03 August, 2013

Branching out - Teesdale's turtle

The Teesdale turtle
Another of the smaller tributaries to feed into the Barwon River is Native Hut Creek which rises near Meredith and follows a generally southerly direction through the town of Teesdale towards the Hamilton Highway where it is joined by Spring Creek and Stony Creek. A little over a kilometre further south it meets the Barwon, not far to the west of Murgheboluc.
Along this lower part of the creek, George Russell who settled the area for the Clyde Company (see Branching out - life at The Leigh) noted the number of "mia mias" or shelters built by the local Wathaurong tribe and it was for these that Native Hut Creek was named.
Parkland in the curve of Native Hut Creek at Turtle Bend
Prior to European settlement the Wathaurong presence extended right along the creek and included the Teesdale area. Native grasses and roots along with fish and birds provided food whilst creeks and rivers such as Native Hut Creek served as territorial boundaries and routes along which to travel.
Today, like the Barwon, the creek provides an important habitat for the flora and fauna of the region. It does not flow continuously except in times of high rainfall and flood, however there are pools along its course which provide permanent water for plants and animals alike. Fresh water springs which rise near Teesdale also drain underground into the creek and they, along with a billabong, were the original source of water for the newly-established town in 1851.
There is one important inhabitant of Native Hut Creek who has survived not only 40,000 years of indigenous occupation but also the arrival of European settlement: the Eastern Snake-necked Turtle. As its name suggests, it has a long snake-like neck which it snaps around to catch its food (insects and other small animals like frogs and fish). This species of turtle grow to a shell length of around 30cm in size. They spend most of the time in the water and during times of drought burrow into the mud at the bottom of creeks and pools for protection.
They tend to hibernate over the colder winter months so, needless to say, we didn't see any of the locals during our recent visit, however they do occasionally venture out and in the summer months can sometimes be seen crossing the main road, looking for alternative accommodation.
In recognition of their presence in the region, a small loop in the creek near the Bannockburn-Shelford Road bridge is known as Turtle Bend and in recent years, the area has been developed as a hub for community activities. Across a five year period from 2007, a concept was conceived and implemented by architects, artists, tradesmen, volunteers and government which has resulted in a public parkland within the curve of Turtle Bend.
The Turtle Bend rotunda
As its focus is a rotunda which is like no other; shaped in the likeness of a snake-necked turtle. The turtle's shell provides the roof whilst the paving on its floor resembles the underside of the shell. This inspired structure was designed by architect and local resident Stewart Seaton. The details of the concept and construction are described on the on-site information board pictured below:
Development of the Turtle Bend parkland and rotunda
The rotunda is used for local functions such as picnics and concerts such as the March, 2012 "Twilight at Turtle Bend" whilst the surrounding parklands provide a variety of recreational opportunities.
The creek itself is in the process of being rehabilitated with a number of invasive weeds being removed and replaced with native plantings, however there is still much to be done.

1 comment:

  1. Discovered this park a year ago - lovely for a picnic and short walk. There is a larger flora reserve just up the road too - behind the tennis courts and footy oval. Helen Schofield