What is it like now?
It may have been 6 months + since the fires but the evidence of devastation is still there. Driving to destinations within the fire scar can still be confronting. Immediately after the fires, the surrounding landscape appeared apocalyptic but the Australian bush is resilient. Regeneration is happening but it will take time. It is awe inspiring to watch a landscape that appeared black and lifeless spring to life. After the recent rains, the grass is green, tree ferns in the gullies are emerging and blackened tree trunks are sprouting fluffy new growth. There is an ethereal beauty to be found amongst the fire scar.
The featured video from Adelaide Hills Wine Region has some great footage ...of before and after.
We have also watched our Little town come back to life after the fires. The support for our local businesses had been fantastic, with many more than usual visitors to our town, which is exactly what our local economy needs to rebuild. And then along came COVID-19...
We are acutely aware that there are people in our community who are hurting. It has been a challenging 6 months. Lobethal is still very much a 'country town' with a strong sense of community and is rising to the challenge. Many have been involved in helping others or volunteering during these difficult months and 1965 is no exception.
The Mill Road Corner Project
1965, through volunteering with the local community association, are supporting a bushfire recovery project which aims to establish a demonstration garden at the rear of the Mill. The 'Mill Road Pocket Forest Project' will showcase how home gardeners/property owners (including those who have been fire affected) can create a fire safer/fire retardant garden by:
(a) combining ornamental, exotic, native and local native plants and (b) using 'fire safer design' principles.The site will feature Interpretive signage and plants available to view 'in situ'
The project also aims to:
- create a beautiful entrance statement on the main tourism route between Lenswood and Lobethal;
- build community through engaging volunteers ;
- recognise and acknowledge the work of CFS volunteers in saving the mill and the town of Lobethal during the 2019 Cuddlee Creek Fires;
- incorporate artworks which tell the story of community experience of the 2019 Cuddlee Creek Fires and encourage reflection & healing.
The state heritage listed Onkaparinga Woollen Mill is an absolute treasure and if not for the significant efforts of the CFS. it would have been lost during the fires. The iconic red brick buildings and saw tooth roof have such a strong presence as you enter Lobethal. The new garden hopefully will help to protect the Mill should it be threatened by fires in the future. We look forward to seeing exciting changes on the Mill road corner over the next couple of years as the Pocket Forest grows.
Sometimes the only way to move on from the old is by focusing energy on the new.
Our Bushfire Action Plan has always been to leave and so that it what we did on December 20th when the Cuddlee Creek Bushfires threatened the town of Lobethal. There was far too much to do to feel fear. Adrenaline coursing through our veins and minds focused, we packed photos, laptops and enough clothes for a couple of days. Racing around like mad things, we soaked the garden and moved flammable items like wooden furniture away from the house. We had guests scheduled to leave our BNB that day and so alerted them of the fire and the safest roads to take home. My parents are elderly and no longer drive. They live locally and so we assisted them to evacuate too. We left Lobethal in a 2 car convoy.
The sound of sirens, helicopters circling and a huge cloud of black smoke shadowing the township created a sense of urgency. I remember thinking, 'we may not have a home or a town to return to....'
When we did return a few days later, we were confronted with scenes of devastation. It felt surreal. The place we live had changed irrevocably. The air was heavy with the acrid smell of smoke, the bush was eerily silent and the landscape blackened. Houses on the perimeter of the townships had burnt to the ground. It looked and felt like a warzone. Slowly the heart breaking stories emerged of lost homes, burnt farms, impacted livelihoods.
Long time friends had a vineyard & winery totally destroyed. People were hurting and our community was collectively in shock. But there was also a sense of camaraderie in the hills community. We had been under siege and survived.
In Lobethal, within 24 hours and prior to any official response, a group of local volunteers had mobilised and set up a relief centre to support those in immediate need. Some people had lost everything and our community came together to support them. People helped in whatever way they could. Our Bed and Breakfast '1965 Lobethal' in the main street of Lobethal wasn't directly impacted by the fires which meant the 1965 house was available to a family who had lost their home whilst they organised something more long term.
We are proud of how our little community responded to the fires. Now as we deal with COVID we are reminded of the need for resilience, the ability to innovate and to live with a sense of grace.