Sunday, 30 November 2014

The time of the lilies

Late Spring into early Summer is the time of the lilies. As the warmth hangs around the lower slopes of Barrm Birrm, spires and drifts of flowers open to reveal a marvellous inventiveness. So many tricks of the eye and scents, to tease and entice, all in pursuit of pollination! 
The Tall Fringe-Lily wears a cute fringe on its three bright pink petals. The pretty Milkmaids stand in clusters, bright white petals offsetting their pink ovary, murmuring 'come hither.' And the Chocolate Lily sends out long stems decked with many bright purple flowers that waft, yes, a delicious chocolate scent on the morning air. 
Tall Fringe-Lily. Russell Best
Chocolate lilies, with Milk maids. Nadya Korinfsky

Chocolate lilies. David Francis

A good place to start your lily searching is up a track 130 meters along the dirt road part of Gap Road, from the T Junction at the top of Gap Road. Park on the right hand verge where there's space, and head up the lower slopes. Soon you're in swaths of chocolate lilies. 
Lily browsing is a gentle pastime. It requires a slow pace, a willingness to look and wait for the flowers to make themselves known, and an appreciation of small things. These aren't lilies as you find them at the florist, blaring their presence. They are small, delicate constructions, living their lives out quietly amongst grasses. 
Once you make a start, wandering for lilies takes a hold. You may find yourself off the track, picking your way through grasses, scanning ahead for more wonders. Let your curiosity lead you. There are so many tracks in Barrm Birrm, you're sure to find another soon, and heading down the slope anytime is your fallback, bringing you out onto Gap Road. Go deeper into the bush and you may start to find Barrm Birrm's spectacular orchids. 
To learn more about these plants, get a copy of "Macedon Range Flora" from the good folk at Riddells Post Office.

The Strange History of Barrm Birrm

Barrm Birrm, the place of many yam roots, rises behind Riddells Creek. Here you'll find 120 hectares of the original foothills vegetation fringing Melbourne's Volcanic Plains. It's right on Riddells' doorstep, but not many people know its strange history. 
In the early 1970s, owners of the land then called the Shone and Scholtz land, took advantage of an old subdivision plan from the 1890s (Crown Allotment 112 Parish of Kerrie, County of Bourke) to sell off 162 lots. You can still see the subdivision if you search "Planning Maps Online". When I was looking to buy on Gap Road, I got a shock to see the neatly delineated lots of this plan, with road names like "Prince Alfred Terrace". 
Romsey Council, which had responsibility at the time, informed purchasers that they would not be able to build. The soils were too easily eroded, and the land had high conservation value. Yet hope springs eternal in the mind of the eager investor, and the lots were all sold. For many years, some owners visited regularly and camped, and you can still find remnants of fireplaces.
Then when Romsey Council was amalgamated into Macedon Ranges Shire Council, MRSC resolved to maintain the conservation status of the area. Council has an open offer to take ownership of lots at no cost to owners, who are paying rates on land they can only walk through. Council now owns 17 lots.
From time to time, someone advertises to sell their lot – one went on the market recently with the ambitious price of $30,000 - and last year I came across someone asking after Lot 53 Prince Alfred Terrace (that's it below). 
All I could show him was a muddy track, and wish him well.