Illawarra group hosting the September Gathering

By Michael Swire

Re-established 18 months ago, the Illawarra group members made a great team effort to organise, stage and then enjoy this event with the community and other APS groups. To give some variety, we organised 3 walks in the morning, attendees could nominate (one) walk, respond, and select a walk via email.

Morning 10am to 12:00.

Walk 1) Wollongong Botanic Gardens, Michael Swire and Helen Moon guided 16 guests, starting at the Tiny Forest, walking through the Sandstone, Australian Arid and Rainforest Collections. Helen Moon is a talented Botanical artist; her original paintings are displayed in the Towrie Centre, featuring rare Illawarra plants.

Mount Keira watches over Wollongong Botanic Gardens. Image as supplied by Illawarra group

We touched on the history of the land, owned by the Hoskins family, founders of the steel industry in the Illawarra. This land was given to the people of Wollongong in 1951 by Sid and Marg Hoskins for the purpose of developing a Botanic Garden, opened officially in 1971. Yes, without a Steel Industry, we would not have a Botanic Garden. 

Walk 2) University of Wollongong grounds, Anthony Wardle and Helen Fletcher guided 17 people around the local campus grounds. We were treated to an informative, interesting and entertaining overview of the history of UOW and the development of its current landscape. Originally cleared farmland in the 1960s, the site has been transformed over the years with plantings of native vegetation and construction of ponds and water features to make a beautiful, welcoming environment for both students and staff. Over 160 native animals now live on or visit the grounds, including echidna, possums, water birds, frogs – and red belly black snakes! Unfortunately, feral deer have found the university inviting as 

well and more than a couple of escaped rabbits have taken up residence too. A variety of eucalypts and rainforest plants (the Red Cedar planted in 1978 pictured) kept the group nice and cool on the rather warm day. Two hours definitely went by fast – for those who missed out on the tour, self-guided brochures for the Campus tree walks are available for anyone wanting to mosey around the university at another time. 

Anthony Wardle giving a talk about the University grounds, Helen Fletcher photo (Above). Image as supplied by Illawarra group
Toona ciliate - Red Cedar planted in 1978 pictured. Image as supplied by Illawarra group

Walk 3) Puckey’s Nature Reserve, an Annex of Wollongong Botanical Gardens Tracee Lea and Geoff Dernee guided 13 guests through the historic site that was once used as an experimental salt mill established in 1905 by Pharmacist Courtney Puckey. Some historic remains of the salt works and homestead Seafield Estate can still be seen. Today the reserve contains rare coastal habitat that includes dunes, mangroves and marshland. Situated on the edge of the city of Wollongong, we are very proud of this rare remnant coastal nature reserve, that would have been common all along the coast before European settlement.

Puckey’s salt mill site, and some very old Leptospermum laevigatum specimens. Image as supplied by Illawarra group

The informative stroll began on this warm sunny morning at Fairy Meadow Beach viewing coastal Spinifex sericea, a coastal dune stabiliser, displayed were both male and female flowers.

As we walked through the vegetation communities, it changes from banksia, saltbush and acacia scrub to casuarina & paperbark floodplain forest communities, 4 kilometres of level track is beside Fairy Creek, just north of Wollongong city.

Afternoon 1pm – 4pm Corrimal Community Centre

Plant and book sale/conclusion

  • Acknowledgement to Country – Patricia Nagle

  • Speakers – Leon Fuller & Emma Rooksby – Indigenous Plants for Streets

  • Afternoon tea

  • Speaker – Anthony Wardle – A reflection of the University Grounds, then and now.

Afternoon proceedings led by APS Vice President, John Aitken. Talks by Leon Fuller, Emma Rooksby and Anthony Wardle, at Corrimal community Centre. Image as supplied by Illawarra group