A passion to restore the land

Michelle and Fletcher Bakewell are careful custodians of Deep Creek at Darraweit Guim.

Robert Hall

As a kid, Fletcher Bakewell dreamed of owning a bit of land he could restore, a canvas on which he could help nature to flourish and bring back the integrity of the land. 

Safari stories from his father’s childhood in Kenya and Tanzania had planted a seed, and he learned about the bush through his father’s work in outdoor education in schools. But while he loved the natural world, he didn’t just want to look at it – he wanted to rejuvenate damaged land. 

“I always wanted to have something where we could give back to nature. It’s just spectacular. How could you not want to have that in your life?” 

He fell hard for 200,000 acres north of Mildura, and when that dream faded, was drawn to 600 acres near the Grampians. Finally, opportunity and financial reality landed him a 10-acre property on Deep Creek at Darraweit Guim. 

The 50 degree escarpment down to Deep Creek was a canvas primed and waiting when Fletcher and his wife, Michelle, moved onto their property. Rows of gorse, hawthorn, sweet briar rose, blackberry and teasel – the work began! 

As they cleared the weeds, they planted native species, 30,000 trees and shrubs across the escarpment and broader property. 

They have had losses with bushfires but hungry wallabies have been their most determined destroyer. With little other vegetation around, their plantings proved irresistible. 

“One day they were so desperate to get in there, they actually did the Fosbury flop and managed to get over the (exclusion) fence,” Fletcher said. 

But Fletcher and Michelle refined their plant protection, testing and retesting different versions of tree guards and exclusion plots until they are now getting 80-90 per cent success. 

Years of work have transformed a weed-infested and neglected parcel of land into an indigenous bird and animal paradise. Their property has become an example for others to follow. 

What keeps them going? 

“I don’t want to give up. I want to keep adding to nature,” Fletcher said. 

The big payoff, said Michelle, was “the birds….. they have come in now because we’re planting up. Plant the indigenous stuff”. 

Michelle summed up how they both felt about the creek: “There’s always something different…it’s always evolving and changing. That’s what I love about it. Having a river through a property, you’re just gifted. It’s something so special…it’s part of this beautiful landscape we live in and it’s a really unique Australian landscape. Just take care of it.” 

– See www.creekstories.net for more stories like this.