I’ve always had a thing about gardens. I guess it runs in my family.
Both sides of my mob have had over-the-top gardens. My mother’s side of the deal were into food production turning their small acreage on the outskirts of Ballarat into paddocks of grain, the front of the home was a huge orchard and greenhouses filled with trays of seedlings to stock their large veggie garden.
My dad’s side had come here from war-torn Holland where food was scarce and my Opa planted a hillside of veggies, fruit and nut trees to feed his family and most of the population of Clunes.
For a while l was content to work in a backyard of veggies with the rest of the garden around our first home landscaped with native plants, encouraging birds and reptiles to visit.
The next step was to move to the Grampians where we loved to camp and bushwalk as often as we could. We managed to find three small blocks and merged them onto one title to protect the small piece of bush in the tiny town of Halls Gap. Our double-story, fruit-box shaped home had balconies allowing us to eye-ball koalas in the tree tops. The rest of the land was turned into an extensive native garden. To our delight we had an extensive list of native orchids popping up in spring.
This was a little too suburban for my then-reclusive husband. He demanded l find a bigger bush block, untouched and off any main roads, preferably with a waterfall and still within the Grampians. It seemed an impossible task until a 100 acre property behind the Dunkeld Golf Course came to my notice, thanks to the local bush-telegraph. It fulfilled most of the requirements except the waterfall, which to my delight was just within walking distance of where we planned to build our home. Here was the perfect bush garden – not needing another plant but perhaps a pond might be nice.
Then we hit a major snag as there seemed to be a lot of opposition to us living up there and disturbing the environment. In a way l was delighted as it showed that there were many like-minded people in our area.
What they didn’t know was that we had planned a very low impact building built of Grampians sandstone, fully solar powered, and that we’d also set up a Conservation Covenant on the 100 acres to protect it for all time.
So off l trotted to the council meeting, building plans clutched in my hand and the Land for Wildlife signs and covenant details under my wing. The locals, who were all movers and shakers on the council, were stunned as l made my presentation including a fire plan and every detail of what we intended to do with our land – which was basically to leave it as it was – untouched except for a tiny area for our home.
Building permit passed!
Protecting the land was a delight in that we started to learn how amazing our plot of bushland, surrounded on three sides by the Grampians National Park, was.
Our bottom border was the Grampians Golf Club – a haven for local wildlife. We even had two fire dams close to our home site which were another blessing as bush fires were worrying when summer storms and flashes of lightening lit up the night sky.
We compiled a bird list, delighting in adding new species as we explored the bush around us. Our tracks followed wallaby trails and took us to some unusual locations as we recorded the wealth of plant-life. We discovered a very old, overgrown, quarry on our top boundary which had been used decades ago for road works in the area.
We also found that a track in “50 Walks in the Grampians” wound down from Mt Abrupt right through our property to our back door. I was startled to hear voices as l enjoyed an outdoor shower in a little clearing near our top water tank. We had nestled a pad of bricks with a rubber mat on top down for the base and hung a solar shower bag from a branch in a handy tree above it – our soap rack sat snugly on another branch. Clad in my sarong I stared horrified as six bushwalkers strode past with cheery “giddays – pleased to see you” greetings. We managed to have this walk taken out of the book quick smart worried that any extra foot traffic, and the possibility of campers, would impact on what we were doing our best to protect. A few more signs were placed in strategic points around our boundaries.
Connecting our phone was also a bit of an issue.
Word had got out that Telstra were bringing in a bulldozer to run the line – news to us! We arrived home from a field trip to find a mob of indignant elderly local ladies deciding who to chain to the D9 dozer, mumbling threats of adding sugar to its fuel tank. To their delight l joined the protest. The works manager and l had a heated an on-site meeting where l suggested some alternatives to taking out the bush along our access track – thereby destroying the shelter belt along the side of the golf club entirely. I wondered if having a phone was really worthwhile – this was before the common usage of mobiles. In the end – to the delight of all – I managed to get a little ditch witch in to lay a small trench, thereby dodging trees and grass trees, leaving most of the vegetation intact.
I realised then that vigilance was important to enforce our “low impact” life style and to protect this special place. Where some just see “rubbish bush” we instead had understood how precious this tract of country was and how lucky we were to become custodians of it for a brief time. We stuck to our convictions and managed to rescue our 100 acre garden of Eden and protect it for all time.

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