Gypsum at the lake

James Lerk | Bendigo Weekly | 04-Aug-2017

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North of what is now the Terrick Terrick National Park lies Bald Rock, situated to the east of Pyramid Hill, the area has natural deposits of gypsum, a very useful soil improver, particularly for clays. 

The knowledge of the deposits at Timm’s Lake had caught the eye of Herbert Keck and Son, the operators of the Bendigo nursery. 

Father and son took the initiative to have samples of the gypsum at Timm’s Lake analysed, and it was found to be eminently suitable for manufacturing artificial fertiliser.

Those of us not in the horticultural or agricultural industry may well wonder what gypsum actually is? 

Gypsum is a calcium sulphate and dihydrate, for hundreds of years farmers have been aware of its benefits for the soil and consequently plant growth, hence improving crop yields. 

Soils that have a high sodium content this can be treated with the application of gypsum. It is the sulphur content in the gypsum which is a stimulus for plant growth, the soil’s aluminium toxicity is also measurably reduced.

Application of gypsum assists the infiltration of rain or irrigation water into the soils additionally cutting down acidity as well as reducing alkalinity levels. 

Early in 1923 the Kecks applied for a lease of the Timm’s Lake Reserve as there was gypsum nearby. 

The then Gordon Shire Council, (today in the Shire of Loddon) were of the opinion that it would be a useful way of ridding the area of “that drain” as they termed it.

The existence of the deposits of gypsum had been known for some time, however father and son Keck were first to be interested in extracting this gypsum.

The shire at the time viewed the working of the gypsum deposit as a good source of employment for local men. 

Although the title to the reserve was held by the council, they were aware that it was to be used only for recreational purposes. The Lands Department could cancel the council’s interest in Timm’s Lake as it was not permitted to generate any revenue.

There was a natural water channel that fed into the lake, and if the channel was eliminated or changed the council feared that it could be sued by landholders who were at the lower end of the lake, if the water from there at some future time flooded their land. 

Timm’s Lake acted as a natural buffer for the farmers who were at the lower end.

The gypsum deposit of interest to the Kecks was on land owned by Mr AC McCrae and the Kecks were actively in discussions with him in relation to working the deposit.

There was a feeling of great regret that “these outsiders”, the Kecks, were perhaps going to exploit this asset rather than local people. 

Herbert Keck had asked the council for permission to excavate out and remove the gypsum near Timm’s Lake and abutting a roadway nearby. He proposed to pay the council a bond to ensure that everything would be reinstated to the council’s satisfaction.

The Mines Department came into the equation as well, for by July 1923 as the applied-for lease had been referred to them for comment, seeking to ensure that there were no objections from the Gordon Shire.

Another landholder Mr DM Burke had simultaneously applied for a grazing lease to the council of Timm’s Lake. The council was yet to deliberate on Burke’s request.

Legal opinion had been gained by the Lands Department late in 1923 in respect of the Timm’s Lake Reserve and as a result, the secretary of the Gordon Shire was to lodge a formal request to obtain full title to the reserve and then the council would be free to do with it as it saw fit.

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