The Belalie Arts Society celebrates the Winter Solstice Picnic as a tribute to South Australia’s Bundaleer Forest


For 20 years, a group of artists and art lovers have gathered in Bundaleer Forest, 220 kilometers north of Adelaide, to pay homage to the winter solstice.

The shortest day of the year is celebrated across the world by different cultures, with rituals ranging from nude bathing on the beach to lantern festivals and bonfires.

For members of the Belalie Arts Society, it was not just the winter solstice, but a chance to seek creativity under the shade of the tall trees that marked the birthplace of Australian forestry, dating back to 1875.

The group held a three-day Bundaleer arts festival among towering ancient trees just south of Jamestown, where art and music mingle with nature.

They have held an annual picnic on the Sunday closest to the winter solstice to inspire new ideas for the next festival, and although the last festival was in 2013, members have always gathered in the ‘friendship.

Helen Pammenter says she was mesmerized by the light on the trees as the sun rose in Bundaleer Forest.(Provided: Helen Pammenter)

Aging members meant this year’s gathering was indoors at the Belalie Arts Society Gallery.

John Voumard said picnics were family occasions.

Winter rain and wine

“It was really an Australian-style take on it – coming together over a country barbecue with good wine and company,” Mr Voumard said.

“We established the tradition of having a fire and sitting by the carvings and just enjoying the Bundaleer forest, with a glass of mulled wine, in the mist, in a Drizabone.

“Children would wander through the forests after lunch, and parents tended to sit around the fire dreaming up big ideas of what we could do at the next Bundaleer festival event.

Older lady on the right painting a picture of tree trunks on the left.
Helen Pammenter, 94, has spent 25 years immersing herself in Bundaleer Forest trying to catch its light.(Provided: Helen Pammenter)

Artist Helen Pammenter, 94, has spent around 25 years trying to capture the beauty of the forest.

“I would often go down there at 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m.,” she said.

“The colors were just stunning first thing in the morning with the light shimmering through that huge canopy of trees, and then you have the contrast of the rich shade of the pine trees, standing by a beautiful white gum tree.”

Ms. Pammenter said she enjoyed the quietness of the forest.

“It’s the unexpected, the calm,” she said.

“The fact that I was there on my own and could really absorb the forest, and I found, as I progressed, that I needed to be outside for the ‘absorb, and I loved being there.

“It’s hard to capture the beauty without being there.

“I wanted others to realize what a beautiful place it was.”

mystical training

For 40 years, artist Cherry Wehrmann drove through the forest to her home, living in the shade of exotic and native trees.

She also painted many forest scenes.

Woman wearing glasses looking at camera, with brush in hand and painting on desk
Artist Cherry Wehrmann says she was inspired by Bundaleer Forest.(Supplied: Cherry Wehrmann)

“I’m inspired by light at certain times of the day. There’s shadows and light – it’s a little mystical, I guess,” Ms. Wehrmann said.

“My grandparents lived in Jamestown, and we used to come here for a drive when I was a kid.

Jenni Frost, who helped coordinate the Bundaleer festivals, said the Winter Solstice Picnic was a great relaxation and debriefing for members of the Society for the Arts in the Forest Environment.

“Even though it was the middle of winter and the shortest day and it could get very cold and wet, it was just a beautiful environment in nature to rethink and re-imagine what we were doing” , Ms. Frost said.

“The festival was in the forest. It blended into that environment.

People wearing beanies, scarves, standing around gum trees talking, some sitting on a sunny day.
The annual winter solstice gatherings have been the seat of new ideas for the Bundaleer festival.(Provided: Yvonne Woidt)

“It’s a special place.”

Winter solstice meetings were popular.

“I guess everyone hides a bit in the middle of winter, and when everyone was home, we would dare to go out and sit in the forest and warm our hands over a hot cup of tea. around a thermos and talking,” Ms. Frost said.

“It made it quite unique, and it was nurturing.”

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