Rubbishing Belair National Park

There are several reasons I am grateful for growing up in South Australia.  Not least, because I grew up with Keep South Australia Beautiful or KESAB, Tidy Towns and 10c container deposits. Having lived in the eastern states metropolises of Sydney then Melbourne I was always rather proud of my litter-averse upbringing while observing the cesspits that are the waterways and drains of these cities. However my recent walks through the Belair National Park have reminded me that keeping South Australia Beautiful requires constant vigilance, if the natural environment is not to descend into rubbish-saturated neglect.

On my 2016 Christmas visit, I wrote of my enchantment with the beautiful park of my youth and re-discovering it along the Lorikeet Loop Walk and Valley Loop Hike.  This season, I’ve again indulged in my morning ritual, traversing the rises and gullies of this wonderful public park.  However this time, the walks were reminding me more of the homes I left back east, where it is normal to walk for 5 minutes and find several depositable containers, cigarette butts and miscellaneous discarded wrappers making the streets more closely resemble Smokey Mountain of Manila than the famed Tidy Towns.  Don’t get me started on the Merri Creek or the Cooks River!

After a couple of days of my usual route, I had spied several items including deposit containers, and noted an intention to bring a bag to collect them. The next day, I discovered the ‘gift’ of a carefully-folded bread bag within my first 10 minutes of walking.  Armed with my receptacle, I had even more reason for collecting the rubbish on the way.

First it was mostly tissues and wipes, then later I even found coffee cups and gelato spoons. I even perched on the side of a hill, holding onto a tree to pluck coffee cups and slushi spoons with Inspector Gadget arms (ie. a stick).  Despite the dangling 20c prize, I had to leave the long-neck beer bottle and the soft-drink can – retrieving them might have seen me slip arse over tit and end up at the bottom of the hill. By the time I finished my hour something walk, I’d filled the bread bag, and when I returned home, I assembled the booty to take stock of what people discard along paths in National Parks.

So the song I had going in my head this year, did not feature partridges, nor kangaroos, but rubbish.

On my walk in Belair Park, some kind folks left for me:

7 plastic containers

6 bits of paper

5 baby wipes

4 calling cards

3 tissues

2 dog poo bags

and a neatly folded bread bag

I think the park needs to put up a sign to remind people that tissues and baby wipes have plastic in them and take a long time to break down and to take care to take these products with them when they leave the park.  Do baby wipes EVER break down? And anyway, what’s wrong with a flannel!

A note from the Kleenex site – “Kleenex® Tissue is made with biodegradable cellulose fibers. Because the tissue is made with an additive to make it strong, it will not break down as rapidly as bathroom tissue. Therefore, we suggest you discard Kleenex® Tissue in the trash”.  ie. this ‘additive’ is probably plastic!

From the Huggies baby wipes site “Coform is made by combining microscopic and continuous plastic fibres with wood pulp (cellulose) fibres”. Just what we need, more microscopic plastic fibres in the environment!!

I agree with the park’s refusal to provide bins, because they attract more rubbish than they clean up, and really it is our personal responsibility to take our rubbish with us.

Come on SA, lift your game!  Constant vigilance, remember!  Keep South Australia Beautiful. Sure, it takes a little extra effort to take rubbish with you, but having lived in places where people just don’t care, I know that our stunning and precious SA environment is worth looking after.

Just for interest, here is the full list of items:

plastic spoon/fork handle

spent balloon

slushie straw

plastic tree tag

Safcol tuna tin

pink plastic tree tie

plastic coffee lid

icecream cup

2 intact plastic dog poo bags

1 disintegrating plastic dog poo bag

ticket

plastic silver

coffee cup

plastic cup

part of a cup

plastic yoghurt container

plastic bubble-tea lid

miscellaneous plastic

plastic gelato spoon

cloth handkerchief

part plastic cup

plastic sandwich wrap

6 bits of paper

cigarette butt

elastic

Snickers wrapper

Hubba Bubba bubblegum wrapper

child’s sock

misc ticket

blue plastic

3 tissues

5 baby wipes

Coles white bread bag

Lorikeet Loop Walk, Belair National Park

There is nothing like a walk in the Australian bush at Christmas time to bring to mind the fanciful nature of the rituals we cling to.  Mention of Rudolf, sleigh bells and decorated fir trees conjures images from literally half a world away from the reality that is any one of our many Australian landscapes.  Australians have the uncanny ability to celebrate one thing, when observing in nature the complete opposite.

I have lived the European Christmas once. This week presented a sad reminder of it. I was at once enchanted and flabbergasted by the stark truth of celebrating the season depicted on our cards, carols and gift wraps, while rugged up to visit two German Christmas markets. Drinking mulled wine from little purpose-made cups, wandering between countless stalls full of handmade Christmas decorations and foods, the wafting smells of hot pretzels and sugar were perfect for the chilly weather of the northern hemisphere. It was not incongruous with our Christmas culture, just our Christmas place.

I returned to my home town of Adelaide this week to be with family and friends, and took the opportunity to walk each morning in the Belair National Park, literally down the hill from where I was born, in the dene where I grew up.  Sunday School picnics, primary school excursions and Corroborees (probably well-meaning yet insensitively-named back in the 1970s, with no mention of the traditional Kaurna owners) and later friend’s weddings at Old Government House have etched this landscape into long-term memory and imprinted familiar sensations.  My grandfather’s patient volunteering eradicating bone seed make this place the closest I have to a place of my ancestors, for a South-Australian of European extraction.

This magnetic park draws me each time I return home and I’ve become very familiar with the lovely 40 minute Lorikeet Loop Walk (and sometimes Valley Loop Hike extension to get the walk to over an hour).  In this week, there has been a gradual build up to the hottest Christmas day for 70-odd years for Adelaide, but despite the already warm mornings, the walks were shaded and not yet uncomfortably hot.

It is a testament to the hard work of the rangers (Harry Butler-types you sometimes see passing in their utes) that the wildlife is flourishing in the park.  The Belair Recreation Park of my childhood in 1970s was a very different place. Tall, abundantly leafy, introduced trees casting their cool, solid shade widely between well-tended ovals skirted by painted corrugated-iron huts evoking the deep green of Europe. Today, due to diligent work of volunteers also, this park contains many stands of the subtle coloured eucalypt grasslands now rare in the rest of the Adelaide Hills and plains, but the perfect and necessary environment for kangaroos, emus, koalas, bright pink and grey galahs, yellows of sulphur-crested cockatoos, bright blue of the Superior blue wrens, wood-ducks, magpies, kookaburras and crows – all of whom made their presence felt as I walked my daily circuit.

It felt like an Australian rendition of a partridge in a pear tree some mornings or rather a koala in a gum tree as I walked these beautiful tracks, collecting the list of wildlife that joined me.  But true to the experience, the perfect song accompaniment for this bush Christmas is not Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer or the Twelve Days of Christmas, but William Garnet James and John Wheeler’s more apt, Carol of the Birds:

Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing
Lifting their feet like war horses prancing
Up to the sun the woodlarks go winging
Faint in the dawn light echoes their singing
Orana!  Orana!  Orana to Christmas Day

Down where the tree ferns grow by the river
There where the waters sparkle and quiver
Deep in the gullies bell-birds are chiming
Softly and sweetly their lyric notes rhyming
Orana!  Orana!  Orana to Christmas Day

Friar birds sip the nectar of flowers
Currawongs chant in the wattle tree bowers
In the blue ranges lorikeets calling
Carols of bushbirds rising and falling
Orana!  Orana!  Orana to Christmas Day

Greetings of the season to you!

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