For decades, 85-year-old Bob Deering has been hiking and exploring off the beaten track
Every birthday the spritely octogenarian scales the heights of Flinders Peak – a symbolic milestone to goad him on – and at least once a week he disappears into the 2,500ha wilderness of White Rock – Spring Mountain Conservation Estate.
There is no part of the ridges or gullies of White Rock – Spring Mountain he has not visited at some point in time, always careful not to leave a trace, even wiping out his footprints so he can see what other creatures inhabit the area while he is gone.
When he walks he takes in the detail, his photo album full of things the terrain has revealed over the decades – gnarled and interesting trees, special formations of swirled rock, hidden entrances to weathered caves, various wildlife and remnants from the estate’s military past including a few rare unexploded ordnances.
“I notice things that other people probably don’t,” he said.
Some of his vast knowledge and experience Mr Deering has written down or photographed, much of it is locked in his keen mind.
“You criss-cross all the time, trying to find a new way. And things you knew so intimately, little things, you forget about. Then you come across them again then you remember them. So far I’ve never had a problem with sense of direction.”
His meanderings through White Rock – Spring Mountain quite literally brought him into the path of Ipswich City Council’s Jody Gilbert – he was the “old bushwalker always popping out of the scrub” when Ms Gilbert was part of the council team maintaining the estate.
Mr Deering was impressed with Ms Gilbert’s enthusiasm for the estate, her interest in tapping into his extensive knowledge, and shared passion for making sure the estate’s natural values are protected for future generations.
“I haven’t seen anyone as keen as her,” he said.
There was often talk of exploring the estate together, but when Ms Gilbert took on the role of Conservation Visitor Management Officer she locked it in and the pair have spent recent days roaming the estate with Mr Deering sharing his stories.
Just as well, Mr Deering says, because he’s getting closer to 86 and “you can’t stop the wear and tear of time”.
Ms Gilbert has her own extensive knowledge of White Rock – Spring Mountain, but said she has been surprised at some of the discoveries that Mr Deering had unearthed.
One of those was a cave with an entrance well-hidden by wattle. Ms Gilbert also wanted to find a site where Mr Deering has evidence of a significant bat colony.
“We need to protect these sites, so if we know about the location we can monitor them and take action as required,” she said.
Alongside natural features, relics from the military and timber-getting eras are hidden in the estate.
“It’s also helping to preserve some of the military history of the place, and be able to share some of the stories on guided tours,” Ms Gilbert said.
“As part of Council’s estate management we can determine what needs conserving, what needs promoting, and what needs protecting.”
White Rock – Spring Mountain Conservation Estate remains sacred to the Traditional Owners of Ipswich.
It is a living cultural landscape where Traditional Owners can continue cultural practices and maintain connection to their country and ancestors through song, dance, language, stories and use of cultural and natural resources.
The Traditional Owners request that visitors respect their cultural beliefs and resist the temptation to climb to the summit of White Rock.