Fairy Dell rises from the ashes

Monday 5 June, 2023

A very special piece of East Gippsland nature has reopened, three years on from devastation in the Black Summer bushfires.

The Bruthen community joined with Parks Victoria rangers to celebrate the reopening of Fairy Dell Flora Reserve on May 28.

“Our team were absolutely delighted to host a celebration at the reserve to thank the community and volunteer groups for the work they’ve done to help us reopen Fairy Dell,” says Parks Victoria’s District Manager, Michael Treanor.

On Gunaikurnai Country, Fairy Dell is a fragment of warm, temperate rainforest, a type of environment that is only rarely found in Gippsland.

Before the fires, it was known for its moss-covered trees and rocks supporting many different species of plants and animals in a damp microclimate.

“People thought you could find fairies in there, it was a really magical place covered in tree ferns and lily pillies that you only usually find much further north,”

Lewin’s and Crescent Honeyeaters, gang gang cockatoos and the tiny spider ant were just a few of the native animals that could be found there.

Sadly, in 2020 the Black Summer bushfires swept through the reserve, gutting the forest.

There was very little left of the once-verdant rainforest except blackened trees and the charred remains of the visitor facilities.

“We lost the bridges, the toilets, picnic tables, all the signs, and the tracks were badly hit as well, the steps would need a complete rebuild,” says Michael Treanor.

Restoring the reserve required a lot of hard work from Parks Victoria staff and volunteers from the local community, and faced delays caused by the flooding and storms that hit the region in 2021 and 2022.

“We’ve replaced the wooden bridges that were destroyed with upgraded steel-and-plastic ones. Last year we rebuilt the toilets. We’ve also rebuilt the steps to make them easier to use, and that’s helped us reopen the walking tracks,” says Michael Treanor.

The picnic area has also been upgraded with new picnic tables, barbecues and rocks replacing destroyed timber bollards.

As the facilities were rebuilt, Fairy Dell’s nature was regenerating.

“We feared we’d lose what made it special, but it’s been wonderful to see how much the rainforest has regrown,” says Michael Treanor.

“Fire-affected trees can take years to deteriorate, so we need to keep an eye on any that become hazardous and remove them when necessary.”

“But overall the reserve is looking incredible, considering how intense and damaging the fire was. We know that the plants and animals are returning. For example, the spider ants are doing well, which is a good sign the bush is healthy.”

The blackened remains of a bridge amid a burned forest

One of the Fairy Dell bridges in the aftermath of the Black Summer bushfires. Credit: Parks Victoria

A metal bridge crossing a gully surrounded by lush vegetation - some blackened, bare tree trunks remain as a reminder of the Black Summer bushfires.

And the rebuilt bridge today, with regenerating forest. Credit: Parks Victoria

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