Pondering about human impact on the landscape

I’ve been asking myself how much European settlement of the area around Oatlands has impacted on the landscape.   Was the land was totally forested and then cleared by white settlers?.    

J. Lycett. The Table Mountain from the end of Jericho Plains, Van Dieman’s Land, 1825. National Library of Australia https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135712140

Before settlement the land supported First Australians with plentiful game, fish and edible plants.  The landscape and biodiversity would have been so different to what they were accustomed to.  Not to mention that many convicts, soldiers and later settlers would have come from the tail end of a Georgian urban environment.

I have started to explore the region and the vista is green rolling hills and sheep.   Travel a little further afield and the hills become quite steep and heavily treed with high canopies and an understory of flowering wattle.  (I was thrilled to see a pair of yellow tailed black cockatoos on one drive.)

General reading has led me to discover that parts of the Southern Midlands were naturally quite open and lightly treed and that firestick burning to clear areas by First Australians enhanced this.  Records from 1811 refer to “very fine extensive plains” and “rich fertile country”.  In fact, it was clear enough that the first cart is said to have travelled through it in 1809.

By 1824 all land in the southern midlands was taken up by white settlers.   This didn’t occur without conflict and Oatlands has a darker side to its colonial history and many First Nations People where forced out , killed or subsequently relocated (exiled) to an Island in the Bass Strait. More on the Black Line later.

As I’m writing I look out my window and see blackbirds and mynas – birds which came with European colonization.  The emu native to Tasmania is now extinct; its extinction is attributed to the impact of additional hunting by white settlers.  A water colour by William Porden Kay (below) depicts emus at Stanley during the 1840s. (Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania).

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