In his nature

When it comes to understanding the natural history of this region, nobody lives and breathes it more than Bill Dowling.

Bill Dowling has more than a home in this valley, he has a history going back four generations. More importantly he has a profundity of knowledge of the nature of this place, an intimacy with the pulse of this land and all that lives and breathes here. For him this gives ‘home’ a deeper meaning. This is the land of the Gringai people, the valleys that tumble from the Barrington plateau and flow southwards through Gresford and Dungog. The spirituality of the Gringai’s connection to their country is something beyond words; but for Bill his rootedness in the Williams valley allows him some small sense of what it was for them. The Dowling family has been here since before 1830 but Bill is the first in the family to see far beyond the farmland, the town, the comfort of a rural community. Bill is most at ease in the forest and because he knows and understands this wildness, it holds no fear for him; to the contrary, it’s his place of contentment. Aloneness suits him well. Aloneness here, among the Blue Gums, Brush Box, Coachwoods and Water Vines, is rowdy company. For Bill everything here has something to say. It is such a chatter of species and community, and anything fresh to his experience shouts at him. Bill has no formal education in natural history, but in childhood he began collecting. Starting with his mother’s household pins he set butterflies and beetles and cicadas on plywood. He then advanced to proper entomological pins and cork. On an assignment at Dungog Central School in the 1950s his collection outshone those of his 30-odd classmates by a country mile. Already he had a Vocation.

Read more in issue 93 of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine
Story and Photography: Ken Rubeli