shepherds hill park

A Brief History

Shepherds Hill Recreation Park is a very special, natural retreat, nestled within the inner southern foothills of Adelaide. The park has enjoyed a long history of recreational use. As early as the nineteenth century local residents would congregate with friends and family to enjoy a picnic at MacDonald's Paddock, the flat wooded area on the banks of Wattiparringga Creek before it joins Walker Creek. The present sees the Park used every day with people enjoying a wide variety of activities from leisurely walks and bird watching to more strenuous exercise.

For over a hundred years the region was used predominantly for grazing sheep and cattle. Trees were cut for fencing and building materials, and native vegetation was squeezed back into the less accessible areas which were often steep or rocky.

Since grazing stopped and National Parks and Wildlife SA took on the park's management in 1972, the indigenous flora has reasserted itself, but so too have aggressive weeds such as olives, boneseed, and phalaris. Once these are eradicated the indigenous flora will flourish.

Our approach to the ecological rehabilitation of our park draws heavily on the experience and successes learned on Watiparinga National Trust Reserve over the past thirty years. Watiparinga stands adjacent to Shepherds Hill on its eastern boundary and has been described by Ann Prescott as "a flourishing vegetation community in a condition as near as possible to that which existed prior to European settlement."

Natural regeneration and minimum disturbance weeding techniques have been the most successful and efficient methods of re-establishing the native vegetation. The success can be gauged by the remarkable increase in the recorded numbers of indigenous plant species, from 25 in 1961, to 162 in 1998. Together with this has been a corresponding increase in bird numbers and species diversity.

There are two distinct native ecosystems in the park, the redgum dominated river flats, and the greybox grassy woodland. Both were typical of the Adelaide region but, due to land clearing and development, the greybox, Eucalyptus microcarpa, and its understorey has now diminished to the extent that this plant association has been given a high conservation rating. It is these two ecosystems our Friends group wish to assist in re-establishing. Over the past years, as we have removed olives, boneseed and other weeds, we have discovered a wonderful collection of little native plants that have been overshadowed and crowded out by the more aggressive weeds. At an early working bee, by seeking out the source of a beautifully penetrating musk perfume, we were excited to find the pale flax lily, Dianella longifolia, a plant that is rare and at risk. Probably our most precious plant is the variable glycine, Glycine tabacina, a scrambling legume with small purple pea shaped flowers. This plant is rare and in danger of becoming extinct. It is under constant threat not only from the competition with weeds and being overshadowed by olives but also from trampling feet and bike riders who unthinkingly create new tracks through its populations.

We have noted sixteen different plant species in the park which have conservation ratings from Uncommon to Endangered. Shepherds Hill Recreation Park has one of the few remaining stands of 'old growth' greybox: trees with hollows that are essential to our many hollow-nesting birds such as kookaburras and rosellas.

The Management Committee of Watiparinga Reserve on the eastern boundary of Shepherds Hill Recreation Park has welcomed the formation of the Friends of Shepherds Hill.

Owned by the National Trust, Watiparinga is a 32 hectare property which has been carefully managed over the past 30 odd years. Now much of this former farmland has been restored to greybox (Eucalyptus microcarpa) grassy woodland. In 1961 there were 21 locally indigenous plant species present; now there are 176 species.

Minimum disturbance management has governed both the weed management and regeneration programmes on Watiparinga.

With the Friends group actively working in Shepherds Hill there is no longer a continual re-infestation of woody and other weeds into Watiparinga. The Friends can take the credit for this welcome change.