Restoring the wilds: Irrewarra-Doongara Rewilding Project

We are delighted to share that in mid-2021 we purchased a property about 20 minutes north of us here at Irrewarra. It’s a patch of 100 acres situated along the Woady Yaloak river, just near Cressy. Named 'Doongara', an Aboriginal word meaning 'lightning', the landscape includes 2km of river frontage where the river opens up into large ponds, partly lined with river red gums.
Over the years, this gently rolling landscape has been felled, farmed and used for running livestock. In this time, it's given a lot to the farmers and settlers of this area, and has been a prominent feature in the colonial history of the region. Now, we plan to return the land to its natural state as part of a revegetation and native fauna and flora regeneration project.

Pictured is native beautiful native water lilies, 'ottelia ovalifolia,' and Poa grass that lines the river banks.

Restoring the Local History 

As a major thoroughfare for white settlers moving through the western Victorian plains, Cressy was named after the French hometown of the first settler, Frenchman Jean Duverney. His inn, still standing next to the ford (river crossing) in Cressy, was the first licenced inn when Victoria was declared a Colony of England. Following the historic iron bridge build in 1854, a Cobb & Co horse changeover station was erected on the property to meet demand for weary travellers. After Cobb & Co ceased operating, the building became the home of the Spalding family for many generations. 

Pictured ‘Doongarra’ Cobb & Co Station

As a key stop on the Western Districts mail and trade route, a historic wrought iron road bridge first built in 1854 still borders the property to the north. Bluestone cobblestones from the original road through the Cressy ford remain on the property as does the Cobb & Co building with its cellar. We plan to restore the Cobb & Co Station (pictured above) and eventually construct accommodation for visitors interested in native flora and fauna to stay and enjoy the natural beauty of the revegetated riverfront.

Sheep wash station on the Woady Yalloak River at Doongara, part of the Yarima Station owned by William McVean c 1850

Regenerating Doongara’s Natural Beauty  

As much as we love to reflect on the history of this area, we’ve acquired this site with a vision for the future. With this property, we’d like to give something back to the land and the environment – which is why we’ve committed to revegetating and rewilding as much of the site as we can over the next decade. We have great hopes that in time, we can return it to a natural state, and develop an eventual bird sanctuary. Already, it's home to ducks, swans, pelicans, water hens, cranes and even a pair of white-bellied sea eagles. It's a truly special place.

Pictured wild pelicans enjoying the billabong

Taking care of the environment has always been important to us at Irrewarra – 20+ years of paper bread packaging is testament to this! – but we’re particularly thrilled to have become the custodians of this special part of the Woady Yaloak ecosystem.

For now, we've been busy removing invasive weed species from the property to help the native species of grasses, bush and gums flourish. We are already noticing red gum saplings sprouting around the property! We can't wait to share more updates as our work progresses.