The Grampians, Volcanic Plains and Anglesea Heathland¦ANN 2018

Northern Suburbs Branch February
All photos D Poynton unless credited otherwise

Rather than pick a single venue, the hosts of the 2018 ANN Get-together chose to showcase the variation in natural history found in south-western Victoria by using three locations for accommodation. This meant most interstate participants who were not self-driving enjoyed the luxury of a 750 km round-trip by coach, starting and ending at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport.

Halls Gap in The Grampians was our base for the first four nights. The Grampians are described as: a place of spectacular beauty, rich in indigenous art, and renowned for its spectacular wildflowers, massive sandstone cliffs and waterfalls among many other attractions. They lived up to this description, including the towering cliffs above our accommodation.

Sandstone cliffs near accommodation in Grampians

The Grampians contain about one third of all the flora species in Victoria. As our visit coincided with the peak of the wildflower season we saw many of the 975 species in flower, including the State’s floral emblem, the pink Common Heath (Epacaris impressa) and some of the 75 species of orchids including the Wax-lip Orchid (Glossodia major) in its many purple hues.

The route to our next overnight stop, Warrnambool on the south coast, took us through Victoria’s Volcanic Plains, home to over 400 volcanic eruptions over the last 4.5 million years—the most recent being only 7,200 years ago.

Clearing around lava flow, Harman Valley. Photo: P Ghirardi)

Two stops were made to observe the lava flow from Mt Napier. Unfortunately, during the last 10 years farmers have been able to clear part of the flow, as Victoria is the only state that does not have legislation to protect geological sites of significance. The second stop was to view Australia’s only occurrence of tumuli.

Tumuli. Photo: M Honeybun.

At Mt Eccles we were able to view its crater, now Lake Surprise, and a lava tunnel.
Our final stop involved a walk around part of the crater of Tower Hill, located midway between Port Fairy and Warrnambool.

Over the last fifty years the island in the centre has been revegetated with native species using information from a painting made by Eugene Von Guerard in 1855.

After overnighting in Warrnambool, the group travelled along the Great Ocean Road with its spectacular views of forests, cliffs and the ocean, before arriving at our final destination for four nights: Anglesea.

The Anglesea Heathlands just pips the Grampians for vegetation diversity, containing approximately 40 per cent of all the State’s floral species, including 80 orchids. The area of 7000 ha was incorporated into the Great Otway National Park in 2017 after the closure of the Anglesea coal mine and power station.

The high cliffs provided opportunities to explore the vegetation along a cliff-top path, and the geology from the beach. But it was the walks in the heath to observe the many orchids that attracted most people. Among those we saw were the endemic Large Bearded Greenhood (Pterostylis plumosa) and Anglehook Fingers Orchid (Caladenia maritima) and several examples of a hybrid of the latter and the Pink Fingers Orchid (C. carnea).

Don Poynton