The Grange Heathland Reserve is a little oasis of native bushland hidden away in Melbourne's south eastern suburb of Clayton South. The 6.6 hectare reserve is home to a surprisingly diverse range of native flora and fauna. It's a quiet and peaceful place for walking, bird watching and finding wildflowers.
The reserve is surrounded by a tall pest-proof fence to keep introduced animals out of the bushland. At the entrance gate is an information board kept up-to-date by the local Friends Group, with lots of useful information about what to see, including the plants currently flowering. Brochures are also available from a small box inside the entrance gate.
The reserve has several short walking trails that meander in loops through the four vegetation types: sand heathland, heathy woodland, swampy woodland and swamp scrub. The trails are flat and well-marked and are either sandy or grassy underfoot. It won't take long to walk along the trails in the reserve – it's not big enough for a long hike. However, it is a lovely place to take a camera, binoculars, or a sketch pad, and to explore slowly. Around 230 plant species and 48 bird species have been recorded in the reserve.
The wildflowers start to bloom in the autumn and winter months, particularly in the heathy woodland. The Common Correa (Correa reflexa) and Sweet Wattle (Acacia suaveolens) are among the first plants to flower. By spring, there is a burst of colour, including the striking yellow and red 'egg and bacon' flowers of the various bush peas. In October, the reserve is covered in the stunning white flowers of the Wedding Bush (Ricinocarpos pinifolius), a plant celebrated each year with the annual 'Wedding Bush Festival'. It's also a great place to spot native orchids, with over 20 species recorded in the reserve such as Nodding Greenhood (Pterostylis nutans), Hyacinth Orchid (Dipodium roseum) and Tiger Orchid (Diuris sulphurea).
The Grange Heathland Reserve represents a small remnant of the once-widespread heathlands, grassy woodlands and wetlands that extended across the 'Sandbelt' region of southeastern Melbourne. It is protected today because the local residents understood its beauty and uniqueness and fought to preserve the site from development. In 1980 the local council purchased the heathland and turned it into a reserve. Thanks to the perseverance and foresight of the local community, the reserve can be enjoyed by all Melbournians and is a small reminder of the natural bushland that once occurred throughout the area.