I've been slow-reading Robert Macfarlane's “The old ways” since the beginning of the year, savouring his power of description and his rich vocabulary as he walks old land ways in England, Scotland, Palestine, the Himalayas; and traverses old sea ways in the Hebrides. My only complaint is that his paths are not Australian paths. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to encounter Australian old ways with John Blay who is working with Aboriginal communities in southern NSW to restore the Bundian Way, the ancient route linking Kosciusko to Eden, moth country to whale country.
As I contemplate the old ways of these two walkers, I realise that I too have my not-so-old ways, paths that my feet have walked many times in the last eight years. Things have changed on the headland tracks since I walked them last July. Some tracks have narrowed where the bushes erupted over them in a manic growing season. In other places big trees have toppled and new paths have shaped themselves around the edges. The spotted gum forest behind the lake, burnt a few years ago, is now clear beneath the trunks and easy to cross, following reverberative motor bike tracks. However the track in from the road, bulldozed to destruction a few years ago, taking out patches of geebungs and ti trees, a grand hakea and a solitary Banksia spinulosa, is undergrown with bracken. The brutality has done one service. Before the knocking down, I had to walk through thickly-woven swampy grass, on high alert for snakes, to get close to the banksia with giant flowers. Now I can stroll across levelled turf to admire the tall cylinders with their yellow coils.