Crag Care - Morialta Conservation Park

2019 Project Report

Sitting down to write this, I cannot believe that Morialta Crag Care has now been running for 5 years. That's 5 years of great outcomes for climbers and 5 years of great outcomes for our local flora and fauna. 5 years of the Climbing Club of South Australia working with the UniSA Rock Climbing Club, the Adelaide University Mountain Club members, Scouting Climbers, the general climbing community and members of the Friends of Black Hill and Morialta. Wow!

Crag Care has again expanded the area which has been treated for olive and broom this year, particularly in the areas above Billiard table/Boulder Bridge and Muesli Wall. Great follow-up work removing re-emerging weeds in these areas has been performed too. The difference in the feel as you walk through to the crags is obvious as is the point where you hit the olive front. Still more olives to tackle!

We also expanded the area that is free of blackberry at the base of Far Crag and down the eastern descent route. We have pushed the blackberry downhill from the track by over 1m in most places, treated the blackberry between the cliff and the track and even done some rope work to remove the blackberry patches in the walls themselves. We haven't quite freed up all the old climbs but we are getting very close! It's pretty exciting to be there when an old climb re-emerges! It also feels amazing to be able to walk though in summer in your shorts without being scratched to pieces.

The department once again put some funds into the area, expanding the gorge track work. October 2018 they sprayed out the watsonia along the creek line all the way from Third Falls through to First Falls. One day we have a vision of crossing the creek and heading up into Thorn Buttress. Now wouldn't it be amazing to see that clean!

The plan for the next 12 months is to remove all the blackberry above the cliffline, that means that last remaining patch in our "weedy gully" on Climber Track between Boulder Bridge and Throne Room is in our sights! It has been made progressively smaller the past few years - we shall see if this is the year it goes. The last patch of remaining blackberry between the cliff and the track is also on our radar below Far Crag. There will be more broom and olive push back and followup and we hope to get down to Billiard Table to re-visit the initial work put into killing olives when we first started.

There are days when you wonder if all this hard work is worth it, then you do as I did this week and go for a walk through the areas we have worked through to establish how much we have achieved this year and you are blown away at the amazingly awesome results on the ground. Once again thanks to all our great supporters, particularly the financial support of the Climbing Club of South Australia, the UniSA Rock Climbing Club and our hosts the Friends of Black Hill & Morialta. Special thanks to any one who has come along and helped out on the ground!

Liz Milner
Crag Care Co-ordinator

Click on the map to open a .pdf file (1.6Mbye)

Orchids September 2018

Morning tea break

2017/18 Project Report

I am a bit late with the 2017 Crag Care report this time round as it is now March, though I realise as I write it Crag Care will be 4 in May when it has its next scheduled working bee. 4 years of amazing work put in by so many climbers and the difference now smacks you around the face as you walk into the area from Norton Summit Road and now even more so as you descend down to Far Crag to climb.

There was a lot of consolidation of work happening in 2017, follow up work through areas where olive and broom had been removed, follow up work on blackberries, cameras at Far Crag to check the wildlife and try to determine how quickly we could move on the blackberry. In November we were very fortunate to get a visit from local Herpetology expert Peter Matejic and honours student Adam to give us advice about how to proceed. We were ecstatic to learn the blackberry we removed last year had not only made access easier for climbers but it had opened up Cunningham Skink habitat in the rock crevices at the base of the cliffs. For those of you who don't know the Cunningham Skinks live in amongst the rocks at Far Crag, they are a state level endangered species and considered regionally vulnerable. Far Crag is one of the best known populations of these animals and we have been mindful of them and the impact of blackberry removal whenever working down there.

Their advice was further blackberry removal should not detrimentally impact the species, in fact as long as we do not do too much too quickly it should open up new habitat for them, providing good spots to shelter in over winter and make the tracks a lot friendlier for climbers! Win win! So our Volunteer Support Officer, Steph Cole allocated funds for further treatment of black berry in this site and at the last Crag Care day in March climbers came along and pushed back the blackberry boundary. I am hoping by now most climbers will have seen the amazing results but for anyone who hasn't (or can't!) get down there here are some before and after photos of the area.

10 January 2018

10 January 2018

11 March 2018

11 March 2018

Once again I am so pleased to be able to report such positive news and I would like to thank all of those who came along and helped out in 2017. So much work has gone into the past 4 years of Crag Care to be able to get to this spot and we will keep with the program of pushing olives, broom, blackberry and every thing else which invades our crag from the top down so we can eliminate these things entirely and spend much more time doing what we truly love. Getting out for a climb!

Liz Milner
Crag Care Co-ordiantor

2016 Project Report

As I sit to write this report I can't believe that Crag Care is in fact still only 2.5 years old as so much has been achieved since we commenced! 2016 has been an amazing year in the site with some good news to report.
group photograph
Map of Crag Care site.

Late 2015 the Crag Care Project was lucky to secure some funding for training and contractor support through the NRM Community Grants programme. In 2016 we were able to send 5 members representing Friends, CCSA & UniSA on a 2 day Bushland Condition monitoring course. The course took participants through a number of indicators which can be checked to establish the bushland condition and threats to a site. This was an amazing opportunity for participants as the course is usually financially beyond the Friends group's capacity. Subsequent to this training a site in the Crag Care project area was monitored late August 2016. We are very pleased to report that the site came out with the very highest level of species diversity, with 6 different orchid species identified. Not so pleased to report that the site also came out with the very highest level of threat due to the weed abundance and cover. This makes it a perfect site for us to be working in and is right on the edge of the zone we have been targeting near the main climbing track to Boulder Bridge so next year we shall be moving our efforts into this area.

group photograph
Orchid found during Bushland condition monitoring.

Other good news is the elimination of willows in the creekline. Some of the grant money at the request of the park rangers was used to treat all remaining willows in the creekline which borders the climbing areas last summer. In the past week these willows have been revisted to follow up on that work and we are highly confident that all mature willows will have been successfully killed. This along with the upstream and downstream willow work is an amazing outcome for the park.

To support the Crag Care project our Volunteer Support Officer allocated some funds for work in the Crag Care site. Contractors went into the site in early Autumn. First of all they removed the last of the small blackberry patches in the site which exist above the cliffline. There is still the largish patch in the gully you walk past between the access to Boulder Bridge and Far Crag, though they have reduced the size of this patch with spraying and it will be slowly reduced over time to allow native animals sheltering in it time to relocate. Next they removed most of the Broom and Gorse near the park entrance which we hadn't yet got to. Once that was completed they went on to treat a number of olive trees complementing the work already done by Crag Carers. Volunteers have since done some broom follow up and it is now difficult to find a mature broom plant in the area. By following through with this work removing any new plants over the next few years we should slowly but surely remove one of Australia's worst environmental weeds from our site.

The last of the grant money was used in September 2016 to target the area above Far Crag. The contractors swept the area from the top of the cliffs to the main walking track treating all the remaining olive and boneseed. They have also done a test spray of the bulb Ixia. This brings me to the bad news. Ixia is of great concern as two years ago there was just a small patch in the climbing areas, but with this year's increased and prolonged rain it is running rampant along track edges and starting to grow in high quality bush in many adjoining areas of the park. It is of very high concern as it will out compete our native lilies, orchids and other smaller ground covers as it displaces them. We are in the process of evaluating the best way to tackle this emerging weed.

To top off the year the Crag Care project won the award for "Community Engagement" at the Friends of Parks forum held October 2016 and the project has once again been successful in obtaining financial support through the NRM Community Grants programme, securing approximately $3000 to pay for contractors to support our project in 2017. Way to go team!

group photograph
Crag Care turns two.

Over 150 volunteer hours have been contributed to the Crag Care project this year. The team have targeted olive, broom, boneseed, hawthorn, dog rose and St Johns wort focusing primarily on the entry tracks to the Billiard Table/Boulder Bridge areas and the olive at the base of Billiard Table. We were quite excited earlier in the year when we realised we'd "crossed the track and turned the corner". Great job everyone! In 2017 we are planning to put motion detection cameras in the area the cunnigham skinks live in to monitor their dependence on the blackberries at the base of Far Crag. Look out for them down there soon.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Garth Wimbush who assists with the co-ordination and hosting of Crag Care days, Rob Brooks for hosting Crag Care events when we were off playing in the mountains, the Climbing Club of South Australia and UniSA Rock Climbing Clubs for maintaining their membership and continuing to support the project, the Adelaide University Mountain Club and Scouts SA Rock Climbing Group who also support the project, the many Crag Carers who have helped out and contributed towards the strengthening of the South Australian Climbing Community, and to thank the Friends members and DEWNR staff who have contributed their time and expertise to the project thereby enabling it to be so successful. 2016 has been great, looking forward to seeing you all out at the Crag in 2017!

Liz Milner
Crag Care Co-ordinator

2015 Project Report

group photograph
Working bee 9 May 2015.
The Crag Care Project has had a new project partner join us this year. The project which was set up as a collaboration between the Friends of Black Hill and Morialta and the Climbing Club of South Australia (CCSA) has had the University of South Australia's Rock Climbing Club (UniSA RCC) also join us. With the new project partner we have also seen an influx of keen Crag Carers who have undergone the Trees for Life Bush Regeneration Training and are putting in some fantastic hours on the ground.

This year has seen the Climbers start to tackle the many clumps of Blackberry on the site. A number of smaller clumps have been removed from the entrance to the Far Crag area this year and we hope to extend that to encompass some of the blackberry at the base of the cliffs this summer. In addition we were able to borrow a couple of Tree Poppers this winter and we made great inroads into the Olives at the entrance to the park this winter. Our patch of one leaved Cape Tulip is reduced from last year but it will be a few years yet until we have it under control. It was again the focus of September's working bee when 10 bags of tulips were removed.

We are also excited to let you know that we have sighted two different families of the vulnerable Cunningham's Skink at the base of Far Crag already this Spring. One family was seen with two adults and 3 young whilst the other was seen with an adult and a youngster together. Orchids and lilies are currently blooming through the site and it is a joy to experience the difference the Crag Carers are making to the area.

The Morialta Crag Care site encompasses the three most popular crags in Morialta, Far Crag, Boulder Bridge and The Billiard Table.

Future plans involve continuation of the current work, and tackling the willows which are clogging the creek below the crag. These are discussed in further detail in the First Falls report.

Project Coordinator

2014 Project Report

A new project site which is a collaboration between the Friends of Black Hill and Morialta and the Climbing Club of South Australia commenced work in May 2014. For those of you not familiar with the word crag is defined in the dictionary as "a steep rugged mass of rock projecting upward or outward, especially a cliff or vertical rock exposure in the north of England or in Scotland". Given that climbing has a long tradition in Britain it comes as little surprise that in the English speaking rock climbing world the word crag refers to "a cliff or group of cliffs, in any location, which is or may be suitable for climbing".
Photos from Working bee 11 May 2014

The Morialta Crag Care site encompasses the three most popular crags in Morialta, Far Crag, Boulder Bridge and The Billiard Table.

Climbers have been working to reduce the feral weeds at this popular climbing area near the top of the Fourth Creek catchment. Every two months, a few climbers (and at times their families) have been spending a couple of hours working in the high quality bushland above the cliffs poisoning or removing Broome, Olive, Dog-Rose and One-leafed Cape Tulip. A team of four (two drillers, two fillers) have also been working below the cliffs to kill Olives, which have had a history of frequent cutting, leaving them badly coppiced and difficult to treat. Over the 3 working bee's that we have had, we have seen the deaths of a number of Olives below the cliffs, leaving the area at the western edge of the project site known as The Billiard Table with far fewer Olives at its base. There has also been an improvement in the quality of the vegetation on the walk into the cliffs from the road. As the cliffs are close to the top of the catchment, any weed reductions here should see a reduction of seed downstream, and benefits for the whole park.

Photos from Working bee 13 July 2014

Future plans involve continuation of the current work, and tackling small Blackberry sites above the cliffs and starting on the edges of the large Blackberry infestations at the base of Far Crag. Far Crag is the Eastern most site of the project and has very high quality bush at the top of the cliffs, degrading to a huge infestation of blackberry at the bottom of the cliff. It is home to one of the few known families of Cunningham Skinks who live in Morialta.

Photos from Working bee 9 November 2014

Project Coordinator

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Updated 11 August 2020
2017/18 and 2019 report added!