Frederick Henry Bay: Seven Mile and Five Mile Beaches

Most of the sand on the world’s beaches consists of two minerals, feldspar and quartz.   They are particularly stable and that makes them especially durable.  Take a peek at sand through a microscope and you’ll see that the grains look like tiny pebbles bigger than silt, smaller than gravel, many hued, transparent quartz, weathered smooth, pulverised and polished over the millenia.  They form the unique, mobile fingerprint of the beach, created by the swish and swash of waves, tides and seafloor shape, gradient and cover.  They may wash more or less straight up on to the beach or away from it, or be carried there by longshore drift, arriving at an angle, a part of the shifting sediment carried along by the coast-shaping sea.  

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Seven Mile Beach (T397) 

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Acton Creek meets Seven Mile Beach

Seven Mile Beach, mostly southeast facing, is 15 km from Hobart and is pretty much the closest surf beach to the city.  The waves aren’t usually much more than a metre here, but they’ve travelled across about 20 km of Frederick Henry Bay to break on this seven mile long beach backed by homes at the western end and a beach reserve further east.  There’s a road behind the dunes and the reserve.  It’s dirt up the eastern end, bitumen down west.

One of the most obvious features of this beach is the unhappy pine plantation that extends behind it and encroaches on the dunes but if you’re standing on the beach it’s the great sweep of sand and the views across Frederick Henry Bay that are the most compelling.

What’s not so obvious when you’re on the beach itself is that it is a massive ‘sand spit that traverses the axis of the eroded Coal River Valley rift’ (Leaman, 1999), where once back in time there were twenty active volcanoes.  In this valley early settlers found skinny seams of coal, enough to inspire hope that quickly collapsed into disappointment.

We’ve come to this beach when the tide has been so high it’s been right up to the marram infested, undercut dunes and there’s been insufficent beach for a walk.  We’ve come on extreme lows when the beach’s width and a sunny sky has made it particularly inviting and horses, dogs, swimmers and beach umbrellas have given it a festive air. You don’t want for space here.  This beach allows everyone to disperse along its generous length.  Some people seem to make use of the dunes to disperse with clothing altogether, but in Tasmania the sun has a sharp edge and can end up being a painful experience for delicate extremeties.

This is a go to beach for cycling at low tide when the sand is hard and you can fly along its length all the way out to Sandy Point where Pitt Water, a 3,500 ha barrier estuary spills into the bay and Seven Mile Beach and Five Mile Beach meet.  This beach system they’re both a part of has actually built out 1 to 2 km seaward, according to Short (2006), ‘as a series of more than 50 low foredune ridges which have subsequently been transgressed by dune activity that increases to the east.’  It’s on this barrier land feature that the pines were planted and Hobart’s airport built, so a particular Seven Mile Beach experience is planes landing and taking off low overhead.  Pitt Water-Orielton Lagoon is one of Tasmania’s ten Ramsar wetlands and provides refuge for threatened species, both avian and botanical.

Sandy Point and Five and Seven Mile Beaches
Looking across Pitt Water to Sandy Point where Seven Mile and Five Mile Beaches meet.  Photo taken on  Tiger Head Beach, Dodges Ferry

From Sandy Point you can see Lewisham on Pitt Water’s eastern shore, a skinny community of houses that traces the shoreline of this estuarine lagoon with the community of Dodges Ferry at the mouth. Looking west to the far end of Seven Mile Beach where the walk around Single Hill ended is actually the best known part of the beach.  The hill, the houses and Acton Creek give it an intimacy the rest of the beach lacks.  The thin western finger of the small township broadens out eastwards and the houses start extending inland across that ancient but shallow barrier dune system.

Seven Mile beach from the Sandy Point or eastern end
Ripple marks on Seven Mile Beach.  The darker lines are caused by heavier minerals or organic matter trapped in the shallow troughs

Five Mile Beach

This is no beach for a bike.  As a Ramsar site it’s the domain of shorebirds.   I came here with the geo on a spring low tide that hadn’t receded as much as we’d have liked. There’s a track behind the beach that meanders through pine forest, then turns to follow the Pitt Water coast.  True forests uplift and Tasmania has magnificent ones that provide this kind of experience, but plantations cast a desolate atmosphere both sad and disturbing.

In his book The hidden lives of trees: what they feel, how they communicate – discoveries from a secret world, forester Peter Wohlleben  discusses the various ways trees suffer in plantations. Communicating via electrical impulses and chemical messages with various fungi as support networks the lives of trees is worth getting to know about.  A monoculture isn’t healthy and doesn’t make for happy, healthy trees.

Five Mile Beach on Pittwater Lagoon, looking towards Sandy Point
Five Mile Beach on Pittwater Lagoon, looking towards Sandy Point

We didn’t complete this walk.  I hadn’t read this book yet, but the atmosphere was so unedifying that it stilled conversation and dampened our mood.  At a certain point we stopped and reluctantly agreed that we found the damaged dunes and miserable trees (upended in places, and ravaged by the sirex wasp)  too disheartening, particularly when we imagined what the dune system was like before human interference.

We found a way on to the beach via a pathway through the eroded dunes and because the tide had receded further out by then we could walk along the shallows enjoying the occasional presence of a few shorebirds.  Crabs beginning to emerge from their burrows and apart from the sad sight of  trees that had fallen with the collapsing dunes the view of Pitt Water was a whole lot better.

A combined Seven Mile and Five Mile Walk: CCC brochure

Tip:  If you’re planning on walking Five Mile Beach, wait for a spring low tide.

Frederick Henry Bay: Lauderdale’s May’s Point to Seven Mile Beach along Roches Beach and Single Hill

Roches With Gritted Teeth

We couldn’t have chosen a worst day for our walk.  It was snowing on the mountain, raining in town and the best the temperature could manage was a measely 7 degrees centigrade.

Cathy reminded me that we had stoic Scottish blood coursing our veins; I kept secret my preference for a sauna.  Our hardiness extended only so far and we agreed to leave one car at Seven Mile Beach.  That done we sought out a Lauderdale cafe to psych ourselves up for the miserable walk ahead.

Our cafe on the western side of the suburb had a view across Ralphs Bay on the Derwent River  to the city and the mountain and from the table we’d chosen beside the wood heater we looked out at water chaotic with white caps.  Kunanyi, normally dominating the western horizon, had vanished,  the wind was loud and I was pretty damned glad I wasn’t sailing.

‘We had hardy ancestors,’ said Cathy firmly.

‘There might not be much beach to walk on,’ I suggested in a faint voice.  It looked to me like the conditions had whipped up a higher than usual tide.

Lauderdale is a largely low lying suburb that takes in the isthmus where the South Arm Peninsula begins and straddles Frederick Henry Bay in the east and the Derwent River in the west. Back in the early 1900s there had been enthusiasm for a canal that would reduce the distance to Hobart for the shipping of farm produce, much like the Dunally canal further north saves yachts the trip around the Tasman Peninsula today.  But work was hampered by the First World War  and when they got down to business in 1924 storms made it apparent breakwaters would be needed on Roches Beach to prevent silting.  Too expensive, the decision makers concluded and the project was abandoned, leaving a 1 km canal that doesn’t quite reach the beach and is hardly visible at the Ralphs Bay end (Alexander). Later I discovered that the layer of sand in this area is skimpy.  It covers over two hundred metres of clay, sandy clay and boulder beds that filled in the ‘eroded, ancient rift valley landscape as sea level rose.’ (Leaman, 1999).

The two most significant bumps in its landscape are Richardson’s Hill with May’s Point below it at the southern end of Roches Beach and Single Hill to its north.  Our walk was to begin below the first and take us around the second – but the weather was so truly terrible that we prevaricated by driving slowly up Richardsons Hill and then slowly back down to Roches Beach, slowly parking the car close to May’s Point and slowly donning extra thermals and wet weather gear before braving the lashing rain.

We began walking down the beach in a most unhardy manner.  The tide was indeed high, the work of the stormy south westerly, but at least the wind was at our backs. Slowly our Scottish blood began exerting itself and snug in all our layers we got our stride up and congratulated ourselves for defying the weather.

Lauderdale takes its name from Ann and Robert Mather’s Ralphs Bay farm, Lauderdale Park.  They were early settlers and their inspiration was Lauder, Robert’s birthplace near Berwick-upon-Tweed in Scotland. When it comes to hardiness Ann totally put us to shame, ‘raising her children and managing an unwilling convict workforce’ on this isolated farm (Clarence City Council).  By the 1950s settler hardiness had given way to hedonism and holiday shacks began filling in the landscape.  These days it’s suburban homes fronting up to the dunes along this 3.5 km section of the beach, their gardens spilling out into the public reserve.

Shells on Roches
Beach assemblage both human and natural

The narrow beach sloped steeply that day and the waves were slapping at the dunes in some places, undercutting them and threatening to saturate our ankles, so we decided to see if we could find a track behind the beach and for a while picked our way through undergrowth and escapee plants. This high sea also had us discussing Lauderdale’s vulnerability to storm surges and sea level rise, much like its southern neighbour, Cremorne.  The isthmus isn’t much above sea level and the small dunes along Roches are already compromised by human impacts.  We also spent considerable time discussing whether we were walking one beach or several and what, if anything they were called. Later I referred to the guru, Andrew Short, who in his inventory referred to Roches Beach as a 5 km stretch of increasingly wider beaches lying between Mays Point and Single Hill, although actually 3 and 4 narrow again, we found. For the record, he called them Roches Beach and then Roches Beach North 1, 2, 3 and 4 but the locals probably have different names for them.

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The beach makes another curve at Bambra Reef and begins to broaden

We passed Bambra Point and its reef as the weather began clearing and reached the part of the beach that Cathy most loves because it holds memories of regular visits with her children when they were little.  She pointed out the shelter provided by the trees and Epping Park Reserve behind the dunes and took me up there to take a peek at Lauderdale Yacht Club, the base for catamaran sailing in Hobart.  Later, reading David Leaman’s Walk into History (1999) I learned that there are some brilliant examples of Permian rocks in this area.  Also, right at this point on a low tide you can see the irregular roof of the main Jurassic dolerite intrusion.  (If you want to know why the dolerite in this area is great for giving you an idea of the gigantic intrusions dominating central and eastern Tasmania  pick up a copy of this book and take a stroll here – it’s definitely worth it.)

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Not just any old rock.

Single Hill and North Roches Beach (T 398)

We passed the sailing club and the boat ramp and took the path leading up Single Hill, that singular landmark as you fly into Hobart. Initially we walked below big houses I hadn’t known existed and at the base of the hill Roaches Beach (N3) aka Short’s T399, a narrow 50m ribbon of sand and rock, that is a continuation of Roches Beach N2 aka T400 was being bashed by waves.

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On Single Hill with Richardson’s Hill, Cremorne and Cape Deslacs in the distance and the Tasman Peninsula in the distance

We were walking amongst eucalypts and she-oaks following  what is really pretty much a contour path with a lovely sandstone bridge.

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Walking Single Hill

Cathy pointed out the most northern beach below us (T398). There were steep steps leading down to it but we continued on around the hill, stopping every now and then to take in the sweeping views of Frederick Henry Bay and the Tasman Peninsula.   But if you’re keen on geology this little beach is definitely worth a visit because according to Leaman the Permian rich siltstone here is rich in fossils.  Far away over the bay we saw enormous waves breaking on a point we struggled to identify. Eventually the path turned towards Seven Mile Beach and we gradually descended on to the sand.

T 397 Seven Mile Beach (southern corner)

There are shacks clustered in the corner beneath the hill south of where picturesque Acton River enters the beach.  A small flock of ducks were enjoying it as we crossed the wooden bridge.

The walk had taken roughly 3 hours but I was enthralled by it and so the next Saturday I was back with my friend Rosemary White, who had sore knees and wanted an easy walk.  This time, with an impeccable blue sky and far kinder weather we walked it the other way around, from Seven Mile to Launderdale.

Again, the beautiful creek at Seven Mile, and again the expectant flock of ducks.  Walking this way there were points where it seemed we were trailing the edge of a great bay with a relatively small opening.  Identifying landmarks was difficult but our geographic guesses were confirmed by a local we encountered, walking alone with his radio tuned in to the racing.

Reaching Roches we turned and walked Roches N3, pausing to examine the small butterfly shaped shells that had washed up everywhere on the sand.

Kayaking Single Hill

Still not done with this area  I brought others to walk it and keen to explore Roches N4 I paddled around Single Hill from Seven Mile Beach to Lauderdale.  It’s a short paddle but (small confession) when the wind came up my enthusiasm for paddling to May’s evaporated and I pulled in early.

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Calm moments off Single Hill and Roches Beach N4

 

Frederick Henry Bay: Cremorne Beach to Lauderdale

Walking Swathes of Yellow

There are homes on the low dunes backing Cremorne beach and behind them the small community stretches across the flat land in the elbow between the beach and Pipeclay Lagoon.  These reaches of Moomairemener land were first reshaped into farmland by the McCauley family who arrived in 1804 and ran cattle and sheep.  They also grew potatoes, barley and beans.  These days it’s a small community of permanent residents and holidaymakers; a place unspoilt by the inappropriate development that marrs so many other beachside villages although there is currently a developer who would really like to try.  I for one hope this community holds out against greed.

Cremorne Beach looking south
Cremorne Beach with Pipeclay Lagoon in the distance

Pipeclay Lagoon

Cremorne benefits from Pipeclay Lagoon, an enclosed, tidal body of water  that separates it from Clifton to the south.  I discovered, when I kayaked it, that it is shallow and that I’d chosen the perfect way to enjoy its serenity. There are oyster farms here and along its margins there are 45 ha of saltmarsh wetlands, protected to some extent by coastal reserve and the attentions of the Wildcare Deslacs Group, but also threatened by changes in tidal flows, habitat disturbance, unmanaged tracks and roads, ditches and litter.

One of the first farms on the banks of the lagoon was Waterloo Farm, owned by Captain Busby and his wife Mary.  When John Morrisby bought it from Mary he developed orchards of apples, pears, apricots and cherries and grew peas and root crops between the rows, enriching the alluvial soils with seaweed.  There’s a rare eucalypt (Eucalyptus Morrisbyi) that grows in this area and it takes its name from this farming family, who eventually sold, the subdivided land along the waterfront and lagoon giving way to weekenders.

Today, on the Cremorne side of the lagoon there is a narrow road squeezed between backyard fences and the shore.  It runs down to a tapering of beach beside the lagoon’s channel to the sea.  Four dolphins came through this channel earlier this year and stranded but for walkers it’s a good place to begin exploring the short, narrow beach.

Cremorne Beach (T405)

The beach has a domesticated feel because of the houses on the low dunes, but this is deceptive. When there are storm surges such as there were in 2010 and 2011, the waves have been known to undercut sections of the dunes and there have been a number of dramas at sea off this coastline.

Cathy and I came to Cremorne hoping to find a track we thought might exist at the northern end of the beach. It was a cold day, the tide was out and rain threatened but quite quickly we had walked the kilometer or so along the sand. Ahead of us was the steepish, yellowish slope of Calverts Hill, much of which was owned in the early days of the colony by Elias Grimsey, whose neighbour for a while was the  Rev Knopwood’s adopted daughter, Elizabeth.

Calverts Hill and Cremorne North (Beach T404)

We quickly found the track and walked quite easily across hillsides of tall yellow grass, coming across a small cove  about ten minutes into the walk. Beach T 404 is a short 50m pocket beach that looked to be mainly cobbles  trapped by the cliffs that are some 30m high.  It’s also only accessible from the sea and apparently at times sand fills it to form a low tide made terrace.

Most of Calverts Hill is reserve, perhaps to protect the endangered Eucalyptus morrisbyi which  is in decline, but fortunately there are people who care.

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On Calverts Hill

For a while we followed a fence line and then we descended down to the rocks and most of our walk ended up taking place just above the waterline as the path curved around one undulating hillside after another.   We idled along, discussing the rock formations we encountered.  The sea was quiet and rain was visible in the distance.  There were good views over Sloping Island to the Tasman Peninsula.

We passed five pied oyster catchers standing quietly on the rocks. We passed a couple of pacific gulls and then a shag standing very still on a pole, imbuing the mood of the day. It was hard to gauge how far we still had to walk.

Mays Beach (T403)

I was keen to reach Mays Beach because I had only ever seen it from the top of Richardson’s (aka Nobs) Hill and from there it seemed unattainable down at the bottom of the steep slope, separated from the road by private land, but as we rounded Calverts Hill on our walk the land flattened out and there before us was the beach, occupied just then by a flock of about twenty plovers.

We were fascinated to discover a small number of houses in the bush behind us, but they’re so tucked away that we couldn’t easily discern any driveways or even a road and as we crossed the beach we puzzled over their means of access – down Richardson’s Hill or from somewhere to the south?

This walk had taken about 2.5 hours and we were yearning for lunch and racing the approaching rain. Still, while Cathy explored the hillside looking for the path, I walked along the kilometre long curve of beach, crossing a spine of rock that divided it into two sections to its conclusion at Mays Point, where there is a right hand break.

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Mays Beach viewed from the point at the northern end

Richardson’s Hill

The hill is 79 m high but the good news is that the track is well made and links the beach to the top of the hill where the private road begins behind a gate.  We literally ran up it to reach the car we’d had the foresight to park at the top.  We had finished just in time – the temperature was dropping and the rain slammed down on us just as we got there.

One of us was digging about frantically in pockets but to no avail.  The car and its  keys were separated by the distance of our walk.  All thoughts of lunch in a cosy café faded.  Wildly we surveyed the landscape beneath us for a shortcut back to Cremorne but faced with what looked like a lot of private land we didn’t like our chances and so we set off back down the hill at a trot, laughing over our misadventure.

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The view from the top of Richardson’s Hill

Listen to the locals tell you what they love about Cremorne and help support them in their fight against Inappropriate Development.

Further reading:  The Cremorne community website 

Frederick Henry Bay: South Arm Peninsula: Cape Deslacs

A Different Sense of Direction:  the intimacy of Sea and Soil

Clifton Beach LOOKING TO CAPE DESLACS-2
Clifton Beach and Cape Deslacs

It seems so long ago now, but during summer, shortly after friends told me they’d seen thousands of shearwaters from their yacht as they were crossing Frederick Henry Bay, we came to Cape Deslacs one evening to watch the shearwaters return to their burrows.

It seemed to me that this, really is the best way to experience the cape – as a  refuge for these well travelled birds and so rather than wander its tracks or follow  its roads, we sought out the viewing platform.

I’d once seen  large flocks of Short-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus tenuirostris)  rafting in Port Davey and I’d seen the very first of them return one year from their long migration down the latitudes to Fisher Island, a tiny granite island in the Great Dog Island Group between Flinders and Cape Barren Islands. Those Fisher Island birds have been the subject of a longitudinal monitoring program extending back to the 1950s and because they return literally to the day, we were there when the leaders arrived.  A scratching in the soil the next morning gave their presence away.

Although I’d read that they could be seen rafting off Taroona I’d rarely seen any on the Derwent River but when returning from Recherche Bay on Samos we saw for the first time in the D’Entrecasteaux a flock of perhaps two hundred winging their way down the Channel.  I’ve been unlucky because these long winged birds are Australia’s most numerous seabirds and while there are no longer flocks of many millions, as the explorer, Matthew Flinders  in 1798 asserted he’d seen, the flocks are large enough still to create awe when you see them.

The track to the platform led through native bushland.  The day was already darkening and gradually the stars came out.  In total there were  four of us stargazing on the platform, our sense of self miniaturised by the Milky Way and the looming sky.  All around Tasmania and especially around the Bass Strait islands great flocks of shearwaters were on their way home to their burrows but when the first dark shadows flitted overhead we thought at first that they might have been bats.

Aborigines believed they wintered behind the moon.  That’s apparently how they got the name ‘moon bird’.  They make a good meal and taste like sheep and so they’re more commonly called  ‘mutton birds’. They might migrate almost the length of the globe on those metre long wings and swim proficiently with those webbed feet, and for a bird have a keen sense of smell, but they are so inelegant at landing that you swear they must sustain bruises.  They are renowned for their  excellent time management and for their magnificent sense of direction.  They set off at the end of each Northern summer from the waters off Japan, Siberia and Alaska, barely, if ever making landfall, honing in on their tiny burrow at the far ends of the earth.

They partner  for life (mostly), lay their single egg at the end of the November  and watch it crack open in January. Then they take turns minding their one and only, feeding it up until it’s double their size. Come April they fly north without it and abandoned, wandering about and testing their wings, the chicks don’t eat.  They tone down, feather up and intuitively follow their parents north a few weeks later in May.

Shearwaters are predators at sea and on land they are prey.  The snakes that inhabit some Bass Strait islands rely almost wholly on the  chicks for sustenance.  It’s a physically close and terrible relationship.  They are also commercially harvested for feathers, oil and meat and the traditional mutton bird harvesting practised by Aboriginal Australians continues.  Modern life has thrown in further difficulties.  Think gill nets and plastic, habitat loss and feral predators like cats.

That night on the cape the sky was soon awash with birds cascading down through the air.  It was awesome.  It was impossible to count them.  There was a profound sense of a community returning, of lives lived with purpose and capability, of birds bringing their oceanic experience back with them and deep down into their burrows within the earthy skin of the cape.

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There is a circuit walk you can do on the cape.

For more on Short-tailed Shearwaters and pictures of these unassuming but talented birds see:

Birdlife

Tasmania.  Parks and Wildlife Service.  Short-tailed Shearwater, Puffinus tenuirostris

Frederick Henry Bay: Clifton Beach (T408)

Cape Contrariety to Cape Deslacs

 

Clifton Beach LOOKING TO CAPE DESLACS
Clifton Beach

After slithering down off Cape Contrariety we took off our shoes, Cathy and I, and walked barefoot along the swash, quickly leaving behind the small groups of swimmers and surfers taking advantage of sunny weather. Soon we had the whole beach to ourselves and forgot completely about the existence of the low lying houses between the beach and Pipe Clay Lagoon, except for when we paused to study the sand dunes, their shape steeply altered by marram grass, their mass being gnawed away at by the sea. The dunes extend about 300m inland and reach a height of about 20 m (Short, 2006) and amongst the native bush growing on their backs is Acacia longifolia and the threatened species Cynoglossum australe.  These Cape Deslacs/Clifton Beach dune fields are a geoconservation site of state significance, and Clifton’s Frederick Henry Bay beach alignment is also considered significant.

Especially along some parts of Bicheno Street the houses here are regarded as being at early risk from sea level rise (Sharples, 2009) and sea level rise will of course impact coastal values too and destroy the dune habitat the Clifton Beach community is currently working to preserve.

We studied the ripple marks and read the southerly swell, counting numerous rips and we observed that apart from a lone juvenile Pacific Gull studying our progress this popular beach, facing south- southeast into Frederick Henry and towards Storm Bay was  that day devoid of birds.

When we reached the end we lingered and with a little assistance from Memory Maps pointed out to each other the landmarks we were observing to the south and then we turned our attention to the cliffs at the base of  Cape Deslacs taking stabs in the dark about the pale rock, before guessing at sandstone.  Later I read that there have been numerous drownings at this northern area of the beach, so it’s a wise swimmer who stays within the flags down the southern end.

Our efforts at amateur geology ending in uncertainty, we walked back down the beach contemplating a stroll around the lagoon on a future low tide and pondering the difficulties Cape Deslacs might pose for our exploring.

 

Further Reading:

Sharples, C.  2009. Climate change impacts on Clarence coastal areas.  Clarence City Council, Clarence.

Short, Andrew. 2006.  Beaches of the Tasmanian coast & islands: a guide to their nature, characteristics, surf and safety.  Sydney University Press, Sydney.

 

Tasflora. 2012.  Clifton Beach Coastal Reserve: reserve activity plan 2012-2016, draft  (revision 3): advice prepared by Tasflora for Clarence City Council. Unpublished report.

Frederick Henry Bay: Cape Contrariety

Clifton Beach FRAMED
Clifton Beach and Pipe Clay Lagoon viewed from Cape Contrierity

Tiptoeing Along a Cliff Edge

Zooming in with Google Earth I thought I spied a couple of small beaches north of Smugglers Cove and the light tracing of a path through what looked to be a nature reserve. It was enough to convince us that it was worth trying to tackle the cape from Clifton Beach on the northern side and so on a sunny day at low tide, while people swam  between the flags and surfers lolled on their boards beyond the break Cathy and I scrutinised the dunes and the cliffs at the southern end of the beach and found a path that led up a steep gully.  With an eye out for snakes, we scrambled up it, trusting our weight to the branches of a couple of conveniently located bushes.

There was a narrow strip at the top between  the ‘keep out’ barbed wire fencing and casurinas rimming the high cliffs, some of which had fallen away. Peering over the edge we could see their broken pieces tumbled down against the sea.

We found a path, but it looked wallaby made and we meandered on and off it making a difficult passage over and under vegetation, sometimes trusting to the generosity of land owners by slipping over the fenceline to where the walking was easier. In one memorable spot, we had pretty well a foot wide space of sky we needed to cross. I avoided looking down. The drop was horrible, but Cathy skipped over it oblivious to Death’s outstretched hands.

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Our tardy progress was made even slower because the views were compelling and so we’d stop, point out landmarks we were confident about and speculate about those we weren’t.

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Clifton Beach and Cape Deslacs.  Tasman Peninsula is visible across Frederick Henry Bay

We finally found ourselves on the far end of the casurina copse, gazing down a long slope of golden grass and up the slope on the other side. There was no clear path and it had the look of large expanses of private land.  With a couple of households dotting the cape, we decided to avoid rebuke and reluctantly turned back, walking single file.   Cathy quietly observed  the tail of a snake disappearing down a hole between us, so we were pretty pleased to reach the beach unbitten, and as the day was still young and the beach glorious, we decided to take an amble to the cliffs below Cape Deslacs.

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The interplay of land and water made the walk worthwhile

Not much has been written about this cape, but on Placenames Tasmania I discovered that D’Entrecasteaux had noted this name on his voyages of discovery and that it had another as well – Watsons Bluff.  Watson was definitely no lady because  it’s my observation that places get named after men, rarely women.  No doubt he was merely an earlier landowner whose name buried earlier ones tangled with mythology,

I dug about on Trove as well and discovered a 2000 fisheries arrangement between the Commonwealth and Tasmania that referred to a shark nursery in the ‘area known as Frederick Henry Bay and Norfolk Bay being all waters within an imaginary straight line between North-West Head and Cape Contrariety’ and in an article on geology in the Sanford area, Green (1961) mentions dolerite intrusions into mudstone as well as landslips in the cape’s basalt soil.  As he also mentions lavas here,  this little cape has some complexity but keeps a low profile in the island’s literature.

Green, D.C.  1961.  The geology of the South Arm-Sanford area, Tasmania.  Papers and Proceedings of The Royal Society of Tasmania, Vol 95.

 

Frederick Henry Bay: Goat Bluff to Cape Contrariety – Calverts Beach

CALVERTS BEACH (T411)

The moon had given us a low tide and with a slender window between cold fronts Cathy and I whipped on our walking gear to continue our saunter along the coastline.

We paused on Goats Bluff to look across the long expanse of Hope Beach before making our way down the narrow path through native bush to the beach. The last time I’d come here it had been 25 degrees and people, heavily tattooed, were lounging under umbrellas beside the sedimentary cliffs.  Today was crisp but sunny. Ever since the geo and I had driven off the ferry after a couple of weeks spent in shorts and t shirts on the mainland, Tassie had been lashed by a bout of wild, wintery weather, so this was a brilliant reprieve.

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This feature in the cliffs below Goat Bluff may be linked to its history (see previous blog post)

Calverts had been our ‘go to beach’ when we first came to Tasmania.  Every time I walk it I remember a tiny kelpie x border collie puppy from the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia. Along with two of his siblings he’d been bundled into a box and on to a plane in Perth. Several hours later I plucked him out of that box at Kununurra Airport in the Kimberly region of WA and for the next two years he enjoyed field camp living with us. The creek, the waterholes, the fishing expeditions and the parties in the annex, the walks down to the chopper to meet the guys returning from another blisteringly hot day doing mag anomalies. Two years in a caravan in boab country, living small. Two years in a tiny field camp in all that wild, vast inaccessible space. We were lucky though, because sometimes, in the chopper, we got to explore caves rich with rock art and canyons with verdant microenvironments that felt way off the map, far from roads or even a track, that you wouldn’t know were there unless you could spot them from the air.

This puppy, born of working stock, climbed trees (sort of). His acrobatics intrigued children. His speed was astonishing and Calverts was a beach he raced along, trying unsuccessfully to round up seagulls. He drove around Australia, squeezed on top of a mattress that was wedged on top of a motorbike, that weighed down the already sagging boot of our Holden station wagon.

Cathy and I walking along discussing economic conundrums, saw a spout of water off Betsey Island, just as two birds lifted into the air close by.  Further down the beach a lone man stood on the sand dunes assessing the swell on this rip-prone beach. Behind him, the dunes sloped down to Calverts Lagoon, a change in the vegetation and a quieter sort of environment.

We reached the opposite headland. This is where the geo and I have always turned back, but had occasionally noticed people making their way down it and had puzzled over where they were coming from. Cathy was the person who let me in on that secret, but before we set off up that path we explored the rock platform that slants upwards around its base because another beachwalking friend had told me that if you climbed to the end of it and peered around the corner you could see a little cobbled beach. But what we saw when we reached the end was the narrow shape of a gulch that at low tide probably did leave cobbles and rocks exposed. While I stood there musing, Cathy bounded up the daunting cliff face and when I looked up I could see her standing on the headland enjoying the view.

I followed slowly up that steep side. There was only marram grass to grab hold and it looked rather puny. Besides, it’s hostile and I wasn’t wearing gloves. I surveyed the big drop beneath me and the hard faced rocks. Those I was clambering up were damp and my shoes lacked grip. One up to Cathy, I decided, and slithered slowly down to a more welcoming ledge before seeking out the little path further back along the headland.

From the top we could see Calverts Lagoon, fingers of land and stretches of sea. The best was yet to come, because on the other side of the bluff lies a hidden beach, outstandingly beautiful. I’d been here once before, pretty much as soon as Cathy had told me about it. It had been a hot day and our party had disturbed a lover’s tryst. ‘Beware the snake,’ the man had yelled at us, jumping up to shoo us away. We had clearly destroyed their moment because it wasn’t too long before they were trailing us back along Calverts.

 

Smugglers Cove and Calverts Beach agn-1
Smugglers Cove and Calverts Beach

 

Smugglers Cove (Beach T 410)

We descended through soft sand, stepping over dead birds and a dead sheep to reach Smugglers Cove. It’s seriously lovely and is cupped by the steep headlands of Cape Contrariety. It’s also seriously private and intimate even though it’s spacious enough to accommodate several parties of beach goers. Two eagles wheeled above us and a pied oyster catcher stood on the rocks regarding us.

After a while we followed a fence line up the bluff on the other side, keen to reach the other end of the Cape. I’d tried hunting down the owner of the private land without any luck, so we didn’t like our chances. There were mutton bird burrows. There were sheep, happily alive. We followed their tracks until we reached a fence that crossed our path.

This was as far as we figured we could go. From there we could see the spot we’d reached on an earlier expedition, when we’d attempted to cross the Cape from the Clifton side (see next blog post), so that long slope separating us from that point near the top was frustrating. We knew there was a nature reserve along the tip of the cape and that another beach (T409) was down there too.

On the Beachsafe site its described as ‘a 150 m long high tide cobble beach located along the western end of the cove, with a sand and rock low tide terrace. Waves averaging about 1 m break across the 50 m wide bar and surge up the cobbles, with the steep slopes right behind. The 4 ha tip of the cape is a private wildlife sanctuary.’

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Walking Cape Contrierty

We’d been defeated but the walk back was uplifting. A yacht was crossing Norfolk Bay, a north easterly filling its sails. That whale breached and blew again. We saw Little Betsey Island tucked away behind Betsey Island, Black Jack Reef and the great sweep of Hope Beach beyond Goats Bluff.  We saw the Iron Pot at the entrance to the Derwent and snow on kunanyi and the Snowy Range.   And as we clambered back down the path to Calverts there were seven surfers in the swell beneath us, where originally there had been only one. You’ve got to have ichor coursing through your veins to take  on Tasmania’s winter ocean. I lack even a single drop and just the sight of them had me zipping up my down jacket.

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Calverts and Hope, with snow in the background

 

This walk: 1 September 2017. If you’ve walked this cape or know the contact details of the farmer, please let me know so we can try again.

 

 

 

 

D’Entrecasteaux Channel: Kettering and Little Oyster Cove

Back in the Land of the Nuenonne

When we were preparing the house for sale earlier this year, we moved on board Samos, thinking we’d be at Kettering in Little Oyster Cove for several months. We planned to spend that time cruising the D’Entrecasteaux and Norfolk Bay but within a matter of days our lovely mountain home had found itself new owners and we barely had time to tackle our list of boat tasks before we were home again packing boxes.

Travelling in a small van as we did last year and cruising in a small yacht proves that truism of life being richer as possessions get exfoliated and waste gets reduced. But moving house is not good for the environment. You may give the Red Cross Shop your library and St Vinnies the clothes off your back, but the recycling and refuse bins fill exponentially and zero waste targets shatter alarmingly.

We went down to the marina on a sunny day and stepping on board Samos I noticed a swirling black ring beneath the water, just behind the yacht’s transom, and an overlapping circle of silver, moving that little bit quicker. A cormorant was hunting a school of bait fish that panicked into a leaping confusion as the bird downed its catch while rising to the surface.

Relaxing beneath the boom tent with a g&t on a blue day before summer’s lease expired, we watched a puffer fish slowly inspecting the seaweed attached to the floating marina and each time the black swans came visiting the dogs were transfixed.

When the cygnets were young

Life in the marina spools out slowly. Those of us working on our boats shared tools, suggestions, advice and meals while in the background yachts slipped quietly through the marina, the Bruny Island ferries came and went where once the Nuenonne paddled their bark canoes, where Bruni D’Entrecasteaux sailed – sealers and whalers too – and the constant sound on the boat, in the quieter moments and most noticeably in the silence of the night, was the idle clicking of tiny beings feasting on the hull.

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The additional summer ferry crossing to Bruny Island from Kettering

The super blue blood moon rose over Bruny Island, the Channel and the yachts while the dark hills slept and we looked up at the moon and also down at its reflection, snagged in the riggings of yachts impressed by its light on the water.

Super blue blood moon

There have been other times at the marina when nature has gifted us a surprise or two. We’ve been astonished by flocks of about 200 black cockatoos swirling around the pine trees. We’ve stopped to watch the parade of crabs along the marina shallows. Kayaking this cove I once followed a ray as it made its way around the north east corner. I like rays. The ones I have encountered all seem capable and full of purpose.

We were at the marina long enough to enjoy several coffees and breakfasts at the café beside the ferry terminal with its views of Bruny Island and to enjoy the pub up the hill. Really, the marina is for me the heart of Kettering and Kettering the link between mainland Tasmania and Bruny Island. For a small place it’s pretty amazing that along with the pub it has three cafes as well as artistic credentials and links, some believe to planets elsewhere. This extra terrestrial history inspired the Kettering Incident.

We walked the short track through coastal woodland around to Trial Bay, lazed at Kettering Point and in the evening took the short walking track below the cricket oval on the northern side of the cove.  There are houses on the hills which were once entirely forested, that therefore drew timber cutters in Kettering’s early days, and tucked away in the valleys behind the village are farms producing organic produce for which Tasmania is rightly famous.

Marinas can be tough on the watery world but this one has achieved some recognition for its environmental efforts and living on board proved so enjoyable that we agreed that while small is beautiful if we want to live on board all summer long then a yacht a little bigger would be more comfortable.  And so our lovely yacht Samos is on the market and a new adventure is about to begin.

 

 

Bays of Dismay 4: Storm Bay – a threatened seascape

Iron Pot the reef and Bruny Island
Storm Bay viewed from the South Arm Peninsula

Greed’s Heavy Footstep

The view from Goat’s Bluff is splendiferous and uplifting, but it’s a threatened vista because the toads are coming.  I didn’t know if such a term (threatened vista) for endangered beauty existed but then I found literature on seascapes and this, right here on a Tas government site:

‘The condition of scenic landscape values is important for Tasmania for a variety of reasons… landscape values often have an association with environmental and natural resource values – the values that people appreciate in a landscape may often also be important ecologically.’

Tasmania. Dept of Justice. 2003. State of the Environment report recommendation 2.9: Scenic and Landscape Values.

And the report goes on to recommend that ‘… scenic landscapes and areas of consistent and recognisable landscape character be recognised in local and regional strategies in relation to beneficial values including  natural resource management; open space and recreation; vegetation management; catchment management; and coastal management.’

Which brings us to the messy issue surrounding Storm Bay

Storm Bay is bound by North Bruny Island, South Arm Peninsula, the Tasman Peninsula and the tip of the Tinderbox Peninsula, which means that there are any number of brilliant perspectives from which you can view this tempestuous bay.

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Google Earth image of Storm Bay

It’s the wilds – right there, where the Derwent River and the D’Entrecasteaux enter it in company and sometimes a gale blowing across the bay can bring that sense of the menacing wild right up the river and into the city.

Storm Bay has a few anchorages along the exposed coastline of Bruny Island for yachts seeking sanctuary from foul weather.   Samos has hung out in Bull Bay off North Bruny enjoying this environment distinct from the river, where the movement of the swell and the surf hold warnings and the feeling of being out here is unique from the river and Channel.

Let’s Not Forget the Voiceless

It’s not just people who are vested in the bay. It provides feeding grounds for the migratory shearwater and other shorebirds and seabirds. It is traversed by dolphins and whales, penguins and seals. Life flourishes on its reefs and I hope you’ll agree that seaweeds have a right to the good life too.

Storm Bay is the magnificently scenic entry that stops people’s hearts when approaching Hobart by sea, the you and me as well as those Sydney-Hobart sailors and passengers on cruise liners.  And rounding the Iron Pot, as you sail down the Derwent marks the point, both mental and physical, at which you finally feel you are sailing the ocean, albeit coastal.

It is the aquatic commons of the whole glorious multiplicity of us  and its moody beauty is deeply loved. Even on a fine day you know its mood can change in an instant and with too much sail out you are quickly humbled.

Goodbye to All That

Storm Bay is about to change into an industrial zone. The three Tasmanian fish farming companies – Tassal, Petuna and Huon Aquaculture – are encroaching massively on our aquatic commons and while their heady expansion plans are good for the economy in the short term, the public’s interest and that of other sentient and non-sentient communities stand to be sacrificed by government complicity. There are fish farm leases planned for Storm Bay and they’ll be visible over vast distances, all around the lovely shoreline. The relaxing high and sense of connection that Nature gifts us will give way to further despair.  The scenic vistas will be destroyed.

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Hello Solastalgia

We have already lost grand views and the sense of desolation many of us feel when we try to navigate through multiple leases or view bays and waterways taken up by ugliness reflects the all consuming loss felt by the people we replaced when their hunting grounds and sacred sites became no go areas and disappeared under pasture and houses. This time, buried in that same greed and disdain lies self mutilation.

Navigating Storm Bay, especially in gales, will become more dangerous. The plastic pollution, the exceeded nitrogen caps and the damage to reefs that the companies have caused in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Macquarie Harbour will happen here too. These companies are bringing along that same disdain for the commons, those same bad habits. For example, so often they’ve been advised that when towing pens they need markers on their lines because the distance can be such that other vessels could accidentally cross between with dire consequences. This week, in the Channel, we again noticed a tow underway without markers. It’s disrespectful, it’s frustratiang and it’s downright dangerous.

The weight of the farms on top of visible climate change impacts worries a lot of us down this part of the world. After all, we are a climate change hot spot.

It’s beyond disappointing that the companies said they were heading offshore then chose to plonk themselves down in this significant coastal bay – to plonk themselves down in the magnificent entrance to the Derwent. And rather than deep ocean – just take a lead from this, guys – they’re heading for the coastal zones of our offshore islands, those last bastions of the birds. There, amongst sparsely habited islands they can get away with environmental savagery. But on King Island some are beginning to cry foul.

In the future, Petuna’s leases just south of Betsey Island are going to marr the Goats Bluff view. Tassal’s will probably be visible too. You’ll see pens from Bruny and that’s why the locals are concerned there too. Friends of North Bruny, the Bruny Island Community Association and the Bruny Island Environment Network have joined forces to call for a moratorium on this alarming expansion of fish farms into Storm Bay.

Almost everyone wants these companies to really be clean and green and to excel at that, as opposed to dirtying the waterways they’ve encroached into. But that means upping their standards and appreciating the limits to growth, respecting the public and their customers.  Unfortunately, it still doesn’t seem to be something they’re in any rush to do.

We only have one planet. Let’s stop hampering its efforts to nourish us.

For more information:

Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania. [2016] Salmon Farming Proposals in Storm Bay

DPIPWE. 2017. Sustainable industry growth plan for the salmon industry. Hobart.  The Dept.

Guarnieri, G et al. 2016. The Challenge of Planning Conservation Strategies in Threatened Seascapes: Understanding the Role of Fine Scale Assessments of Community Response to Cumulative Human Pressures. PLOS. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0149253

South Arm Peninsula: Goat Bluff, a fundamental question and a couple of secrets

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Goats Bluff and Betsey Island from Calverts Beach

… what is beauty? This is one of the most fundamental questions, it is not superficial, so don’t brush it aside. To understand what beauty is, to have that sense of goodness which comes when the mind and heart are in communion with something lovely without any hindrance so that one feels completely at ease – surely, this has great significance in life; and until we know this response to beauty our lives will be very shallow. One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead.

~ J. Krishnamurti

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A Google Earth image of  Goats Bluff to the north of Betsey Island. Calverts Lagoon behind Calverts Beach (right) was largely dry when this image was taken.

On Being a Goat

It may seem strange that I’ve included Krishnamurti’s quote at this point in my blog, because the bluff is unassuming, easy to hurtle by without noticing, and yet it has a certain sense of poise gifted by its location in the landscape between two capes so that, had Krishnamurti, a great nature writer, found his way here, I’m sure he would have taken his seat and looked out at ‘all the marvellous earth’, the hills and the valleys interleaving themselves, and perhaps, while contemplating this magnificent coastline he might also have reflected on human nature – how we are so often goats, with at times, a certain poise, when we make the effort.

Those who appreciate beauty come here at night to star gaze and to wonder at the auroras.  In daylight hours, as the sky’s moods play out over the landscape, colours shift transferring the mood of the sky.  At this  junction of ocean, land and lagoons the biota is rich, the birds are various, the native coastal vegetation still reasonably intact. Surfers carve the breakers; below the cliff to the east is a break called Rebounds. Goats and Wedge are breaks to the west.  And from these 30 m high sandstone cliffs you can walk west along Hope Beach (aka Roaring Beach) to Cape Direction or you can go east down Goat Bluff’s flank to Calverts Beach for the walk to Cape Contrairety, or angle slightly inland to circumambulate Calverts Lagoon, binoculars around your neck, field guides in your rucksack.

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The bluff’s ramparts with Betsey in the distance

The bluff also provides access to the north. Just cross the road and go west along the isthmus – but think seriously about this – the birds love this thin strip of beach beside the bitumen so it’s unkind to intrude.  Perhaps rather choose the meandering track (far more rewarding) along its eastern shore.

Or simply play it like Krishnamurti and  make your mind like the sky by lingering on the bluff with its sense of poise drawn mostly from the fact that it is the divide between the Arm End beaches and the sweep of coastline to the east.

In other words, don’t think for one moment that Goat (also known as Goats) is an isolated bluff simply there as a carpark, or a dislocated remnant scrap of reserved native vegetation. The road behind assumes more importance than is warranted. Instead, imagine that you are Nuenonne, that slash of bitumen not there yet and see instead Colin Springs Hill descending gracefully down to the bluff’s sandstone rampart, uninterrupted.  Before you there’s a valley, drowned by the ocean that extends down from that rampart and out to Betsey Island, with a dune trapped lake to your right behind Hope Beach, the drowned valley that is Ralphs Bay behind you to the north, a pooling of water in Calverts Lagoon and Pipe Clay Lagoon at Cremorne behind you to your left.

Goats Bluff.  A small band of Nuenonne.  Shearwaters wheeling on the night sky, and then the aurora.

Goat’s Secret, Hope’s Secret and Betsey’s Secret

Goat Bluff has two secrets.  

The first is a beach (T412 (Short, 2006)).

Short describes it as ‘a 60 m long pocket of rocks and sand set in a gap in the centre of the bluffs and immediately below the lookout. The beach consists of high tide cobbles and boulders against the base of the cliffs, then a sandy 100 m wide bar with rock outcrops that fill the gap. Waves are lowered to 1 m at the bluff owing to sheltering by the island and rocks and break across the bar with a weak rip usually flowing out against the western rocks.’

He says there is no safe access to this beach. To try would be dangerous.  So please don’t.

I was surprised to discover another secret on the On the Convict Trail blog: ‘Nearby [to Piersons Point] Goat Bluff was also the location of further underground tunnel systems [associated with the Derwent’s system of battery defence].  But Goat Bluff isn’t near Piersons Point, which is on the western side of the Derwent’s mouth (although distance is relative, I guess) and so I was sceptical until I saw this fact repeated on the South Arm History site.  The Fort Direction page by Maurice Potter states ‘at Goat Bluff there are still the remains of underground trenches that were built at that time’ [WWII] and I also discovered on this page that ‘as many will remember, most of the beaches and the hillsides of South Arm were covered with barbwire entanglement and this remained so for some years after the end of war.’ (Potter, n.d.)

Betsey’s Secret

Sitting on the bluff contemplating the landscape you might naturally suppose that Betsey Island is made off the same stuff as the bluff, but you would be wrong.  Black Jack Reef and Goat Bluff are sandstone / siltstone but Betsey declares its difference by being Jurassic dolerite (Leaman, 1999).  It shares another secret with Hope.

Hope has even more compelling secrets

And as Goat Bluff overlooks Hope here they are.

The first is the precise whereabouts of the wrecked ship, the Hope, that gives the beach its name (Leaman, 1999).

The next secret really belongs to the general vicinity near Hope because between Betsey and the Derwent Light mysterious compass deviations first noted by Mathew Flinders are now assumed to be caused by volcanic necks on the sea floor – and according to Leaman (1999) may possibly have caused the Hope to wreck in the first place.

But here’s the best secret.  Eons ago the complicated Derwent entered Storm Bay through the South Arm isthmus, which now blocks it.  The best part of this secret is that it seems to have done so through ‘a gorge [now] filled with more than 200 metres of clay, sandy clay, sand and gravel [that] lies hidden from our view…’ (Leaman, 1999).

Hope Beach from Goat's Bluff.jpg

 

A mountain.  A river. A bluff.  They may seem so enduring, but I think all nouns are simply verbs in disguise and everything a process.

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Sources:

Leaman, David. 1999. Walk into history in Southern Tasmania. Lehman Geophysics, Hobart

Short, A.D. 2006. Beaches of the Tasmanian coast and islands. Sydney University Press, Sydney.