Blind to the Landscape: Cartwright out of Order
Our story is in the land … it is written in those sacred places … My children will look after those places, That’s the law.
Bill Neidjie , Kakadu elder.
In quite quick succession, with the cliffs far lower now, I was passing large houses and small boat sheds and from the Mouheenener Sentinel (see part 3), where the view of Taroona began to open up, I was particularly preoccupied with the lack of birds, the non-stick nomenclature and the dimensions of the shoreline – what was a beach and what a separating reef, had totally befuddled me because I could not get them to accord with my memory of what I had read of this section in Andrew Short’s vast inventory of beaches.
This estuary is expansive and should be rich with life. Not so far away the Derwent merges with the waters of Storm Bay and the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and yet it struck me with some force that birds had not been a presence on my walks – a handful of gulls, a cormorant, an oyster catcher of two, a heron, period. This shoreline seemed as good a place as any to encounter great avian flocks but this was far from being the case. I was thinking about how the early explorers recorded the migratory short tailed shearwaters darkening the skies as their huge flocks passed overhead for days on end, and their descriptions of the river alive with whales and fish so that there must also have been huge numbers of gannets, gulls and cormorants diving. There were also a great number of land birds, some now extinct (eg the Tasmanian emu), available for hunting through the she-oaks and the eucalypts when the colony began so that it can seem, reading the literature, that the Reverend Knopwood’s gun was only silent when he was enjoying convivial drinks in town or sermonising from his pulpit. But it’s winter, I reasoned. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Perhaps the remnants of those great flocks are still sizeable and are occupying themselves elsewhere.
Even as I approached the Sandy Bay-Taroona boundary which I assumed was the bend in the road near the Truganini Reserve, I was still pretty clueless as to my precise whereabouts but I did know I was about to leave Sandy Bay, and so, to illustrate the difference between the rivulets of the past and the present, a final quote:
‘By the 1830s, despite still having the reputation of a smuggler’s resort, Sandy Bay began attracting enterprising, law-abiding free settlers. One of the greatest advantages of the river-side suburb was the clean water from its many little streams. The Hobart Town Rivulet was already a miasma of rotting carcasses and filth, spreading disease and death, and the merchants in Hobart Town saw the advantages in moving their families out of the township.’ (Goc, p. 87)
I came to a stretch of eroding yellow cliff and there again was a rivulet stifled by a tangle of exotic weeds and creepers, forming a dirty pool from which a mere trickle emerged and entered the river. It was only afterwards, when I was researching that I learned that this, for sure, was Cartwright Creek and that the pretty little cove just a short stroll south, sheltering in the elbow between this strip of shore and the sloping point, was the start of Cartwright Point. I had thought Cartwright Point was at Taroona High School and so, when I did the walk, I could not place this rivulet or the cove.
A little path descended beside it and I walked a short way up it and looked about – and came face to face, yet again, with my blindness to landscape. There was a park up there. And this modest rivulet had clearly enjoyed making itself a deep bed. This was precisely where the road curved and Taroona began.
I have driven along Sandy Bay Road a zillion times, thinking about a zillion different things but never about the green space on the downward slope of that bend in the road. The Truganini Reserve is on the other side – and in fact, it’s where Mount Nelson slopes down to the river at a fairly steep gradient because of the gully carved along its side by the rivulet. Had you asked me, I could not have told you that this park is the Pierce Reserve or that it follows the banks of Cartwright Creek, a rivulet that has its source on Mount Nelson, enjoys sunlight and moonshine all the way, except for where it passes under the span of the road. It would once have contributed delicacies from the mountain top to the river it was merging with. These days it’s shabby and sick. If it was our pet, we’d be up for animal cruelty charges. If it was our god, bad luck would rain down on us…
I made a note to self: find out more about this rivulet – and when I did, I was to discover that Mr George Cartwright, who along with his brother owned several farms on this shoreline and was ‘father of the Tasmanian bar’ was himself sometimes out of order, in front of it for striking fear into the hearts of his neighbours.
Although I felt chastened by my ignorance, I also had a sense of anticipation because I thought I knew what lay around the corner of the point, but I was in no rush to get there. Cartwright Point is pretty and has the feeling of a private beach. It was nice to linger. I could not have been happier.
I scrambled over boulders and requested right of way from a fallen eucalypt that lay across my path, and then I was on another beach, known but not known, grappling with another name, perhaps because Andrew Short and I viewed the beaches years apart and on different tides, perhaps because he numbers the beaches but doesn’t always mention them by name, perhaps because beaches can be tricksters… or maybe just because beaches are a human construct anyway.
Goc, N. 1997. Sandy Bay: a social history. Gentrx Publishing, Hobart.
Short, A.D. 2006. Beaches of the Tasmanian coast and islands. Sydney University Press, Sydney.