Volunteers work to remove invasive species and uncover a section of former railway between Heathcote Junction and Bendigo.

RECENT works at Hidden Valley, north of Wallan, to uncover a section of former railway line between Heathcote Junction and Bendigo have unearthed more than just tracks.

A working bee in December to clear part of the line attracted 32 volunteers from environmental and cycling groups, as well as Mitchell Shire Council representatives.

The volunteers were able to clear fallen timber, weeds and other plant growth from some sections of the track, with an ultimate goal of creating a rail trail for recreational use.

However, Upper Merri Landcare facilitator Chris Cobern said the land was exciting for more than just a former railway easement.

“The 1.2km section of the former Heathcote Junction to Bendigo railway line near Hidden Valley in Wallan has been unmanaged and unused by trains for more than 50 years, however the significant natural values of the site have persisted,” he said.

“The area has remnants of the native vegetation that once covered the surrounding area but today is limited to small, fragmented patches on roadsides.”

On Sunday, January 9, another working bee saw 26 people from the Wallan Environment Group, WEG, and Mitchell Bicycle Users Group, MBUG, return to the site to mow the track and remove weeds.

Mr Cobern said the native vegetation was under threat from invasive weeds, particularly gorse and blackberry bushes, as well as briar rose and other woody weeds including the South African weed orchid.

He said WEG members had started removing weeds from the south-eastern section of the site and recorded a diverse range of wildflowers, lilies, orchids and shrubs.

Mr Cobern showed the group how to identify and safely remove the South African weed orchid.

“WEG [and I] are mapping the weeds and gathering information on the natural values and threats to the reserve,” he said.

“This information will help … to develop a project that could include things such as weed control, revegetation and the installation of nesting boxes for wildlife, as well as community engagement events including a spring wildflower walk, National Tree Day community planting and maybe even a night walk spotlighting activity to see what nocturnal creatures inhabit the area.”

Mr Cobern said Wallan had a shortage of bushland areas set aside as public open space.

“This reserve offers the opportunity for locals to enjoy and appreciate a nearby natural bushland area and also offers a safe place for locals to cycle – especially children and those with limited cycling experience,” he said.

“Enhancing the reserve will hopefully lead to better walking/riding connections with the rest of Hidden Valley and Wallan.”