PARK WATCH June 2018 |

Karena Goldfinch is one of the Knitting Nannas of Toolangi, a group of women peacefully and creatively protesting against the destruction of our beautiful native forests.

Standing at the base of this magnificent mountain ash tree in Toolangi, that had somehow been spared from the chainsaws, we wondered what it would take to create a full-sized tree knitting project. A colourful installation to honour these beautiful, large old trees, both those still standing and those felled?

At the heart of The Great Tree Project is the need to highlight the importance of these trees that are in decline due to logging and fire.

Left alone these trees can stand for more than 250 years and provide habitat for our iconic wildlife, if let to grow for long enough.

But the scale and frequency of logging in the Central Highlands of Victoria has seen these areas of large old trees being converted to stands of young regrowth. These ‘high rise homes for wildlife’ are presently being targeted by the logging industry for paper, pallets and a smaller amount of timber. Trees are being logged before they are old enough to form hollows.

This particular tree is close to the entrance of a logged coupe called ‘Rusty’ in Sylvia Creek Road, Toolangi. The Rusty coupe was logged in 2013 after a long campaign to try and save it from being logged. This was a huge loss as ‘Rusty’ contained 101 hollow bearing trees, is at the base of Mt St Leonard and is situated on the main tourism access road. Along with other groups and individuals we fought hard to stop this logging. Eventually, in a minor and mostly pointless concession to conservationists, most of the hollow bearing trees were saved from the chainsaws and the coupe was not subjected to a post logging burn. Retaining only these old large trees while subsequently logging the surrounding area usually means that wildlife eventually perish due to loss of habitat.

A recent survey has shown no sightings of the wildlife that once called these trees home.

Now, five years later, we gather underneath this towering mountain ash to talk about a new project.

Our vision is to knit a life-size tree, to show our love for these gentle giants. It will not be yarn-bombing as such (the practice of covering objects in public places with decorative knitted material), but just as striking. The Great Tree Project will, when completed, be an 80-metre long tree silhouette placed along the ground in a prominent public position to be seen by as many people as possible. We are calling on knitters to stitch hundreds of pieces that will be sewn together to create an impressive piece.

The Knitting Nannas of Toolangi formed in early 2013, to bear witness to the industrial clearfell logging that was taking place on our doorstep, a practice that has seen the destruction of the mountain ash forests of the Central Highlands of Victoria. Communities in the Rubicon, Strathbogies, Noojee and Mirboo North have been speaking out against the logging of places they hold dear. One way we choose to do so is to express our care and concern through creativity – and knitting needles!

The Great Tree Project has been enthusiastically received at festivals and events, and we aim to take it ‘on the road’ to many of the regional communities that are appalled to see the forests they love devastated by logging.

Get knitting with us and join our efforts to protect our beautiful forests.

Instructions for knitting the tree

Using size 4 needles, and 8 ply wool cast on 40 stitches and knit in garter stitch, stocking stitch, or whatever combination of stitches you prefer.

Experiment with combinations of colour, or just knit one solid colour. (We delved into our stash of wool and have been using up wool from unfinished projects.)

Continue knitting until your piece measures 100 centimetres and cast off. We will then sew them together to form the tree.

Post to:
The Great Tree Project
PO Box 115
St Andrews 3761

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