Treeplanters of the future

Peel River at Nundle, northern inland NSW.

“I don’t want to go”, is the ominous response when I suggest to our six-year-old son that we join the Saturday morning treeplanting at the Peel River, Nundle. “It will be fun,” Duncan offers. “There will be lots of kids there,” I add, trying to smooth the way for an easy transition from house to car to river, loaded with hats, water, fruit, gum boots, shovel, gardening fork, and plastic spade. Mr Six begrudgingly climbs into the car for the minutes-long trip to the river where his mood lifts on spotting school mates. We sign on as volunteers and follow a meandering track along the river bank to join fellow treeplanters. It is the fourth treeplanting morning organised by the Nundle CWA, which adopted the river as a rejuvenation project in February 2009. Since then volunteers have cleared a 1km stretch of the river, from the Nundle Bridge to the end of the Fossicker’s Tourist Park, of an impenetrable wall of woody weeds; privet gleditsia, blackberry and ivy. Since March last year 100+ volunteers have planted more than 1,000 native trees and rushes. We meet a group of friends to plant 350 casuarinas and lomandra. We quickly realise that digging holes is easier with a pick, and abandon our shovels and meek trowels. The children help carry young trees from crates for planting in their newly dug holes, and collect water in a bucket to give the trees a drink. When the children tire of tree planting they head for the irresistable Peel River to paddle. Mums, and volunteers from the Nundle CWA, Nundle Public School and Nundle Fishing Club keep working. With many hands to help the trees swiftly disappear into the soil and milk carton tree guards are wedged into place with lengths of bamboo. Our work done, we head for a 100-year-old row of plane trees near the Peel River bridge where Nundle Lions Club volunteers have eggs and bacon sizzling on the BBQ and trays of fruit ready for the treeplanters. We sit, eat and talk in the dappled shade while the children climb the beautiful plane trees and play with a toy mower and wheel barrow. There is a downpour overnight, a thunderstorm wild enough to wake and scare sleeping children. In the morning we walk to the river to check the trees and for the first time explore a tract of the river recommended the day before. We discover a beautiful gravel beach where we can easily enter the water to swim. Today there are a dozen men and women panning for gold. The promise of coming back with towels and a picnic when it warms up fails to impress our two-year-old son, who is disappointed the walk isn’t a carbon copy of the previous morning. “I want to go treeplanting”.

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