still choked with the full range of exotics (plenty more work still to do!) and past extraordinarily productive lemon orchards As we walked we became aware that the valley was widening and that we were moving from the steep gullies of Cherryville into a more open valley as we approached Bungeytown.
This area was marked on maps as Bungeytown for a period in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Samuel Bungey settled in Cherryville in 1849 after migrating from England. His first son William moved into this area of Sixth Creek in the 1870’s and built up a grazing and orchard business. Some form of dispute developed in Samuel’s family in relation to the spelling of Bungey/Bungay. William chose to spell his name as Bungay whilst Samuel and William’s 13 siblings spelt their names as Bungey. The deep fertile soils and sheltered gullies of the Cherryville area provided an opportunity for landowners to experiment with many types of crops such as cherries, apples, pears and plums. Orchards flourished until 1955 when the area was devastated by Black Sunday. Most of the commercial orchards in Cherryville struggled to remain viable after Black Sunday.
At this stage Peter Bungay was running the property in Cherryville as a fourth generation orchardist. He and his wife Betty picked blackberries and grew cauliflowers, onions and potatoes over several decades in order to rebuild the orchard business. The orchard is currently owned and operated by the fifth and sixth generation of the Bungays in Cherryville and grows cherries and lemons.
The Sixth Creek Catchment Group has been assisting one of the current resident families, Gavin and Fiona Schubert to control a terrifying and recent infestation of bamboo in the creek using mechanical excavation. The scale of the work being undertaken is quite amazing considering that this stretch of creek line, downstream of neglected areas, had been bamboo free until the high rainfall events of 2005. It provided a salutory reminder that we must always act as managers of riparian health on a whole of catchment basis.
After light refreshments and a short discussion by the creek we headed up through the main settlement of Bungeytown.
A passing shower caused us to take shelter once again – this time Jon Hardy enlightened us on effects he had observed along the walk of the recently released Cape broom psyllid – great news if this agent can control biologically this terribly invasive weed. Fingers crossed!
From Bungeytown it was a steep climb back up Fernhurst Road to the Cherryville township. Only barbecue volunteers took up the offer of a ride!!
Dieuwke Jessop and her recently arrived family from the UK provided us with a ‘stop point’ and an opportunity to hear about her and John’s efforts with the help of the Group in restoring their property which abuts the road along the way. It provided a welcome breather for some and an insight for us all that caring for properties in this area is a lifetime commitment (obsession?).
Finally we arrived (panting) back at Cherryville.
The barbeque was sizzling, the wine was flowing. Another great walk – time to congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved, that we are building community, that we are appreciating this creek and its communities as a whole system – and to plan for the next one! Stay posted.
Susan Campbell (Chairperson & Basket Range landowner) with assistance from Wendy Willowand Colin Bungay