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Discover a living treasure on your doorstep

Wednesday 31 July, 2013

National Tree Day this month was a chance to put the spotlight on some of the greatest living treasures in parks and reserves across the state.

Victoria's River Red Gum parks are home to some of the most interesting trees in Victoria and Parks Victoria is encouraging people to get out and discover them throughout the year.

Barmah National Park is home to the largest stand of River Red Gum forest in the world.

Ranger Team Leader Mick Caldwell has worked as a ranger and water officer with Parks Victoria since 2009. He knows Barmah National Park like the back of his hand after working in the forest for most of his life.

From the age of 15 Mick learnt forest lore and how to muster cattle under the guidance of legendary herdsman Tom Galloway. He worked as a government paid musterer from 1968 to 1984, and later supervised cattle grazing and timber harvesting until they ceased prior to the creation of Barmah National Park.

According to Mick the towering River Red Gums that dominate the landscape are living legends in their own right.

“Some of the mature River Red Gums in this forest reach about 45 metres in height and are up to 500 years old,” said Mick.

“The trees in the forest also have many stories to tell about our local history from Aboriginal culture through to the tales of cattlemen and the memories of the timber cutters that relied on the forest for their livelihood during the logging era.”

One of Mick’s favourite places in the park is by Galloway’s tree which stands at 43.1 metres tall near Punt Paddock Lagoon in northern section of the park close to the Murray River.

The tree is named after Mick’s mentor Tom Galloway who built the herdsman’s hut adjacent to the Barmah Muster Yards in the early 1950s.

When Mick moved to the bush at the age of 15, he started working under the direction of Tom who herded cattle from 1939 – 1970.

“We spent alot of time together herding and checking the cattle that agisted in the forest. When Tom wasn’t mustering he would sometime brand trees for the sawloggers and sleeper cutters.

“I learnt so much about the trees and their significance in the forest. Tom would highlight the many Aboriginal sites in the bush as we rode by. He was a keen bird enthusiast and would point out the vividly coloured Green Leek parrot, now known as the Superb Parrot, which fed and nested in the trees.”

Galloway’s Tree joins Munro’s Pile, Tingate’s Pile, Dexter’s Tree and Code’s Pile as trees of significance in Barmah National Park which all stand above 40 metres high.

As you walk through Barmah National Park, you can also see markings on trees where bark was removed by Aboriginal ancestors for items such as canoes and shields.

The scar trees and other cultural heritage sites within in park are significant to the Yorta Yorta people and are a strong reminder of their connection to the land and waters over thousands of years.

“Next time you take a walk in the forest, take a closer look at the amazing trees around you and think about what story they might tell as a piece of living history,” said Mick.

Barmah National Park, together with the adjoining Millewa forest in New South Wales, forms the largest River Red Gum forest in the world.

It supports many rare and threatened plants and animals, and holds Ramsar-listed wetlands of international significance. The forest is a nesting strong hold for threatened Superb Parrot.

Many people celebrated National Tree Day on 28 July by planting their own piece of living history.

Barmah National Park can be subject to flooding throughout the year so please check the latest conditions before you visit.

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