Friday, 14 July 2017

Bush Ranging

I’m just in from my first patrol through Barrm Birrm in my new Subaru Brumby. The elderly among you will remember the Brumby. 4WD, highway speed of 90 kmh. Tough as old boots—I had one once on a property, used it as a motorised wheel barrow. Carted a lot of field stone from my neighbour’s paddock.

Now I’ve got one care of my dear friend Tom, the itinerant academic, who’s gone to a real job in England. A couple of weeks ago, getting ready to go, he said: “How about I leave my Subaru at your place. Then you can drive me to the airport on Sunday night.” I’ve been wondering what to do with the Brumby. Took if for a run down to the shops, and everything seemed to work okay. On the way back, I saw fresh tracks going off into Barrm Birrm, and thought, time for a bit of 4WD action.

I poked my way up the track, and blow me down, there’s a couple of lads from Sunbury cutting firewood. Now that’s bloody stupid, first because the trees in Barrm Birrm are useless as firewood, second because fallen trees are habitat, third, and most distressingly, the lugs who cut timber insist on driving off the tracks to park right beside the tree they’ve chosen. I appreciate that the point of having a 4WD is that you can go anywhere, but this damages the complex of grasses, lichens and small shrubs that holds the surface together.

A campsite that appeared late this summer. Significant damage to understorey and trees.

Nature Lovers, there’s a lot more of this happening. The hills are alive with the sound of chainsaws. They’re coming from Sunbury, they’re coming from Romsey and Gisborne, with their “go anywhere I want” attitudes, to get firewood and most recently, to camp out. I like these guys (typically, they’re guys). They like getting out into the bush. They’re not slumped in front of a screen. But with Sunbury set to double, we have a problem! As visitors increase, so does the rate of degradation in Barrm Birrm, this year, by an order of magnitude.

Clipping on my Bush Ranger badge, I stopped the Brumby and we had a yarn. The Brumby turned out to be a good starting point. I empathised with the need for firewood, but managed to say on parting that driving over the grasses stuffs them up, and that if they wanted to be environmentally responsible dudes next time, they could park the big machine on the established track and carry the firewood to the vehicle. Carry it 10 metres. In these small acts hangs the fate of our planet (sigh!).

13th August, 3-4.30, join us at Riddells Landcare’s AGM, and we’ll pursue the theme with Alice Aird and Helen Scott from over the hill at Newham and District Landcare. They’ve been campaigning to get residents and the Shire to look after roadside vegetation. I think of them as Bush Rangers, a species of citizen scientist, out on the ground, keeping a look out for what’s happening, ringing bells and insisting that people think a lot harder about the impact they are having on this beautiful place we live in. Google “Riddells Creek Landcare” for location details of our AGM, and please know that you’re very welcome.

Ross Colliver, Riddells Creek Landcare,