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Published November 5th 2015
From the despair of fire to the joy of new life
There is something eerie about bushfires. Perhaps it is the speed of the devastation, or the reckless abandon by which the fire spreads, or the loss of flora and fauna, or perhaps it is just those blackened chars that are left behind. The bushfire takes on Mother Nature, and appears to win. But does it ?
Roachdale Reserve was a gift to the National Trust of SA by Miss Hilda Roach in 1957. Since that time, this Reserve has become the home to a wide diversity of plant species (225 indigenous to the area) including 32 of conservation significance. It also provides habitat for four birds of conservation significance and a rare indigenous cricket.
All of that was correct until early January 2015 when a major bushfire started near Sampson Flat and quickly spread throughout the nearby hills, before eventually engulfing Roachdale Reserve. Some days later when the roads re-opened, the damage was there to be seen with this small but popular Reserve and Nature Trail all but razed to the ground.
But like the mythical phoenix, nature revels in fire, and the Sampson Flat bushfire has created opportunities for regrowth and new growths all within the charred shadows of many long standing trees. I took a trip to Roachdale recently to see for myself.
It is now 10 months on, and restorative work has commenced in earnest. New fences are being constructed, paths are being re-shaped, destroyed wooden bridges are being rebuilt and most of the signage is now back in place. But more significantly, the flora is starting to blossom, quite literally. Wildflowers, previously hidden under a canopy of eucalypts are now glistening in the sun, while moss and algae across some of the slopes has turned a beautiful shade of orange under the changing climate.
The Nature Trail is still open and able to be walked, albeit a number of the interpretive signs are burnt or missing. The Trail starts at the corner of South Para Road and Wattle Road, and heads in a clockwise direction for around 1.5km through this rare piece of native bushland which contains one of the few remaining stands of Long-leaved box forest.
From the top of the hill, the trail winds slowly downhill past new growths and re-growths as the bushfire damage is visible for all to see. The long-leaved box seems to have started the regrowth process whereas the smaller Acacias, Tea Trees and Stringybarks appear set for a long and arduous process.
Towards the bottom of the hill, the bushfire seems to have left this area relatively unscathed with the Blue Gums and Red Gums standing tall, while the parasitic Native Cherry appears to have avoided the fire altogether. A small creek runs through some deep pools at the bottom of the property probably once providing water for many animals and birds. Unfortunately today, the lack of foliage seems to have deterred many birds from the Reserve with many of them seeking shelter a bit further along a part of the hillside that escaped the fire.
Heading back up the hill we carefully pass a mountain of meat eating ants. It seems that these guys are perhaps immune to fire as they carry on with their business of scurrying up and down the mound looking for food.
And for those thinking of visiting, why not spend a bit longer in the region and spend some money to help the community recover from the losses associated with the bushfire. For those looking for an extended afternoon, I can recommend the platters and wines at Kersbrook Hill Wines and Linfield Road Wines, while the pastries at the Williamstown Bakery are near unavoidable.