Horseshoe is lucky country

Conservation the new way at Horseshoe Top-End


Local Business Feature
FOR THE FUTURE: Teresa and Jim Connell say their grandchildren, from left to right - Matilda, Ruby and James - motivate them even more to continue to improve the vegetation and environment at Horseshoe Top-End.

FOR THE FUTURE: Teresa and Jim Connell say their grandchildren, from left to right - Matilda, Ruby and James - motivate them even more to continue to improve the vegetation and environment at Horseshoe Top-End.

Aa

Jim and Teresa Connell are committed to returning large sections of their Horseshoe Top-End property in the Southern Flinders Ranges to its former natural glory.

Aa

Bringing the land back to its natural state - or as close to it as possible - has pretty much no commercial value to Jim and Teresa Connell.

And they're fine with that.

The 2023 hectare Horseshoe Top-End sheep and tourism operation in the Southern Flinders Ranges is a "conservation work in progress', Jim says.

We've been doing revegetation for about 15 years with some genuine success and progress - Jim Connell

"We've been doing revegetation for about 15 years with some genuine success and progress,'' he says.

"We would like to try to fence an area in a way to fence out everything and obliterate cats and foxes and reintroduce some smaller animals.

"We could take in a lot of the remnant scrub area we have and some range country, and we could reintroduce a lot of bird life and smaller fauna.

"We've thrown a few things around like crowd funding but not thought seriously about it yet... it's one of those pipe dreams.''

Jim's comment about "pipe dreams" shouldn't have people think he and Teresa have even come close to stumbling in their efforts to return their slice of heaven due east of Quorn to its former glory.

They have in that time fenced in lots a total of more than 200 hectares, much of it remnant scrub and creek systems which are bounding back to life with species Wirrabara-based Greening Australia vegetation consultant Anne Brown gets excited about.

They are reducing their self-replacing Merino flock by up to 30 per cent from a capacity of about 1200. Currently at 600 and the core breeding stock as a result of prolonged conditions, Jim says he won't push his stock numbers with a firm commitment to revegetating more of his land.

We've actually got a block behind where we live that we stock lightly and it is surprising what returns there when you take stock off for just a little while. - JIM CONNELL

"We're at 600 at the moment, as a result of drought. We can run between 1000 and 1200 , but we're trying to cut that back to 800 big sheep so we can do more conservation,'' Jim says.

"If the price for wool wasn't good we probably would have sold all the stock at the end of last year. But we've kept the core breeding stock... there's no young sheep at all.

"I think it will be worth the effort again. We've had nearly 50mm of rain in May but we're crying out for another one. The cold weather isn't helping. We're still feeding sheep.

"It's a bit early to tell but I'm more of an optimist than a pessimist.

"If we can get some reasonable years and, in conjunction with tourism operations, we might be able to get something going along those lines of revegetation to get some of that smaller fauna returning,'' Jim says.

"We're aiming to cut our sheep numbers back around 25 to 30 per cent just so we can ease up on things. We've got schemes in mind where we run smaller paddocks and maybe try to run a different grazing system to encourage stock not to knock bush around... but we will probably have to plant the bush to make that all work.

"We've actually got a block behind where we live that we stock lightly and it is surprising what returns there when you take stock off for just a little while... just six to 12 months and it is surprising what comes up.''

Jim and Teresa can see the potential their conservation efforts have and point to a 200 hectare patch of remnant scrub, much of it fenced off, as an example of that potential.

Life gets busy and you raise kids and we haven't had a lot of time to do these things, let alone finance.' - JIM CONNELL

"That scrub was always uncleared from the time of 1870's settlement.

"When you get up on the ranges and you look into the Horseshoe, you think that all of the inside of that Horseshoe was like that heavy scrubland at some stage.... whereas out on the plains it was totally different, it was bush country.

"In 1921 there was a massive rain and it totally decimated the country and washed away a lot of top soil. That's when the majority of the damage in here happened.

"It would be impossible to try to bring it back to what it was but we thinking if we fenced off areas and worked at it we could maybe get some spots back to what it was like prior to European settlement.''

Keeping sheep off the country was one thing, Jim says, but the biggest challenge was proving to be halting the kangaroos.

"We've been inundated with roos in the past two years,'' he says.

"They've been streaming down from the north because of the dry... and emus too but they've not been that bad as they're not strong enough to climb the range.

"The goats are another mongrel also and we do try to get them out on a fairly regular basis... particularly when they're worth $10.30 a kilo.''

But there's more value in the conservation side of the Horseshoe Top-End operations than a few dollars for some feral goats... they're just not financial gains.

"I don't think there's any financial return,'' Jim says,''but it's like if you had a view over the ocean at Sydney Harbour, you'd get up in the morning and say: 'gee that's nice.'

"If you've done something to bring country back to , I know we'll never get it back to what it was, but if you get parcels back to something like it was, there's a great deal of satisfaction in that.''

NATURAL BEAUTY: Horseshoe Top-End already is a natural wonder, and the conservation efforts of the Conells is only impr0ving that status.

NATURAL BEAUTY: Horseshoe Top-End already is a natural wonder, and the conservation efforts of the Conells is only impr0ving that status.

He says he has always had a bit of a bent and fascination for local fauna and flora and has always been inspired to be a conservationist.

"Life gets busy and you raise kids and we haven't had a lot of time to do these things, let alone finance.''

Jim and Teresa both worked off the farm, Jim as a builder and Teresa for Tafe and the Australian Electoral Commission. They lived away from the property too, for their children to attend school in Wilmington.

"We've 'retired back to the farm','' Jim laughed.

And while their four adult children don't have an interest in either farming or tourism, one, Tim, has been a driving force on the conservation side of things, his parents say.

The conservation vibe also translates to their popular and sustainable tourism operations, which involves letting the old homestead out for accommodation and seven private campsites.

"We want the tourism side of things to be environmentally sustainable as well,'' Teresa says.

"The campsites are all private and at least 1km away, and there's also our 4WD tracks and bush walking trails... we've got one of the walking tracks through our revegetated areas so that's one of the advantages of our conservation efforts.

"And we buy in our firewood, asking people not to collect firewood. There's so many hollow logs that are just havens for little animals.

"It all helps towards the end game.''

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by