REVIEW: TURTLE REEF BY JENNIFER SCOULLAR

I’m reposting this review of Turtle Reef from Write Note Reviews. This is everything a review should be – balanced, honest and thoughtful. It shows an excellent knowledge of the book, is generally positive, but not afraid to point out challenges along the reading way. In my opinion, Monique Mulligan is one of the top book reviewers in Australia. Why not have a roam around her fascinating website while you’re there? And don’t forget entries, for Jenn J McLeod’s three-book giveaway close 31 May. Leave a comment on my blog for your chance to win!

Write Note Reviews

TURTLE REEF

Author: Jennifer Scoullar
Michael Joseph RRP $32.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Book Cover:  Turtle ReefI’ve been a fan of Jennifer Scoullar’s rural romance for a while now – both Billabong Bend and Currawong Creek held strong appeal for me. What stands out in Scoullar’s writing, in a genre that is well-represented in Australia, is her passion for the country’s flora and fauna. Her stories, already worthy in their own right as a romance, are enhanced by the descriptive setting and the clear message that the country and its wildlife are to be cherished. Turtle Reef is no exception; set in a remote coastal community at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, there’s a strong reminder of our environmental responsibility amid other happenings.

For zoologist Zoe King, Turtle Reef looks like a great place for a fresh start. Tired of the Sydney rat race and fed up with men, Zoe is more than ready to put her old…

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Happy Endangered Species Day!

Endangered Species DayLast Friday was international Endangered Species Day, designed to highlight the plight of many at-risk and critically endangered plants and animals. They are disappearing between 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate – with dozens going extinct every day. Over 40% of the world’s species are estimated to be at risk of extinction, primarily from human activities driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species and global warming.

Australia is far from immune. In fact it is facing an extinction crisis, with the worst mammal extinction rate in the world: 30 native mammals have become extinct since European settlement. To put this in a global context, 1 out of 3 mammal extinctions in the last 400 years have occurred in Australia.

Rewilding Australia 1I love to write about our unique wildlife, and the people who fight to protect these birds and animals. My current work-in-progress explores the concept of rewilding. Rewilding means restoring habitats to their original condition (as much as possible) and reintroducing animals and plants that are locally extinct.

Rewilding Australia is a registered charity that supports the reintroduction of our apex species like devils and quolls. With the re-establishment of these predator species, combined with a range of large-scale fox and cat control programs, our other smaller Quollsmammals may then be able to survive. Farmers and community organisations from all around Australia are embracing this vision and pitching in to help. Some examples include predator-proof fencing, breeding programs and protecting wildlife corridors. Click here to read a story on an exciting quoll rewilding project.

I’m excited about the concept of not only conserving, but of actively rebuilding eco-systems. It has also given me the idea for my new book. I’m sure the challenges involved will make for some dramatic story-telling!

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Dingo Creek Rainforest Nursery

Dingo creek blog 1I’m on a research trip, immersing myself in the beauty of the Manning Valley, a few hours drive north of Sydney. This area offers a breath-taking combination of rivers, rainforests, mountains and beaches. Its lush landscapes and national parks will provide a stunning setting for my new book. Aussie author Di Morrissey was born in Wingham, and she still lives in the valley. It became the title and setting for one of her bestselling books.(The Valley Pan Macmillan 2007)

 

Dingo Creek Blog 2I’ve been staying with an old school friend, Kim Gollan, who lives at Bobin, about an hour’s drive east of Tapin Tops National Park. Kim and her husband Pete run the magnificent forty hectare Dingo Creek Rainforest Nursery. They mainly grow plants endemic to the mid north coast of NSW, in order to conserve these species and make them available to home gardeners, farmers and restoration schemes. For example, they have provided thousands of plants for the Lord Howe Island World Heritage project, and the Manning Valley lowland flood-plain rainforests regeneration plan. They are also caretakers of Wingham Brush and Coocumbac Island (see previous post)

Dingo Creek 3Kim’s stock-list reads like a Who’s Who of iconic subtropical rainforest trees: black booyong, flame tree, sassafras, tamarind, rosewood, yellow carabeen, Moreton Bay fig, plum pine, corkwood – the list goes on and on. There are lines of potted Red Cedars, a species logged into commercial extinction in the 1800’s. Along the driveway, wild cedar saplings spring up around a parent tree that Kim planted twenty years ago. Tree-ferns, stag-ferns and fish-bone ferns germinate naturally in pots and under walk ways. The place is bursting with life.

Dingo Creek 2It’s not just the nursery and gardens that are impressive. Kim and Pete built their own character-laden mud-brick & stone home. Exposed beams and the extensive use of natural bush timber gives the house a delightful earthy feel. It seems to have risen organically from the hillside.

Dingo Creek 1There is so much to see here! Rugged Tapin Tops National Park, high on the Great Eastern Escarpment. Legendary Ellenborough Falls, a horsetail waterfall on the Great Bulga Plateau with one of the longest single drops in the southern hemisphere. Or browse the stock at Tinonee Orchid Nursery, including a wide range of native orchids growing wild in the Manning Valley.

Exploring this magnificent region with Kim as my guide has been an amazing experience. I hope I can translate some of this beauty into words.

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The Wingham Brush

Wingham Brush 1I’m on a trip to research my new novel, and am taking inspiration for its setting from Tapin Tops National Park north-east of Wingham in New South Wales. The park lies on a spectacular section of the Great Eastern Escarpment.

Ten hectare Wingham Brush Nature Reserve, just a short stroll from the centre of town, is a rare rainforest remnant. Along with five hectare Coocumbac Island at Taree, it represents 90% of the remaining subtropical lowland rainforest in the Manning Valley. This tiny oasis boasts 195 species of native plants and 100 species of native birds. The most impressive trees in Wingham Brush 2the reserve are the massive Moreton Bay figs, many centuries old. They are a type of strangler fig, and begin as a tiny seed, deposited in the fork of a host tree by birds or bats. The seedling lives as an epiphyte until its roots reach the ground. It then enlarges and strangles its host, eventually becoming freestanding. Like all figs, it has a unique relationship with wasps; figs are only pollinated by fig wasps, and fig wasps can only reproduce in fig flowers. Massive buttress roots support the weight of the trees in the shallow rainforest soils. Other Wingham Brush 3interesting trees include paperberries, black apples, white cedars and rosewoods. Giant stinging trees grow close to the path, so visitors must be wary.

The Brush almost didn’t survive. By 1860 it had been selectively logged, especially for red cedar, and the remains of two saw pits can be seen today. It was saved from clear-felling in 1909, by being declared a reserve associated with the now historic wharf on the Manning River.

Manning River In Reserve

Manning River Inside Reserve

However by 1980 the Brush was so infested with weeds, that its very survival was threatened. Concerned locals commenced an innovative program to return the reserve to its natural state. The Wingham Brush Method has become an international model for rainforest restoration.

 

 

Manning River A Few Hundred Metres Clear Of Reserve

Manning River A Few Hundred Metres Clear Of Reserve

The Brush is an important maternity camp for vulnerable grey-headed flying foxes, and they can be seen roosting overhead. Wingham spent 70 years trying to kill off these fruit bats, before realising their importance. Flying foxes transport the seeds of a wide range of rainforest plants up to 40 km between camps, connecting isolated remnants to other rainforest gene pools.

Walking through Wingham Brush is like going back in time. Bittersweet, imagining the sheer majesty of these forests two hundred years ago, when they ranged from the coast all the way to the edge of the Great Eastern Escarpment. What a magnificent sight that would have been!

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