Love of camping leads to obsession
Ten years ago they didn’t know a finch from a honeyeater, now they’re self confessed nature nerds who blog and post about the amazing plants and animals on their property.
Louise Nicholas and Michael Gooch bought a property in Clunes, Central Victoria, as a camping spot with money they’d originally intended as a deposit for a home. Little did they know it would spark an obsession for conservation and wildlife.
“We were complete novices when we first bought the place. When we saw the bark peeling from the wattle trees, we thought they’d been burnt by bushfires rather than it being the end of their natural lifecycle - we really didn’t know much,” Louise said. Despite their lack of knowledge they admit to being incredibly fortunate to buy land that had very few weeds and an abundance of native plants. The property has mature gum trees and a healthy understorey, which they think explains why it ‘just felt right’ when they bought it.
Michael said, “When Trust for Nature came out onto the block they said if we were lucky we might see three very rare bird species on it: the Swift Parrot, Diamond Firetail and Square-tailed Kite. We’ve seen all three now, it’s amazing. We bought our first pair of binoculars and we turned into obsessive birders.” This led to them publishing a website called Outside Four Walls https://www.outsidefourwalls.com/, and setting up a Facebook and Instagram account so they can share what they see. Louise said, “We get a lot out of sharing the information. The more people understand plants and animals the more they will value them and be interested in protecting them, whether they’re in a rural or urban area.”
They put a protective covenant on the property because they wanted it protected forever. Michael said they wanted the place to be looked after, regardless of changing policy. They don’t have children to pass the property onto and putting a covenant on it ensures it will be protected.
Louise said, “Trust for Nature really helped us learn about the different species on the block. Having a management plan mapped everything and made it easy to know what to do and how to do it over next 10 years.”
Putting a covenant on a property isn’t cheap - it can cost upwards of $30,000, including land management. However Trust for Nature generally doesn’t pass those costs onto landholders. Conservation on private land is our first priority, not whether a landholder can afford it or not. And it’s just as well. Louise and Michael said they would never have considered protecting the land if there was not a scheme to support their desire to permanently protect.
They’ve since bought another block in the Mallee with the intention to put a covenant on it and use it to run an eco tourism business. Louise said, “The first day we were on it, we saw a Malleefowl!” And so their obsession for conservation and wildlife continues.