Skullbone Plains Discovery Weekend and Loo with a View Launch

Skullbone Plains – a reserve unexplored and unknown to most TLC supporters – was teeming with the activity of a mini nature-based festival at TLC’s Discovery Weekend and Loo with a View Launch in March.

For a remarkably diverse mosaic of landscapes spanning 1,600 hectares, Skullbone Plains can first appear desolate. A passage of seemingly barren sub-alpine moorland lays fringed by eucalyptus forest, once the target of logging. Year-round frost prevents most other trees from thriving, and poor drainage across the plains results in pools of water forming swirling aquatic systems. Yet with over 100 people warmly welcomed onto the reserve for the Discovery Weekend, any preconceived notion of the landscapes emptiness was soon overcome by a chatter that filled the silences between bird calls and the odd rogue insect. From Sydney to Snug, the diversity of people gathered for the event was a testament to the various forms nature can take, experiences it can offer, and subsequent ability it can have to bind those from an assortment of backgrounds.

For the TLC, involving people with nature is not only a lot of fun, but a critical element in achieving sustainable outcomes for nature conservation. However, in sensitive environments certain infrastructure is needed to ensure land needing protection is not negatively impacted by peoples presence. Consequently, getting supporters onto the TLC reserves has been tricky due to a shortage of facilities – that was until the TLC’s Loo with a View campaign wrapped up in November 2016 after an impressive crowdfunding effort raised the $22,000 needed for people to enjoy the benefits of nature without leaving anything behind. To celebrate, the TLC took the opportunity to transform an annual Discovery Day into an incredible Discovery Weekend, kicking off with the official Loo with a View Launch followed by an array of activities across the magnificent Skullbone Plains Reserve.

TLC conservation ecologists Matt Taylor and Rowena Hamer did an outstanding job of engaging curious minds during an ecological monitoring workshop that demonstrated how the TLC’s science team is putting robust methods and innovations into practice. The workshop explained how these processes are helping control weeds and feral animals that threaten the Reserve’s biodiversity while protecting habitat for species such as endangered Tasmanian devils, spotted-tailed quolls and wedge-tailed eagles.

Meanwhile, a reserve management walk and talk got underway that took supporters through open valleys, and past cushion plants and endangered sphagnum moss beds while TLC Operations Manager Leigh Walters and Philanthropy and Engagement Manager James Hattam shared their phenomenal insights into some of the challenges and opportunities associated with protecting the Skullbone Plains landscape. Back at the pop-up TLC village and young nature enthusiasts were equally entertained and educated at a Wild Kids Nature Club, staffed with the relentless energy and enthusiasm of TLC volunteers.

At an altitude of 1000 meters, cold that would usually contain the land come nightfall was broken by roaring campfire and a special, nature-themed, acoustic performance by TLC supporter and acclaimed cellist Anna Spinaze. Performing beside Tasmanian singer songwriter Lindsay Campbell, the duo provided the perfect atmosphere for old and new friends to share stories while indulging in scrumptious food served by Alicart Foodtruck and delicious wine generously donated by Devils Corner.

As the low hum of chatter and soothing musical cascaded into the night, nocturnal minds remained inspired with a safari exploring the secret life of bats, courtesy of passionate Tasmanian ecologist and TLC supporter Dr Lisa Cawthen. However eventually as the night came to a close, one by one people made their way back to their tents to drift off to sleep ahead of another day of activity and adventure.

Amidst the silence and darkness of the new day, a committed group of avian enthusiasts woke early and donned headlamps to follow TLC’s Dr Sally Bryant to Kenneth Lagoon for a special interpretation of the dawn chorus, which will no doubt enrich the auditory experience of birdsong for many for years to come. Acclaimed nature photographer Andy Townsend and TLC Community Engagement Coordinator Phill Roach were also found exploring the intricacies of the reserve at sunrise with a photography workshop for those keen on showcasing their interpretation of the natural world through a more artistic medium.

Later in the morning and a group bushwalk – or trail-run for those inspired by the unwavering vitality of TLC Bequests Program Coordinator Sophie Marshall – took supporters across Skullbone Plains to the remote highland jewel of Lake Ina where lunch was shared beside a shoreline peppered with sandy beaches and enveloped by snow-gums and pencil pines.

A final cuppa around a dwindling camp fire upon returning to camp was the perfect way to wrap up a wild weekend away. Stories were shared of how a seemingly savage Skullbone Plains landscape had come to be appreciated as a complex, profound and fragile environment, thus highlighting possibilities for conservation when people are provided with opportunities to experience nature first hand. Yet while the Skullbone Plains Discovery Weekend may have united people and given them an opportunity to be inspired by nature, none of what occurred would have been possible without the TLC’s dedicated, enthusiastic, and passionate volunteers and supporters. Accordingly, it is them that truly enabled the protection of Skullbone Plains, and who continue to ensure its conservation values are maintained into the future for others to enjoy.