Last Saturday morning, I joined another thirty residents on a guided nature tour of Holdfast Bay. We visited sand dunes, springs and gullies, learning about local ecosystems and biodiversity from three experienced local guides. We discovered stunningly beautiful remnants of a once thriving natural environment and explored the possibilities for sustainability, community activism, re-conciliation and renewal.
Our first stopover was the Seacliff to Brighton dunes. These dunes constitute the land’s best defense against coastal flooding and erosion. Before European settlement, they supported grasses, sedges, groundcovers, shrubs and trees which stabilized the sand. Sadly, many dune systems along the metropolitan Adelaide coast have now disappeared. By planting over 30,000 native and indigenous plants, a local revegetation project aims to recreate the valuable plant communities that grew there many years ago.
Gilbertson Gully follows an ancient seasonal watercourse through a residential area. The Kaurna aboriginal people were the original inhabitants of the region and there are many significant cultural sites nearby. On the western bank of the reserve, there is a rocky outcrop of geological significance with 650-700 million year old rocks.
This gully also contains vegetation which is valuable as a seed source for local indigenous species. Significant resources have been directed into the management of the site including the installation of a detention basin for flood water control and a revegetation program. Public interest has also been high with local residents forming a committee during the 1970s to help protect the gully from becoming a landfill site. The group has since replanted and maintained the site, and many of the tall trees here are a result of those efforts.
The third stopover was Barton Gully at Holdfast Bay’s most southern boundary. The upper section opens out into grasslands while the lower section is quite steep and narrow, carrying storm water out to the sea. Two hundred years ago, this place was full of old, hollowed trees, kangaroos, echidnas, lizards and many plant species. The traditional owners of this land, the Kaurna people, used many of the plants for food, medicine and tools.
Many of the native plant species here have been re-planted by volunteers and play an important part in the ecosystem. Trees in the upper layers form hollows used by possums, bats and owls for shelter and nesting. A variety of shrubs growing in the middle layer provide lizards, birds and insects with food and a place to build nests and webs. Groundcovers keep the soil cool and are home to small creatures such as geckos and legless lizards.
Our final stopover was Kingston Coastal Reserve. Thanks to another revegetation project, the Kingston Cliff Face is now home to 80 indigenous plant species and many animals including the Harlequin Bird, the Shingle-back Lizard and the Trapdoor Spider. There are three walking trails which cover almost three hectares.
This place is of great cultural significance to the country’s first inhabitants. On the foreshore, a striking monument marks one of the important spring sites on the Tjilbruke Trail. The Trail of the Creator Hero, Tjilbruke, begins near the foreshore at the site of an Aboriginal sacred spring.
This tour opened many eyes and ears to Holdfast Bay’s natural and indigenous cultural heritage. Although much has been lost, the potential for regeneration is evident. Over a number of years, the active restoration of local dunes, springs and gullies has improved our local, coastal ecosystems. Last year alone, 7,867 indigenous plants were planted by council workers and volunteers. We can all make a difference by taking an active interest in our local region, learning its history and encouraging others to get involved.
“My Country is a song, a song that can be heard by all if you can listen”. Karl Winda Telfer