Teaming up with community to restore a bushland haven

With the help of community volunteers, we’re undertaking vital conservation work to the bushland surrounding Marie Byles’ historic home in Cheltenham.

NSW’s first practising female solicitor, Marie Byles, was a founding member of the Buddhist Society and a passionate conservationist who built a unique home on the outskirts of Lane Cove National Park in the 1930s.

Her home, Ahimsa, is a small bushland property that still stands today, consisting of a simple sandstone cottage, a grotto, and a meditation hut that Byles called the ‘Hut of Happy Omen.’

It’s a peaceful site and in important example of Australian built heritage that has been cared for by the National Trust (NSW) since 1979. However invasive weeds and some cases of bushland vandalism have threatened the pristine bushland around Ahimsa.

Now the National Trust’s Bushland Management Services team has begun a monthly collaboration with community volunteers to regenerate Ahimsa’s bushland and preserve this special place of heritage for years to come.

The Hut of Happy Omen (left) and Marie Byles in her later years (right). Images: National Trust (NSW) Archives.

Doing no harm

Marie Byles named her home Ahimsa for the Buddhist virtue of nonviolence. The sign that still hangs on Ahimsa’s gate reads: “Ahimsa Bushlovers welcome, please don’t injure anything, bush is precious. The track goes through the grounds of Ahimsa which means do no harm.”

The property’s bushland is a haven for Eucalypts and Peppermint-Angophora Forest, and plays an important roll in acting as a buffer between urban development and the National Park.

The National Trust’s Bushland Management team is striving to preserve the area in accordance with the wishes of Marie Byles – doing no harm and regenerating native bushland with minimal intervention.

Invasive weeds (left) have been cleared from Ahimsa’s surrounding bushland. Peppermint-Angophora Forest (right) grows on the property and is a Critically Endangered Ecological Community in NSW.

The team meets up with local bushland volunteers and the Friends of Ahimsa community group for a joint bush regeneration effort. Work includes weeding and targeting invasive species according to the Bradley Method of minimal disturbance bush regeneration.

The group also looks after the property’s historic retaining walls and grotto, which are made from sandstone bush rocks and require regular care.

Daniel Adams, a Regional Manager of the National Trust’s Bushland Management Services, says the joint effort has already made a big impact on the site.

“Regular weed removal and community care is bringing the bushland back to what it once was,” he said. “This joint effort and culture of conservation is what Marie Byles strived to live her life by, and we’re proud to be contributing to that on-going practice and philosophy.”

The original gates (left) and grotto (right) at Ahimsa.

What’s next for Ahimsa

The joint bushcare team will next focus on restoring Ahimsa’s historic entrance gate to its original quality and design, as well as completing necessary maintenance throughout the property.

Daniel says they also hope to re-engage the property with events and bushwalks in the future so that the community can enjoy Ahimsa’s bushland heritage.

Find out more

The National Trust’s Bushland Management Services works on many projects to restore and enhance nature across New South Wales. Find out more about our Bushland Management Services.

Want to get involved?

We’re always looking for people to join the Bushland Management Services crew. If you have a passion for bush regeneration and enjoy working outdoors, contact us to find out how you can get involved in projects across Greater Sydney.