Unseen Beneath My Feet
Blackmans Bay: just south of Kingston Beach between Boronia Hill to the north and Flowerpot Hill to the south, is a long curve of pale sand surrounded by suburb. A rivulet enters the beach at each end and the presence of a stormwater outlet defiles an otherwise beautiful beach. Yachts moor beneath Flowerpot Hill.
Blackmans Bay Beach
We sat in the Beach Cafe looking out over the river on a cold, bleak day, talking about memory. Afterwards I stepped outside and surveyed the beach. There was still time enough for some exploring and so I walked the extent of the beach. The traffic has been slowed, native vegetation has been planted, the community has crafted tiles and inserted them into the pavement. They’ve beautified the esplanade and when I was here last week (May 2016) approximately 200 silver gulls, an oyster catcher and a pacific gull had the beach to themselves.
Boronia Hill: The cliffs, the rocks and the blow hole
Boronia Hill gifts Kingston Boronia Beach with its little penguins and gifts Blackmans Bay a blow hole. I’ve walked the cliff top path between Powell Street and the beach on more than one occasion, gazing out over the river, peering down in search of this blow hole thinking I was drinking everything in.
Actually, I wasn’t.
On a warm, blue day I walked the rocks. Surfers were taking the clear, cold breaks and small parties of people were spread across the accommodating boulders enjoying a champagne Saturday. My walk north towards Boronia Beach was stymied by a gash too wide to jump. On the other side a group of girls were scuba diving off the extensive rock platform I’d seen from above.
This had to be where the blow hole was – and so I headed up to the wooded cliff top again, past the bird kindly signs reminding that ‘the sniff of a dog can snuff out a family’. So can human feet, I thought, attempting to stick to the path. This time I was alarmed to discover a man sitting on a precarious outcrop of rock on the wrong side of the safety fence. Worried about his intentions, I engaged him in conversation and was relieved when he climbed off his rock (‘just enjoying the view’) to come and show me the blowhole.
‘It’s right beneath your feet,’ he said and, puzzled, I walked a short distance into the remnant bushland with him. Maybe this was why I’d never noticed it from the water?
I don’t know that it’s actually a blow hole anymore. It’s more of a sea arch (the bit I’ve walked on several occasions) and behind it is a long drop down to the tiny cobbled beach building up inside it. Having found it, I then became aware of the signage pointing to it off Blowhole Road.
When I returned to this area the other day I discovered that the corners of this beach hold their secrets close. I found a little rivulet here, a muddy little trench running through grass below a eucalypt canopy of black gums that I’d overlooked on previous walks. This small trail through the Mary Knoll Reserve has a minty fragrance and it’s the teensiest remnant of Blackmans Bay’s native vegetation, a mere 1 km long stretch available for the endangered swift parrot to attempt to sustain itself in this Hobartian suburb. Understandably, with so much of its habitat logged and cleared around the island, it’s having a hard time and has just been added to the endangered species list. The interpretive signboard announced that the ‘reserve frames one of the last natural watercourses in the Blackmans Bay area’ but it never calls this shy and tiny rivulet by its name.
Flowepot Point and Beach T 468
Flowerpot Point extends 200 m east at the southern end of the bay, with beach T468 located immediately south of the point in a small rocky embayment. The beach is 200m long and consists of a steep cobble and boulder beach bordered by the point and rock platforms, together with a central rocky bluff and outcrop. Steep vegetated bluffs rising to 40 m in the south back the beach, with bluff top houses behind. ~ Andrew Short (2006).
The tide was high but I saw three figures just beyond the boathouse, a mother trailed by small children, picking their way back over the rocks below the hill and so I waited to talk to them.
They were avid beach adventurers and knew the area well and so I asked about the beaches of the Tinderbox Peninsula, further south. They mentioned Sleepo’s and one called Fisho’s and talked about a rocky beach beyond this point. After we parted company I retraced their footsteps, past the boat house and the yachts and out along the rocky point noticing some beautiful sandstone rock formations and tessellated platforms beneath the crumbling cliffs.
There was a little path up a slight cliff edge at the very tip of the point, and then a small rock formation formed an island just offshore. In company I’d have swung around the end of the point but the gap was a bit risky and if I’d fallen the tide might have collected me up before anyone noticed. I had to wait for a spring tide when the reef lay fully exposed to walk around to an exquisite cobbled beach fringed with forest. This secret beach held far more interest to me than the main beach. There were houses visible on the clifftops yet it retained a sense of quite intense quietude and mystery, as if moments before my arrival a small band of Mouheneer had disappeared around the far corner and the idea of tall ships sailing down the river was beyond the realms of possibility.
Flowerpot Hill and the Suncoast Headlands Track
When I first used to come to Flowerpot Hill it was a whole lot more rural. Friends lived in a small house full of books and art on a big block with magnificent views. Now small lanes between a mass of houses link the roadways on the hill and lead walkers on to the Suncoast Track from many different directions.
The dogs and I last came here on a quiet week day to walk the Suncoast Headlands Track again – I’d walked it with a friend long ago. We drove there taking careful note of rivulets and the catchments I knew we were passing through and the ones I didn’t. Marina Abramaviks was talking about her art on the radio, the silent hours of communing with a donkey, and long hours of shared contemplation with the people who came and sat in front of her as part of museum exhibitions. I wondered yet again – how best does a person commune with a beach?
This thin ribbon of a track is scantily bordered by remnant native vegetation – casurinas and understory species, but the path is beautiful, with expansive views of the estuary and Storm Bay and human domesticity at your shoulder. As well as the long views you can also peep down and see Flowerpot Hill’s two cobbled beaches, the one I’d visited and the next one south. At times you walk alongside fences, at other times you almost feel you are in someone’s garden. Small signs erected by a local (an avid sailor, I’m pleased to say) asked others to come and help with weed control in this vicinity.
Where the houses end on the southern slope there’s a great grassy expanse that sweeps down to a copse of casurinas through which you can glimpse the Lucas Point Sewage Plant. This charges the atmosphere unpleasantly and so we turned back.
I met a Ten Pound Pom as I returned to Blackmans Bay beach. She lives near the spot where the bulrushes grow and the dinghies lie upside down on the grass. She told me how much the beach has changed over the decades. She said it’s a lot narrower than it used to be and put it down to repeated storm damage.
Together we stood there and regarded the beach and contemplated its future.
Source: Short, A.D. 2006. Beaches of the Tasmanian coast and islands. Sydney University Press, Sydney.