Turn off the Victa: an end to mowing for the Woodford Academy volunteers

Deputy Chair Woodford Academy Elizabeth Burgess, Cr Romola Hollywood, Ian Robinson, Chair Woodford Academy Felicity Anderson, Bob Morris and Max Hill. Other lawn mowers (not pictured) are Tony Gorey and Mark Vanderwey.
Deputy Chair Woodford Academy Elizabeth Burgess, Cr Romola Hollywood, Ian Robinson, Chair Woodford Academy Felicity Anderson, Bob Morris and Max Hill. Other lawn mowers (not pictured) are Tony Gorey and Mark Vanderwey.

After nearly 40 years, a group of Woodford residents no longer needs to mow the grass at the Woodford Reserve.

Veteran volunteer lawn mowers were thrilled to hang up their hats now Blue Mountains City Council has taken on regular maintenance of this historic area, which backs onto the Woodford Academy and was part of its original grounds.

The volunteers first began mowing the site back in 1976, when council purchased the land.The volunteers’ aim was to care for the reserve so that the local community could make use of this beautiful and historic area. In the late 1980s, council created the heritage tree listing and the locals also wanted to better protect some of the trees on the reserve.

Ward 2 Labor Cr Romola Hollywood said: “In 2002 Blue Mountains City Council developed a plan of management for the site. However, progress on implementing the plan stalled during the many years of the highway upgrade. Since the highway’s completion and the Woodford Academy’s reactivation, I have been working to get Woodford Reserve onto the council’s agenda. I’m pleased that we have achieved this.”

In the lead-up to the council’s current financial year’s budget, Cr Hollywood “supported calls from community members for council to allocate funds for weed removal and regular maintenance”.

“It is a huge win for our community that council is now able to include the Woodford Reserve in its regular program of maintenance works for local parks,” she added.

Ian Robinson, veteran volunteer mower of the Woodford Reserve, said they were “ecstatic when council officers arrived to start clearing the ground recently at the Woodford Reserve”.

Turn off the mower: Ian Robinson, Bob Morris and Max Hill. Other lawn mowers missing from the photo are Tony Gorey and Mark Vanderwey.

Turn off the mower: Ian Robinson, Bob Morris and Max Hill. Other lawn mowers missing from the photo are Tony Gorey and Mark Vanderwey.

“We welcomed the staff with open arms. People have been deeply concerned about encounters [with] snakes, fire hazards and out-of-control weeds which were beyond our control to manage.

“This work supports the community safer places and protects the heritage-listed buildings of the Woodford Academy,” Mr Robinson said.

The much-needed removal of weeds such as blackberry, honey-suckle and white poplars will also be part of the maintenance program.

Deputy Chair of the Woodford Academy, Elizabeth Burgess, thanked the “Woodford gentlemen for their years of service to the community maintaining this important heritage precinct”.

“Without their extraordinary efforts over four decades, the reserve would not have remained accessible to the community, and we have no doubt the heritage values of the site would have been degraded, if not lost forever.”

Cr Hollywood said the council will now make an application for funding under the State Government's Heritage Near Me program which, if successful, will support the implementation of heritage interpretation under the 2002 Plan of Management.

“I am confident we are about to see the next positive chapter for the Woodford Reserve.”

Chair of the Woodford Academy, Felicity Anderson, said they were looking forward to working with council “to develop the low-key heritage interpretation as per the 2002 Plan of Management to ensure the nationally significant heritage values are protected and preserved for future generations”.

The veteran lawn mowers will continue to work with council through the 20-Mile Hollow Volunteer Group and would love to see more interested community members get involved