Community members enjoy a day’s cycling along a section of the former railway reserve.

The Wallan Environment Group, WEG, has received a $19,785 Victorian Landcare Grant for the removal of woody weeds from within a section of the former Wandong, Heathcote, Bendigo Railway’s reserve, which adjoins Hidden Valley and Wallan.

While the last train went through the area 54 years ago in 1968, the remaining 1.2km section of the railway has been locked away since 1888 from being cleared and developed for other purposes. 

WEG president Claudia James said the group’s aim was to conserve the high biodiversity values of the Hidden Valley Rail Reserve understorey.

“One of the attractions of many railway reserves is that they are often the last preserves of locally indigenous flora,” she said.

“The issue to be addressed in this reserve is woody weed control, mainly gorse and blackberry, because currently these are endangering the biodiversity and environmental values of the reserve.

“The hiring of contractors to spray those weeds will initially address this issue, then comes the removal of dead weed material and further work.”

Other community groups including Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail-Trail, Mitchell Bicycle Users Group and the Mitchell Australian Plant Society have taken part in working bees at the site.

Support has also been provided by the Merri Creek Management Committee and the Upper Merri Landcare coordinator, by mapping the weeds in the reserve.

“The current status of this land remains under the jurisdiction of VicTrack, and our group has been communicating with VicTrack in regard to this project,” Ms James said.

Friends of the Bendigo-Kilmore Rail-Trail planning team chair Lindsay Clay, who has been involved in the project to return the former railway reserve for community use, welcomed the news of the grant.

“Our group has been working with the Wallan Environmental Group and the Mitchell Shire community, to plan for a safe off-road trail between Wallan and Kilmore,” Mr Clay said

“While  all the community groups involved have slightly different objectives, the obtaining of this grant is a great example of what can be achieved when community groups come together to achieve a common goal.”