Situated under the mammoth Westgate bridge that spans Yarra river and clears the water by 58 metres, Hyde Street Reserve and Stony Creek Backwash are part of the land reclaimed which was lost to the industrial pollution of the 19th century. It gives the impression that the huge pillars of the bridge are giving a standing ovation to the success story of turning the land back into a natural reserve. This area is not really a park or a place for a picnic but remains best for a stroll or a jog through its walking paths and is frequented by dog owners.
The Hyde Street Reserve is located on one side of the street and across the street is the Stony Creek backwash and along passes Exon Mobile’s high-pressured oil pipelines. Hyde Street Reserve is a large open space with walking paths and seatings. The Stony Creek backwash is a mangrove lagoon and best suited for bird watching. Car Parking is available near the Hyde Street and also at the Westgate Memorial Park.
Most of the information given below are from the visitor information boards located at the reserve and at the backwash.
For thousands of years Stony Creek has carried rainwater from St Albans through Sunshine, Yarraville and the Hyde Street Reserve to its destination at Stony Creek Backwash by the Yarra River.
The aboriginal Marin Balluk Clan fished, hunted and gathered along Stony Creek. Reeds grew in the creek and mangroves in the backwash. Birds abounded the swamps and marsupials on the grassy plains.
In 1802, British explorers from the shipping vessel ‘Cumberland’ navigated miles up Stony Creek but dismissed it because water was salty, and it ended in a swamp. Around 1853, William Stone arrived from Portland in England and built his home from stone quarried in his Hyde Street ‘backyard’. He was one of the first to supply basalt from the area for building purposes and as ballast for ships.
In the 1850’s, Stony Creek was an important route for labourers heading upstream to quarries located north and South of the Creek. To accommodate the growing industries and local businesses around the Yarra River port, industrial rail sidings were established at the Spotswood area to connect the rail terminals at Hobsons Bay. Majority of the rail sidings have been decommissioned and removed but remnants of the old branch railway sidings can be found in the eastern side of the backwash running parallel with the Yarra River.
In the 1870’s industries were established along the creek, tannery, meat processing and glue works. On those years, Stony Creek was viewed as a drain fit only for tipping and to carry away industry by-products. By the mid-20th century, Hyde street had become a municipal landfill. In the 1990’s Hyde Street Reserve was created. Hyde Street Reserve and Stony Creek were extensively damaged by industry and urbanisation over the last 100 years. However, a growing awareness of the need for environmental havens in the city is seeing the area once again becoming a natural asset.
With the help of, Friends of Stony Creek, residents and other stake holders, through co-ordination with Maribyrnong City Council, litter was cleaned up, trees and indigenous vegetation was planted, and the return of wildlife was encouraged. Today the reserve contains indigenous trees and shrubs, wildflower gardens, a walking path and grassland plantings. The Reserve now attracts indigenous insects, reptiles and birds.
The Stony Creek footbridge extends across the breakwater enabling pedestrians and bicycle traffic access to the banks of Yarra River. The view from the footbridge provides a unique perspective of the West Gate Bridge which is spectacular when lit up at night.
From the footbridge you can see the wreck of a historic barge used to transport shell grit to the nearby bottle works. Also visible are the remains of the former railway line that once travelled from Spotswood, along the edge of Yarra River to the Yarraville oil Wharf as well as the footings of temporary piers used in the construction of West Gate Bridge.
The Stony Creek backwash was originally rich with flora and fauna but during the 19th century, it became a repository for waste from nearby industries. In 1878, Stony Creek backwash came under the control of Melbourne Harbour Trust and by early 1880’s retaining walls were constructed as a part of Coode Canal project. The site has continually operated as an oil terminal and now by Mobile.
Stony Creek backwash supports a rare stand of white mangroves. Mangroves are adapted to tolerate salty conditions. The original stand of white mangroves was completely destroyed in 1987 after the oil spill. Replanting occurred shortly after.
Location: 340 Hyde street, Yarraville 3013
Friends of Stony Creek – FB – https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfStonyCreek/
Access to Stony Creek Backwash is via Hyde Street, Yarraville. Melways ref. Map 41 B11