Clarence River's very own island adventure
SPENDING Saturday morning on an island pursuing artistic endeavours may sound like the kind of exotic proposal you might associate with tourist-mad places like the Whitsundays or Tasmania, but a small group of Clarence creatives had the opportunity to do just that last weekend on our local rockstar land formation - Susan Island.
Artists were invited by the Friends of Susan and Elizabeth Island to join them on their monthly working bee trip across the Clarence to check out the bushland regeneration that has been going on across the 23ha reserve and be inspired by the island's rich surroundings.
Friend of the island and 53 Islands Festival co-founder Claire Aman said the island was a much more appealing place these days, slowly transformed by the many hours of volunteer work by a small group of local supporters.
"The whole island was virtually covered in vines. Volunteers would walk around curtain cutting them at eye level, one tree at a time. Some trees were close to dying when they were liberated. You could almost hear them breathing a sigh of relief and they just flourished from there."
Susan Island is a peaceful pocket nestled between two busy town centres offering visitors a different perspective both visually and aurally according to Ms Aman.
"There are none of the louder 'town' birds over here. You can hear the soft chirping and twittering of the island birds. It's a really beautiful sound."
Wayne Stevens from National Parks and Wildlife, who has also spent countless volunteer hours planting and weeding the island, took the visitors on a guided tour through some of the regenerated rainforest areas.
What Mr Stevens doesn't know about Susan Island isn't worth knowing given the encyclopedic information relayed every few metres along the walking trail.
He said they had planted about 3000 trees over the past few years as part of the regeneration process and pulled out more weeds than he cared to remember.
Mr Stevens was also responsible for keeping the walkways nicely manicured using nothing more than a push mower to clear the way.
"Everything we bring over here has to be able to come by small boat, so no ride-ons. What we do is like interior decorating which helps to keep the island accessible."
He pointed out a number of different tree species including black bean, red kamala and tulipwood. "The rarest stand of tulipwoods in New South Wales is found right here on this island."
Besides the artistic and educational facet to Saturday's trip to Susan Island, the opportunity was also about raising the profile of the Clarence Valley's river islands.
Ms Aman is also part of the 53 Islands project that is planning to hold its inaugural festival in October and she was very keen to get more people embracing our islands.
"We would obviously love more volunteers but we also want people to enjoy these amazing formations that are right here in our backyard."
For more information visit www.fb.com/53islands/