BAG History Group / BLACKWOOD HILL RESERVE

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Blackwood Hill Reserve

In 2020 the focus of the Blackwood Action Group History Subcommittee’s regular articles will be on the reserves and parks of the Mitcham Hills district.

"A PLACE OF NATURAL BEAUTY"

Blackwood Hill Reserve is on Trevor Terrace adjacent to the Blackwood Oval. Magpie Creek runs through the reserve which adjoins the Sturt Gorge Recreation Park on its western border.

Kaurna people are the traditional owners of the land. European settlement began in the 1840s, when John Crothers took up the first land grant. In 1850 the land was transferred to Philip and Maria Webber until 1856 when Thomas and Esther Elsegood bought it for 200 pounds, selling it in 1886 for 700 pounds. During this time a stone farmhouse was built.

For much of the following period the land was in the hands of developers such as Daniel Johnson, especially with the coming of the railway when land in the area became very attractive.

From 1923 to 1957 the Jones family, well known in the district as butchers, owned the property. Alison and William Archibald Jones established a slaughter yard, incorporating a large concrete water tank and holding yards for sheep and cattle, driven from the Blackwood Railway Station. Local residents knew to shut their gates before the arrival of the stock, lest a stray sheep or cow wandered into the garden. The meat was sold at Jones butcher shop at Fiveways (now known as the Blackwood Roundabout).

Following William’s death in 1938 during the Great Depression, the family made extra money by stripping wattle bark and digging out stumps to sell as fences.

In 1950, Murray Jones, one of the six children of Alison and William, returned to the property. The land was bought by the Mitcham Council in 1958. The last residents of the farmhouse were the Stidston family who lived there until 1965, after which the house was demolished.

From being a quiet semi rural area, the adjacent land and the reserve itself then saw a period of rapid change. The Blackwood football and cricket clubs moved from the oval on Coromandel Parade to the new oval and club rooms.

Riding for the Disabled began and the Tom Roberts Horse Trail opened; the suburb of Craigburn Farm was established, followed by the St Peter’s Lutheran church and school. Recognising the distance of the area from amenities such as shops and other conveniences, there was even talk of building a small shopping centre. The threat of a BMX track in the reserve was strongly opposed by residents concerned about the environment.

To commemorate 30 years of service by the Blackwood Lions Club to the local community, in 1995 the Mitcham Council gave approval for the club to plant 30 Blackwood Trees (Acacia melanoxylon). Nearby is the commemorative table which features ceramic tiles, depicting images of historical significance and of local flora and fauna, and set within a replica of four walls of the original house. Maggy Ragless from the Council was the inspiration for the replica of the farm house walls and the creation of the history table. The Blackwood Action Group is involved in the maintenance of the site.

The reserve includes remnants of grey box woodland as well as wattles, grass trees and she-oaks. However, there are few large trees and signs of erosion, due to the history of land clearing and grazing. A number of projects, some involving children from nearby schools, have aimed to remove as many non-native plants and weeds as possible, and replace them with indigenous plants. Fauna include koalas and skinks, as well as more than 38 species of birds such as sulphur crested cockatoos and wedge-tailed eagles.

In 2006 the 19-hectare reserve was a worthy addition to the National Estate Register which recognises areas of national heritage significance.

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