'Sheltered Earth: La Gerche'

These oil paintings are inspired by a unique local woodland. I return there often. The La Gerche forest walk, in Creswick. has a nurturing, replenishing spirit. Your feet fall softly on the leaf-carpeted floor, and you hear only birds and the breeze through tree-tops. Light falls brightly through canopies of green, and in the autumn the richness of colour is around you is intoxicating. This forest was planted by a man who loved trees, and devoted much of his life to planting, growing and protecting them. French farmer John La Gerche began to create this place 125 years ago; distressed by the digging and scouring of the earth, what he called 'the slaughter of trees' during the gold rush, he strove to repopulate the land with families of trees from wherever he could obtain them, creating a wild arboretum of astonishing beauty. Though he included not just native but European species and others in his devoted revivification of the area over many years, it is atmospheric and mesmerizing, as most forests are, and a haven for birds. It also gives protection to the land and soil, and helps us all to breathe.