A trip to Parks near Sale

Saturday 25 August 2018

The weather forecast was for a fine day after a cold start. With much of the previous week and previous weekend having been quite cold, wet and very windy, it was an opportunity to get out and activate a couple of Parks. I set off a little later than planned and headed to Rosedale for a brief stop at the Bakery, then east to Longford and then towards Sale.

Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2431

This Reserve is also known as the Sale Common State Game Refuge. It is located just south of Sale, occupying part of the floodplain of the Thomson and Latrobe Rivers. The Reserve is approximately 300 hectares in area, with over 70% of the area made up of freshwater marsh, with Red Gum woodland and grasslands. It provides a refuge for many species, especially native birdlife. Parks Victoria has an informative Park Note available.

The Park was first activated by Steve VK3MEG on 9 August 2018. Unfortunately, I was unable to work Steve on that activation – the distance between us was too far for 40 m and higher bands and Steve had issues with his antenna on 80 m. I note that Steve has upgraded and now also holds VK3KTT.

I had been planning on activating the Reserve for quite some time, as it holds memories from my early years. My family lived in the region for several years. Dad was a keen fisherman and hunter and was heavily involved with the Victorian Field and Game Association (VFGA). The local VFGA Branch undertook significant work replanting appropriate trees on the Sale Common as one of their conservation projects. I recall spending time helping with planting the tube stock trees.

Steve activated in the northeast area of Reserve, in one of the parking areas near the boardwalk. I chose to activate in the southeast corner, at the southern end of the Flooding Creek Track. I approached off the South Gippsland Highway via Swing Bridge Drive, travelling along the eastern bank of the Thomson River. At the final approach to the Swing Bridge, I took the gravel track that continued along the river bank, now travelling along the Latrobe River – the confluence is just above the bridge.

The Swing Bridge was built in 1883 and was the first movable bridge built in Victoria. The 45 metre wrought iron span bridges the Latrobe River just below the confluence with the Thomson River, pivoting on central cylindrical steel columns. The bridge provided access across the river for land transport, but allowed for the movement of steamers from Melbourne via the Gippsland Lakes and up to the Port of Sale on the Thomson River. For many years the bridge was not opened, but a major restoration project was undertaken from 2003 to 2007. Vandals damaged the rotating mechanism in 2017, but the bridge was repaired at a cost of $160,000.


Looking upstream at the Swing Bridge

The formal Reserve boundary crosses the end of the track, with the fence and gate to the walking track clearly inside the official Reserve boundary. I parked beside the gate, using one of the gate posts as the support for a squid pole. Just beyond my selected location is the start of the Heart Morass – an environmentally significant wetland of approximately 1600 hectares which had been heavily grazed up until around 2006. Similar pressure had been placed on the Sale Common until it was declared a Game Refuge. The Heart Morass is now undergoing restoration via a cooperative partnership of Bug Blitz Trust, Field and Game Australia (FGA), Hugh Williamson Foundation, Watermark Inc. and West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority. We usually hear little of such projects in the media, but a quick search on the web will yield details of the project. It is interesting to note that FGA does allow duck hunting on the Heart Morass during the season, after hunters have made a donation to the Wetlands Environmental Taskforce. Some may be surprised at this, but it fits with the ethos of the organisation: promoting hunting and fishing, but also involved in conservation works to ensure that the “hunting resource” is maintained.

You may have heard about the Heart Morass in the media of recent times, due to contamination of the area with PFAS due to run off from the nearby RAAF Base East Sale.

It was only 6 degrees when I pulled up, but there was almost no wind. I quickly set up the link dipole, with the radio gear on the tailgate as an operating table.

First in the log was Alan VK2MG/p in VKFF-1910 on 40 m SSB. I moved to a clear frequency and started calling. I soon had another 9 stations in the log, so the Park was qualified for VKFF. After several minutes of calling without replies, I changed the antenna and tried 80 m SSB. I again worked Alan VK2MG/p P2p, plus Nick VK3ANL/p in VKFF-0774 and a couple of VK3 hunters and Ian VK1DI. I then tried 20 m SSB, working only Rick VK4RF/VK4HA. I returned to 40 m SSB, working more callers, but it was slow at times. I also worked Scott VK4CZ/p in VKFF-16221 for another P2P, plus a couple of CW contacts to end up with 45 in the log after about 2 hours and 20 minutes of operating.


Looking across the Sale Common from near the operating site

I packed up and head back to the South Gippsland Highway and travelled about 16.4 km to the eastern boundary of the next Park.

Holey Plains State Park VKFF-0758

I exited the Highway and drove a short distance on the boundary track at the southeast corner of the Park.


A Park sign close to the operating site.

I have activated this Park on a couple of previous occasions and have a tally of at least 44 contacts. But this was an opportunity to add an additional activation to build towards the Boomerang Award – I could not drive past and not undertake a short activation.

The Park is heathy woodland and is home to many native species. You can find a Park Note on the Parks Victoria website.

I set up by tossing a line over a tree branch and set up on 40 m SSB. Gerard VK2IO was first in the log. In just over 20 minutes I had 16 in the log, including another P2P with Scott VK4CZ/p. That contact will not count towards my P2P tally, as I did not persevere with the activation to get to 44 contacts….

I packed up and returned to the Highway and headed another 5.2 km further south and turned onto a sand road that runs along the northern boundary of the next Park.

Giffard (Rifle Range) Flora Reserve VKFF-2321 Not previously activated

This Reserve is shown on Google Maps as both the Flora Reserve and as Giffard Nature Conservation Reserve. I checked the official GIS shape file after I returned home and the official name is Giffard (Rifle Range) Flora Reserve.

I travelled about 1.3 km along the sandy track to a track that enters the Reserve proper, and then about 250 m to the edge of a partially cleared area near some old small dams or gravel pits.

I again tossed a line over a tree branch and set up at the edge of the track. I was up on air only 30 minutes after closing the station at the last stop. First in the log was Dave VK2ZK, followed by Paul VK5PAS. About 20 minutes later, I worked Scott VK4CZ/p once again for another P2P. I went to 80 m SSB and worked another six hunters, including a P2P with Ian VK1DI/p in VKFF-0862. I returned to 40 m for another couple of hunters, and saw a spot for Greg VK4VXX/6 in VKFF-0234, so swapped to 20 m. Conditions on all bands were ordinary, by we managed to make the contact with Greg for another P2P. CQ calls on a clear frequency yield no responses, so I tried 30 m, working John VK4TJ on both SSB and CW.

I returned to 40 m SSB and quickly had Linda VK7QP calling for a contact and a number for the ALARA Contest. Next was John VK4TJ again, plus Bill VK4FW, both on SSB and CW. With a few more Hunters, I also worked Leone VK2FHRK for the ALARA Contest.

I again tried 80 m, working Gerard VK2IO SSB and CW, John VK4TJ on CW and several other hunters. The last contact was at 0716 Z, after which I packed up. Just as I was about to drive off, I heard the kookaburra sound on the ‘phone and soon had Lesley VK5LOL/p in VKFF-0817 in the log for another P2P for a total of 53 contacts in the Park over three hours of operating. The last hour had cooled off rapidly due to a sea breeze combined with the sun getting lower in the sky.

I explored the track heading west from my location, but it quickly became overgrown. I retraced my entry route back to the South Gippsland Highway and headed north to Gormandale – Stradbroke Road, then west to Gormandale and back to home past the Loy Yang power stations.

A good day out: 2 new Parks for me, including a brand new reference for everyone, plus a short repeat activation of Holey Plains State Park. The weather had been fine and sunny all day, with temperature cold at the start of the day and cooling off late in the afternoon.

Thanks to all the Hunters for making the effort of calling me.

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