St Thomas Aquinas Forestcare
Ecology, environment, bush regeneration, education, community, friendship, stewardship, nature, spirituality, love.(Project last updated 03 September 2003)
Place in Space: Australia: NSW: Blue Mountains
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The St Thomas Aquinas Forestcare Group was created to conserve, preserve, and regenerate the threatened and endangered forest community located adjacent to the St Thomas Aquinas Primary school. The school and the forest are located on the St Columba's property Springwood which is one of the hidden treasures of the Blue Mountains. Enclosed within its embrace are some of the richest and rarest features to be found in this beautiful World Heritage Area.
Historically St Columba's was purchased by the explorer William Lawson in 1839 and following on from this was owned by Sir Henry Parkes and then the Lord Mayor of Sydney Mr Samuel Lees. The stately homestead "Elmhurst" was built in 1894 and still stands today. Cardinal Moran of the Catholic Church purchased the property in 1908 and began the construction of grand sandstone training college for priests which was completed in 1909 and had its first enrolments in 1910. While the seminary closed in 1977 the building is still standing and is now used as a high school while the rest of the site houses the St Thomas Aquinas Church and Primary School and covers an area of approximately 500 hectares.
St Thomas Aquinas Primary school is ideally situated to appreciate and explore the visual, environmental and spiritual values the site has to offer. Extending along the schools Eastern edge is a forest that is a threatened and endangered ecological community namely Turpentine - Ironbark forest (Syncarpia glomulifera - Eucalyptus punctata).
This forest type is found growing on Wianamatta shale soils that are relatively fertile and on easy topography. The combination of these two features has meant that the forest has been extensively cleared for agriculture and housing. As such it is the most poorly conserved of all the major vegetation types in the Sydney and Blue Mountains regions. Of the original 35000ha in the County of Cumberland only 0.5% now remains. Remnants are few and the representation of this community in Blue Mountains National Park is very poor. None of the few remaining stands around Springwood are within the Park and are therefore very vulnerable to degradation and/or development.
The fertility of the shale based soil has meant that the forest next to St Thomas Aquinas Primary School has an incredibly rich biodiversity of plant species and also a certain degree of resilience to the impacts of the development around it. On the ground in the herb layer can be found dozens of native species. In fact in a 1sqm portion you are likely to find up to 20 different native species. Shrubs and trees are also highly diverse and perform many different functions in the landscape of the forest. The majesty and grandeur of the mature trees, some well over 150 years old, can only fill one with awe and wonder at God's creation.
The forest provides habitat for four rare and vulnerable fauna species namely the Powerful Owl, the Glossy Black Cockatoo, the Red Crowned Toadlet and also Microchiropteran Bats. The bushland supports many other animal and bird species. Inhabitants of the forest include galahs, rosellas, lorikeets, king parrots, kookaburras, wattlebirds, miners, bower birds, magpies, currawongs, ravens, and butcherbirds. Wallabies can be seen feeding in the area and the greater glider possum is also a resident in the forest.
St Thomas Aquinas Primary school is in the heart of this incredibly beautiful and spiritually powerful environment. This is truly a special place! A magical place to be experienced and enjoyed. A glorious place to be celebrated. A spiritual place to be cherished. Above all, this is a place that must be preserved and protected so that future generations also have the opportunity to marvel at the treasure of St Thomas Aquinas.
"God brought things into being in order that the divine goodness might be communicated to creatures and be represented by them. And because the divine goodness could not be adequately represented by one creature alone, God produced many and diverse creatures, that what was wanting in one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another. For goodness, which in God is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifest and divided. Thus the whole universe together participates in divine goodness more perfectly and represents it better than any single creature whatever."
St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
The protection and regeneration of the forest is achieved through regular bush regeneration days and through close communication with the Parish and the Primary school. The support of both the parish priest and the school principal are vital to the ongoing success of the group.
The St Thomas Aquinas Forestcare group meet in the forest on the first Saturday of each month from 9.30 till 12.30 and carry out bush regeneration activities while simultaneously solving most of the worlds problems.
A mandatory break for morning tea at 11am is enjoyed by all participants and allows for the full session of the UN(Forestcare Sub Committee) to sit together and ratify any decisions reached during the informal morning session.
The group has worked very hard to establish strong links with the primary school through providing educational tours of the forest to the students as well as manning a stall at the school fete.
The group is also well supported by the Blue Mountains City Council through their Landcare program which provides tools, training, and guidance in our activities in the forest.
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