The visitor: A koala makes himself at home in Stan Mussared's garden. Stan and his wife Magda have built it up from nothing over the past 35 years.
The visitor: A koala makes himself at home in Stan Mussared's garden. Stan and his wife Magda have built it up from nothing over the past 35 years. Grafton Daily Examiner

Grow your own forest

MORE than 35 years ago, Stan Mussared and his wife Magda bought 1.6ha of cleared land at Waterview Heights.

With a little love, care and creative thinking, they slowly turned the bare landscape into an environmental wonderland. Here, Stan shares his diary of his ecological project over the years and shows how it is possible to make a difference to even the most barren area.

1973: The beginning

IT has been poor grazing land for decades, but now as sub-division for rural settlement takes place, house blocks, each of several hectares, are on the market. The one we buy is 1.6ha of grassland, the trees having been cleared, except for three. The precious hollows in these provide homes for possums and birds. There is plenty of open space for four children to play, but it is really an area of ecological poverty.

1974: Planting seeds

The sleeves are rolled up and the first seedlings are planted. These are tiny pioneers, subject to trial and error, success and failure, sometimes downpours of heavy rain, but more often long periods of drought. It's hard work carrying buckets of water up the slope from the dam.

1980: Steady growth

The years are passing, the children are growing up and the growth of the trees is encouraging. Perhaps one day it may be a forest and a dream of restoration realised. But, for now, I say to my wife Magda, “That tree near the dam is now taller than I am.”

2000: A forest blooms

It's now a forest. Pathways wind among the numerous beds of clustered trees, each bed a mass of leaves. Eucalypts are mixed with rainforest species. But there are still the losses, trees that grew so well, so tall, so full of life, but now dead - brown sticks among the masses of green.

2008: New life

Little birds flitter from branch to branch. The kookaburras laugh joyously from high in giant eucalypts. Kangaroos and wallabies move slowly along the pathways. Little lizards are very much at home in the leaf beds. Then, in the middle of the night we hear it - a grunting sound from near the gully. It's repeated many times.

The next morning we search the forest and high in his favourite tree, a forest red gum, we see him. He is securely positioned on a branch near the trunk, which is swaying gently in the breeze. He is a symbol of all the wildlife now visiting our little forest, a reward for all the effort, a valued member of our Earth community, an Australian icon - yes there he is - a koala.



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