Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Farewell to Warrawong, Part 1

A black swan on the lake where platypus nest; this can only be one place on mainland South Australia!

A kangaroo takes his ease in the spring sun...

Fiddleheads thrive in the rain forest gully...

Exotic native shrubs -- right from the planet Venus, by the looks of them!

Post-colonial ruins, a poignant reminder that nothing lasts forever...

Warrawong Sanctuary -- a scan of the brochure map to a place you can no longer visit.
Today we're in a timewarp, with a retrospective and tribute ... a travel feature on a place you can no longer visit, because it was closed in February 2013. We're very sad to lose Warrawong Sanctuary; it was one of our favorite destinations in the Adelaide Hills, and it'll be missed.

We visited for the last time just weeks before it closed, and we'd already seen the closure notices on the park's website before heading there for lunch and a last hike around the trails. We were very sad indeed, and read on the webpage that Warrawong was closing due to the fact it didn't have, and should have had, a bushfire shelter, since it offered accommodation. Apparently, this was an issue that had been contentious for some time, and local government had finally forced the closure...

After visiting, we went on to the cafe on top of Mount Lofty -- the highest point in the Mount Lofty Ranges, which provide the backdrop for the Adelaide Plains area, where the city is built; and there happened to be a copy of the local newspaper lying right to hand, begging to be snapped with Jade's phone. Turns out, there was a lot more to the story of the end of Warrawong than just the bushfire shelter. You can read the text on the image at left, but -- save your eyes:

Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary founder Dr John Wamsley wants South Australians to fight to protect the nearby Scott Creek Conservation Park rather than raising a petition to save his old property at Mylor.

The environmentalist says so much land has been sold off by the sanctuary's subsequent owners in the last decade that the site is no longer viable as a sustainable habitat.

"I think Scott Creek Conservation Park has more value than Warrawong right now," Dr Wamsley said.

"I think it would be better to have a facebook page to save Scott Creek Conservation Park  from feral plants and the Department of Environment."

Dr Wamsley was reacting to news that the sanctuary he developed from a degraded farm into a famous wildlife habitat would be closed at the end of this month by its operators, Zoos SA.

Last week's decision to shut the facility generated widescale public concern and resulted in a petition and protest page.

But Dr Wamsley said it would be more valuable if people focused on protecting significant areas of local remnant bush such as the Scott Creek park.

"There would be 600 species of indigenous plants there and over 70 species of orchids," he said. "It's a wonderland but it's under extreme pressure and it just needs some help. If we could get 100 people doing a day's work a month, we could do amazing things."

Warrawong was 35ha when Dr Wamsley sold it after getting into financial difficulties. It has had several owners in the past decade and several sections of land have been divided and sold off. It is now just 10ha.

"It is a disaster for the children who once had somewhere they could learn but now they don't," he said.

Dr Wamsley said he refused to dwell on the demise of Warrawong and the collapse of his dream of a network of sanctuaries.

And so Warrarong passed into history, taking with it a marvelous place that was filled with tranquility, not to mention a great place for lunch -- the Bilby Cafe:

The Bilby Cafe at Warrawong --

-- a great place for lunch, even if you weren't up for a hike around the Wildlife Sanctuary

... and Warrawong had so much to offer ... lunch was the least of it!

During the last several years it's been our pleasure to visit, and we wondered now and then what the square size of the park was. Turns out, Warrawong as we knew it was just 10 hectares, which is about 25 acres. It would have been great to see it in its heyday, when it was three and a half times larger. Today, the park is bordered by other properties, "farmlets" or horse properties -- at any rate, small acreages. These would be the sections that were sold off since Dr. Wamsley had to sell it. The dream of having a network of wildlife sanctuaries was a marvelous one. The downside would have been, it was always going to be a money pit. If a day arrives when you can't keep chucking gobs of money at the project..!

At the time of this writing, Warrawong is still there, but the gates are locked, the Bilby Cafe is closed. The genuine wildlife -- animals not captive within the fences -- will be enjoying an even more tranquil existence, since the humans have stopped marching through:

An Australian black duck, very common throughout wetlands right around the country...

These little guys are bandicoots ... they're so cute, totally harmless, and common in any scrubland...

Bandicoots are about a foot long ... they're marsupial, but they're not rats by any means. There's about
20 different species. Get your tongue around this: "terrestrial marsupial omnivores in the order Peramelemorphia"

Kangaroos in the "grasslands" region. These guys actually lived at Worrawong, and were transferred to
the big park at Monarto when Worrawong closed --

Not that a bipedal gazelle like this beautiful guy couldn't literally step over any of Worrawong's fences and
vanish off into the landscape! But for some reason the didn't ... maybe they enjoyed Worrawong's tranquility.

For comparison, these guys are genuinely wild. They see a human, they're gone in a flash.

The Wildlife Sanctuary was a place of great beauty -- as the map suggests, areas had been developed to represent distinct regions, from wetlands to rainforest to scrub...

The big lake, adjacent to the tall trees area...

Springtime. Yellow trees mark the date. Ker-choo!!

Eucalypt flowers. Walk the woodlands after a spring rain shower ... ahhh!

The phrase, "The bee busy glade" suddednly makes perfect sense.

The Millennium Possum itself, in a rare still moment, not far from Warrawong!

In part two of this tribute to Warrawong, we've prepared a "walkaround" tour in pictures, choosing the best images from several years of visits. See Farewell to Worrawong, Part 2: hike the whole site in pictures.

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