Someone planted small trees in an area of Bronte Gully at the back of Bronte Beach that was just a hillside of rubbish and weeds, and had been a rubbish dump. But they walked away and weeds grew back over the tube stock. I thought it was more council mismanagement. ‘Why do council’s start things and never look after them?’ I wondered, again. However I learned that it was a federal program and their funding had been cut. I felt guilty every time I walked past as if the small plants were calling me. So I went in to the scrubby area and started rescuing the little trees. Pulling great handfuls of weeds off them. Delighted every time I found a few remaining green leaves. I pulled them upright and stood up the plastic shelters. Some trees had escaped the weeds in a clever twist and were facing the sun again. These trees grew big, but with a permanent kink.

As the trees grew over summer the work got hotter and harder. Some trees covered half a meter deep in Cape Ivy. Sometimes I came home suffering heatstroke. Tearing the weed down felt good, but I needed help. Bushcare was becoming a thing. A family friend once ran the Greenhouse in Bondi Junction and was associated with Bushcare so I turned to him. He knew a young man looking for a group to join and they came along together one day and we agreed to start a group. I wanted to create littoral rainforest. I wanted the trees to get so big we could build a walkway around them and label our coastal rainforest trees.

I worked there during the week with kids, had corporate days when twenty or thirty people would turn up full of corporate energy and be very hard to control. We volunteered the place on Arbour days and twice a month on a Sunday our group met and grew. Lots of friends put in many hours over the years. We received a little funding. We bought more tube stock from Randwick nursery and a Dural rainforest nursery. Slowly we worked our way up and along the bank removing rubbish, terracing and planting. Watering from the stream during summer by filling plastic bags and breaking for ellevenses. There were always a couple excellent homemade cakes and tea in a thermos.

The stream never stopped running even during the drought and I promoted the idea of harvesting water for the grass area and public change rooms.

I heard a Butcherbird one day and mentioned it to the new supervisor. ‘Yes’ he said, pointing up to a sapling, ‘it nested there.’

In one of my trees! I brought the Butcherbirds back.

‘Listen’ I say to my grandchildren, ‘my Butcherbird.’

‘Do all the birds belong to you Oma?’ I explain about the new trees and how none of them really belong to me.

We took our chances with species as we were never sure what would survive over the rubbishy base. Some of our trees are pretty mighty now. That’s how the still thriving Bronte Gully Bushcare Group started.

I say to myself sometimes when I pass looking up high for the kink in a solid tree trunk ‘I saved you.’

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