The beauty of Belltrees

Belltrees is a property of over 120 hectares nestled below the cliffs of The Great Escarpment on the mid north coast of NSW. The Belltrees conservation agreement is one of the first agreements established with the BCT back in 2018. Since purchasing the property in 1983, owner Mike Richardson has dedicated almost 40 years to clearing invasive species from the 101-hectare valley of subtropical rainforest.

In particular, the removal of lantana (by hand!) has allowed the rainforest canopy to recover and has seen the emergence of bangalow palms (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana), red cedars (Toona ciliatava. Australis), and black booyongs (Argyrodendron actinophyllum).

In addition to the stunning rainforest, the 101-hectare agreement protects the Lansdowne Escarpment, the rock face of which is home to a variety of orchids, ferns, vines and rock figs. The caves beneath provide the perfect habitat for microbats to roost and breed in. Some of the other mammals found on the property include the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), mountain brushtail possum (Trichosurus Cunningham), eastern spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) and long nosed bandicoot (Perameles nasuta). Monitors, water dragons and pythons are common, and on the very rare occasion Mike has spotted a platypus in the creek that runs through the property.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Belltrees is the 132 species of birds that have been recorded here. From his kitchen window alone, Mike can spot king parrots (Alisterus scapularis), red browed finches (Neochmia temporalis), golden whistlers (Pachycephala pectoralis), white throated treecreepers (Cormobates leucophaea), spotted pardalotes (Pardalotus punctatus) and wompoo pigeons (Ptilinopus magnificus). Nest boxes and hides scattered throughout the property make it a bird watcher’s dream!

Under the conservation agreement Mike entered with the BCT, his property became eligible for grant funding which he has used to help rehabilitate extensive areas of rainforest through control of soil erosion and weeds. More importantly however, Mike’s conservation agreement ensures that his dedication, diligence and care will not be undone and this oasis of biodiversity will be protected for generations to come.

Recently, Belltrees hosted several students from nearby Manning Valley Anglican College for an educational field day as part of the BCT’s Conservation Champions schools’ program. Through this program, kids in regional communities can learn about the importance of biodiversity conservation in their local landscape, participating in engaging activities in the classroom, online and out in nature.

After a day at Belltrees learning about private land conservation from Mike and BCT staff, students reflected:

"Seeing this beautiful place and the honest work put into preserving such a precious environment, it inspires us all to continue this commitment of maintaining biodiversity and working alongside the spectacles of the natural world we live in".

The staff at the BCT echo these thoughts and thank Mike for his lifelong contribution to conservation.

To read more about Belltrees and the work Mike has been doing in the conservation area, visit the Belltrees website.