A big year of volunteering in Western Queensland

By Linda Welldon 
about  Cravens Peak 
on 05 Jan 2016 
Volunteer Caretaker, Tony Loechte, and his son Harry take a break from grading roads and fence repairs.
Exclusion plot at Meetuka.
The foggy drive across Cravens Peak.
Reserve Manager, Peter Welldon, and volunteers Barbara Howard and John Rideour extend Bush Heritage hospitality to the Tag-along tour guests.
Easels made by volunteer Trevor Jones are used to display volunteer and visitor information.

Linda Welldon, writes about some of the interesting characters and significant volunteer contributions that characterised this anniversary year at Cravens Peak Reserve.

Des Hoban was Cravens Peak’s first volunteer for 2015. Des is a keen conservationist who lives in the south-east Queensland corner of the state and had never visited this country prior to volunteering with Bush Heritage Australia.

We recall one particular day that we think shows how diverse in landscape and experiences a day can be for a volunteer out here, some 188km south-west of Boulia in remote far-western Queensland. 

Des helped with a variety of projects on the reserve but this particular day the ecological exclusion zone was the priority task to be done. The location of the exclusion zone took him to the furthest north-western point of Cravens Peak Reserve to a place known on all the reserve maps as 'Meetuka'. Meetuka is a solid three hour’s drive from the Homestead, and about 92km by road. 

Not far you think – how can it take so long to get there?  Well, you have many, many sand dunes to cross with varying degrees of difficulty and on this particular day they even encountered fog! 

You know when you've arrived because there's a sign, but the rocky red hills and undulations also make it clear. The site of some old building stumps, old fence netting and a collapsed well is all that remains there now. Up until the 1950s this site was the residence of the Overseer of the Gregory North Rabbit Board’s Fence. 

The task on hand was to finish off an ecological exclusion plot which encompassed the Meetuka waterhole and Red Mulga trees in the creekline. On the way home that day, Des helped my husband Peter (Reserve Manager) with the transmission tower’s maintenance and repairs.

The day was as diverse in landscapes as it was in the tasks Des helped with. Thanks to the road trip to Meetuka (there and back in one day) Des definitely gained an understanding of the vastness of the property and the distances travelled to for tasks within the reserve’s boundaries.

This year volunteers across the country have played a key role in supporting Bush Heritage visitation and community engagement such as preparing and catering for supporter trips and manning information stalls at local events. This was even the case at remote Cravens Peak.....

This year the Cravens Peak Tag-along tour invited volunteers to help with trip logistics. The call went out and long-term volunteers, John Rideout and Barbara Howard decided this would be a new and different challenge from previous volunteering experiences. They arrived at Cravens Peak in mid-July to help tidy up the Homestead Precinct and clean the visitor accommodation.

To our delight, we soon discovered that John and Barbara were good cooks. They helped to set up a welcome devonshire tea for guests and catered for a bush BBQ at a remote setting on the property. It was a wonderful experience having their enthusiastic energy and bush expertise before the events and having them on site to lighten the load during the trip.

Our volunteers are ambassadors for the Bush Heritage Australia Volunteer Program. They were asked by several of the tour participants about their interactions and experiences volunteering on our reserves.

Tony Loechte, his partner; Larissa Lauder and their adventurous little man, baby Harry Loechte arrived at Cravens Peak for a few weeks in late-August, and stayed on for most of September. 

Tony and Larissa worked diligently on improving reserve access, particularly the western boundary, which was in need of maintenance. The fence had been partly destroyed in the wild fires of 2011.  In addition to these burnt out sections, others had been impacted by environmental factors and stock incursions.

Tony and his Family took up residence on the 'Sunset Strip' (in the Cravens Peak Homestead Precinct) but camped out while completing 76km of track grading and 16km of fence repairs. Their practical skillset and resilience under tough conditions, coupled with the fact that they were available at very short notice, made the Loechte family an incredible asset to the reserve.

Baby Harry wasn't deterred by the rough going or flies or his tiny feet sinking into the sand. He clearly enjoyed exploring his desert surrounds and provided valuable supervision and quality control for his parents’ work!

We'd like to sincerely thank all of the volunteers who have supported us this year at Cravens Peak Reserve.

Exclusion plot at Meetuka.
The foggy drive across Cravens Peak.
Reserve Manager, Peter Welldon, and volunteers Barbara Howard and John Rideour extend Bush Heritage hospitality to the Tag-along tour guests.
Easels made by volunteer Trevor Jones are used to display volunteer and visitor information.