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The following is an article written for the Yass Tribune by Kate Wilson, President of the Yass Landcare Group.

Yass Landcare Group members and friends participated in a hands-on field day on the property of Mike and Denise McKenzie on Sunday 22 September. It was a great opportunity to see the work that has recently been carried out on their property – the second part of a two phase project to counteract gully erosion.

Workshop participants gather at an engineered structure which reinstates floodplain connectivity

Workshop participants gather at an engineered structure which reinstates floodplain connectivity.

The field day was led by project manager, Cam Wilson – a man with a mission to restore landscapes. Cam learned what he knows about landscape and water from working for two years with Peter Andrews, author of Back from the Brink, and Peter Marshall, who brings a scientific understanding of hydrology with effective practices.

Cam demonstrated how leaky weirs of various constructions can hold back the water in the landscape, rehydrating the surrounding land and allowing the water to slowly filter through the landscape. In big rain events, flood water is slowed and held suspended in such leaky weirs. This reduces erosion and prevents sediment from being carried down into the river.

Cam showed willing participants how to build fascines – bundles of logs tied together and placed in the gully. This technique is especially useful at the head wall of erosion and if carefully constructed, can stop erosion creeping back up through a paddock.

Logs being strapped together to create fascine bundles

Logs being strapped together to create fascine bundles.

A series of fascines tied together to create a solid grade control structure, slowing flows, capturing litter & sediment and providing improved conditions for biological rehabilitation

A series of fascines tied together to create a solid grade control structure, slowing flows, capturing litter & sediment and providing improved conditions for biological rehabilitation.

A log step under construction, with geotextile fabric lining the gully headwall

A log step under construction, with geotextile fabric lining the gully headwall.

The completed log step provides an armoured drop at the head of the gully, buying time for the long term solution of dense vegetation above to establish

The completed log step provides an armoured drop at the head of the gully, buying time for the long term solution of dense vegetation to establish above.

Some Landcare members also planted poplars under Cam’s direction, by simply digging a hole with a crowbar and plunging a cutting into the ground. The cuttings were taken from male trees which do not produce seed.  Although they are not a native tree, they will grow up quickly and can be coppiced many times over, producing large quantities of material for use in leaky weirs. If lopped during a drought, the leaf is equivalent to Lucerne in feed value and the bark high in micronutrients.

Yunan poplar established as pole cuttings under the guidance of Peter Marshall during a 2011 field day.

Yunan poplar established as pole cuttings under the guidance of Peter Marshall during a 2011 field day.

Perfect timing for the establishment of poplar cuttings, taking advantage of the moisture levels which are enhanced by the engineered structures

Perfect timing for the establishment of poplar cuttings, taking advantage of the moisture levels which are enhanced by the engineered structures.

A staggered planting of poplar cuttings will in time create a filtering net, while regular coppicing will provide materials for the construction of regular leaky weirs along the gully floor

A staggered planting of poplar cuttings will in time create a biological filtering net, while regular coppicing will provide materials for the construction of regular leaky weirs along the gully floor. The canopies will also provide shade to the North facing gully walls, the improved microclimate allowing ground cover to establish.

Cam has also overseen the construction – or rather the resurrection – of a chain of ponds on the property. He has converted a wide valley floor, overrun with river tussock, into a series of ponds with the help of an excavator. He is planting native trees and shrubs, along with grasses, rushes and sedges to create a diverse wetland for biodiversity. The sound (and sight) of frogs was delightful. Mike and Denise hope the wetland will attract numerous bird species too.

Newly constructed chain of ponds at Nanima Gold

Newly constructed chain of ponds at Nanima Gold.

Observing the new chain of ponds from up close

Observing the new chain of ponds from up close.

The Gorgeous Gullies Project was funded through Landcare Australia by Leighton Holdings.

To learn more about Cam Wilson’s work, check out his website at www.earthintegral.com

If your Landcare group is interested in conducting a workshop on low cost erosion control strategies please contact Cam to discuss possibilities.

Disclaimer: Where water flow is concerned there are substantial risks involved. While the information and images we publish are formulated in good faith, with the intention of raising awareness of landscape rehydration processes, the contents do not take into account all the social, environmental and regulatory factors which need to be considered before putting that information into practice.  Accordingly, no person should rely on anything contained within as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Images © Cam Wilson, Earth Integral, 2013

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Below are some photos and videos taken along a transect of the floodplain on Peter and Kate Marshall’s property. I hope you enjoy these images (taken 36 hrs after a 180mm overnight event), with the creek running crystal clear and spread out across the floodplain on Sunningdale.

To put what you’re seeing in context, most other watercourses in the region are restricted predominantly to the channel due to the erosion and incision caused by past land management practices. Although man-made, the hydrology in this landscape is much closer to the way it operated pre Euro settlement, in an intact chain of ponds or swampy meadow system. The noise of the frogs in the videos is testament to the significant aquatic and wetland habitat which has also been created.

Photo locations taken across a transect of the floodplain at Sunningdale

Locations of photos taken across a transect of the floodplain at Sunningdale. (For some scale, the image is 350m wide, and the main channel located at the meandering tree-line, flowing from bottom to top).

To flick through a larger slideshow of the images, click on any of the thumbnails below

Short video locations taken across a transect of the floodplain at Sunningdale

Locations of short videos taken across a transect of the floodplain at Sunningdale

Finally, another interesting little clip is of the ground literally bubbling as the subsurface flow rehydrates the gravel and sediments below the surface. This stored moisture benefits the land’s production and drought proofing resilience, while also providing a more sustained base-flow to the landscape below.

See the articles tagged as Key floodplain processes for more information on what is being achieved from a landscape perspective.

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Disclaimer: Where water flow is concerned there are substantial risks involved. While the information and images we publish are formulated in good faith, with the intention of raising awareness of landscape rehydration processes, the contents do not take into account all the social, environmental and regulatory factors which need to be considered before putting that information into practice.  Accordingly, no person should rely on anything contained within as a substitute for specific professional advice.

Article and Images © Cam Wilson, Earth Integral, 2013

A stroll, post flood

A stroll, post flood

A newly planted 5 ha mixed-Oak and hazel, truffle inoculated dehesa.

Building on the success of their well-respected business Terra Preta Truffles, the Marshalls have planted a further 5 ha of truffle orchard this season (click here for a virtual tour of Sunningdale). The system includes a wide variety of oaks, sourced from the Canberra region, interplanted with hazels which provide a shorter term truffle return. Under the guidance of top mycologists, the trees have been propagated and inoculated on farm this time around, partly because of the availability of truffles for inoculant, but also due to the very mediocre (and no-doubt concerning for many) results in the findings of a recent ANU study on the Australian truffle nursery industry.

Click on one of the images below for a slideshow of how we went about planting each of the valuable trees in ‘Mari’s Montado’ (named after Mari Korhonen who spent six months with the Marshalls last year and planted a good portion of this paddock).

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Copyright Cam Wilson, Earth Integral, 2012