The Alstonville Plateau (Ballina Byron hinterland) was home to what was known as the Big Scrub. Originally covering 75,000 hectares the lowland subtropical rainforest extended from Lismore, east to the edge of the coastal plain inland to Ballina and Meerschaum Vale and to the south of Nightcap, Goonengerry and Byron Bay in the north.
Extensive clearing by early European settlers in the 1840s for it’s unique timber properties and valuable pasture lands have now meant that only 1% of the rainforest remains. Sadly these last surviving sections cover an area of less than five hectares in area each and are less than 700 hectares in total. Waterways and reserves are constantly fighting a battle against choking grass and noxious weeds such as lantana.
So whilst most people were either hitting the beach or recovering from hangovers after their NYE festivities, my little household of ‘we-three’ (my hubby Karl, ‘three-nager’ toddler with attitude Jake Errol and myself armed with my Nikon D4) climbed into our Prado to begin exploring the area that was once the Big Scrub, starting with the Bexhill Quarry.
Not exactly a rainforest, but the Bexhill village was once originally apart of what formed the Big Scrub. The quarry and former brickworks now lay abandoned, full of brilliantly cobalt blue water. The water is amazingly crystal clear and looks refreshing inviting. However the bright blue colour is thought to have come from copper in the disturbed clay below. Not to mention elevated levels of Magnesium and Aluminium. Unsuitable for swimming, the water is unfortunately highly acidic and contains heavy metals.
Toscha Falls at Alstonville (Duck Creek) is a locally well know swimming spot.
Whian Whian falls are another extremely popular swimming hole. A little too popular!! When we arrived at the swimming hole, it was brimming with people seeking refuge from the heat and high 90% humidity (understandably). So ‘we three’ trekked further down to discover our own private cascade (above). This only gives me a reason to return and photograph this iconic area, midweek perhaps…
Last stop, Victoria Park nature reserve. Now surrounded by macadamia plantations, Victoria Park offers families and naturists the opportunity to walk along its pleasant boardwalk and experience a portion of the big scrubs flora, fauna and aboriginal history. This regenerated wildlife corridor now provides an essential haven for wildlife such as red-legged pademelons (Thylogate stigmatica), wompoo fruit dove (Ptilinopus magnificus), and eastern yellow breasted robins (Eopsaltria griseogularis).