Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Cath the nature warrior
Ah, Port Macquarie. The over achiever of NSW’s ‘holiday coast’. It’s got heaps of beautiful beaches without Sydney’s populous crush. It’s got rolling green hinterland and lush lakelands. It’s got a new cultural identity with a flashy theatre, the Glasshouse. It’s got, in fact, pretty much everything, proud residents will tell you.
There’s something they’ll probably forget to mention about ‘Port’, though. It’s got soul.
It’s easy to miss. But right next to a droning main road in the heart of the town is an inauspicious entrance to a nature reserve of astonishing ecological importance. I’m no expert but eight different eco-systems co-existing on 50 hectares sounds like an awful lot to me.
And this lush pocket of life called Kooloonbung Creek Nature Park (which feels a world away from the bustling town) wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for an octogenarian called Cath La Page.
For about 25 years she has led a tireless team of volunteers who make up the Friends of Kooloonbung Creek Nature Park. Over the years the embattled society has managed to persuade the council preserve the area and stop it disappearing under concrete. Metre by metre, they’ve negotiated the undergrowth, added boardwalks and information signs, planted and weeded so that it lives on for the enjoyment of people like me.
As we walk around the area together, Cath guides me wisely through the eerie mangroves and sedge fields, shadowy casuarina groves with carpets of needles, rainforest and eucalypts, bringing every detail to life for me.
She knows every nook and cranny of this reserve she adores and is fiercely protective of it, swooping upon errant weeds and litter like a magpie.
When her time comes, Cath says, her daughter is going to scatter her ashes with her husband’s over her favourite spot in the park, so she’ll never be very far away. We don't think Cath's going anywhere for a while.
Amy Holgate writes for Get Up & Go on a regular basis, especially when she's been exploring Australia.