Some information about South Surrey Park
At first there would have been River Red Gums, growing tall alongside the creek, and colourful Blackwood wattles scattered amongst native grasses, clumping together with Australian Bluebells and other flowers growing in the spaces between.
Glen Iris is named after a purple flower called Pattersonia Occidentalis or long Purple Flag. It is likely that this flower would have also grown along Back Creek. There would have been food for Aborigines and bark for their canoes on the huge red gum trees.
Then the area was cleared and a farm established there. At one time it was said to have been owned by a German man and his wife. They may have grazed their cattle there. He is said to have built a Rotunda in honour of his wife but this is now gone due to persistent damage by vandals.
The park was subdivided for housing and has houses almost all around its perimeter. Apparently there were to have been further houses but fortunately they have never been built. In the 1920's there were roads named Devon, Cornwall and Warwick crossing the park. One of the older residents told me one day that when she was young, probably in the forties, the residents used to gather alongside the creek for barbecues and potatoes cooked in the open fire.
In the 1930's a wooden footbridge was opened by the Victorian Governor. The photos of that time show very little vegetation and an eroded creek bank. Some poplars were planted around this time and probably some willows along the creek as well.
In the 1980's many of these willows reached the end of their lives and fell down with a crash. People were concerned and a planting scheme was prepared, Willows replaced and some Eucalypts planted further away from the creek. The weeds flourished, Tradescantia, Blackberry, Romulea rosea, Lilies, Montbretia and many other introduced plants became a lush green undergrowth for the tall Willows, Oaks and Cottonwoods. It was really quite wonderful for children to explore but not a satisfactory environment for native birds, butterflies and other insects. The creek was unable to flow properly and became badly silted.
At one time the Council decided to put the creek into pipes and cover it completely. This has been done further down its length, just a narrow strip of park is all that can be seen of it there. Fortunately, residents were keen to keep it as a creek and South Surrey Park was saved.
In 1995 a Friends of South Surrey Park was formed. This group is working to re-establish some of the plants which may have been in the park before white men came. There are a few trees which remain from that time, or have grown since then from seeds of original plants. The group hopes to make the park a pleasant place for everyone and have native birds and small animals return there.
-- Phil Chrone, 2010