Carnage in the Cove
Kingston has three beaches. Boronia, tucked away behind cliffs is the most southern one.
‘It’s a nudist beach,’ someone told me.
‘We’ve kayaked past it,’ the geo said.
‘Heaps of sea dragons. Brilliant for scuba diving!’
Whatever, the beach was there and I wanted to explore it. On foot. Especially because of a blog post and what the ornithologists had told me long ago – and then, when the time came, I totally forgot the most interesting thing about Boronia Beach. I was too engrossed in the place itself.
I had already had an encounter with Boronia Point. One Saturday, as we milled around behind the starting line with the fleet of yachts in the long distance race, I was surprised to discover that one buoy would be off that point.
‘Where’s that?’ some of the crew wondered, and S rushed off to confirm it on the chart. I planned to take a good look at the beach as we laid the line to that buoy but a great gust of wind swept down the valley and gave us a whack right at the opportune moment. We heeled with remarkable swiftness. There were yells to reef along with the arrival of that particular intensity that sharpens focus when the mast leans down to kiss the water and it’s all action stations on board. That’s why I totally forgot to study the beach.
This day there was a lot of canine energy going on as we three urban explorers (two of us canine) headed off along the track, starting on Boronia Point behind the Kingston Sailing Club, where Boronia Hill descends down to the water. They pulled me along, at first along the cliff top path under gums and casuarina trees. There are paths and wooden steps leading down to the track from gardens and hill top roads, and there is a small wooden bridge. On this day music drifted out an open window. Someone was practising at their piano, and an elderly man sat on a bench where trees give way to a swathe of grass, absorbing the long views north over Kingston and Tyndall Beaches and across the river to the South Arm Peninsula. The river gleamed with patches of white foam and still water. (It’s worth mentioning that rather sadly the bushland of the point is separated by a thick strip of houses and roads from the lovely top of Boronia Hill where there are tracks through remnant dry sclerophyll forest and delicious views from a grouping of large lichen dappled boulders beneath the trees.)
Soon we arrived at a fence, a gate and a sign saying reserve; no dogs, not cats, no camping – and there we turned back. I’d known this would be the case and I didn’t mind at all. This track was a real find. It made me feel expansive. I was happy to walk it any time.
THE SECOND EXPEDITION
Snow was forecast and although the wild wind had calmed it wasn’t until I reached Kingborough that the sky turned blue. Again the beauty. Again the piano music . I had a vague notion of what to expect beyond the gate because I’d explored the point using Google Earth the previous night, seeking a connecting path to Blackmans Bay further south but it was still a surprise to find that quite quickly after the gate the path started to descend. There are cyprus pines, the small cove of Boronia Beach opens up and the cliff line comes into view. Honestly, my first thought was Mama Mia! This could be a beach on a Greek island. Clearly a conventional thought – I’ve now seen is described this way many times. (But the sky has to be blue. I brought my sister here one overcast day not so long ago and it felt uncharacteristically sombre.)
Some of the beach was in shadow but I had it all to myself (not a nudist in sight) as I wandered around absorbing its serenity. I discovered a manmade rock wall, quite low, just where there’s a rock platform, and I praised the cliffs for their beauty but mostly I was trying to find a way to walk to Blackmans Bay along the rocks.
There’s a small overhang below these cliffs (which are themselves full of incipient caves) and a crevice which stopped my progress. No route south, it seems, but as I walked back through the clearing I saw I now had company. Two people were walking stealthily and silently across the slope, bending down periodically to peer at the ground with torches. On their advice, I took a path that led me through a small gate, past a tap and into someone’s garden. Dead end. I turned back and discovered they had gone. Next I tried the path that led directly up the hill. It emerged through another gate (a weakness for this reserve – two gates) and onto a long dirt road, rather beautiful.
I met a man collecting armloads of eucalyptus bark in a paddock on the other side of the road and somewhere around here the Boronia Country House Hotel once stood. Curzona Allport sketched it. You can see this print and a couple of postcards at the State Library of Tasmania. Back in the early 1900s people liked to take the ferry that docked at the Kingston Beach jetty and visit this hotel for refreshments, just like at Crayfish Point. A garden with rhododendrums and dreamy views. But I was more conscious of the cyprus pines and the casurinas that had dropped curled tendrils all over the paths, the wallabies that scattered as I made my way along the paths and evidence of middens, testifying to a pleasantly sheltered spot to light a fire and enjoy the river’s bounty before ships began coming up the river.
It was only when I was heading home (through that first gate into this reserve – left open by the party of three I’d just past – that I remembered that the ornithologists had told me that Boronia Beach is the home of one of the last remaining rookeries of little penguins on the Derwent. Even the sight of that suspicious couple with their tiny torches, walking where, ethically, they should not have been, peering down burrows, risking putting their troublemaking feet right through them – even this had not triggered memory. But what I did remember more clearly was a blog post written by Mike Litzow, an Alaskan cruiser who liked visiting this beach with his family while living in Hobart for a year. Someone had not shut the gate, he wrote – and here I just have to say how sickened I am by how many gates to reserves along the Derwent I find left open. Who are these people??
I’m letting Mike tell the story of blood and carnage. His story testifies yet again to our great disconnect from nature. Here’s the link. It starts with the death of one little penguin, ends with the death of more than 20 and the comments are worth reading too.
The rookeries around the Derwent are very small and very endangered. At Boronia I’ve witnessed the gates left open, human feet trampling and, on my visit there earlier this month, people camping.
And all this is just so not okay.