Weed raid on Riesling Trail

Weed raid on Riesling Trail

About 100,000 users a year walk, run and cycle the Clare Valley’s iconic Riesling Trail.

Regular visitors would have noticed many improvements over the years along the 33-kilometre trail stretching from Barinia, just north of Clare, to Auburn in the south. Carparks, improved trail surface, seating and signage have all been welcome additions for locals and visitors alike.

But take a closer look, and you might notice that alongside the trail, a small army of volunteers has been working away at some less-obvious, but vitally important improvements – weed control.

And firmly in the sights of the Riesling Trail Management Committee over the past 12 years has been the removal of olive and Aleppo pine trees from most sections of corridors alongside the recreation trail. It has been a mammoth undertaking, and Riesling Trail Management Committee chair, and passionate trail volunteer, Dr Allan Mayfield estimates more than 5000 olive trees alone have been eradicated.

It could not have been done without a passionate group of volunteers, along with a boost from some Northern and Yorke Landscape Board Grassroots Grants to help them get in and get the heavy work done.

“Even though olives and Aleppo pines are trees, they are still weeds and we’ve really got an obligation to control them,” Allan said. “Where there are large thickets of Aleppo pines, these are not being removed except for small trees at the margins.

“But if we don’t do anything about them, they’ll spread along the trail and swamp out native bush, and consequently we’ll have less native birds and plants. Grant funding enabled us to bring in contractors to help remove and mulch some of the larger trees. That’s a job that’s far too big for us to do alone."

Weed raid on Riesling Trail

The most recent Grassroots Grant was used to help control a large thicket of olive trees adjacent the Riesling Trail, around the Watervale station area.

Allan said in a section of about 400 metres along the trail, olive trees had been removed and native planting of 150 trees undertaken to both improve the aesthetics and biodiversity.

“Removing the olives has also helped reduce fire risk in that area,” Allan said. “Looking at it now, it would be hard to imagine what it was like – just a thicket of olives along there – and now we can see through to neighbouring vineyards.

“A previous study has shown that we have something like 50 species of birds that frequent the Riesling Trail, we have also had botanists list all the native species of plants growing along there. It is vital that we maintain these by doing our part to control weeds growing along the trail.”

Areas around the Sevenhill station and along Station Road, Clare, are showing good regeneration of natives including Exocarpus (native cherry) and Allocasuarina (shea oak) following the removal of olives and Aleppo pines. The removal of the pest trees has also reduced some of the workload for volunteers who were constantly cutting back overhanging tree branches.

Not to be complacent however, Allan said the monitoring and removal of weed re-shoots and self-germinating weed trees was an ongoing project. In addition to regular monitoring, twice each year, Allan does a thorough check of the trail – right up the high banks, and along the length of the trail – to spot weeds that need to be eradicated.

Olives, Aleppo pines, dogweed and narrow leaf English broom are all hot on his radar.

A regular on the Riesling Trail as a keen runner and rider himself, and with years of agricultural experience under his belt, Allan – and his fellow team of Riesling Trail volunteers – is constantly working to stay on top of weeds along the popular trail.

“Very early on we had a weed officer from the department come and speak to us, and weed control along the trail has always been front of mind in everything I do,” Allan said. “That’s probably due to my background in broadacre cropping advice – I can spot a weed from 30 metres away when I’m coming down the trail on my bike. We just have to keep onto it and I get a lot of satisfaction seeing the right plants growing and green and we want the most beneficial plants to win through.”