"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

Grampian State Forest

Most of the the Grampians became a National Park on 1 July 1984, but prior to that time suitable areas were harvested for timber and other resources need for settlement of the surrounding plains. This article will expand as more information is collected. It is designed to give you a start on understanding the history of these forests.

Forester Gear Reports - 1884

Source: ME Carver. Volume D - Part 3, p 247

"This forest consists chiefly of mountain ranges, composed principally of granite 1. Some portions of the Victoria Valley would make good agricultural land, but the greater portion is of medium grazing quality.

The timber found on the ranges is chiefly stringybark, while that in the valley consists of red gum and a small quantity of stunted white gum. There are some fair specimens of red gum in the swamps, which would be useful for supplying sleepers and timber for culverts, but the quantity is limited. There are also some good belts of wattles of the feather-leaf variety growing in the forest.

As regards the period the timber is likely to last, I am at present unable to form any idea, as the local consumption just now is very small; if, however, mining should spring up once more, as is thought very likely, then the supply would be very limited. The timber in the Grampians would be of little use for sawmill purposes, there being very little good forest timber to be met with. I may here state that, should the department feel disposed to plant, I believe some good pine forest might be produced in this district."

1   Forester Gear got it seriously wrong. The Grampians are, in fact, composed of sandstone ranges.

 

The Merchantable Forest

Source: The Grampians. A Noble Range. Jane Calder, 1987

"In areas where the rainfall is between 600mm and 900mm per annum (much of the Grampians) and where there is sufficient depth of soil, the forests grow up to 30m tall and consist of what is known as mixed forest. The timber eucalypts that grow in these areas are Messmate and Brown Stringybark, Manna Gum and Mountain Grey Gum . The 35000 hectares of mixed forest in the Grampians have been heavily logged for over 100 years to yield timber that is used, if large enough, for house construction; and if smaller, for sawlogs and farm timbers."

"The other major timber harvest from the Grampians comes from the 35000 ha of heavier clay soils in the Victoria Valley and near Woohlpooer. Here, River Red Gum and Yellow Gum are harvested, while north-facing sites yield Red Ironbark, Yellow Box, Grey Box, Long-leaf Box, Red Box, Yellow Gum and Red Stringy bark. All these eucalypts are slow growing with heavy duarable timber that is suitable for posts, rails, railway sleepers and house stumps."

Timber Harvesting

Source: The Grampians. A Noble Range. Jane Calder, 1987

"Timber was harvested from the earliest days of settlement when it was used for houses and for farm buildings. When gold was discovered in nearby Stawell and Ararat, the demand for timber increased greatly. Now, it was needed for construction work such as pit props and rail sleepers; for fuelling the ever-hungry steam engines that powered the mines; for conversion to charcoal to produce the high temperatures that were required during ore-processing; and Iast, but not least, for warmth and cooking. The early sawmills, such as those at Fyans Creek, Stony Creek, Borough Huts, Zumstein, Wartook, Cranages, Strachan's Huts etc were steam-powered and were generally small enough to be mobile."

"Before the 1920's, there were almost no roads in the Grampians and the timber men had to rely largely on tramlines - including the one put in to service the Stony Creek dredge - to move the timber and equipment."

"The Mt William mill 2 was at its heyday just before World War II, when as many as three loads of sawn timber, each of six tonnes were taken daily into Ararat 50 km away."

"Although the Mount William mill escaped being burnt, many of the small mobile sawmills in the Grampians were destroyed, along with much of the rest of Victoria, in the devastating Black Friday fires of January 1939. As a result of the war heavy hauling machinery improved greatly, this allowed post-war timber mills to be sited more economically in the nearby towns of Ararat, Horsham', Dunkeld, Hamilton and Stawell."

2  The Mount William mill was located in the gold township of Mafeking.

 

See Also