WHEN the late Ralph Illidge cleared a small patch of virgin forest at Naringal East in the late 1950s, he was surprised to see the potoroos and bandicoots that emerged after the dust settled.
Field naturalists friends soon convinced the photographer he would enjoy the land’s natural setting more than pursuing any ambition to produce beef and the bulldozer made no more incursions into the 44 hectares (110 acres) of remnant vegetation off the Cobden-Warrnambool Road.
Mr Illidge grew to love the bush’s magnificent flora and fauna and, to ensure it remained as a sanctuary, he arranged for it to be donated to the Trust for Nature after his death in 1975.
Friends of Ralph Illidge Sanctuary president Shirley Duffield said the block’s wildlife included red-necked and black wallabies, ring-tailed possums, a pair of powerful owls, koalas and the mice-like antechinus.
For more than 30 years the forest had been maintained by the friends group, which has developed walking tracks and other visitor facilities.
The public will have an opportunity to hear about the sanctuary’s flora and fauna on guided tours to be held on Saturday as part of the trust’s Spring into Nature open days.
Miss Duffield said the open day would include an 11am tour of the original sanctuary, previously owned by Mr Illidge, and a 1pm tour of a 49-hectare (120-acre) block across the road that had since been acquired by the trust with the help of district and state government contributions.
The area was burnt in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires and the tour will show the results of natural regeneration.
A free lunch will be available and people interested in taking part should book with Miss Duffield on 55 662 319 or to Kevin Sparrow on email@example.com by Monday, October 14.
The Ralph Illidge Sanctuary is located at 44 Halfords Road, Naringal East.