“I’m a Bush Legend.” Said with more gratitude than hubris, Peter Thorn slings his cricket bat over his shoulder and marches out onto the “Field of Dreams” he built at the foot of the picturesque Porongurups, fitting the title he has just blurted as well as anyone in this series to date. But it is far more than a bush cricket arena that Mr Thorn will leave as his legacy. Without him and his keen conservationism, at a time when his stance was truly critical, WA may not have some of the iconic nature playgrounds it enjoys today. “I’ve had an amazing life,” Mr Thorn crowed. “I just love the bush and I wanted to preserve it. It was a big part of my life. I get up in the morning, I’m 94, and I say I’m the luckiest man alive . . . and I’ll get to 100, too.” Still soaking up nature’s views at his postcard-like Oyster Harbour home near Albany, Mr Thorn has looked back on a life that included being a major driver of one of WA’s first significant conservation movements and directly helping save what has become the popular Greenmount National Park. While the acknowledged founder of the Tree Society of WA is Mabel Talbot, the then-president of the Perth Women’s Service Guild and who chaired the first society meeting in 1956, Mr Thorn is documented as one of its most emphatic contributors. An extraordinary success in igniting a pathway that still glows brightly today, even by 1968 it had grown to 600 branches and more than 30,000 members. Mr Thorn’s work with the society led to his honour in 1999 of an Order of Australia Medal for his service to conservation and the environment. He also helped build a floral tourism giant as a member of the State’s Wildflower Committee and was instrumental, along with WA’s Olympic golden girl Shirley de la Hunty, in setting up the WA branch of the National Trust. WA author Max Hipkins even dedicated his comprehensive history of the society, published in 2021, exclusively to Mr Thorn. The inaugural president of the society’s Midland-Guilford branch before taking over as overall leader in 1959, Mr Thorn would revel in lobbying WA premiers such at Bert Hawke, David Brand and Ross McLarty in the name of conservation. But it was his relationship with the man who helped him develop those inside State Government contacts, his father and then-Lands Minister, Lindsay Thorn, that remains a fascination. “I remember telling him that 25 per cent of all land subdivided should be left as bush,” Mr Thorn said of his former wood-cutter father. “But they couldn’t do it and people only had to leave five per cent uncleared. I didn’t win that one, but we got along well.” Mr Thorn’s son Mike said even the family found it an extraordinary father-son relationship. “Back then, I don’t think conservation was in anyone’s mind, it was just, ‘Clear the bush’,” Mike said. “You’re looking at clearing for industrial-scale agriculture versus preservation of some of the most unique flora in the world. They were from two different eras, really. “I have genuine respect and admiration for what my father achieved and I’m deeply involved in the Porongurups because of the way he showed us the land.” Lindsay Thorn was one of the first to produce a vineyard in the Swan Valley after returning from World War I service in Egypt and France. Life on that lush land built in his son a love for nature, and once he scaled the Stirlings and Porongurups for the first time as a teenager in 1945 with his YMCA mates, he was hooked on its beauty for life. “From that time on, I wanted to climb every peak,” he said. But it was not until 44 years later in in 1989 that he and second wife Lesley decided to leave their Helena Valley home and make the permanent tree change to Porongurup, where they paid $110,000 for their dream Millinup property. “We walked up the hill there and I could see she was pretty impressed,” he crooned. “Lesley said, ‘We’d have to buy this wouldn’t we?’ and I just said, ‘I’ll see’.” Sadly, as their passion for the place grew, Lesley died from cancer aged just 54 in 1994 and her ashes are buried at one of her favourite shady spots on the rolling Millinup property. “She was just an amazing woman,” Mr Thorn said. “She was an artist, a horse rider . . . (she) could kill me when we played squash and she could play golf. She was an ‘amazing everything’.” The cricket pitch remains a key feature of what was their dream home, where Mike still lives. Mr Thorn paid $200 for a grader to level the gravelly ground, $1200 for his pitch and three bottles of good red wine to Slater Gartrell Sports to cover it with astro turf. A spin bowler who played cricket for more than 60 years, he prides himself on the ground designed to make it difficult for batsmen to hit him for six. Mike, a groundbreaking hang-glider, said he had high hopes for people to bring more teams to the ground for social matches, promising an experience they will never forget. It has regularly hosted local teams such as the Wood Burners, the Swamp Rats, the Muck Rakers, and one — without a funky name — from the small town of Elleker about 60 kilometres away. “It’s unique in the world and I just want as many cricketers to share in the joy of being here as possible,” Mike said. “Even when the Ashes come, we’d love to see the Barmy Army here. All comers are welcome and it doesn’t even matter if you can play cricket or not, you’ll enjoy the view.” An ode to “The magic of social cricket”, penned by Mike, hangs in the boundary-side marquee. “This game of cricket and how it brings people together just for the fun of sport,” part of it reads. “It ensures life most certainly doesn’t come to naught (unless you are out for a duck).” Mike said his father’s conservation bent meant that he was taken to some of WA’s most spectacular places during an adventurous childhood. But he just loved his current home. “I consider the Porongurups a feminine mountain range,” he said. “It’s got beautiful, voluptuous curves on the granite domes, it’s got beautiful high karri forest and lush undergrowth and it’s all so accessible for walking. “It’s a fascinating adventure playground and just 25km away is a completely different range (the Stirlings), which is hard and masculine.” Bush Legends became aware of Mr Thorn’s extensive feats through an email from his granddaughter Sophie, who pondered whether he would indeed qualify for the title. “He has achieved so much in his life,” Sophie wrote. “I would love to see him recognised in the newspaper as he is truly a national treasure.” It took only a little research to answer Sophie’s question on her grandfather’s Bush Legends validity. She said he was a multi-faceted grandfather she truly adored. “He’s the salt of the earth, a true original, a classic man,” she said. “He’s tender-hearted, playful and artistic and he’s no ‘one’ thing. He’s a person who has changed, evolved and grown throughout the different chapters of his life and we’ve always had a bond and related strongly. “We both love adventures, we are obsessed with having fun, we have high ideals and we are at our happiest when we are building relationships and sharing ideas. Growing up I have always felt his love, presence and support, and he inspired me to dream big. “Most of all, we love each other’s company. He makes me laugh with his old-fashioned sayings and his hilarious mannerisms and cheeky humour. I feel valued and loved whenever I am with him.” Mr Thorn laughed when he recalled how far away he was from being a Bush Legend when he started in his first job as a city teenager, delivering letters along St George’s Terrace. “By the time I’d turned 16, I’d worn out three pairs of shoes on St George’s Terrace,” he laughed. “I wasn’t much of a Bush Legend then.” Well, Mr Thorn, you are now.