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When I retired as Principal of Norlane West Primary School in 1993, the children gave me a beautiful paperweight with the theme ‘A pearl of the deep awaits discovery’. Although I didn’t take up deep sea diving, I have adopted this motif and have over the years explored the very special natural environment of Aireys Inlet, Fairhaven, Eastern View and of course Moggs Creek my home since 1995.
It was on the ridge between Moggs Creek and Fairhaven in 1990 that I had an experience that has certainly influenced the focus of my retirement years. My sister Kathie and I were exploring the ridge when we stumbled upon some very small red and white flowers growing in an open area amongst the heathland plants. We were amazed and thrilled to learn that these little flowers were indeed ground orchids – Hare Orchids Leptoceras menziesii attractive little orchids that usually only flower after fire.
Suddenly a whole new world was at our feet awaiting discovery.
After this introduction to the world of terrestrial orchids, Kathie and I delved into orchid hunting and research. We found out that a very special orchid Merrans Sun Orchid Thelymitra merraniae had been discovered in Moggs Creek in 1929 and had been missing presumed extinct for many years. Armed with historical records and local knowledge, Kathie and I ventured out in search of the orchid and were delighted to find it growing near the Timbarra estate in 1992. Our discovery set the orchid world abuzz with many photographers keen to capture an image of this special orchid. Since then Merrans Sun Orchid has occasionally been seen in other places including Fairhaven, Urquhart Bluff and Anglesea.
Sadly my sister Kathie died unexpectedly in 1994 and since that time I have immersed myself in the flora of the area in particular the native orchids. With Everett Foster from the Geelong branch of the Australasian Native Orchid Society, Mary D. White from Anglesea and my friends from ANGAIR and the Friends of Eastern Otways I have walked the bush tracks and reserves becoming familiar with the orchids and flowers of Anglesea and Aireys Inlet and taking photos for books that I have written about the local flora. In 1998 I was privileged to discover an orchid endemic to Anglesea, Angahook Fingers Caladenia maritima.
Since coming to live at Moggs Creek my life has been an exciting one. I have been heavily involved in natural history, conservation and education – sharing the knowledge I have gained with primary school children, secondary school and university students, community and conservation groups, individuals and international visitors.
I was thrilled to receive the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2015 for my services to conservation. I don’t need awards for my achievements, but it is satisfying to know that one’s efforts are recognised. While I haven’t become a deep sea diver I have become deeply involved in exploring the natural world in which we are privileged to live.