Yesterday (Saturday 22nd July 2017) I activated the Blackwood Forest Recreation Park VKFF-1686 which is located about 13 km south of Adelaide, in the Mount Lofty Ranges ‘Adelaide Hills’. The park is located at Hawthorndene in the Coromandel Valley.
This was to be a unique park for me as an activator for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, and the very first time the park had been activated.
The Blackwood Forest Recreation Park was first acquired by the South Australian State Government in 1908 for use as an experimental orchard. It continued to be used for horticultural research until the 1960s. From the mid 1980’s there was sustained public concern over a period of more than 15 years, seeking to have the 21 hectares of land retained as open space. This resulted in the Blackwood Forest Recreation Park being proclaimed a Recreation Park under the National Parks and Wildlife Act in November 2001.
There is limited natural vegetation in the park. Some native vegetation can be found on the eastern boundary of the park, while some old River Red Gums and Acacia species can be found along Minno Creek on the western boundary of the park. About 8 hectares of the park is Monterey Pine, with the remainder of the park being open grassland. A few of the original trees from the orchard remain today, including walnuts, pecans, loquats, mulberries, quinces, greenguage plums. A row of 27 named varieties of olives can be located along the Turners Avenue boundary of the park. These olives are officially listed by The National Trust of South Australia as being locally historically important.
There are a number of walking tracks in the park, and as it was a beautiful sunny day there were a lot of bushwalkers, people out with their dogs, and mountain bikers in the park. There are also a number of interpretive signs.
In 1908, the land which is now the park, was purchased by George Quinn, Chief Horticultural Instructor with the then newly formed Department of Agriculture for £88 , for the purpose of establishing an experimental orchard to trial and experiment with a wide range of fruit trees.
Over 4,000 varieties of fruit trees were counted in a census in 1927. The orchard was considered to be the largest collection of fruit varieties in one plantation anywhere in the world. However, in the late 1930s, problems with soil erosion and fertility led to the orchard being mainly replanted with varieties more suited to the local climate. Orcharding in the area declined in the 1960s and resources were progressively transferred to a new facility at Lenswood. In 1968 the Blackwood orchard ceased.
The former manager’s house dating back to c. 1909 can still be found in the western section of the park.
In 1985 and 1993, South Australian State government plans to rezone and sell off the land, resulted in community protest meetings and petitions demanding that the land be retained in perpetuity as public open space. In 1993 the Save the Blackwood Forest Committee was formed and maintained consistent pressure on a succession of ministers over the following years. There were a number of protest rallies and marches, public meetings, community tree plantings and tent embassies on the land. In 2001, after a long and difficult struggle, the Blackwood Forest Reserve was declared permanent open space as part of the Greater Mount Lofty Parklands.
There is an active Friends of Blackwood Forest Recreation Park. Their website can be located at…..
Over 40 species of birds have been recorded in the park including Maned Duck, Adelaide Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Rainbow Lorikeet, New Holland Honeyeater, Spotted Pardalote, Eastern Spinebill, and Laughing Kookaburra.
Various native wildlife can be located in the park including koalas, Echidnas, Common Brushtail Possum, and Common Ringtail possum. During my activation I had a koala in the gum tree above me, enjoying the afternoon sun.
My initial operating spot in the park was alongside of the pines, at the northern end of Myrtle Road. Sadly after setting up and switching on the transceiver I found that there was S9 plus noise. It was impossible to operate from this position, so I pack up and headed off to find a quieter location.
I then travelled along Turners Avenue and parked in the carpark near the junction with Main Road. I set up about 50 metres inside the park boundary in a nice cleared area. As it was a warm sunny day, I set up the fold up table and deck chair under the shade of some nearby trees.
Prior to calling CQ I tuned across the 40m band and found Gerard VK2JNG/p on 7.135. Gerard was in the Cooleburba State Conservation Area VKFF-1307. It was a nice way to start the activation with a Park to Park contact. I then found Mark VK4SMA/p on 7.144, in the Denmark Hill Conservation Park. Mark was quite low down, as I was to he, but as we both had zero man made noise, we were able to work each other comfortably.
I then headed to 7.130 and called CQ. But not before sending my wife Marija VK5FMAZ a text message to let her know I was on 7.130. Marija was at home patiently waiting for me to come up, before heading off to do the shopping. I was pleased to be able to hear Marija back at Mount Barker on the other side of the hills, as close in propagation on 40m has been challenging to say the least, over the past few months. Scott VK7NWT then called in with a nice 5/9 signal, followed by Peter Vk3PF, Don VK3MCK, and then Dennis VK2HHA.
Contact number 10, qualifying the park for me for the VKFF program, was Garry VK3VLA at Geelong. I continued to work a steady flow of callers, with contact number 44 being reached whilst 1 hour & 15 minutes into the activation. Lee VK2LEE was my 44th contact, qualifying the park for me for the global WWFF program.
With 44 contacts in the log I headed over to 3.610 on the 80m band, where I logged Geoff VK3SQ in Beechworth, Mike VK5FMWW in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, and finally John VK5BJE in the Adelaide Hills. It was quite noisy on the 80m band from the park, with a noise floor of around strength 7.
I then tried my luck on 20m, but 5 minutes of CQ calls went unanswered, so I headed back to the 40m band. My first contact on returning there, was another Park to Park, with Mark VK4SMA who was now in the Ipswich Pteropus Conservation Park VKFF-1562. I then returned to 7.130 and called CQ and logged 5 stations, all from Victoria, before going QRT.
I had a total of 53 QSOs in the log and a new park activated for the World Wide Flora Fauna program.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK2JNG/p (Cooleburba State Conservation Area VKFF-1307)
- VK4SMA/p (Denmark Hill Conservation Park VKFF-1529)
- VK4SMA/p (Ipswich Pteropus Conservation Park VKFF-1562)
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
Birds SA, 2017, <http://www.birdssa.asn.au/location/blackwood-forest-recreation-park/>, viewed 23rd July 2017
Department for Environment and Heritage, 2005, Management Plan Blackwood Forest Recreation Park.
Friends of Blackwood Forest Recreation Park, 2017, <http://www.communitywebs.org/friendsofblackwoodforest/>, viewed 23rd July 2017
National Parks South Australia, 2017, <https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/Find_a_Park/Browse_by_region/Adelaide_Hills/blackwood-forest-recreation-park>, viewed 22nd July 2017