Black Hill Reserve


Black Hill

Black Hill was originally known as ‘Bowdun’ by the local Watha Wurrung but was named ‘Black Hill by William Urquart, who surveyed the region in 1851 (Black Hill Heritage Precinct, 2006).

Black Hill Reserve is approximately 21 hectares and is located just over 1 kilometre north‐east of the Ballarat CBD. The Yarrowee River, Ballarat’s major linear corridor, adjoins the Reserve to the south. Urban areas of residential development adjoin the Reserve to the north, east and west.

The hill the area is named after rises 495 metres above sea level making it the highest land in central Ballarat. It is a dominant landmark within the urban landscape of Ballarat and the  lookout area at the top of the hill arguably provides the best panoramic views of the City.

Black Hill Reserve is historically significant as it was subject to extensive mining activity in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The resulting terrain is steep and undulating with significant areas of exposed soils. The landscape has since been heavily forested with mature pine trees in  plantations and more recent plantings of native trees.

The reserve has traditionally been used for viewing the City and for passive recreation, but in recent times has become a focal point for downhill mountain bike riding.

In 2013 Council endorsed a report for the development of the Black Hill Reserve  Master Plan which is currently underway.

HistoryTop of document.

Black Hill was originally known as ‘Bowdun’ by the local Watha Wurrung but was named ‘Black Hill by William Urquart, who surveyed the region in 1851 (Black Hill Heritage Precinct, 2006).

Prior to mining commencing in the 1850’s, the landscape was densely covered with native Attachment 1 Black Hill Reserve Master Plan - Briefing Paper - 142 - forest including Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua), Peppermint Gums (Eucalyptus radiata and Eucalyptus dives), Wattles (Acacia spp.) and a middle storey of Tea‐trees  (Leptospermum spp.), Heaths and Peas, Hopebush (Dodonea spp) and Bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) (Department of Conservation and Lands, 1989).

The ‘Black Hill Heritage Precinct Study (2006)’ describes in detail the history and impact of gold mining within the Reserve from the 1850’s through to the 1920’s, and then details the history of landscape and ‘beautification’ works to create a lookout and pubic reserve thereafter.

The chronological timescale below provides a summary of the historical use and development of  the Black Hill Reserve from the Heritage Study and other sources: 1851 – Surface Gold first discovered at Black Hill.

1851‐1852 – Black Hill Quartz Crushing Company commenced shallow alluvial and open cut  mining.

1853‐1875 – Deep alluvial lead mining and underground and open cut mining.

1854‐1918 – Major mining of quartz reefs in the underlying Ordovician bedrock. Extensive  clearing of native vegetation continued, leaving the landscape treeless.

1907 – Initial lookout area reserved as Public Recreation area by East Ballarat Council. Further  portions of land added to Reserve until 1983. Mining operations began to slow down and public interest in ‘beautification’ and re‐afforestation increased.

1908 – Eight more acres of land to the north added to the Reserve. 

1913 – School children began planting trees on Arbor Day

1917 – Black Hill Progress Association formed for ‘beautification of the locality’. School children planted over 1000 Pinus radiata in avenues. Lookout erected and paths formed from the streets  into the Reserve.

1918 – Council appointed as Committee of Management to control reserve for public purposes.  Black Hill Progress Association plant 400 cypress pines in honour of World War one servicemen.

1919 – Trees planted by the Black Hill Progress Association to form an avenue from Chisholm Street along Sim St to the reserve to be known as ‘Peace Avenue”.

1920’s to 30’s – Black Hill Progress Association continue to improve the Reserve through extensive tree plantings. Erection of playground equipment, picnic facilities and a playing field with wicket. Further plantings, pathway works and fencing works undertaken as part of  government sustenance and relief schemes.

1940 – Tourist roadway constructed.

1946 – Clear felling of pines on western section of pines.

1950 – Entrance road paved with bitumen and improvements made to the lookout at the summit.

1981 – 6 acres of land formerly occupied by Ballarat East Brickworks Pty Ltd was gazetted and added to Reserve.

1982 – First native plantings commenced with local Scout groups and residents planting 1982 trees on the western side of the Reserve. 

1990’s – Areas of mature Pine trees on western slopes clear felled to reopen views from lookout. Additional drainage and fire access tracks constructed. Lookout and car park area fenced and planted. Several community plantings of native trees and shrubs in cleared areas.

Pine seedlings cleared and pedestrian paths installed with ongoing support of the local Eureka Apex Club.

2001 – City of Ballarat commenced investigation of ground subsidence and cracking of the lookout car park.

2008 – Significant pavement cracking and holes opened up in lookout car park. Section of car park closed to minimise public risk. Preliminary car park geotechnical assessment prepare by Mining One consultants. Report for development of mountain bike trails at Black Hill prepared.

2011 – Further report and analysis of geotechnical issues prepared by Mining One consultants.  Reports provided to Council on issues. Arboricultural report developed by Arborsafe for overall  Reserve.

2013 – Report for development of Black Hill reserve as a site for Mountain Bike trails prepared  and adopted by Council. Council endorsed proposal for development of Master Plan through a Consultative Committee.