Swan Reserve
Swan Reserve (photo copyright Warrnambool & District Historical Society)


Old Warrnambool Saleyards

The site was originally reserved for use as cattle yards and as a general market in May 1883 but as early as 1897 it was apparent that the sale-yards were too small. However, it wasn’t until 1903 that the town council finally decided to move them. Following public protest, it was decided instead to rebuild new bigger yards on the site and these were opened in November 1904.

By the 1960’s the sale yards were becoming increasing unacceptable due to traffic congestion, noise, and odour, the council was finally forced to move the yards when the Country Roads Board decided to duplicate the highway. The sale yards were moved to Caramut Road in 1970. The limestone wall on the northern boundary is the only remnant of the old Sale yards and has local heritage value.

The Warrnambool Fire Station was once located at Swan Reserve as were a tyre retailer, the Salvation Army and the old Market building. All of these buildings had disappeared by the time the duplicated highway was built in the early 1970s.

Tourist Information Centre/Children's Services Centre

A Tourist Information Centre (TIC) was built on Swan Reserve in the early 1970s. Tourist services were later relocated to Flagstaff Hill. The building was subsequently occupied by Children’s Services.

The Children's Services Centre is one stop shop with information on the range of children’s services provided by Warrnambool City Council. The Centre also provides information on where to access other children’s services not available at Warrnambool City Council and aims to provide education and support to families with young children in Warrnambool and the surrounding areas.

Swan Reserve Waterwise Garden (formally Tourist Information Centre Garden).

At the first ordinary meeting of the then South West Group of the Society for Growing Australian Plants on 30th April 1976, it was moved by Mrs. McDonald, seconded by Ann Magilton, “that the group notify the Warrnambool City Council of our desire to plant out the Tourist Information Centre”. So began the involvement of Warrnambool & District Group in the establishment and maintenance of what is now the Swan Reserve Waterwise Garden. The garden was established to beautify the new Tourist Information Centre building and surrounding reserve.

On 28th January 1977 after being given approval by the Council, there was an informal meeting of members on site to plan the garden’s establishment. On 30th April 1977, the first working bee was held. The Group committed itself to regular working bees for an initial period of five years. A submission was made to Council for funding to assist the continued planting out and maintenance and this was subsequently granted. By mid-1978 all but one bed at the western end of the reserve had been completed.

Following a suggestion that a barbeque shelter be established, the Town Clerk invited the East Warrnambool Rotary Club to become involved and the shelter was completed by 11th May 1980 when the joint SGAP/Rotary facility was opened by the Mayor, Councillor Bob Barham. Following this further beds were established around the new shelter with 42 specimens of the 3 local indigenous eucalypts also being planted throughout the reserve. In later years the shelter was removed by Council following a suggestion that it contributed to public lawlessness and drug taking with used alcohol containers and syringes needing to be disposed of regularly.

In February 1985 work commenced on a new mound at the eastern end of the reserve and this ultimately became known as the “Banksia Bed”. Free draining soil was brought in to build up the bed and make it suitable for a wide variety of banksias and this was topped with mulch. By the following year, some 60 banksias had been planted out.

Over the years working bees were held to maintain the beds and spread fresh mulch. At various times it was found necessary to renovate and remove older plants and replace them with new ones, these often grown or donated by group members themselves. Weeding of the gardens has been a continual chore however with a determined few in the Group continuing the upkeep in recent years. There has also always been a determination by the Group to maintain its role at the garden to ensure it retained its all Australian character.

Swan Reserve and Warrnambool Botanic Gardens

In 2014 it was identified that Swan Reserve would benefit from the input of a curator. Swan Reserve and the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens are complementary with heritage and native plants, in the way Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne complements The Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. The Warrnambool Botanic Gardens master plan suggests the gardens look for an annex.

This collaboration offered increased opportunities for linked signage, web sites, and joint promotion.

Friends of Swan Reserve and the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens made a joint submission to Warrnambool City Council, for Swan Reserve to become an annex of WBG under the control of Curator of the WBG, John Sheely. Each site would retain its own "Friends" group. Signs will be created between both gardens as a garden walk.

Some interesting written facts from newspapers of the 1800-1900s, with thanks to TROVE    

Garden Walk - Warrnambool

As a walk through Warrnambool's public gardens sites. One can move from the Botanic Gardens in Cockman Street to Swan Reserve on the highway and then Scoborio Reserve near the mouth of the Hopkins River. Scoborio Reserve was named in remembrance of Charles Scoborio, this reserve is often mistaken as being the original site of the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens in 1866, the original site was in fact on the western boundary of the now Warrnambool Cemetary.