Other people’s words about … settlement
It is no wonder that most Adelaide inhabitants have little idea of what the pre-European vegetation of the Adelaide Plains looked like, because over vast swathes of suburbia, unless one knows exactly where to look, it is basically all gone and has been for over a hundred years. Add to this the interest in recent decades in planting Australian natives that may have been sourced from regions over a thousand kilometres away and there is little wonder that confusion exists about the identity of the truly indigenous plants of the Adelaide Plains.
from ‘The Native Plants of Adelaide‘
by Phil Bagust and Lynda Tout-Smith
One of my favourite places to spend time in is Aldinga, south of Adelaide, though I didn’t grow familiar with it until I was well into adulthood. When I was a child, Aldinga was still a little coastal country town within driving distance of Adelaide. City people spent their summer holidays there each year. That was all I knew about it.
Aldinga isn’t a small country town anymore: over the years, it’s been swallowed up in the growing suburban sprawl — those vast swathes of suburbia — along the coast north and south of Adelaide. It’s no longer a holiday town, either. People travel farther afield these days for their holidays, mostly overseas. Many of the beach shacks have been knocked down, but some still stand.
Aldinga Scrub is a patch of native coastal vegetation growing just inland of the beach: an environment of dense, bushy vegetation growing on low sandy dunes. As a child, I didn’t even know of its existence, though now I try to make the effort to visit it as often as I can. It is, in fact, the only patch of remnant (pre-European) coastal vegetation left in South Australia. It’s not pristine — there are many weeds growing in it. The climate within the Scrub itself has changed, too, due to the diversion of natural stormwater by farmers onto encroaching farmland.
And yet, wandering through on a precious day off work — listening to the songs of the shrike-thrushes and whistlers and magpies and fantails; stumbling across a lone echidna trundling through the undergrowth; standing back to allow a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch bound past — I feel as though I get a hint of what the place was like before European settlement. Hence the photographs on today’s post, which I took on a visit in mid-September, as spring took hold of the Scrub.
I’ve never named the Scrub explicitly on my blog before, though I’ve posted many photographs from my visits to it. I feel fiercely protective of the place — because of its unique status; because I discovered it late in life; because I know that the more that humans like me encroach upon it, the more it disappears. Because, because, because.
Meanwhile, whenever I visit the Scrub, I continue to teach myself the names of the native birds and animals and plants and insects who inhabit it. I wander about, learning and wondering. I may never really know its original nature, but I plan to go on teaching myself about it until the day I die.