The Redwoods, the cathedral, the majestic forest

No longer the well kept Otways secret, the majestic Redwood forest beckons visitors to wander through the carpeted forest floor, these enormous trees  compelling our silence and whispers.  

But what of the history?  Who planted them here, when and why? 

Roger Smith provides the answers to these questions and more in,  The Redwoods of the Otway Ranges.  Smith tells us that the first experimental planting of the Sequioa sempervirens was in 1929, then 1930 & 1932 in the Aire Valley by the Forest Commission.  Four years later in 1936 the river flat near the Aire Bridge Crossing was chosen for further planting.  This proved to be a successful site due to the fertile soil and the dense scrub which was a useful shelter for the early years growth.  It is thought that the seedlings were most likely grown in the Macedon Nursery, possibly originating from the West Coast of North America. When the stands were 41 years of ages the height was 40.3, climbing to 59.8 in 2004 at 68 years old showing rapid growth rivaling other Redwood plantations in the world.

Photo 6-05-2015 8 27 22 pm Along with Smith, Beech Forest locals recall the so named, "displaced persons" camp which was adjoining the edge of the plantation.  Strategically placed near the Aire River water source and within close proximity to Beech Forest, the huts were constructed in 1948 to accommodate refugees from Eastern Europe following World War 2 under the Chiefley government's populate or perish post war migration policy.  The camp consisted of a cookhouse, mess, shower block, toilets, wood shed and the 18 Stanley huts.  The men worked planting pines in the Aire Valley, however their skills and craftsmanship such as boot mending, cooking and basket weaving were soon noticed and utilised.  Walking to the hotel in Beech Forest provided the men with their entertainment and some went on to marry local women and settle in Beech Forest (Zappelli). The huts were empty by the early 1960s, and then occasionally used by bush walkers, fishers, and sightseers, however they soon became neglected and vandalised and therefore removed.  The area continued to be used for picnics and camping for many years, but the trees needed saving from the axe of campers and others and eventually included in the Great Otways National Park under the care and protection of Parks Victoria and listed for their cultural and historic features.  To find out more about the history of the Redwoods and browse through a great photographic collection, drop into the Otway Districts Historical Society history rooms. 

 

References:

Smith, R, (2015), The Redwoods of the Otway Ranges, Lothian Custom Publishing, Melbourne.

Zappelli, I. Beech Forest 100 Years

 

 

 




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