Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Lament for a Lost Landscape

WARNING: NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT
Only a shadow of its former self. The dense thickets have already been removed. Wish I had taken a photo earlier
A few months ago, while hunting and gathering, I came upon a delightful spot near the river at New Norfolk.  There were several  banned species -willows arching over the banks, tall stands of fennel, a couple of wild fruit trees and a clutch of berries. A motley assortment of ducks swam towards me as I approached the river bank. Insects buzzed and fish leapt in flashes of silver. Another of those Wind in the Willows sort of places,  - for dreaming, sketching perhaps, having picnics, playing games. Definitely one to bring the little girls to, next time they came.


I saw it again in the Autumn – a riot of golds and yellows with rich dark hawthorn berries  all around.  Then it happened.  I could hear chainsaws in the distance as the willows were brutally chopped down.  By the next visit,  on a dark winter’s  day, all were gone, along with the secret bowers, the birds, the fish and the fantasies. In their place was a properly laid out path, a row of native trees, evenly spaced in their identical containers and wherever you looked, there were dog walkers and joggers going about their business  with their ubiquitous Mp3 players plugged into their ears.

The axeman cometh
 Now there are no secrets.  No shelter. Nowhere for children to play hide and seek or where lovers might steal a kiss, or where hubby  might go for a spot of fishing away from the wife and kids. Definitely no place for solitude or quiet contemplation.  The fish and ducks may still be hiding somewhere, other things will eventually grow back, but everything which made this place special for me has been removed. It now looks like every other place that has been ‘cleaned up’ and reminds me of a cartoon I once saw – “When the power came to Wire Grass.”  In the before picture, the houses are hidden amongst the trees. Everyone has their privacy. In the second frame, power poles have replaced the trees and both houses and power-lines stand  like rows of teeth with braces.
Yes, I know willows are regarded as an invasive species. I too have spent many weeks grubbing them out with Landcare and others - yet they didn’t seem to be doing much invading here. Indeed, in the North along the Detention River, their removal  has resulted in massive erosion, with farmers losing  a good bit of their waterfront land. In Deloraine, where the willows were removed for flood control , flooding seems to have become more severe, rather than less.

It’s not that I dislike native vegetation. Perhaps it's all that neatness I dislike,  and the sameness of things - like going to another town and finding the same banks, the same golden arches, the same chain stores. I also feel that we have lost a bit of history.  It took two hundred years for that landscape to evolve. How thrilled the pioneers must have been to have been able to create a little bit of 'home' in such a strange country so very far from Europe. The greenness, the autumn colours and  our cottage gardens are among the things which make Tassie unique on this vast dry continent.
As I mourn the mangled remains of the amputeed willows, I wonder if some day we will miss their hasty dispatch. I want to complain to someone, but what would be the point. Everyone seems to have their earpieces in.



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