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See Ipswich conservation estates in a new light when you walk in the dark

Thousands of people visit White Rock – Spring Mountain Conservation Estate each year, but few would have experienced it quite like this.

We’re rambling down a dark and rocky path, our vision limited to small circles of light at our feet.

Each step is careful concentration and in the hushed darkness your senses take in so much more. The smell of earth and eucalyptus, the rustle of branches in the breeze, the feel of rock and sand beneath your feet, the sparkling eyes of a tiny spider like green emeralds in the torchlight.

There are hundreds of people who experience White Rock-Spring Mountain Conservation Estate each week, but a guided moonlight walk with Ipswich City Council’s Conservation Visitor Management Officer Jody Gilbert offers something different.

The walk up to Gunpit Ridge was in the soft afternoon light, with Jody pointing out interesting facts and stories along the way. Here – a towering Queensland Blue Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) riddled with bullets from the days this land was used for training in WWI and WWII, the shrapnel saving the tree from being logged. And here – koala scat, and a story about how they use poo to mark their territories in breeding season. And over here – an endangered Ipswich herb Plectranthus habrophyllus with delicate purple blooms.

We make many of these discoveries off the main track as we climb up a rocky mountain bike trail. It leads to Gunpit Ridge, with a wide view of Ipswich’s eastern suburbs and the skyscrapers of Brisbane on the horizon. A short time later we return to the same spot, once darkness has fallen, and the scene is now a blaze of lights. We stop and take in the view, so enamoured we forget about the full moon hiding behind the clouds.

Then it’s time to strap on our headlamps and follow Jody back down that rocky path, our discoveries shrouded in darkness, but somehow we’re noticing so much more when there’s no option but to listen, smell and feel.

Ipswich City Council manages more than 6500ha of conservation estate. At the same time, nature-based recreation is growing rapidly in popularity.

A number counter at the Paperbark Flats picnic area of White Rock-Spring Mountain Conservation Estate tallied almost 28,000 people in a year. This figure doesn’t include people who access the estate from the Springfield or Logan entries.

At Ipswich’s conservation estates there is a balance between the protection of biodiversity and cultural values, and engaging with the thousands of visitors each year who come for activities ranging from trail runs to mountain bikes, bird watching to horse riding.

Jody’s official role of Conservation Visitor Management Officer was created earlier in response to those needs. It’s a multi-faceted role that includes initiatives such as the guided estate walks and classroom excursions, through to trail impact monitoring and collection of baseline data.

While this role is new, Jody is highly experienced with an extensive first-hand knowledge of Ipswich’s conservation estates. Through previous council roles she has done everything from vegetation management to biodiversity monitoring, collecting seeds to fencing, and from wildfire data collection to helping find lost walkers.

She’s also had a lifelong love for local native plants and conservation, ever since (as an eight-year-old girl) she identified her first native plant – a Lomandra hystrix (Mat Rush) on the banks of Woogaroo Creek.

“Conservation of our local natural areas is not just my job, but my passion,” she said.

“A highlight though is when I have the opportunity to engage with the public – I love being able to inspire others to appreciate and care for nature.”

5 ways to enjoy our conservation estates
  1. Download the Naeus Explore app – it’s free and full of important information such as track conditions, weather and GPS location. It also has a native plant identification feature which is handy on your smartphone
  2. Keep an eye on Ipswich City Council’s Facebook page for upcoming moonlight walks or stargazing adventures at White Rock-Spring Mountain Conservation Estate
  3. Take your camera or phone and get snapping – The 2018 Enviroplan Photo Competition winners have just been announced… but there’s always next year!
  4. Fuel up for your exploration with a barbecue or picnic at spots with great facilities like the Flinders Plum Picnic Area, Haig Street Quarry Reserve, and Denmark Hill Conservation Park
  5. Go camping at Harding’s Paddock. It’s the only bush camping opportunity within Ipswich’s natural reserves. It’s within the Flinders-Goolman Conservation Estate, which forms part of the largest remaining tract of lowland eucalyptus forest in southeast Queensland

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