By Karen Hising and the members of the Blackheath Centenary Reserve Bushcare Group
Blackheath Centenary Reserve is a small area of bushland of just over two hectares, which lies between Brentwood Avenue and Cleopatra Street, Blackheath. The site was originally retained by the Department of Education. However, in 1985, at the close of celebrations for the Blackheath Village and School Centenary, the Organising Committee had suggested this site as a natural bushland reserve. Acting through the Mayor, Mr Peter Quirk, the Committee applied to the State Government for the site to be set aside for this purpose. This was achieved in May 1987, the Reserve thus being under Council management.
Although totally surrounded by houses and streets and only a small area, the Reserve contains a good biodiversity of native plants indicative of ridgetop vegetation. Much of this type of vegetation has been removed over time for housing development, so it is an important remnant in the area.
Thanks to Joyce Brister and others, a community initiated ‘landcare group’ was established in 1987, making it the oldest group operating in the Blue Mountains.
Historically, the site had been affected by serious infestations of Gorse and Broom, a number of mature Pines and a range of other weeds, as well as dumping, encroachment and illegal vehicle access.
With grant funding, more than twenty large Pine trees were felled, which greatly improved the understorey biodiversity. In 2011, with assistance from local RFS Brigades, Council conducted a hazard reduction burn in one part of the site for fire mitigation purposes. However, the planned burn also provided the opportunity to reduce the Gorse and Broom seedbank in the soil (stimulating their growth, allowing many seedlings to die out naturally and others to be handweeded in the following years). Being an “island” site, where biodiversity recruitment is limited, the burn also stimulated the growth of a range of native plant species.
Many of the other problems have now been controlled and although the Reserve continues to require ongoing maintenance weeding and monitoring, we have been very pleased with the wonderful regeneration that has occurred.
Although landlocked between housing, the Reserve is also an important area of habitat for some local native wildlife, particularly birds. Local residents often enjoy walking through the Reserve too! And despite its small size, the site always surprises us with some beautiful plant species. Whilst there are a number of spectacular flowering Waratahs in the Reserve, of particular interest are the Orchids. We are fortunate to have some dedicated Bushcare Group members, who often monitor the Reserve and report and document their amazing finds. Some photos are noted below, but there are more in the Group’s webpage: https://centenaryreserve.bushcarebluemountains.org.au/photos/ and in the blog.
Blackheath Centenary Reserve proves that despite being small in size and surrounded by development, with lots of edges and some tracks, it is still important habitat for local native wildlife and plants.
The following article from “The Conversation” is an interesting read in that regard.