Tag Archives: Canberra fires

Summer bush fires, Port Macquarie, the koala hospital..

Summer can be a fearful time in Australia. This year has seen prolonged drought in many parts of the country, and, with drought comes bushfires..

In 2003 Canberra experienced the worst bush fire in the city’s history.  In one afternoon, 400 homes and 4 lives were lost. A time seared in the memory of all who lived through it.

This eerie smoke filled photo was taken at 3.00 pm in the afternoon in our street, as we all filled cars and prepared to leave our homes.(soon afterwards we were saved by a change in wind direction)

This month there have many  protracted fires in Queensland and northern NSW, and our thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected.

It is heart-breaking to see people confronted with homes burnt to the ground, and animals, and birds, unable to escape the burning flames.

newcastleherald.com.au

Amongst the towns and regions most affected, is one known fondly by my family, the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.

Port Macquarie Maps

My parents lived in Port Macquarie, and my brother and his family still live there.

Port Macquarie ..Lighthouse Beach photo by portmacquarieinfo.com.au

We had many happy summer holidays there while our families were growing up.

My parents owned a small house and a very big garden  (some might say a jungle) running down to a creek, and surrounded by beautiful mature Eucalyptus trees.

My Father at the bottom of the garden!

As soon as we arrived for our holiday, Dad would take the girls down to the trees to say hello to the fairies….. when branches rubbed together in the wind.

….this tradition lasted a long time and is a lovely lifetime memory for us all.

(And a big thanks to my brother who kept that lovely garden under control until Mum and Dad died in 2000.)

One of the big attractions for young families visiting in Port Macquarie was Peppermint Park, with all kinds of rides, a big water slide and lots of shady trees  (for parents like me to sit under and enjoy some summer reading)

The water slide at Peppermint Park

The day this photo was taken a koala fell out of one of the big Eucalyptus trees overhead, right into the water slide. He slide to the bottom and ran (koala fashion) back to his tree, no harm done…but much excitement amongst the onlookers!

My parents lived just opposite the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and  we often walked over to see the koalas. This hospital was established in 1973, and is not only for sick and injured koalas but for research into koala’s health and diseases.

Today, with fires raging,  this hospital is inundated with fire-affected koalas, many in intensive care units being fed formula and having their burns regularly dressed.

Some of the koalas, on the way to recovery, are adjusting to mittens and gloves, which help them to move around while their paws are healing. The photos I have seen of the koalas when they first arrive are heart-breaking, but many recover surprisingly quickly.. as seen with this very healthy looking koala below.

International Fund for Animal Welfare

The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has also been using pillowcases, and flannelette sheets for pouches for young kangaroos and wallabies.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare

The hospital has been overwhelmed with  donations of money, food, towels and pharmaceutical supplies. The money will enable wildlife organisations to distribute drinking stations for koalas and other wildlife in the fire ravaged areas.

Northern Star

This year the fires have begun earlier than usual, and are more widespread, and much more difficult to contain. Although each state has a firefighting service, we could not do without the volunteer fighters; all firefighters  are affectionately known as ”the firies”.

The town of Port Macquarie, thanking ”the firies”  on a smoke filled day.

When the fires are burning, volunteers are needed on all fronts, local people and charity groups are invaluable in providing food and accommodation to the firefighters, and this is often for indefinite periods of time. The people who are left homeless are suspended in an unreal world, often without much money or shelter, to continue a normal life. The kindness of friends and neighbours and other members of the community is paramount.

Daily Telegraph> Northern Beaches

So, many thanks and salute to those who fight fires, and those who help on a voluntary basis, not to mention the reciprocal help and support given by firefighters from California, Canada and New Zealand…..doesn’t that just give you hope for the world?

However, much as Australians understand that bush fires are a fact of life, the amount of bush fires burning across the country this year suggests we are in uncharted territory. It is not sustainable to assume we can always rely on volunteers, and hope that the fires won’t be as bad next year; long term planning is needed …. hopefully both state and federal governments will soon begin serious discussion on future policies and budgets for our changing world.

I have used this David Attenborough quote before, but it’s worth a repeat:

It seems to me that the natural world is a great source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. 

It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living. 

Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and may you be warm in winter and cool in summer.

PS: Two koalas from the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital appear in the National Geographic DVD, and these two superstars are called Crescent Head Jimmy, and Oxley Twinkles.

I can’t help thinking my first photo of the cute koala in yellow mittens might be Oxley Twinkles!

Copyright: Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lanyon Homestead in Winter

When we left Canberra in May, the last month of autumn colour was still with us..

 

After an exciting month in Italy, we arrived back in Canberra at the beginning of June.

Winter cometh!

After some dreary rainy days (but we always need rain!) I have to remind myself that there is another side to Canberra winters…bright blue skies.

Last July we visited an historic homestead close to where we live in Canberra, the Lanyon homestead..

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The homestead is ringed by the Brindabella Mountains and sits at the heart of a natural bowl shaped valley. This scenery takes my breath away, no matter how many times I see it.

This land has layers of rich history from surviving Aboriginal heritage sites, through to unbroken pastoral use since European settlement.

The land was granted to James Wright and  John Lanyon in 1834. At that time the journey from Sydney took several weeks by bullock wagon over rough tracks. The farm land was so isolated that the farmers of the time had to be completely self-sufficient.

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Andrew and James Cunningham bought Lanyon in 1849 and built the homestead over time. The house remains almost completely unchanged since 1859.

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The original out-buildings around the homestead include a kitchen, cellar, laundry, worker’s barracks, a meat house and dairy stables, harness room and a blacksmith’s shop.

IMG_3376 (1024x768)Despite the green and blue hues of this land today, in 2003 Lanyon homestead was under real threat as wind and fire raged over these mountains. I have read that there was only one fire engine available for Lanyon as the fires were so widespread. Miraculously the property survived.

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Today the house is a museum and there are picnic areas and a café in the grounds.

Weddings, plant fairs, historical events and social activities go on all year in these lovely gardens.

The flower and vegetable gardens are a treat to see in spring and summer, indeed Lanyon homestead deserves to be seen in every season. (I’ll be back!)

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The Bunya Pine became fashionable and, as with many homesteads in Australia, there is one planted here, quite close to the house.

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And you won’t be surprised to know that when Mr Big Personality has finished stripping the flowers and branches off the Ironbark eucalypts in our street, he’ll be off to Lanyon to strip the Bunya Pine of its Bunya Nuts…..

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That is the ying and yang of living in a bush capital city!

Have a happy weekend, whether it be winter or summer in your part of the world.