Last week I was one of those people who had never planted a tree. After this weekend I can say I have planted at least 50 trees and it was an awesome experience. My husband and I where part of the 250 volunteers who attended the Project Hindmarsh Tree Planting Weekend. During the past 15 years Project Hindmarsh has reconnected the Big and Little deserts by creating 2000 kilometres of large-scale wildlife corridors and establishing more than 2 million native trees, shrubs and grasses. This weekend 23000 plants were planted across four sites totaling over 34 hectares!
The annual event is held in Nhill Victoria, about a 5-hour drive from Melbourne towards Adelaide. During this season the bush land is a vibrant green thanks to the abundant rains. For me it was a much-needed view of large open plains. I was able to relax, connect to nature and recharge batteries. Once you are out of the city, the drive is a scenic delight of the many farms in the areas, some with sheep and cattle, others growing a variety of crops such as canola and beans. I saw many kangaroos and even an Emu, which I had never seen before.
We stayed at the Little Desert Lodge, 15km south of Nhill, the ‘base camp’ for volunteers. All meals from Saturday’s breakfast to Sunday’s lunch were provided free of charge. Saturday night the volunteers were treated to a feast of abundant locally grown delicious food, a real treat after a hard day’s work! There was a huge bond fire and lots of entertainment! It felt so “Australian” due to the repertoire of traditional Aussie songs, which I had never heard before but everyone else was singing and dancing along to. The atmosphere was one of togetherness, enjoyment and satisfaction!
When the settlers came to this country much of the land was cleared away for grazing land. The state of Victoria particularly wiped out 97 per cent of native bushland between the Big and Little deserts. This practice posed a serious threat to both the agriculture and natural ecosystems. The importance of this native re-vegetation is that it transforms windswept and treeless paddocks by reducing erosion and salinity while creating invaluable habitat for many species. This contributes to the farm productivity by providing shade and shelter for endangered birds and other fauna. Some of the trees and bushes that we planted were Acacias, Gum trees, Salt bushes and the beautiful Golden Wattle the floral emblem of Australia.
On Sunday we went on a tour to visit sites from previous years and I was amazed by how quickly this re-vegetation works. This picture was taken at a site planted in 2006. In only 6 years the tress and bushes are so big….
I truly admire the spirit of volunteering within the Australian Society. They make it easy for people to get involved and many do! This event brings farmers and city-dwellers together. We met people of all ages who share a passion for the environment. There were locals and visitors, a variety of nationalities, though we were the only Venezuelans there. There are people who keep going back every year and also many newbies like us!
It was well worth the effort of my aching legs and arms and I am definitely up for going again next year and highly recommend the experience to anybody!