The Royal National Park, on the land of the Dharawal people, was dedicated as the first national park in Australia in 1879, with the Audley precinct named in 1884 after Lord Audley who surveyed this area 20 years earlier. Vegetation was cleared to create an open park environment, buildings were constructed for visitors, and the river dammed with a causeway. The Royal Botanic Gardens and Forestry Department provided poplars, willows, Moreton Bay figs. and jacarandas to plant throughout the parkland. Ironbark Flat was developed as an open grassed area with the adjoining Dance Hall providing a social and recreational space.
The purpose of this project was to upgrade the quality of this public space and acknowledge the heritage significance of the area by restoring the historic views and improving the condition and functionality of the turfed areas.
This project included an extensive investigation to determine how best to improve the turf quality and enable ongoing maintenance of the area. Testing of the soil and sub-surface condition of the reclaimed land was undertaken and identified that compaction from high visitor use and low nutrient levels were leading to poor drainage and high salt content. This meant that existing turf growth was supressed by the thriving juncus grass.
To improve the Flat, extensive works were carried out from October to December 2020 and included:
- removal of the topsoil layer and large boulders and rocks below the soil surface
- landscaping to improve drainage
- installation of a new irrigation system
- introduction of high-quality topsoil and sand mix
- planting of a mix of kikuyu grass and buffalo turf.
Selective thinning of self-seeded trees and saplings such as lilly pillies and casuarinas was carried out to restore the views in and around this historic area. Historic plantings were retained and the riverbank was revegetated.
These completed works will provide an enhanced environment for visitors which acknowledges the historic heritage of the Audley and improves ability to maintain and manage this area.