Bushland and Countryside

In Australia, we refer to natural countryside as "bushland", or more commonly,"the bush" while in England it's "the countryside", or just "the country". Each had, and still has, its own unique characteristics, as do all countries. But many of these are slowly being lost as the population grows and more land is needed for housing, industry and infrastructure.

As a boy, in England I was able to walk with my friends down country lanes that passed beside cornfields and other farm features. There were small woodlands where the ground was covered in springtime with bluebells, daisys, forget-me-nots and other flowers that we would pick and take home for Mum to place in a vase, or make into chains to hang around our necks.
Collecting blackberries and mushrooms in nearby fields were popular activities too, both as groups of kids sharing time together and as family activities, and walks along country roads sometimes resulted in a bag of "conkers" (horse chestnuts) which were used for games (see the Recreation page for more on this).
In season, some nearby farms produced apples and pears. In windy weather some of the fruit would fall to the ground, and it was considered ok for kids to take these "windfalls". Sometimes the wind was given a little help. We would tuck our jumpers inside our belts and stuff the fruit inside our jumpers to carry home.


Picture of kids enjoyed sailing a raft

A stream in our neighbourhood was wide enough and deep enough to allow the older kids to ride home-made canoes or rafts, and to become pirates or explorers for a time. It also had an area of willow trees that was great for gang huts and for playing cowboys and indians, and the willow branches were ideal for making bows and arrows and catapults.
There were areas where we could ride toboggans down snow-covered slopes in the winter time, or we could build snowmen and have snowball fights in the street near our homes, without worrying about traffic. Snow is still snow, so kids, being kids, can still enjoy this, but playing in the street can be hazardous unless it's a small cul-de-sac.

There were streams and ponds where we could catch tadpoles and frogs, and occasionally newts. There were rabbits, hares, foxes and tortoises, and a huge variety of birds, as well as insects and butterflies. Sadly, we didn't always treat the wildlife with the respect it deserved. Birds eggs were collected and "blown" then placed in display boxes. Butterflies and moths were captured and impailed to mount on a board for exhibiting. At the time all of these seemed like reasonable activities, though I cringe now at the memories.

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When I look now at the areas we visited and played in, I see the grass banks of the stream are carefully manicured, with concrete footpaths to allow easy strolling. The river has been straightened and given a clean-out to make the water flow more readily. Some of the willow trees are still there, but I imagine cutting branches would bring the wrath of the Council on your head!

Frogs and newts are less common in the area now, as are birds and non-domestic animals due to population growth and the spread and pollution that inevitably follows this.



Picture of our camping spot in the Bush at Hay, New South Wales Picture of the huge root system of a Moreton Bay fig tree

In Australia, there's much more opportunity to visit pristine land, though the natural bushland around our cities and towns is constantly receding.
Farms that raise sheep or cattle are referred to as sheep or cattle stations, and these can cover several thousand square kilometers (a square kilometer is about 250 acres). These have treed areas and dams within them for shade and water, and may have natural bushland as well. Sheep and cattle compete with kangaroos for vegetation and water, and station-owners try to control these by culling them or erecting fences.

Picture of a water hole. These needed to be checked for dangerous objects, 
including crocodiles in certain locations, before swimming in them

Natural bushland has a wide variety of features. There are rocky ravines, rivers, dry river beds, deserts, scrubland and forest areas, as well as large grassy areas. Dry river beds often have pools of water left in them, referred to as billabongs (see the Waltzing Matilda page for more), and these are the gathering place for birds and other wildlife in the area, as well as sheep and cattle.

There are several dangers in the Australian bush, including (but not limited to, as they say) snakes, scorpions, spiders, and, in the northern areas, crocodiles. Shark and crocodile attacks are becoming more frequent as people venture further into their territories, but controlled areas are reasonably safe as they are patrolled and sectioned off to keep the predators out.

Please submit your own memories of visits to the Countryside or bush when you were young.


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