Finding our place (Maam), home.
Written by Michael Mulholland a new resident & osteopath to all Kalang aches & pains.
Gabriele and I are newcomers to the Kalang Valley, having moved here early in 2021.
After sailing the East coast of NSW and Qld we decided to search for land in the hinterland between Kempsey and Gympie. While many places were beautiful, the Bellinger Shire has community values that resonated with us. People that are connected with the environment, respect the traditional owners and are motivated to take action to protect the land and it’s waterways so that all living things may have a future.
When we first drove into the Kalang Valley were struck by the stunning lush green protected by the Dorrigo Plateau and ranges to the West. Tall river oak and water gums with stag and elk epiphytes hanging from mossy trunks. Farming land giving way to more dense forest of majestic tallowwood, turpentine, flooded gum and other eucalypts. We crossed the enchanting river 10 times to reach a property that was for sale.
The place we had come to had been cared for by Gumaynggirr people for over 60,000 years. For another 100 years it was mostly protected by a couple of families that knew the value of forest and held it for future generations. Then it was acquired by a logger, who by all accounts was a good one because he was old school and selective. He cut snigging tracks into parts of the forest taking the telegraph poles that he wanted, leaving the bigger, gnarlier trees. The pile of hundreds of offcuts is like a graveyard of arboreal tombstones. Fortunately much of the forest on the property remains.
We had walked over dozens of properties during our six month search, asking ourselves the question; “is this going to be our home (maam)?”. Then Gabriele suggested that we turn the question around to: “which land wants us to take care of it?” That opened us up to a whole new way of perceiving that seemed much more akin to how first nations people interact with country.
When we first enquired about this particular piece of land we were told that it had sold. Two weeks later we heard that it was available again. Was this a sign? We drove six hours to see it only to be told by the agent that the Kalang river was in flood, preventing access. We were determined to see if this was the place so we straddled logs and swam across the flood waters (don’t try this at home folks!) and walked over as much as we could, asking if this place wanted us. We got a sense that it did and we vowed to protect the forest and assist its regeneration.
Once the flood subsided the river returned to a crystal clear, chattering babble over the quartz and shale stones and gravel. Beautiful deep swimming holes provide a wonderful place to cool off then sit on the bank and listen to the flow and chatter as the water makes its way from the headwaters to Urunga and to sea. We soon discovered that this pristine river is also the home to bass, platypus, many species of frog including the giant barred frog, and eel. The banks are shaded by river oak, water gum, sandpaper fig, tree ferns, lilly pillys and flooded gums.
A little way up from the river is tallow and turpentine forest with ridges of black butt, white and red mahogany, some cedar and several gums. The gulleys between the ridges are micro-climates of sub tropical rain forest with bangalow palm and tree fern and many other ferns, mosses and fungi beneath the canopy. Creeks running down these gullies drop over little waterfalls to join the river.
The dawn chorus is quite diverse in the several different micro-climates. Fire-tail finches, yellow robins, leeuwin honey eaters, black cockatoos, lyre birds, butcher birds, magpies, regent and satin bower birds, cat birds and kookaburras to name a few. The list goes on. Each morning a beautiful carpet python emerges from behind our wood shed to sun-bake until its time to retreat for the night. Distinct scratch marks on one particular big gum are encouraging evidence of koala (dunggirr) but we are yet to see one on our land. We have planted lots of their preferred trees!
Nearby in Oakes state forest at the headwaters there have been many recent sightings of koala (dunggirr) and other endangered species including greater glider and yellow- bellied glider, spotted quoll (baalinjin) and rufous scrub-bird. The headwaters forest is a fragile ecosystem. The steep hills are unstable and prone to slip. We were devastated to learn that Forestry Corporation NSW plans to start industrial logging there in September 2022! That would be a disastrous blow to one of a few forests that survived the 2019 bushfires and provides habitat to so many rare flora and fauna species.
These old growth, native forests are rare and essential to life as we know it. Our cities and towns also depend on them. Fresh air, water and wildlife habitat. Without these basics there is no life. We will do everything in our power to protect this precious forest and the three rivers that it flows into; namely the Nambucca, Bellinger and Kalang.