John Douglas, farmer and earthmoving contractor of Stuart Mill, constructed these ponds on our land around 1983. Besides working the Douglas family properties, he has been a keen community volunteer, including on soil conservation committees, Landcare groups, progress associations and fire brigades. A man with a knack for hydrology, now nudging 80, John comes back to our place occasionally to review his handiwork.

There are 19 altogether in this sequence down a slope over some 150 metres. Only one or two don’t hold water. All are well revegetated with wetland plants – a handy source for us when looking for stock to re-create wetlands elsewhere on the block.

The gravelly terrain, with its shallow soils, sheds water quickly, so after downpours they quickly fill and green up. Their condition ranges from lush and froggy gilgai attracting Pacific black duck and white-faced herons for long periods after rain, to dried out red scars in summer. We have planted numerous totem-poles (Melaleuca decussata) around the gilgai as habitat for smaller woodland birds. Sadly efforts to establish swamp billy-buttons have so far failed.

In 2008 we engaged John to construct a second chain of ponds some 400 metres away. What a privilege to have him back after so long! Accordingly he gouged out another nineteen gilgai – rather larger than those shown here – he’d upgraded to a bigger, more powerful dozer – in a chain some 300 metres long, which we rapidly planted with totem-poles, lignum and various reeds and sedges. They hold water for long periods and are well protected today – and a source of great pleasure.

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