Lake of Fire

In the five years I have lived in Ballarat there seem to be two things which are of utmost importance to residents

1. The Eureka Stockade- a day which is commemorated by two processions, one for the descendants of the miners, and one for the descendants of the government forces

2. Lake Wendouree.

I’m within walking distance of the Lake which was originally called Yuille’s Swamp before being created as a recreational lake. In the past people boated, fished, and the shore is dotted with boatsheds of local schools, rowing clubs and individuals. The 1956 Olympics rowing course was at Lake Wendouree.

The botanical gardens are adjacent to the lake, there’s the Steve Moneghetti Track around it, and a bike lane, making it popular for cyclists and runners, walkers and mums with prams. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have ‘done the Lake’ both with and without the pram :).

Lake Wendouree Rowing Course January 2009

I have seen the Lake slowly dry up and refill, the waterfowl leave and return, the lake bed get mowed, and ironically get set on fire last year. The fire, I suspect, may have lit by someone who did not want their expensive lakeside home get inundated by swathes of fairy grass which grew on the dry lake bed. The fire was extinguished but continued to smoulder as the lake bed, which is peat, caught fire.

The Lake is slowly filling up with diverted stormwater and recycled water, and recent heavy rains have prompted many of my work colleagues to ask the question- how’s the Lake looking?

Lake Wendouree Rowing Course November 2009

At the moment- like a swamp! The lake bed is covered with grass and weeds which poke out of the water near the shore. The boatsheds still look a tad incongruous as there is not enough water to lap against their stilts, but there’s water.

The rowing course is being deepened, with the lake bed being used to create additional parkland around the Lake. Every time we go around the Lake in the car, Miss Bookgrrl cries out ‘Big giant puddle!’ She is also quite excited about the diggers around the works.

The Lake acts as an unofficial barometer for the town- when the Lake is filling up, when the waterfowl return, people’s spirits go up. It also means less chance of fairy grass returning. When the rowers return, it will feel as if the lake has finally rebounded.

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