The Last Walk
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
Captured memories of the lost Sugar Pine Walk, from the first to the last steps...
The iconic Sugar Pine Walk was located at Laurel Hill and was burned in the 2019-20 Dunn’s Road bushfires. The Sugar Pines are the tallest and most massive of all pine species and produce the longest cones of any conifer. Considered exotic in Australia as a native from North America, they were planted as a forestry industry trial in 1928. My hubbie took me on the site on a "date tour" when I came for my first visit in Oz and I have to admit I was very impressed. I grew up surrounded by various species of pine woodlands in Québec but this reminded me more about the giant forests of the Canadian and American west coast. He had just finished cutting a short film where he shot many scenes on the forest site. Back then, no one else (as we know) really used it as a filming location. The site became one of the most popular highlights of the region for years as there was no other place like this in Australia. Photographers have been traveling to capture the magic forest plantation, especially in winter when snowing. Cinematographic productions took interest in the Sugar Pine Walk, and the movie The Daughter (with Sam Neil and Geoffrey Rush) and fairy tale short Sweet Tooth (narrated by Cate Blanchett), have featured the forest on the big screen. The Sugar Pine Walk had been the muse of many photographers and filmmakers, and we are from those who participated in the immortalisation of this special place. In between rides from home in Tumbarumba and family farm in Batlow, we sometimes just stopped for a walk through the pines. Once stepping in the forest, time stopped, like a picture made through a lens. But there is no better souvenir than the ones taken with all our senses at 360 degrees.
BEYOND THE LENS
Captured in September 2019, this shot is a part of my team session with my partner "The Last Walk". It was selected as one of the 60 finalists by the Forestry Corporation of New South Wales in the Sugar Pine Walk commemorative photography competition. It also got published in the local paper and the Arbour Festival printed program, one-off recovery and arts festival, marking the anniversary of the 50 days of the Dunns Road fire.
FILM AND PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATION
In 2018, John Riddell, a local filmmaker-videographer, co-curator of Woodland Film Festival (and my husband) had been assigned to produce weekly clips about the Snowy Valleys region for a year. I’d been assisting him on few shoots and many times I had to play the visitor wandering around... On this one, about the Sugar Pine Walk, I also took his place at the camera and interviewing while he was the one speaking! This really sums up about the Sugar Pines Walk connection with photographers and filmmakers.
THE FOREST ART
I have not been painting much in the last years as photography has taken more of my creative interest. Sometimes this is what happens, it’s like a switch and I know some day I probably will go back to my brushes. One of my last series of watercolour and acrylic was inspired by the Sugar Pines. They were all painted from memory so I did not use any photos as a model. I am grateful the last of my Sugar Pines series, made a few years ago, have been selected for the "In us are the woods" art exhibition featuring artwork from local talents at b:Atelier in Batlow during Arbour Festival.
John and Annemarie's walk • © Marianne Fowler Photography 2015
ROMANCE AND FAIRY TALES
The way the trees were planted made the 500m walk feeling like a cathedral and many portrait and wedding photography sessions have occurred at the site. Our wedding was not in the pines, but our photographer, Marianne Fowler, convinced us to make a little detour from our "first look" at Brindabella Farmstay (also devastated by the bushfires) before heading to our ceremony location at the family farm in Batlow. I am glad she did!
The Last Walk in the Sugar Pines • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019
THE LAST WALK
These photographs were also taken on our last wander through the Sugar Pine Walk. During a power outage in Tumbarumba, on a cold and cloudy Sunday afternoon, we went for a drive and stopped in the forest. I took the opportunity to test a new camera lens in the hope to come back when the light would suit better to make the dream shot. This was on September 2019 and sadly I never had the chance to go back. Every present moment of life counts.
When family and friends came to visit us (this feels already like ages ago now since Covid) it was always a pleasure to take them to the peaceful Sugar Pine forest walk near us. Sadly, this won’t be possible in the future ... but visiting the Pilot Hill Arboretum, that survived the fires, is. It is located close by in the Bago State Forest and has a great variety of tree species from all over the world planted also for trial 100 years ago, and that includes some Sugar Pines!
I have not photographed or seen the dead forest of the Sugar Pine Walk after the fires, the black trees were unsafe and too sad… There was no point to go back and the trees are now removed. Unlike the Australian eucalyptus species, conifers are not regenerative after burning. The wood can be salvaged for timber processing and already some local artisans and woodworkers have made some great pieces with it. The forestry staff are developing a new visitor site as they kept seeds to propagate new trees and a sculpture trail is in progress to be installed. I have shared this collection of memories as my tribute to the lost Sugar Pines and my participation as a creative to the Arbour Festival in 2021.