Scout Rovers Visit Jan 2023
Report from Kristen Lang, Mount Roland Land Care President
The so-called Apple Isle Moot, 2023, saw hundreds of Rovers from all over Australia converge in Tasmania from December 31st to January 8th. What’s a Rover, you say? The simplest definition is that a Rover is a Scout aged from 18 to 26. Not much is simple, however, about actually being a Scout. That’s not the idea at all. Fun, yes. Challenging, that too. A way to learn new skills, contribute positively, work and be together, and satisfy a taste for adventure. At a Moot, that all happens multiple times each day! In Tassie, the choices were to hike, cave, canyon, mountain bike, sail, dive, race, explore, and yes, to enjoy some Tassie Tastings as well.
What does all that have to do with Mount Roland Land Care? We were asked to provide an opportunity for some of the Rovers (those staying at Gowrie Park) to contribute to a community service (for us, read pro-environment) project. Perhaps a little like a carbon offset for their travels, though for Scouts, of course, giving back is an ongoing priority. It should be so for all us of. As a rule, not much scares Greg Taylor, or at least not so that you’d notice. He has a make-it-work attitude for anything he believes in, grabbing at the positives, noting the pitfalls, and driving ahead as best he can. But what do you do with, in our case, 80 Rovers when most people are on holiday, when it’s the wrong time of year to plant trees, and when, immediately beforehand, they’ll have just come down off the face track of Mount Roland?
This took some thinking. Weeding was on the agenda, but taking a look at them, we really didn’t have the heart. Some would definitely have been willing, and a few we couldn’t stop, but many were sore and tired of limb and just wanted to sit down awhile.
What we did for most of each 2-hour session (four sessions in total, 20 Rovers each time) was to ask them to look for life. To gently explore the stones and soil, the leaves and bark, the water and the air in the shade around O’Neill’s Creek, just opposite where the walking tracks start. The idea was that they would use a nifty app called iNaturalist to record their findings using their phones. That way, MRLC would be able to begin to build a picture of the ecosystem. This didn’t really happen – they did find lots of amazing, thrilling life, something new each time, and they did take some great photos, but very few of them actually uploaded their pictures onto iNaturalist (so much to see, so little time). If you go to iNaturalist.org and Explore “Gowrie Park, Tas”, you will still see several photos, many of which are the ones I took while preparing for the Scouts’ visit and a few of which were added by the Scouts themselves – a big wave of gratitude to those who found the time to contribute their findings. There are some others, too, from people just passing through, before and since.
Despite the lack of uploads, we did have a good time! Lots of quiet discovery. Lots of genuine appreciation. Lots of heads bent over the ID books that were available. If anyone knows of a good book on Tassy mosses, do let us know.
We followed this activity with a great sharing of Greg’s accumulated weed knowledge, a conversation many of the Rovers could relate to via their work back home and that many commented on as being well worthwhile. Greg was able to point at the bush around us that would now be weed-infested if not for the efforts of our group. He was able to demonstrate some simple methods of weed control and to talk about some fundamental biosecurity risks, our feet, our bikes and cars, our roadside slashers and heavy machinery, our furry friends too, all having the potential to spread weeds and disease from one place to another. It comes down to hygiene – keep your gear clean and don’t yourself be the carrier for the weeds and pathogens that can wholly disrupt the bush we love.
Oh, and there’s one thing I haven’t mentioned yet. We quickly learned that many of these Rovers were coming to us with a good deal of experience, ecologists, environmental managers and foresters among them, not to mention the cave guides, the academics and the engineers! Students too, of course, and a range of other workers and enthusiasts with an impressive list of life skills. As if we weren’t terrified enough about finding something useful and engaging for this intense mob of vital youth, we also had to work out how to not make total fools of ourselves. I, fortunately, had an excuse – I’m not a scientist, I confessed, I’m just a poet asking you to help us document a little of all this amazing life we’d love to look after (something anyone reading this can do too, by the way, just by installing iNaturalist and uploading your best photos so that we can all see the life you’ve found).
Greg went one step further, thanking them explicitly for what they were giving us just by being there, by showing us how good an engaged, adventurous, well-shared life can be. We’ll be talking about your visit for a while yet, Greg said, and for sure we will, imagining the lives they’ll each be carrying on with and hoping, too, that the small injection of our own care might in some ways travel with a few of them.
We wish all the Rovers well, send our thanks to the hard-working organisers of the Moot (a huge undertaking), and warmly look forward to future encounters with Scouts of all kinds, including our own Kentish Scout Group (they have a Facebook page – you could check them out).
For land and life, Kristen
(Mount Roland Land Care, January 2023)