Thursday, 6 May 2021

Art for Nature's Sake

  It always seems to me that artists, photographers and musicians appear to have a special connection to the natural world. Maybe, because of their creative empathy, they have a heightened sensitivity to the world's, beauty, wonder and awe.

  Whenever a fundraiser is organised to protect forests, bushland or marine environments, guess who always put their hands up first to contribute time and talent? Yes the financially challenged artists. And when my local paper, the Manly Daily, asks for photographic contributions from the readership...the subsequent published works invariably seem to be of seashores, birds, animals or trees.

  It’s a strange compulsion that beckons humanity to paint but, like many others, I too was drawn to examine and attempt to represent some of the miracles of nature through art. I could never hope to do any of it justice of course. In fact to me, nature, at every level, is already in a state of perfection (although human behaviour is probably the exception to that general rule).  In an era when the world is losing so much of its precious wild things and wild places...just capturing it on canvass, began to seem a futile waste of time.  

  So, I decided to try and convey an environmental message through the imagery. At least that way it seemed slightly more constructive. Maybe I could, in a very minor way, help communicate the urgent plight of our world to a new audience and gradually, bit by bit, collective consciousness might work to turn things around?  OK OK its a ridiculous concept but it’s all I've got to work on at the moment!!

 Here are a few examples of my small scale environmental campaigning through art.




The painting was included in an exhibition titled 'Art For Penguins Sake" which raised money to protect the Little Penguin Colony near Manly.



This piece, titled "Ascension" represents the view, looking up to the sky, through trees in a forest clearing. Conversely, others feel it is more indicative of looking down into a deep ocean. The materials used are acrylics, inks and bitumen on sheet aluminium 



This work, using similar materials,is titled "Feeling a bit Fragile". It represents a frenzied planet earth under intense stress in a volatile universe.


 There is an old English proverb that states, 'the eyes are the window to the soul.' This saying stems from a passage in the Bible, Matthew 6:22-23. According to Scientists, patterns in the iris can give an indication of whether we are warm and trusting or neurotic and impulsive. I'm fascinated by the deep and inscrutable eyes of reptiles. There seems to be an ancient but impenetrable wisdom emanating from those dark pools of life. This image was painted on canvas using acrylic paint,inks and bitumen.





A highly regarded local environmentalist used to hold an annual fundraiser to help protect Tasmania's ancient forests from industrial logging. This painting is called "The Last Tree Standing" and represents a devastated landscape with one sole tree surviving...a casualty of such rapacious logging practices. In Tasmania, large areas of forests are clear-felled, bulldozed and burnt- the trees being wood-chipped and sent to Japan to be made into paper. In recent times some of the high conservation forests were given World Heritage status and protected as part of a momentous agreement between the logging industry and environmentalists. The Gutwein, Liberal, government, however, continues to clear and burn high conservation value forests -including habitat for the critically endangered Swift Parrot. This painting has been entered into the Northern Beaches Council Environmental Art Prize 2021.


The Australian government wants to log these ancient trees once more.

 Australia's  former Prime Minister (and local MP), Tony Abbott, sought to de-list 74,000 hectares of these unique forests from the World Heritage register, making them once more accessible for logging and taking us back to the dark ages.


This painting represents the precious ocean environment that encircles Sydney. In fact there are more marine species found inside Sydney Harbour than around the whole coastline of Britain!  The NSW government is currently working to reduce marine sanctuary protection and has put a moratorium on declaring any new Marine Parks.  


 Manly Beach, community members gathered to protest against weakening marine sanctuary protection.


This piece, called "Green Confessions" was exhibited in the 2013 Warringah Art prize within the "Waste to Art" category. It was produced using paper, paint and inks on an sheet aluminium base.  Warringah Council replaced their Flannel Flower logo (representing our local native flora) with a soulless stylized W shape. This work included numerous Flannel Flowers with the word "sold" emblazoned across them. This was to represent the ongoing loss of our beautiful, and colourful, bushland with the ugly sprawl of encroaching housing developments. The change of logo, without community consultation seemed to epitomise this bleak scenario. This then the logo has been changed once more to a confusing amalgamated Northern Beaches Council melange.


This piece was hung in the Warringah Art Exhibition in 2000. At that time there was a huge community campaign to stop the "Ardel" housing development at Frenchs Forest destroying pristine bushland in the Manly Dam catchment. Its long term effect would also reduce water quality and impact on aquatic fauna (such as the unique Climbing Galaxias fish). The metallic fish skeletons with the title "Manly Dam's Future" contributed to the protest. Currently the Manly Dam environs are under grave threat from the Beaches Link tunnel project and other development encroachments.




"Echidna Speaks" is a small 'Waste to Art' sculpture which was a finalist in the 2016 Northern Beaches Art Prize.  Made from salvaged, scavanged and discarded materials, it highlighted the threat to wildlife from the proposed Manly Vale School expansion. Rather than adopt the original concept design Dept of Education Planners wish to situate new premises on top of the school's outdoor education area. Fire regulations mean that habitat for 6 threatened species would have to be cleared for a huge fire break if this design proceeded. The sad scenario eventuated and several hectares of high quality remnant bushland was bulldozed and Manly Creek degraded by consequent siltation.



This is a photograph (using a macro lens) of some tiny mould spores on a gardening glove. It was one of five works chosen for display in the 'Four Elements Earth' exhibition in Nov 2016 (Northen Beaches Creative Space). The message here is that we tend to ignore the fragile beauty all around us whilst only valuing distant views.  If people can really appreciate the small miracles in their surroundings..maybe they'll be more protective of nature??



Another semi abstract image with an environmental message. This time the viewer has to piece together their own sentance from ellusive words scattered amidst the disembodied eyes. The gist is that the natural wealth of the world is being spruiked and sold off to "customers".


This piece is painted on aluminium and the design created using a sgraffito technique.  It pays homage to indigenous art.


This is a photograph (using a macro lens) of a brown striped marsh frog tadpole -filmed on top of a delicately decomposed leaf.  My love of nature emanated from observing the teeming but largely unnoticed world within a backyard pond.


This image is of frentetically interweaving tubes, worm or snake like structures...incredibly ..whilst I was painting it...I was visited 3 times by a real life green tree snake !! (see below)



Tuesday, 25 August 2020

How To Revive A Mermaid.


The Compelling Story of The Mermaid Pool Restoration and How You Can Be Part of The Action!

 

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?


Imagine a guy walking his dog through the back streets of Manly Vale. Every day he saw shopping trolleys dumped in the local creek and thought to himself angrily “someone should do something about that....”  He finally realised that he was the someone in question! I’m not sure if they’ve forgiven him yet, but he eventually convinced other local residents to join him! *

Andrew and Wol removing discarded graffiti spray cans from Manly Creek.

 BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE...


 Ah it seemed so easy then, just yank a few trolleys out of the water and we can all go back to football and beer. Trouble is, the closer you looked, the more garbage there was. The beautiful oasis that once was Mermaid Pool had literally become a rubbish dump over recent years and what should have been spectacular remnant bushland was now also clogged with invasive weeds such as morning glory and privet. What were we getting ourselves into?
Ken removes dumped rubbish from the bush

TO CUT A LONG STORY ...


 Many things have since happened to help restore the tarnished jewel of Mermaid Pool, kicking off on ‘Clean Up Australia Day’ 2002, when 4 tonnes of rubbish were removed by 71 volunteers. Subsequently the Clean Up Australia organisation adopted the project as a ‘Fix Up’ Site. Two grants have been applied for and received from the Natural Heritage Trust, which has helped pay for rehabilitation contractors, whilst volunteers have stencilled storm water drains, produced brochures, planted trees and much more.

Weekend Detainees from Parramatta Gaol also spent a number of years physically removing pest species along the waterway. Sydney Morning Herald article by John Huxley

Clean Up Australia founder, Ian Kiernan, visits Mermaid Pool

WORKOUT AT THE 'GREEN GYM !!


The best way to get involved now is to come to the monthly bush regeneration volunteer workdays.  “Bush regeneration” basically means identifying and removing a range of noxious weeds that are impacting the natural environment by out-competing the native plants.  We are part of Northern Beaches Council’s "Friends of the Bush" program It’s a great opportunity to learn about the local environment  and help protect it whilst keeping fit and meeting (slightly crazy) new people.  Professional supervision is provided. We even have some amazing ‘masochist’ volunteers who wear waders to remove the introduced aquatic weeds (such as Ludwigia Peruviana from Peru!)  that are clogging up  the waterway. We are conscious of advocating hand removal of weeds and keep any herbicide use away from the water and to an absolute minimum.


Sue removes weeds with Landcare Ambassador-Beau Walker

Mermaid Pool Volunteers meet on the 4th Saturday of every month. Turn up anytime from 9am to 1pm.Where: Outside Manly Hyraulics Lab Gates, western corner of King St, Manly Vale. For more information email: Malcolm Fisher cowfish5@bigpond.com

(NB Volunteers are required to complete a short OH and S training session with Northern Beaches Council before working on site).

Keith, Dave and Kris "getting fit" by removing non-native and invasive water weeds

WHERE THE HELL IS MERMAID POOL?


Mermaid Pool is at the western corner of King St, Manly Vale, Sydney. It boasts a lovely waterfall and is fed from Manly Dam by Manly Creek. The creek then winds its way down to the surfing beach at Queenscliff via Manly Lagoon. (As you can see it’s got a lot of Manly connections).

An aerial view of the pool surrounded by a small remnant of bushland

(The UNSW water lab is to the left)

OTHER WAYS TO GET INVOLVED.


If physical labour is not your thing we also need people with I.T, communications, research and admin skills plus individuals who are able to conduct ecological surveys).


Tiny native fish (the original "Mermaids") migrate up Manly
Creek

TIME TO THINK ABOUT GOING NATIVE?


 The Sydney region has a much greater number of plant species than the whole of Great Britain combined and each of our suburbs have their own individual endemic varieties.  Sadly as the city has grown we’ve eradicated much of our bushland and planted our gardens with exotics from Europe, Asia or South America. Most natives available in the major nurseries are hybrids or out of area plants. Increasingly though, people are seeking out species indigenous to their area and finding them perfect for local weather conditions, soil types and for attracting wildlife. The New Northern Beaches Council can offer advice on what to plant and where to buy them. There is even a community native plant nursery now at Manly Dam (near the Rangers Office).

Dillwynia Retorta

DOES EVIL LURK IN YOUR GARDEN?


Our waterways and natural bushland are under threat due to the invasion of environmental weeds. These introduced plants out-compete or smother native plants. The trouble is, many of these foreign pests begin life in someone’s backyard and are spread by birds eating their seeds or from people dumping garden clippings in the bush. Once these weeds take over, the natural character of the bush is lost and habitat for wildlife is reduced.
Identify weeds here. 

The invasive and pervasive Lantana


IT’S A WILD LIFE AT MERMAID POOL


 The great thing about getting involved in environmental restoration is that you can discover fascinating insights into local biodiversity and help ensure that habitat for our native fauna is improved.  In the Mermaid Pool environs for example, Bandicoots have returned after a 40 year absence, Swamp Wallabies have recently been spotted nearby whilst  Dwarf Green Tree Frogs still survive in the reed beds. There are 10 types of native fish that call this waterway home. Some of them have migrated up Manly Creek from the ocean to spawn for millennia (the original “Mermaids”) but accumulated silt, exotic weeds and other obstructions have made this increasingly difficult.  Juvenile Cox’s Gudgeon were recently photographed (by local resident and native fish expert Andrew Lo) ascending Mermaid Pool waterfall using their fins to climb the sheer rock wall.

Juvenile "Cox's Gudgeon" climbing a sheer rockface

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME


 Of course indigenous people occupied the Northern Beaches area for thousands of years and we are hauntingly reminded of their ancient presence through rock carvings and engravings in our locality. As more and more discoveries are made, the significance of the area to Aboriginal people is taking on a greater dimension and the environs of the Mermaid Pool are now being nominated as an Aboriginal site by the MLALC and others.

   In 1788 Governor Arthur Phillip traversed this creek-line when it was surrounded by dense forest and swamps. In the Depression years of the 1930’s there was a camp at Allambie for people who had lost their homes. Girls used to slip away to the pool to swim naked-hence the name-Mermaid Pool. In those days the water was crystal clear, the bird-life rich and varied and the bushland vibrant and colourful.  There is still a rare pocket of coastal rainforest beneath the rocky overhangs of Mermaid Pool which echoes a long distant era. A mere seventy years ago much of Manly Vale was unspoilt bushland, platypus still occupied some waterways and even quolls and koalas were ‘in residence’.

The home of the Douglas Family in the 1930's in what is now "Jenna Close"

WHAT ON EARTH NEXT  ?


 Land owners and occupiers between Manly Dam wall and Mermaid Pool have recently collaborated with The “Return of the Mermaids” project representatives on ways to restore the creekline in their specific areas. It’s an important step forward which means that Sydney Water, the Department of Services, Technology and Administration, Manly Hydraulics Laboratory, The University of New South Wales Water Research Laboratory and the community are working productively together. Further downstream Warringah Golf Club and Conservation Volunteers Australia are also doing very positive remedial work. There are also some grave threats to the bushland in the surrounding area (see blog article "This War Memorial Park is Under Siege)


A Water Dragon..one of the popular local residents.

THE KING ST WAR MEMORIAL AVENUE


 On Planet Ark National Tree Day 2005, volunteers planted a grove of endemic native shrubs along King St, Manly Vale to the approaches of Manly Warringah War Memorial Park. This was to commemorate 60 years since the end of World War 2 and to also highlight the importance of planting local native species.  A NSW Government  Community Partnership Program grant was subsequently applied for which helped us to finish the job using contractors from  Australian Bushland Restoration. The “avenue of honour” has since been dedicated to the sacrifice and service of merchant seamen in world wars 1 and 2. It is now a significant memorial and important educational feature of the area. NSW War Memorials Register            
 
    Ex Merchant Seamen, Don, Ray and Don at the "Avenue of Honour"  central monument. 

OPERATION W.O.W. WATCHING OUR WILDLIFE


 We are currently positioning  nesting boxes for native wildlife in the area (from pygmy possums and micro bats to king parrots) which will provide homes for wildlife (acting as surrogate tree hollows). We are hoping to retrofit tiny cameras inside the boxes to help give the community knowledge of (and empathy with) their local species by being able to observe them. Vision from inside the boxes would be transmitted live via the internet.  Our beautiful remnant of bushland has no power or communications, so we will provide our own – wirelessly, to bring images from the site. Each nesting box in addition to it’s Raspberry Pi computer will be connected to a Mesh wireless network which connects to the internet. Additionally each box would be powered by a dry-cell battery that is charged via photo voltaic solar collectors. As many of the residents are nocturnal, we will illuminated their nesting boxes with infra Red which our cameras pick will up as monochrome images.



King Parrot nesting box


ORARA RESERVE RESTORATION


 Our parent organisation, the Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee has also helped fund important restoration work at Orara Reserve at Allambie, in conjunction with the Beach School.  This work involved contracting a team from Bushlink ( a bush regeneration organisation which employs people with a disability).  Collaborating with students,  they are gradually removing the invasive weeds from this beautiful area of remnant bushland. We hope to contribute more funding to this important project in the future.








Bushlink website 

The "Return of The Mermaids" restoration project won the Inaugural KNSWB Blue Star Sustainability Award in 2015 in the Habitat and Wildlife Guardianship Category.





STOP PRESS: JUNE 2018.


In 2017 (on World Environment Day). The NSW Department of Education proceeded to bulldoze several hectares of rare bushland at nearby McComb Hill for the Manly Vale Public School expansion. The community pleaded with them to "build up not out" to save the habitat of the threatened Eastern Pygmy Possum. They also warned that removing all the trees and shrubs from the northern slope would mean that silt and sediment would be washed into Mermaid Pool. They ignored all protests. After heavy rain in June 2018..this was the devastating result...








A SMALL BIRD CORRIDOR

On October 8th, 2018 The Greater Sydney Landcare Network https://greatersydneylandcare.org/  sent a letter to The Minister For Lands (Paul Toole), Local MP (James Griffin) and Northern Beaches Mayor (Michael Regan). The letter supported the Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee’s initiative of establishing a “small bird corridor” at Mermaid Pools. This would mean that four unallocated crown land parcels of bushland between Manly Dam and District Park (alongside Manly Creek) would be formally protected and zoned for conservation. If this eventuated it would help offset the loss of bushland adjoining nearby Manly Vale Public School, where the dense bushland habitat of the following recorded birds was bulldozed as part of a redevelopment. (Black Faced Cuckoo Shrike, Brown Thornbill, Eastern Spinebill, Little Wattle Bird, New Holland Honey Eater, Red Browed Finch, Scarlet Honey Eater, Silvereye, Spotted Pardalote, Superb Fairy Wren, White Browed Scrub Wren, Azure Kingfisher).

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment finalised the amendments to Warringah Local Environment Plan 2011 and the amended LEP was gazetted on Friday 24th July 2020. This means that the four parcels of bushland in the Mermaid Pools environs were rezoned from low density RI to Public Recreation RE2. Details on this link :- https://tinyurl.com/y36abpyo

This is good news but we continue to lobby for  a better conservation outcome with a designated small bird habitat corridor.


Scarlet Honeyeater

CAN YOU SPONSOR THE FUTURE?


 Are you a local business that can appreciate the need to restore our waterways and conserve our bushland ? Every industry from tourism, surf products and fishing to manufacturing and administration benefits from looking after the environment.  The “Return of the Mermaids” project needs your support now to help fund future important conservation work along Manly Creek and to ensure momentum continues.  If you’re interested in partnering the community please email cowfish5@bigpond.com

Mermaids Sapphire and Skye (courtesy Manly Sea-life Sanctuary)

 Special thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who have worked so hard to ‘Return the Mermaids”* (Many of the first volunteers had spent the previous decade campaigning to save the headwaters of Manly Dam  from the infamous ‘Ardel’ housing development which ultimately destroyed the creekline upstream. This restoration project initiated by The Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee was seen as a way to compensate for some of the environmental damage).




Join the Facebook Group: Mermaid Pool Restoration project

Check out these video links:-

Segment with Costa on Gardening Australia 2014

Mermaid Pool Sydney Metro CMA Award winners 2012

World Water Day 2012. 10th Anniversary of "Return of the Mermaids"

 Jess Amos Film

And here's article on the Mermaid Pool by Peter Fitzsimons that was featured in the Sydney Magazine