IN SOUTH Wonthaggi, the tallest sand ridge on Reed Crescent proved its worth in the town's infancy by providing good clean spring water and thus became known as Tank Hill.
Before the Lance Creek Reservoir, these springs filled a watercart which toured the streets supplying householders. A windmill on top of Tank Hill pumped water from a spring on the south side of the hill to a tank from which ran a pipe down Matthew Street. There was a tap at each intersection – it would take a long time to fill a billy on hot days.
Tank Hill was the encampment site in July 1910 for the tree planters employed to establish 3000 trees along the streets and crescents of fledgling Wonthaggi. Lyn Chambers' father was a member of this team.
The nearby area of Three Acre Blocks (today's Shandley Street) was also known as the Market Gardens and hence Eastern Area mine was known as the Garden Mine. Perhaps the market gardeners used the spring water from Tank Hill.
During World War II, an air raid shelter was dug into the eastern-most dune for the protection of neighbouring families.
In the 1980s the Borough of Wonthaggi mined the sand at Tank Hill before moving further down Reed Crescent to the dunes of the Rifle Range. Aboriginal artefacts were found on site during the sandpit days.
After the grazing lease on the site lapsed, the Wonthaggi branch of the South Gippsland Conservation Society planted out the area. This volunteer work has been continued by community groups, the very active neighbours of Tank Hill and Wonthaggi Urban Landcare.
Projects involve planting out with indigenous trees and shrubs, monitoring birds and plants, maintaining tracks and weeding invasives such as pittosporum, montpellier broom, blue periwinkle and watsonia. The reserve is managed by Parks Victoria.
Tracks wind through the dune system and across the flat, accessed from Bell Lane, Tank Hill Terrace, Reed Crescent and Stewart Street. It is a great place to walk, exercise the dog (on a leash), bird watch or contemplate Wonthaggi's history. The highest hill gives a great view of Eastern Area Mine.
Birds to be seen include grey butcherbirds golden and rufous whistlers, Horsfield's bronze cuckoos, grey shrike thrushes, silvereyes, robins, honeyeaters and wrens.
Amid manna, messmate and peppermint gums are ferns, peaflowers, heath, melaleucas, teatrees, wattles, grasses, sedges, rushes and the odd orchid.
Early-morning walkers witness the birds and spring visitors observe wildflowers in bloom. This little treasure tucked away in our southern reaches rewards the walker in all seasons.