Sandhills Artefacts at Narrandera and a revegetation site in the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park

Printer-friendly version

Thanks to Michael Lyons from Sandhills Artefacts and Glenn Currie for a great time on Saturday the 26th May 2018.

Michael is a very lucky bloke, he has two sheds which he very kindly guided us through, showing us in the first shed how he takes raw wood and turns them into magnificent didgeridoos (Boomerangs and Coolamons) by soaking the branches in water, debarking, hollowing it out on his lathe where required, sanding, polishing and painting.

Michael treated us to some tunes on didgeridoo’s he had made, including Waltzing Matilda as well as bird calls such as the Boobook Owl, a Rooster (white man alarm clock) and Kookaburra.

Behind the first shed on the river flats Michael showed us some plants including “Old Man Weed” (Common name: Sneeze weed: Centipeda cunninghamii) this is a medicine plant for a wide range of health problems including eczema and arthritis. There was a tree carving of the goanna which is the Wiradjuri totem as well as a scar tree where a Coolamon had been made from the bark of the tree.

On the way to Michael’s second shed we saw winter and summer humpies, the second shed was a treasure trove of old and new artefacts including grinding stones, fire starting stones, hunting boomerangs, fighting shields, payback (law enforcement) shields, message sticks, soap stone, emu eggs, possum skins, kangaroo skins made into a rug which would be good for the footy, which Virginia tried on. Michael made a phone call on his Bull Roarer, we assumed he rang Betty Bradney, as she knows how to make these out of school rulers.

Michael told us great stories about the items he showed us and the way of life of his relatives and ancestors, including taking us down to the river to nature’s supermarket, retrieving a witchetty grub from a red gum sapling, showing us where river mussels were located and checking into the Hilton, a huge 500-year-old tree used for shelter. We learnt that useful tools would be left in the shelter for all to use rather than carrying them about and markings on trees or rocks were often left advising what food sources were available in the area. These systems made it easier to transfer information to visitors.

Michael was very generous with his time and vast knowledge, it was fascinating to learn so much about his culture and the history of the Wiradjuri people, we were very grateful and thank him so much.

We moved down river to Graham’s Grave and had lunch at Island Bend. We then drove back to the Forestry revegetation site in MIA 1 where we saw the magnificent results of plantings on the sandhills, some were planted from tube stock and some direct seeded.

Sandhill Pine Woodlands are an endangered ecological community (EEC) in NSW and are found in the south west portion of the state.  There has been funding available recently for landholders to protect and enhance these important EEC’s and some sandhill rehabilitation work that has been undertaken at Oolambeyan National Park was written about in our September 2017 #252 newsletter.

We knew of this MIA I site that was approximately 17 years old and were interested in seeing how it was progressing. It’s a fenced off area on the track to Island Beach. The vegetation on top of the hill was planted as tubestock and what have survived are doing very well. Acacia brachybotrya Grey Mulga, A. deanei Deane’s Wattle, A. hakeoides, Hakea Wattle, A. pendula Boree, A. oswaldii Miljee, Senna sp., Atriplex nummularia Old Man Saltbush are all prevalent and have grown into quite large shrubs. The only shrub that seems to be regenerating by itself are the Miljee which are suckering prolifically.

The sandhill is surrounded by a virtual monoculture of River Redgum Eucalyptus camaldulensis so it’s essentially an island of different, diverse vegetation.  Apart from the shrubs that were planted on top, the sandhills are fairly barren. Rabbit warrens are very evident. Caltrop Tribulus terrestris was everywhere.  We could see where some direct seeding was tried. This was done in June 2015.  The plants are patchy along some of the direct seeding lines and non-existent along others. The Acacia and Senna that are evident did very well to survive this last terribly dry summer on a bare sandhill. The extremely wet winter of 2016 must have helped their establishment immensely.

Some birds we saw on the day were: Yellow Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Blue Faced Honey Eater, Yellow Thornbill, Grey Fantail, Red Capped Robin (Female), Black Kites (12), Noisy Miners - inhabiting the revegetation, perhaps illustrating the benefits of bio-diversity.

Phil & Kathy Tenison and Glenn Currie