The Bubbler and Blanche Cup

FOMS conducts successful Working Bee, May 2018

L to R: Alan Williams, Bruce Gotch, Sherrie Gotch, John Tagell, Rick Moore, Lynn Brake, Kate Brake, Ross Smith, Bernice Cohen.
Photo: Simon Lewis

The Friends of Mound Springs group held its main working bee for 2018 from 19 to 25 May. Participants were Bruce and Sherrie Gotch, Alan Williams, Lynn and Kate Brake, Rick Moore, John Tagell, Ross Smith, Bernice Cohen and Simon Lewis. Colin Harris was a late withdrawal with a thumb fracture.

Bopeechee Spring showing impacts from horses

Conditions were fine throughout with some cloud cover on 20 May but otherwise mainly sunny. Day temperatures 22 to 25 and night temperatures around 8 to 12 degrees.

Participants travelled independently to Roxby Downs on 19 May, before heading up the Borefield Road to camp on the Gregory Creek about 100km north of Olympic Dam.

Over the ensuing four days the group applied itself the following tasks:

  • Monitoring of three springs (Beatrice, Bopeechee and HBO004) on Finniss Springs. These springs were burnt in 2016 as a trial primarily to assess options for the management of prolific growth of reeds (Phragmites). In a 2017 inspection, it was noted that horses on Finniss Springs were impacting on both Bopeechee and HBO 004. The 2018 inspection showed that the Phragmites regrowth at Bopeechee has now been grazed to ground level by the horses. Impacts by horses have therefore compromised the effectiveness of this trial. FOMS plans to continue monitoring at these springs but the value of this exercise in monitoring the response of Phragmites to fire has been diminished.
  • Maintenance of the walking trail and replenishment of brochures at Strangways Springs. The walking trails were in good condition although there are sections of the Springs Walk that would benefit from clearer definition. In addition, the temporary sign warning people not to climb the Cutting Grass Spring will need replacement in the next year or two. The bayonet gates at Strangways remain in good order
  • Installation of new signage and walking trail maintenance at the Peake Overland Telegraph site (see separate item in this newsletter about the new signage). As at Strangways, the walking trails at the Peake were in good shape, requiring only minor attention. Some members of the group proffered the view that the Creek Walk could be improved by extending the formal trail out to the cemetery – something for further consideration.
Peake carpark – bollards missing

The group also noted some recent vandalism at the Peake carpark. Three of fifteen timber bollards – installed by FOMS ten years ago to define the carpark and prevent unwanted vehicle access to the site – had been removed, apparently to be used as firewood. The FOMS group constructed a low stone wall to block the gap created but a more lasting solution will be needed. The current plan is to replace all of the timber bollards with UV stable recycled plastic bollards.

Following the work at the Peake, the FOMS group journeyed south to Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park, to tackle two main tasks:

  • Check on cattle intrusion into the Park, particularly in the southern sections. It has been evident for some time that the Park boundary fence has weak points at one or two drainage lines, enabling cattle to access the Park from the neighbouring pastoral property. While cattle were still present at Buttercup Spring, it was evident that fencing repair work was underway to rectify the situation and FOMS has been advised that this is a result of a cooperative approach between the Department for Environment and Water and the managers of the adjoining Stuart Creek property. (During a subsequent inspection in early July 2018, no cattle were noted within the )
  • An initial reconnaissance to assess the potential of establishing a walking trail from near Blanche Cup out to the extinct mound spring that is Hamilton Hill. This showed that there is potential for an interesting walk, but to make it really worthwhile the walk should venture to the top of Hamilton Hill. The difficulty is that for the most part the slopes of Hamilton Hill are steep and stony and a safe access route for public use has not yet been identified. If a preferred route is identified there will need to be a formal assessment and approvals process involving the Department for Environment and Water and the Arabana people.
    At Wabma Kadarbu the two main interpretive signs at Blanche Cup had deteriorated and this information has since been passed on to Department for Environment and Water staff. A brief inspection of Little Bubbler spring was also undertaken. This spring is of interest in that it was free of Phragmites until the early 2000s. Some growth of Phragmites was noted at the spring vent at that time but its rate of spread since that time has been quite limited – just two or three metres around the spring vent. The factors affecting the establishment and spread of Phragmites are still not fully understood.

The FOMS working bee concluded in style, with lunch at the Curdimurka Siding on the return journey and a final night at the Eldo Hotel at Woomera. Many thanks to all.

Bernice Cohen, Simon Lewis and John Tagell at the stone cairn on Hamilton Hill
Little Bubbler showing cattle damage. Reeds largely restricted to the spring vent

Action being taken to address Cattle Grazing in Wabma Kadarbu

Spring at Wabma KadarbuWabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park is best known for Blanche Cup and the Bubbler, the two mound springs with easy visitor access, parking facilities, interpretive information and boardwalks. However, tucked away to the south and north of these springs is an extensive array of springs not readily accessible to the public. In the south of the park are Horse Springs and Buttercup Spring and FOMS inspected these springs during the June 2017 introductory trip described elsewhere in this newsletter.

During this inspection, FOMS members were concerned to note cattle actively grazing on Buttercup Spring. Likewise, at Horse Springs there has been substantial and recent cattle damage (see photo). It is clear that cattle have intruded into the Park from the adjoining Stuart Creek pastoral lease FOMS members noted similar damage during a visit in August 2016.

FOMS has reported the situation to DEWNR and the Department has advised that action is under way to repair boundary fencing in collaboration with the Stuart Creek managers

New Access Facilities at Blanche Cup and The Bubbler

In an earlier newsletter we reported on plans by the (now) Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources to upgrade access walks to Blanche Cup and the Bubbler in Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park. This work is now understood to be virtually complete.

DEWNR also plans to rationalise car-parking arrangements at the two locations. There have been concerns that recent works on the car parks has not been as effective as it could be.

Strangways and Peake Walking Trails in Good Shape

Members will recall the expedition by a team of FOMS members with expert assistance from Rob Marshall and Sue Barker to Strangways and the Peake in May 2011 to establish a series of self-guided walking trails.

In May 2012, Colin Harris, Elaine Smyth, Bernice Cohen and Simon Lewis headed north once again to check on the condition of the walking trails and to top up the supply of brochures. (Thanks must also go to Bill Giles who, a little earlier, checked on the situation at Strangways on a separate trip through the region.)

We are pleased to report that the trails are all in good shape. There were still brochures at each location but the topping up was timely.

We made some interesting but not unexpected observations at both Strangways and the Peake. At Strangways, the Springs Walk is clearly the more popular of the two and it appears that the majority of walkers are venturing as far as the cemetery, then retracing their steps back to the ruins. At the Peake there is a similar pattern on the Coppertop Smelter and Mine Walk, with many walking up the gully to the smelter site then returning to the ruins.

During our return journey, we stopped in at Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park to remove vegetation growing through the ruins of the Mt Hamilton police station. Good progress was made, with the work to be completed at a later date by a work crew organised by Tony Magor of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR).

Another trip highlight was the sight of Beresford Hill surrounded by water following recent good rains.

Questions raised at the Little Bubbler

Reeds (Phragmites) in the vent of the Little Bubbler. Sparse at this stage but…..?
Reeds (Phragmites) in the vent of the Little Bubbler. Sparse at this stage but…..?

The Little Bubbler is a relatively modest spring near Blanche Cup and the Bubbler in Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park. The spring’s vegetation has been monitored by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources since the mid 1980s. For most of this time, the vegetation at the spring vent and along much of the tail has comprised an almost pure stand of bore-drain sedge, Cyperus laevigatus.

However, during the last two or three years, the common reed, Phragmites, has become established at the spring vent. Phragmites is indigenous to many mound springs, but often has a tendency to grow vigorously to the exclusion of other spring vegetation. This has been noted at several springs fenced by the Department in the 1980s (e.g. Big Perry, the Fountain, Twelve Mile) and at Finniss Springs following destocking.

It is possible that Phragmites was introduced to the Little Bubbler on the shoes of researchers or monitoring personnel and therefore may not be a truly natural introduction. Although Phragmites is not yet proliferating at this spring, it may have the potential to do so.

The question therefore arises: should FOMS be suggesting to DENR that active steps be taken to remove Phragmites from the Little Bubbler? Some of us think the answer to this question is “yes” but any comments from FOMS members on this would be welcome.

Another point of interest about the Little Bubbler is the propensity for its tail to change direction from time to time. The left-hand fork in the tail in the above photograph is a recent “break-out”. The new tails tend to be colonised by species such as Cyperus quite rapidly.

A Traditional Story from near Lake Eyre South

The Bubbler, with Hamilton Hill in background
The Bubbler, with Hamilton Hill in background

The wide flood-out of the Margaret River near the old railway siding of Curdimurka is the starting point for a story which involves a number of springs near Lake Eyre South, including the principal springs within the Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park.

A Kuyani ancestor Kakakutanha is hunting the ancestral Rainbow Serpent Kanmari and the serpent escapes by disappearing into a spring on the north side of the Margaret. In pursuit of the serpent the ancestor arrives at the Little Bubbler spring Thari-tharinha, believing that the bubbles he can see are from the serpent, which is travelling underground. The serpent is not there, but at the nearby Bubbler Pirdalinha the ancestor comes upon it and kills it with a boomerang, the writhing convulsions of the water being the serpent in its death throes.

At Blanche Cup Thirka the ancestor cooks the serpent, the word thirka meaning an oven. The ancestor then throws away the head of the serpent and it becomes Wabma- kardayapu, the snake’s head of Hamilton Hill, the large extinct mound spring near Blanche Cup. At Mt Hamilton Spring Tjarrtha-njudlu south east of Blanche Cup the ancestor eats the serpent, leaving only a rib-bone without any meat for his wife. She subsequently places a curse on him and after journeying back towards Curdimurka via several other springs he eventually arrives at the tea tree-surrounded Kudna-ngampa springs.

Near death, his testicles having swollen to an enormous size, he calls all his people to him and then bursts, killing almost all of them and turning them into reeds. Hurled a long way off by the force of the explosion, his testicles become two little islands in Lake Eyre South called Kadlupinpipipalpila.

Adapted from Luise Hercus and Peter Sutton, 1985 ‘The Assessment of Aboriginal Cultural Significance of Mound Springs in South Australia’ in Heritage of the Mound Springs, Department of Environment & Planning South Australia, 1986.

The Peake – fencing works

Our most recent Newsletter, July 2008, carried a report detailing the on-ground conservation works carried out by FOMS members at the Peake in the course of our June 2008 field trip, and elsewhere in this Newsletter Simon Lewis has reported on the follow up trip of August 2008 to install State Heritage Branch interpretative signage at the site.

The third and final stage of the works will be carried out shortly with the installation of fencing adjacent to the final two kilometres of the Public Access Route (PAR) to the Peake heritage site. The fencing will prevent uncontrolled vehicle access and camping along the gidgee creek line immediately east of the site. It will also eliminate damaging vehicle access to the nearby cemetery. FOMS has initiated this final stage through the co-operation of two South Australian government agencies – the Department for Environment & Heritage and the Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation – and S Kidman & Co, the pastoral lessees of the Peake. The Government agencies have funded the materials for the fencing and Kidman & Co. will carry out the on-site installation. Up-dated signage provided by the Heritage Branch of DEH will also be installed.

The three stage program of works was developed by FOMS in consultation with the relevant government agencies and Kidman & Co. following the FOMS field trip of 2007. FOMS members on that trip were concerned at the increasing impact of largely uncontrolled visitation on the heritage site and adjacent Freeling Springs and in the wake of that visit FOMS took on a facilitating role to improve the situation, as well as providing voluntary labour for on-site works.

Some visitors familiar with the Peake will regret that camping will no longer be available along the gidgee creek line, but at such a remote site the fencing is the only feasible management option. Alternative camp sites can be found on several drainage lines crossing the Peake PAR and good camping is also available adjacent to the Oodnadatta track near the Peake PAR turn-off.

Field Trip June 2008

Field Trip June 2008
Field Trip June 2008

Following the general reconnaissance focus of the 2007 FOMS field trip, it was time for FOMS members to roll up the sleeves and do a little work in the June 2008 trip. Eight members participated (Colin Harris and Elaine Smyth, Bruce and Sherrie Gotch, Travis Gotch, Lois Litchfield, Ann Callis and Simon Lewis pictured by Simon below). It was a pleasure to meet new members Lois and Ann and to learn a little about their respective life-times of experiences in the Far North. We were also joined for a day or so through the week by Kelli-Jo Kovac and Tash Bevan from BHP Billiton and new DEH Regional Ecologist Alex Clarke.

Following a mid-afternoon rendezvous at Roxby Downs on Saturday 21 June, we convoyed up the Borefield Road to a camp-site on the Gregory (same site as last year). On Sunday we moved on to Elizabeth Springs, in Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park, where we donned gloves and collected rubbish at an old musterers’ camp. Then on to a camp-site in the dunes near Strangways Springs.

On Monday 23 and Tuesday morning we were joined by Kelli-Jo and Tash as Travis took charge of a survey of those springs at Strangways that still support wetland vegetation. In all we covered some 80 or 90 spring vents, leaving only a few for Travis to finish off at a later date.

On Tuesday afternoon we continued north through William Creek, dropping in to see Sarah Amey at the new Peake. Sarah’s partner Jim Lomas generously provided a trailer load of sleepers for us to use in con-

structing a vehicle barrier at the Peake Repeater Station at Freeling Springs. Travis somewhat bravely towed the trailer (with no spare tyre) up to the old Peake, losing only a few sleepers along the way and also managing to puncture a tyre.

On Wednesday and Thursday it was time to bend the backs and develop a few blisters with the installation of about 16 bollards (ie half sleepers) at the car park at the Peake ruins. The going

was quite tough but everyone contributed personfully and the job was completedon schedule. Bruce was able to put his recently honed chainsaw skills into action with some pre-

cision sleeper cutting while Sherrie and Travis excelled in the synchronised crow-bar event. We also erected a sign organised by the Pastoral Branch of DWLBC. Alex Clarke showed impeccable timing, arriving just as we finished the job.

There are other concerns at the old Peake regarding uncontrolled vehicle access and camping and we spent some time looking at a strategy to address this. This will be the subject of further discussion with the pastoral lessees, DWLBC and others.

Friday 27 June was our last full day in the field and we had a more relaxed time looking at a number of springs, including Hawker, Levi, Milne, Outside, Twelve Mile and the Fountain. The changes at Twelve Mile, particularly with proliferation of Phragmites, were quite remarkable. A final camp on George’s Creek near Old Umbum and we then headed for home. A highly successful week, a very companionable group and fantastic weather. Many thanks to all concerned.

Springs Tour, June 2007

Sunday 24th June

FOMS Springs Tour, June 2007
FOMS Springs Tour, June 2007

A 3pm rendezvous at Roxby Downs for John & Leigh Childs, Sue Black, Bruce & Sherrie Gotch, Ann Gorton, Colin Harris & Elaine Smyth, Dean Harris, Simon Lewis, Rick Moore, Anne Pye, and Doug Smith & Heather Woods. Unfortunately Travis Gotch was unable to join the group for a few days because of damage to his work vehicle. The remainder of the party headed up the Borefield Road to a very satisfactory camp-site on the Gregory Creek, near the sign to New Year Gift Bore 2. We were fortunate to be joined at the camp-site by Bobby Hunter, manager of Stuart Creek station.

Monday 25th June

We met up with Justin Costelloe and colleagues from the University of Melbourne at the Borefield Road / Oodnadatta Track intersection. We also met with Reg Dodd (from the Arabunna community at Marree) who was accompanied by a group of Melbourne lawyers who are assisting the Arabunna people in their efforts to have heritage listing applied to Finniss Springs. Reg led the enlarged group in a guided tour of several points of interest on Finniss Springs. These included Finniss Spring ruins; several springs at Hermit Hill with their tall reed (Phragmites) communities; springs at West Finniss, where the group noted the very rare and isolated pipewort, Eriocaulon carsonii and attractive cutting grass Gahnia trifida (noteworthy as a disjunct species to that which occurs hundreds of kilometres to the south); and Bopeechee Spring, a spring that virtually ceased to flow as an apparent result of water extraction from Borefield A for the Olympic Dam mine, but which was “revived” through injection of bore water around the periphery of the spring to re-establish sufficient pressure to reinstate a flow. The FOMS group then headed north-west up the Oodnadatta Track. We had a brief stop at Curdimurka before venturing on to the Coward Springs Campground run by Greg Emmett and Prue Coulls where we camped for the next two nights.

Tuesday 26th June

Some of the group inspected a few of the springs in the northern section of Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs Conservation Park – specifically Elizabeth Springs and Jersey Spring. For some, the Elizabeth Springs were one of the highlights of the trip – the springs were in fine fettle and the weather was superb. Before lunch, most of the party then ventured out to Coward Spring. This is a spring where reeds (Phragmites) have steadily encroached down the tail of the spring, displacing the bore sedge Cyperus laevigatus, following fencing in the mid 1990s. After lunch, the group had a look at Blanche Cup and The Bubbler. At Blanche Cup we discussed the impact of visitors trampling C laevigatus around the open pool. A low board-walk or low protective fencing were two options suggested to deal with this. We then split into two parties. One group ventured to springs in the south of Wabma Kadarbu (Horse, Buttercup, and the Mt Hamilton ruins), while the other group drove into Emerald Spring. At Emerald, a search for a cone of stones, thought by Rick to be nearby, was not successful. Bobby Hunter also rejoined us and regaled the group with his memories of Coward Springs when it operated as a railway siding complete with pub.

Wednesday 27th June

We proceeded to Strangways Springs with its ruins of the Overland Telegraph repeater station. The group had a short ramble around the ruins and some of the ~450 springs at Strangways (of which, according to Travis, about 50% are active). Then on to William Creek for lunch, refuelling and a chance to check out the bar of the William Creek Hotel. After lunch we carried on up the Oodnadatta Track to Warrina Siding where Colin, under Elaine’s careful supervision, gave the Royal Geographical Society’s plaque a good going over. Doug finished the job with a rinse and a scrub with a washing-up brush. With the afternoon flying by, we decided on a quick trip into the ruins of the Old Peake repeater station. This proved to be a good decision as the ruins were splendid in the late afternoon sun. Bruce then led us to a magnificent spring nearby – clearly the pick of the Freeling Springs. A wonderful sight with a large expanse of open water with some black swans in residence. We then returned to our pre-selected campsite on the Old Peake Public Access Route.

FOMS Springs Tour, June 2007 (2)

Thursday 28th June

Another fine day as we proceeded to the new Peake homestead where we caught up with Adam, the acting manager for Kidmans. Then down the station track to Milne Spring – with its bore, natural spring and impressive rock formations – and on to Levi Springs where the adjacent rock formations contain Aboriginal circular etchings or petroglyphs. After Levi we drove on to Spring Hill, where Rick led us to one of Stuart’s cones of stones at the top of the Hill – an impressive sight. The convoy then journeyed onto Tarlton Springs, where we also met up with Travis as well as Bruce and Sherrie (who had kindly taken Ann Gorton down to William Creek that morning). Tarlton confirmed our concerns from previous inspections – the Typha springs were essentially ex-springs with the Typha (bullrushes) dead and just a little of the sedge Cyperus gymnocaulos hanging on. We were interested to note, however, an active spring in the bed of Hope Creek outside of the fenced area (possibly Stuart’s “Spring of Hope”). That evening we camped at a very good site on Bulldog Creek.

Friday 29th June

Adam of the Peake Station joined the group at Outside Spring and we spent the first part of the day looking at springs nearby which had been fenced off in the 1980s. Kelli-Jo Kovac and Reece Pedler from BHP Billiton also joined us for the day. The four springs were Outside Spring showing extensive growth of Phragmites within the fenced area with little change since last inspection (2005), although the adjoining unfenced spring has an increased proportion of Typha; Twelve Mile Spring with extensive Phragmites with some Typha at top vent and a recently established area (~2 square metres) of Typha on edge of Phragmites near the top of Vent #3 (Phragmites has spread considerably at the top of the mound since the last inspection.); The Fountain which is a Phragmites dominated spring with little apparent change since the last inspection; and Big Perry where the Phragmites and Typha exhibited little change. With light rain developing, we drove on to George’s Creek for lunch and combined this with a walk over to the Old Umbum Station ruins. Then on to Louden Spring, once one of Stuart’s favoured camp-sites, now extinct. The group arrived at the campsite on the Douglas River in plenty of time to prepare for a camp oven extravaganza prepared by Travis, with pre-dinner nibbles laid on by Kelli-Jo courtesy of BHP.

Saturday 30th June

With final farewells, the group dispersed, some heading for home and others continuing to enjoy the region for another day or two. The week had been a resounding success: good company, great weather and plenty of interesting locations.