What is significant?
The Sawpit Gully Plantation contains the site of the first State Nursery established at Creswick in 1888 and a collection of exotic and native trees. The trees were planted under the supervision of the founding forester, John La Gerche. In 1882 La Gerche was appointed a Crown Land Bailiff and his chief tasks were to regulate timber cutting and cattle grazing in the Ballarat and Creswick State Forest. His appointment came at a time when the government raised concerns about the loss of tree cover in Victoria. The Creswick soils had proven gold bearing and most of the trees had been cut down, in the pursuit of alluvial and quartz gold. The land had been upturned and was covered in diggers' holes and was a mass of weeds and eroded gullies. The Plantation retains a mine shaft, pits and water race.
La Gerche experimented with ways to rehabilitate mining land and planted a small patch of Blue Gums in Black Snake Gully in 1886. In 1888 La Gerche established Creswick's first nursery in Sawpit Gully and an area of 30 acres was enclosed. The plantation commenced between May to September 1888 and the first planting of around 8,500 seedlings was a mixture of native eucalypts, (Eucalyptus corynocalyx, E. siderophloia, E. sideroxylon, E. virgata, E. rostata, E. globulus, E.leucoxylon) pines (Pinus halepensis, P. austriaca, P. insignis, P.pinaster, P.laricio P. pinea) and decidous trees (Plane, English Oak, English Ash, Maple, Lime, Elm, Sycamore, Poplar, Willow) obtained from the Macedon Nursery, Ballarat Water Commission and Havelock State Forest. By the end of 1892 about 115,000 trees had been planted and included several small enclosures of experimental planting.
In 1892 a gully, now known as Oak Gully was planted with oaks, mainly English Oaks, with various exotic conifers along the perimeter. Surviving conifers include Monterey Pine, Himalayan Cedar, Douglas Fir, Aleppo Pine and one Big-cone Pine. The Plantation appears to have reached its final size by 1899, covering 300 acres and contained a total of 246,000 trees.
At the first nursery site are the foundations of Albert Wade?s house, the nursery?s first caretaker, a dam and ornamental planting of Douglas Fir, West Himalayan Spruce, Norway Spruce, Picea sp., Bhutan Cypress, Turkey Oak, English Oak, Monterey Pine ("Mother Tree") and a Himalayan Cedar. South of the first nursery site is a eucalypt trial planting.
Since the early 1900s, the old plantation has survived without major changes and is primarily used to assist in the training of foresters and land managers from the adjoining Creswick School of Forestry. The plantation adjoining the Creswick School of Forestry is arguably the home of forestry in Victoria. It has been managed by foresters for over 100 years, and used for scientific research and recreation. In 1999 an interpreted La Gerche walk was developed through the Plantation.
The site contains three buildings, the Stables complex which were relocated from the North Creswick Nursery. Erected in 1918 using recycled timber, some of which is reputed to have come from the house of Peter Lalor a leader of the Eureka rebellion and one time share holder in the Australasian company.
How is it significant?
The Sawpit Gully Plantation is of historical, aesthetic, archaeological, and scientific significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Sawpit Gully Plantation site is historically significant because it is an integral part of the Creswick School of Forestry, the first place in Australia to formally train foresters. The Plantation and trial plantings in Sawpit and Oak gullies represents a very early example of land rehabilitation and landcare practice in Victoria using exotic and native trees. The Sawpit Plantation forms an important reference point to the origins of State-organised forestry practice in Victoria and the work John La Gerche, one of the State's first forester's. The Plantation is a very important education resource on early forestry and land reclamation practice in Victoria.
The Plantation is of aesthetic value for the deliberate selection of species and planting locations to maximize the trees form and plantation aesthetic qualities. The conifer and oak plantings displaying contrasting form and foliage, uniform trunks displaying different bark colour and patterns, and autumn leaf colour in the oaks produce a striking landscape feature which is widely valued by the community. The tree maturity and density of the forest that has evolved in Sawpit and Oak gullies has formed an attractive conifer and oak forest landscape reminiscant of the northern hemisphere and offers a valuable recreational and educational experience. The Nursery Dam is an attractive feature and has been planted with an array of ornamental trees, including Sequoia sempervirens, Cupressus macrocarpa 'Horizontalis Aurea', Cedrus deodara, Cedrus atlantica f.glauca, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, Picea smithiana, Quercus robur, Q. canariensis, Q. ilex and a rare Quercus 'Macedon'.
The Sawpit Gully Plantation is of archaeological significance and contains a large number of gold workings, alluvial sites, remnant mining pits, water race, and a well crafted haulage mine shaft. The site of the nursery?s first caretaker, Albert Wade home and nursery has archaeological and scientific significance due to the potential existence of buried features and artefacts which may provide information about its past occupants and nineteenth century forestry and nursery operations. The site also includes a collection of ornamental conifers, a large English Oak, dam and drainage features.
The Plantation is of scientific significance and includes stands of pines planted from 1888 to 1895 and from 1923 to 1944, a range of conifers, and in Oak Gully a grove of 1892 English Oaks, Algerian Oaks and hybrids. A trial planting of eucalypts south of the first nursery site includes; Eucalyptus globulus subsp. globulus, E. microcorys, E. tricarpa, E. longifolia and Corymbia calophylla. Amongst the Plantation are outstanding specimens of Pinus radiata, P. canariensis, P, nigra var. corsicana, P. pinaster, P. poderosa, P. muricata and several rare pines, including Pinus sylvetris, and P. echinata, both single trees, and two stands (x4 and x8) of P. contorta subsp. contorta, including a very large tree. This species is only known in Victoria from two trees at Victoria Park, Ballarat, and one tree at the School of Forestry, Creswick, and "Pirianda", Olinda.
The Plantation is also of scietific significance for its important role in the development of the Monterey Pine softwood timber industry in Australia. In 1959 the Forestry Commission of Victoria commenced the Radiata Pine Breeding Program to breed a superior forestry tree. Three trees in the Sawpit Gully Plantation were selected. Only one tree, No. 43 along Sawpit Gully Road near the middle dam, remains from the original selection. This tree was later given an average rating and removed from the breeding program.