By Peter Donnelly
I went on Loris’s Wombat Forest drive on Sunday morning, and I can’t overstate how interesting and informative it was.
We spent perhaps 90 minutes on a stop/start drive in a portion of the forest south-west of Newbury, so just up the road for me.
Loris came equipped with a number of highly detailed maps showing the various forest land management categories, which by the way are documented down to the metre level.
Among other things, I learned about Shelterwood 1, Shelterwood 2, Seed Tree and Special Protection Zones; failed regeneration areas; and also that the strange stand of closely packed gum trees just off Kearneys Road that I’d always wondered about was an experiment, trying to demonstrate that hardwood plantations can easily be established in a small number of years (Spoiler: Nope. It failed because they’re packed far too close together).
I also learned that Wombat Forest was pretty well managed up until the mid 70s, and that most of the damage we see now was done during a very short period of perhaps 15 years, during which the government and big forest companies decided that large-scale clear felling and wood-chipping were a good idea This brought back memories for me of moonscapes near Daylesford, Great-Pyramid-sized piles of woodchips in Port Geelong and Port Hobart; and a time when protests against woodchipping were on the TV news every night. Ah, economic rationalism, you evil bastard.
Did you know that if it wasn’t for the work of Pat Liffman and local activists during the 1970s, Blackwood would now be sitting in the middle of a pine forest right now ? Me neither.
The TL;DR is that it was an absolutely fascinating excursion, and that Loris is a goldmine of information about the forest that surrounds us, including why it’s not going to get better on its own.
If it’s not already obvious, I highly recommend it, and hope that Loris can be persuaded to run it again.