Man and nature

If the three conditions of happiness are someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to, then this weekend will satisfy the last of these conditions Sunday marks the beginning of the offseason training program for a small but committed bunch of runners from Brunswick Athletics Club, in preparation for the following seasons inter-club track and field competition.

Athletes from the Brunswick Athletics club have been pounding the tracks that lace the You Yang Ranges Regional Park since the 1960’s. A time when Fred Williams was providing his interpretations of the landscape through the media of oil and canvass. My own love affair with the place started 20 years ago. My introduction came on a morning so dense with fog that I had no idea we were approaching them until we turned into the main entrance car park. In such conditions, the landscape is much softer to the eye. I have only been once in summer and was affronted by the harshness of the environment. I didn’t enjoy the occasion at all.

As with any time honoured ritual imagery serves as a powerful tool in the ordering of time. The more one becomes acquainted with the bush, the more he becomes attuned to its rhythms. His affinity with nature may not be obvious, however it exists and given adequate exposure is readily tapped. Like a friend seldom seen, changes to its appearance are duly noted. Not known for my powers of observation in urban environs I am amazed at my sensitivity to even small changes to the environs of the park. I speculate on the climate of the preceding summer by observing visual cues such as water level in the billabongs that dot the landscape, the density of the understory, the depth of the channels gouged into the walking tracks and the coarseness of the corrugations in the roads.

Not all the changes are a result of natures work. Human intervention has altered the landscape too. Some of these interventions have caused irreversible damage to the park. At around the time Fred Williams was painting his You Yangs scenes, scientists were trialling an introduced species of plant call bone seed , supposedly to reduce the effects of erosion that had been blighting the park at the time. A noble intention that caused far more harm than good. Today, bone seed has rendered sections of the park impenetrable.

Other human interventions, more insidious but no less impacting, are the installation of sign post and the upgrading of public amenities. Combined with the increased usage of the park for events and competitions, these constructions have caused a spike human activity at the park. It appears our collective desire to escape the city on weekends for the sanctuary of the bush has perversely resulted in us simply migrating our inner city sensibilities to a remote location. On any given Sunday vans can be seen shuttling mountain bikes up to stock yards via the great circle road, for the benefit of those capable in mind only of making the ascent.

Juxtaposed to the relentless activity at the You Yangs is ‘the boat’. ‘The boat’ is a hulking mass of concrete, which greets those passing through Little River on their way to the park. Such is its notoriety, it has been referred to in the local media on at least one occasion that I’m aware of. It is claimed ‘the boat’ can be seen on Google Earth. It sits in the backyard of a residential property stoically braving the elements as it has done for longer than I, my coach and more than likely Fred Williams care to remember. Rain aside, I’m doubtful it will ever see water, such is the pace of its construction.

I want to believe the boatbuilder is mocking us. In a world hellbent on progress at all costs, he has presented us with a monument dedicated to procrastination. A snub to progress. A position, that if adopted by the scientists and bureaucrats whom have a shared but fleeting interest in its environment, may have seen the park in a healthier state than it is today. What changes are in store this season? I’m at odds to predict. What I’m reasonable certain of is, ‘the boat’ trapped in its phase of semi- completion, will be there to remind me of my list half finished projects.

I’ll see you on Sunday!


  1. Thanks Mark. I enjoyed your reflections upon your evolving relationship with this special place.

    It reminded me of how much I love fog. I haven’t seen any for a while, but I do enjoy sea fog, and once every few years we get some down at Glenelg in Adelaide. It’s amazing, and instructive as to nature’s ability to surprise.


  2. Steve Hodder says

    how are the legs? Could you run the pants of an emu or a Port Adelaide midfielder? My didn’t they run on Saturday night?


  3. Mark Trezise says

    I might have given ’em a better run than the Hawthorn midfield mate. As for the emu- no chance!

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