Our tour of Glenrock Scout Camp started with a demonstration of the human sundial.
John le Messurier showed us how to stand so that our cast shadow showed us the time of day. We were gathered on a hill looking out over the regenerated and replanted estuary, with a sea view and hang gliders flying the cliffs. It was magical. John pointed out the bush regeneration beside us and in the casuarina dense gully where all the current growth of trees and understorey had been individually planted by hardworking volunteers to create what looked like bushland that had always been there. Lantana and other weeds had been cleared from the degraded site after mining and the result was the amazing, mature and natural looking coastal woodland.
We then followed John on a tour of the garden and countless plantings that he was responsible for since Earth Week in 1976 when he first began his quest to rehabilitate this area of land left that had been denuded and weed infested by coal mining operations from 1860 to 1890.
We were shown a large undercover worm farm that processes food scraps from the campers and garden off cuts and produces worm castings and liquid to feed the plants.
John had a story, and knew the history, of every plant. It was fascinating to learn how each tree, bush, climber and even small plant came to be growing at the Glenrock Scout Camp. Some were germinated and donated by local volunteers. Some were purchased by John either locally or from afar. Many were donated by interested people and he was helped by Newcastle Apex club. John described collecting plants on his travels, some from as far away as Western Australia. All the plantings are native and the variety is amazing. Many of the plantings have been done by the scouts visiting the camp; no doubt getting valuable lessons on caring for our environment in the process. Planning was meticulous to ensure the right plants for each of the 26 garden beds. John wanted plants that flower in rotation all year to attract bees and other insects and honeyeaters in order to provide food for birds and other native animals. John was setting up an ecosystem with careful thought and forward thinking.
We enjoyed observing the birdlife which flourishes in this setting. A highlight was seeing a large goanna foraging for dropped sausages. The goanna was completely unconcerned about us and knew that there would be good pickings to be had after the weekend campers had left. It was slightly disconcerting to discover that it seemed to be following us as we wound around the tracks listening to John describe the many grevilleas, tea trees, melaleucas, correas, trees and low growing bushes planted to stabilise the sloping site.
We continued past the lower section, alongside the waterway, again having descriptions of the many varieties of trees and bushes, to the more formal garden beds planted around the buildings. We were shown a memorial wall with plaques showing the names of donors and garden helpers. John finished up the garden tour by showing us his silver trowel presented to him by Gardening Australia when he was a state finalist and then the highlight - John brought out from his car the Golden Spade! John was the winner of Gardening Australia Gardener of the Year 2018! All of us at HOGS voted for him and we were delighted that he won this coveted award for the hard work he has done as a volunteer to create this wonderful native bushland garden over so many years. It was a great privilege to meet him and to hear his story.