AT somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 years of age, the Mount Leura and Mount Sugarloaf complex is still considered an infant in volcanology terms.
Mount Porndon is slightly older at about 60,000 years and Lake Corangamite to the east is Victoria’s largest natural lake.
Few locals realise the features are among the world’s third largest volcanic plains in the world, boasting more than 700 eruption points stretching from Melbourne to Mount Gambier.
Those facts and more are listed on seven information boards which were unveiled atop Mount Leura last week for locals and visitors alike to marvel at.
An initiative of the Mount Leura and Mount Sugarloaf Management Committee, the information boards were five years in the making and map out a newly developed ‘Volcanology Trail’.
Friends of Mount Leura member Greg Farmer said the boards detail everything from how the volcanoes were formed, the make-up of scoria, olivine crystals and tuff and the layering of lava flows.
“Our research kept uncovering all kinds of wonderful facts and now they’re on display for everyone to find out and marvel at,” he said.
“The information boards really adds to the visitor experience at the Leura reserve – they provide so much context and perspective.
“They’re also a great resource for visiting school groups, which come and go quite frequently.”
Other ‘hot facts’ included detail how lava flows from the eruptions were about 1100 degrees Celsius in temperature, the average thickness of lava flows across the plains is about 60 metres and that as little as one per cent of the area’s original vegetation remains.
Committee president Graham Arkinstall said work first began on developing the information boards when local geology student Sandy McBean began studying the area through Ballarat’s Federation University.
Camperdown-based geology student Kirsty Delwig continued the project.
“We had great support from Fed’ Uni’ and then set about editing and re-editing the information and designing the boards,” Mr Arkinstall said.
“We’re absolutely thrilled with the quality of the boards and are already receiving some really positive feedback.
“Huge amounts of hours and dedication have gone into this project, but it’s been well worth it.”
The signs cap off the development of a specific ‘Volcanology Trail’ atop Mount Leura, which sets out from the peak’s car park.
“One area has an exposed cliff that clearly shows the layering of the earth, which is a great insight for those who appreciate geology,” Mr Arkinstall said.
“Another area shows sweeping views of the volcanic peaks across the plains and really gives Mount Leura and Mount Sugarloaf context.”
With a total cost of just over $10,000, the information boards were hailed as being perfect for self-guided visits.
“They add to the overall experience of visiting the reserve,” Mr Arkinstall said.
“We really encourage people to go up, take a walk and see for themselves – it’s only a smallish trail, about 200 or 300 metres long.
“The average person will be surprised by what they learn.”
However, judging from one information board, people should visit sooner rather than later as volcanic eruptions occur every 15,000 to 20,000 years and, still considered ‘active’, Mt Leura is well overdue.