Mudgegonga was first settled in the mid nineteenth century by pastoralists. It was fairly open country with excellent native grasses (especially kangaroo grass) and lightly timbered with yellow box and stringy bark eucalypts. Blakely red gums were found in the more heavily timbered areas surrounding the wide valley. Extensive clearing was not necessary to establish a viable grazing industry and durable timbers were readily available for fence posts and fire wood.
With Closer Settlement early in the twentieth century followed by Soldier Settlement after the First World War, the population increased. Agricultural enterprises became more intensive, the area was renowned for dairying (supplying the butter factory in Myrtleford) and the production of fat lambs for the English mutton market.
Despite the frosts in this area (average 252 frost risk days per year) stories of the productive excellence of this area abound. Record oat crops (for the state) were grown during the 1920s and 1930s and many older residents talk of the sub-clover that was at least knee high. After feeding the swathes of cut sub-clover into the stationary presses, residual seed could be shoveled up & bagged for the establishment of new pastures. The growing of fodder crops was critical to the development of this area.
Mudgegonga is a broad valley drained by the Barwidgee Creek and its tributaries. The duplex soils are very prone to erosion- this is the most dramatic land degradation issue in the area. The grey less fertile soils to the south are abrasive, quartzy sand. The old timers used to say, when ploughing in ‘lands’ with a mouldboard, you had to change the ploughshare at the end of each row in the grey soils! The richer red soils are also very prone to erosion. There is one example where a gully 20 feet/6m wide by 60 feet/20m long appeared after one major rain event! The Barwidgee Creek is still getting deeper every year; some locals estimate that this is occurring at the rate of 1 foot per year! It’s not uncommon for landholders to lose 6m of a paddock in a year. During the mid 1980s, the large pine plantations were clear felled producing a significant impact in terms of erosion.
It is interesting to note that major infestations of St Johns Wort plagued parts of the valley from the 1920s to the 1950s (approximately). A condition of Soldier Settlement was control of noxious weeds. It is believed that landholders were fined or ultimately reclaimed if St John’s Wort was not controlled. A Government salt program assisted farmers who would collect tons of salt by dray in Myrtleford and spread it on affected paddocks so that they looked “as white as snow”. When fertiliser was first used in cropping it didn’t take the locals long to work out that his got rid of the St John’s wort if applied to pastures. Although still present on most properties, St John’s wort is not considered a major problem in the valley today however this is due to good management rather than good luck.