Bushie volunteers relish reconnecting with Charles Darwin Reserve

Published 16 Nov 2017 
by Charlie Nicholson 
about  Charles Darwin Reserve  
David, Denise, Ken and Christa Nicholson on Darwin's Log sharing morning tea. <br/> David, Denise, Ken and Christa Nicholson on Darwin's Log sharing morning tea.
Ken constructing the storage shelves at Boundary Rider's Hut - supervised by the beautiful Skye (Reserve Manager's dog).<br/> Ken constructing the storage shelves at Boundary Rider's Hut - supervised by the beautiful Skye (Reserve Manager's dog).
Beautiful rainbow after the thunderstorm. Picture taken from the Volunteer Quarters looking towards the Mallees (Eucalyptus kochi) and Jam Wattle (Acacia acuminata).<br/> Beautiful rainbow after the thunderstorm. Picture taken from the Volunteer Quarters looking towards the Mallees (Eucalyptus kochi) and Jam Wattle (Acacia acuminata).
One of the Brown snakes sighted under the office.<br/> One of the Brown snakes sighted under the office.
The new chook gate at Boundary Rider's Hut.<br/> The new chook gate at Boundary Rider's Hut.
Badimaya men Vaughan Lane and Lindsey Callow cleaning out the rockhole that was full of sand and rocks.<br/> Badimaya men Vaughan Lane and Lindsey Callow cleaning out the rockhole that was full of sand and rocks.
After Vaughan and Lindsey left there was a huge thunderstorm with hail that filled the newly cleaned out hole with beautiful fresh water.<br/> After Vaughan and Lindsey left there was a huge thunderstorm with hail that filled the newly cleaned out hole with beautiful fresh water.
Charlie drinking from the sweet fresh water!<br/> Charlie drinking from the sweet fresh water!

Two of our long-serving and much valued volunteers – Charlie Nicholson and Ken Walter – headed to Charles Darwin Reserve in October/November to caretake the property.

Charles Darwin Reserve is in Charlie and Ken’s blood. They know the property well and love it like an old friend.

The following are Charlie’s entertaining and interesting insights from their recent caretaking visit:

Thanks for the privilege of being at Charles Darwin Reserve this last fortnight. It was wonderful to be back there after a year-long absence. We survived the heat, a thunderstorm with hail and three snakes – one under the office, one under the tank, and one in the hole in the veranda of Boundary Rider's Hut where I slept!

We had cold days and hot days, willy-willies that ripped my carefully composed handwritten notes from their clipboard on the veranda table and sent them skywards never to be seen again. We had thunderstorms and hail, nervously exciting with brilliant displays of clouds, the crump and rumble of thunder, the dazzling lightning and, of course, the scary bit – will we have to deal with a bushfire? Or will the hail be golf balls like the 2011 storm that stripped the Callitris trees and punched holes in the translucent sheets in the shearing shed roof?

Keeping watch on the earth and the sky keeps one's wits sharpened as the summer heat brings forth from the earth king browns and gwardars and from the sky menacing lightning strikes and mad, erratic bursts of wind. Yes, despite all the modern comforts of power, water, telephone and internet at Charles Darwin Reserve, one turns one's back on the forces of nature at one's peril, which is why many of us rejoice in getting back to the bush to keep in touch with elemental forces, which we can do all thanks to Bush Heritage's supporters, volunteers and staff.

My volunteer boss (!) Ken worked hard on re-structuring the chook gate at Boundary Rider's Hut, installing the shelving, and shifting a veranda post that obstructed a doorway. It was very tiring watching him work so hard! He then made me dig holes in the driveway near the big shed to find the water pipes – there's no plan of the water supply around the Homestead so Ken, being a water supply engineer, just had to figure out which pipe went where.

Apart from the bliss of glamping in Boundary Rider's Hut with a snake, we rejoiced in the resurrection of the hut, which until two years ago was not habitable. Reserve Managers, Ken and other volunteers have worked hard to restore it and make it a great little cottage again.

I was also really thrilled to re-connect with Vaughan Lane. Vaughan is a Badimaya man who helped me with the history of Charles Darwin Reserve a decade ago (Charlie has been working hard on documenting the history of the Reserve). Vaughan came to Charles Darwin Reserve to train a Badimaya Ranger in setting up monitoring cameras in Malleefowl habitat as part of a national Malleefowl conservation program.

My highlight this visit was to work with Vaughan to clean out the sand and rocks from a granite rockhole just as Badimaya elders had asked when they had previously visited the Reserve. After Vaughan and Lindsey left there was a huge thunderstorm and the rockhole was filled. When my wife Christa and I drank the sweet water from the rockhole after the thunderstorm filled it, we fully appreciated the Badimaya dependence on and knowledge of water sources in this erratically watered land.

I contacted Vaughan to let him know and sent him photos, to which he replied: "It made my gurdardu (heart) feel buranymarda (very good). What more can I say? Spiritually uplifting and bringing country back to life". 

We also had a delightful visit from David and Denise, from Hamelin Outback Station Stay at Hamelin Station Reserve. They're on a well-earned holiday in their caravan. We took them on a grand tour to Salmon Gums, the granite at White Dam with its unexpected carpets of hot pink parakeelya (there must have been a rain shower out there recently), and had morning tea (Denise's cakes and Anzacs are divine) at the Gimlets, sitting on Darwin's Log where Chris Darwin and I camped and philosophised many years ago under the gimlets, when he pondered the purchase of this rampant array of nature's finest evolutionary outcomes. We raised a cheer to Chris when we sipped our tea and masticated our cakes.

Thanks to Charlie and Ken for their on-going commitment to Charles Darwin Reserve and Bush Heritage Australia. Volunteers truly make all the difference. As Charlie says, "Charles Darwin Reserve is a family affair and the Bushie volunteer crew has many a person ready to help when needed, just shout and a volunteer fairy will magically appear"!

Ken constructing the storage shelves at Boundary Rider's Hut - supervised by the beautiful Skye (Reserve Manager's dog).<br/> Ken constructing the storage shelves at Boundary Rider's Hut - supervised by the beautiful Skye (Reserve Manager's dog).
Beautiful rainbow after the thunderstorm. Picture taken from the Volunteer Quarters looking towards the Mallees (Eucalyptus kochi) and Jam Wattle (Acacia acuminata).<br/> Beautiful rainbow after the thunderstorm. Picture taken from the Volunteer Quarters looking towards the Mallees (Eucalyptus kochi) and Jam Wattle (Acacia acuminata).
One of the Brown snakes sighted under the office.<br/> One of the Brown snakes sighted under the office.
The new chook gate at Boundary Rider's Hut.<br/> The new chook gate at Boundary Rider's Hut.
Badimaya men Vaughan Lane and Lindsey Callow cleaning out the rockhole that was full of sand and rocks.<br/> Badimaya men Vaughan Lane and Lindsey Callow cleaning out the rockhole that was full of sand and rocks.
After Vaughan and Lindsey left there was a huge thunderstorm with hail that filled the newly cleaned out hole with beautiful fresh water.<br/> After Vaughan and Lindsey left there was a huge thunderstorm with hail that filled the newly cleaned out hole with beautiful fresh water.
Charlie drinking from the sweet fresh water!<br/> Charlie drinking from the sweet fresh water!