Gudgenby… a hidden valley of opportunity

In 1826 the Murrumbidgee River represented the ‘limit of occupation’. It was forbidden to venture further west.

In limiting the squatter’s appetite for expansion, Governor Ralph Darling was attempting to impede the unregulated acquisition of land, for there weren’t enough police and magistrates to ensure law and order. His decree didn’t last long. There was a wool boom.

Edward Severne ventured beyond this limit, taking up land in an isolated valley high in the rugged mountains. An open grassy valley offering seemingly limitless opportunities to fatten ravenous stock. He called it Gudgenby. The year was 1844.

As Severne surveyed this majestic valley local Aboriginal tribes gathered, feasting on protein rich Bogong moths, celebrating in corroboree, painting their Dreamtime stories on rock shelters that are still visible today.

More Europeans ventured into this hidden valley, each seeking to prosper from its natural resources. Eventually foresters planted a commercial pine forest, growing softwood timber in this distant valley. The year was 1966.

With the passage of time this beautiful valley, with its intrinsic natural and cultural values, was afforded protection, conserved, set aside. A national park for the nation’s capital was declared. The year was 1984.

With the declaration of Namadgi National Park moves were afoot to remove this exotic pine plantation, to rehabilitate a fragmented landscape in the heart of the Gudgenby Valley. As large forestry machinery rolled into this idyllic valley, mature pine trees crashed to the forest floor. Local native seeds were collected, stored away for future use, nurtured with time, to be planted were pines once stood.

aerial image of the Lower Cotter CatchmentThe vision to restore the ecological integrity within this valley sowed the seeds for a remarkable community volunteer group, the passionate Gudgenby Bushies.

Twenty years ago an energetic work party rolled up their sleeves and got on with the job of rehabilitating over 380 hectares of introduced pines. The year was 1998.

Undaunted by the task at hand, the Gudgenby Bushies have been chipping away, removing pine wildlings, casting native seeds in an ash bed of burnt pines. They have erected kilometres upon kilometres of fencing to ward off grazing kangaroos and cut exotic blackberries, all in a herculean effort to return the valley to its former ecological glory.

The year is 2018. The vista from the Yankee Hat carpark is one of a remarkable community achievement. Good old fashioned people power has rehabilitated a landscape. This weekend, past and present Gudgenby Bushies will come together to reflect on an outstanding period of collaboration with an eye to the future. Their dedication is much appreciated.

Photo of the Bushies Founding President, Eleanor Stodart sowing seeds in an ash bed of exotic pines. Image credit: Syd Comfort

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared on 17 July in The Chronicle