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

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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.

***

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: 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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

South Arm Beaches: Hope Beach

HOPE BEACH (T413)

Hope Beach from Goat's Bluff
The eastern end of Hope Beach

Hope Beach spreads itself from Cape Direction in the west to Goats Bluff in the east, a distance of about 5 km.  It is backed by dunes that are quite large by Tasmanian standards. The beach forms the southern shoreline of the South Arm isthmus.  Ralphs Bay is contained behind the dunes and this large embayment of the Derwent River provides a sheltered habitat for shorebirds.  

Betsey Island lies offshore and between the island and the beach lies Black Jack Reef, notorious for snaffling the boats of the unwary.

Although we had come to Hope (driving through farmland then walking in along the dune top path)  we weren’t sure we were done with Cape Direction. I stood beneath the cyprus pines that grow on the dunes  in this western corner of the beach and contemplated its shaggy slope. Cathy energetically sought  a path and  although it was  possible a way existed, the dense scrub made it uninviting.  So we  decided to tackle the rocks instead.

The reef at the base of the cape was an equally unlikely route around  to Pot Bay but we gave it a go, timing breakers.  It defeated us within metres but presented us with a great view westwards towards the Iron Pot Reef.

3 Iron Pot from the Cape Direction Rocks
The Iron Pot from the Cape Direction rocks, western end of Hope Beach

As we set off along the sand  a lone surfer stood on the dunes assessing the surf. A pied and sooty oystercatcher were chilling together, and later we spotted six more of the pied variety, along with a dozen hooded plovers – a great sight, given they are endangered.

5 Looking back along Hope Beach.jpg
Looking back along Hope Beach

It was only when we’d reached the eastern end (where the beach unexpectedly curves and broadens) and had climbed up Goats Bluff  that we saw that those sand dunes, a bulwark against the ocean, were being sand mined.

Dune trapped lake or mining pit
Dune trapped lake behind Hope Beach with Cape Direction in the distance.

We could make out Black Jack  Reef where one of the Incat ferries, Condor 11, ground to a halt on a trial run in 2011.   But it is only the most recent shipwreck in this area.  The best known one gave the beach its name.

The Loss of the Hope

The Hobart Colonial Times May 1827 

We have the painful duty to report the loss of the barque Hope, which vessel was wrecked on Sunday morning last, on the long Sandy Beach, between Betsy and Iron-pot Islands. It appears she was on her way from Sydney hither, with about 100 tons of freight, and the following passengers: Ensign Barcley, 40th Regiment; Mrs. Bisbee and Mr. Bisbee (wife and brother of Mr. Bisbee of Hobart Town who came as passengers in the ship Elizabeth from England to Sydney); also Mrs. Westbrook mother of Dr. Westbrook. Of this place, another passenger per the Elizabeth, and three others, among whom is Mr. Edmund Johnson, nephew of Mr. Joseph Johnson of the Green Ponds.

The Hope made the Heads on Saturday afternoon; and took on board, off Cape Raoul, the pilot, Mr. Mansfield, the same evening, shortly before dusk. The Hope at this time was being towed in by two of the ship’s boats; but the pilot having taken charge of the vessel, told Captain Cunningham, that he could safely bring her up the river, without the assistance of the boats; from which, in consequence, she parted.

The Captain, however, wished the vessel might be towed in; but the Pilot observed, that his long experience in the river Derwent would enable him to bring her up in safety otherwise. The Captain was perfectly aware of sufficient room being afforded in the Derwent for any vessel to be brought up with almost any wind, and therefore acquiesced with the Pilot’s wishes; and, leaving the charge of the vessel in his hands, retired to rest, where he remained until awakened by the vessel running on shore.

The wind light and variable, and the vessel proceeded up the river but slowly. The night was rather dark and rainy; and about 4 o’clock on the morning of Sunday; about two hours before day break, she, by some means, we can scarcely conceive how, ran ashore, on the long sandy beach, in Shoal Bay, as above stated.

Although the night was rather dark, the wind was not violent, but the surf was running tremendously high. On the lead line being thrown, she was discovered to be in seven feet of water, while her proper draught was fifteen. The moment she struck, the consternation and terror became general; and the scene is described as truly terrific.

The Captain raving at the pilot like a man distracted, the latter standing in mute dismay— females just left their beds— sailors not knowing which way to turn, to relieve the creaking vessel, which was expected to go to pieces every moment, as she already leaked like a sieve— the heavy surf rolling over her, adding horror to the scene— while the dismal half hour guns of distress seemed to signal the death knell of all on board. Daylight at length appeared and discovered to the sufferers their truly perilous situation.

About 10 o’clock of the Sunday morning, two whale-boats, of Mr. Lucus’s fishing party, which had been laying off Bruny Island, came up to the wreck. They had heard the proceeding evening the signal-gun nfor the Pilot, which drew their attention and induced them to bend their steps thitherward.

They immediately lent their aid, with the ship’s jolly boat, in getting out the ship’s bower and kedge anchors; but the attempt proved fruitless, for one of the whaleboats (the property of Mr. Kelly), was stove, having her head absolutely dashed off, and the crew narrowly escaped with their lives. Captain Cunningham then jumped into the jolly boat alone, which parted from the other boat, and nearly fell a sacrifice to his eager promptitude, to save the vessel. Finding every other hope lost, to all the lives they could became their chief object.

The venerable Mrs. Westbrook and Mrs. Bisbee were safely conveyed on shore, after a state of most dreadful suspense for four hours. All this time, the rolling of the vessel almost precluded anyone from keeping their feet, while the state of the two females was most dreadful; overcome with weakness and terror, and fatigue, they could not stand without support, which was kindly afforded by a Mr. John Elliot and some other Gentlemen passengers. With the Ladies, Mr. Clarkson, charterer  of the Hope, came up to Hobart Town  by the whale-boat in the course of Sunday, bringing the fatal news to Town, leaving the other persons on board. Immediately on learning the fate of the Hope, the Agent (Mr. Behune), dispatched the sloop Recovery, a small craft, in order to bring away a portion of her cargo, in which she succeeded, having returned the following evening with as many tons of goods as could be thrown on board from the wreck.

But to return to the ship. On Sunday night, between 11 and 12 o’clock, the rudder gave way, and the upper part of her stern was driven in. At this critical hour of the night, it was every moment feared that the stern post would give way or be driven in also; in which case the vessel must soon afterwards have foundered, and every soul on board perished as the surf was still running mountains high. The other passengers who did not come up on Sunday safely arrived in Town on Tuesday – till which period all hands were employed at the pumps, in imminent peril, every moment in danger of being washed overboard. When some Gentlemen who left the wreck on Tuesday, who had visited it on Monday, the sea was gaining on the vessel every hour, her main mast had been cut away, and all hopes of saving her were given up. Some casks of spirits, which were on board, were ascertained to have been damaged by the salt water; and the tea and sugar, which also formed part of her cargo, must inevitably be destroyed. We understand, that among the persons who had merchandise on board is Mr. James Lord, owner of  the Marquis of Lausdown.—- We are not aware whether the vessel is insured or not.

The government brig Prince Leopold, in coming from Maria Island with the remainder of the wreck of the Apollo, saw the Hope off the Heads on Saturday, and safely arrived in the Harbour the same evening. Monday she discharged her lading, and on Tuesday was immediately sent to the relief of the wrecked Hope.

There were rumours that £30,000 in silver coin had been buried on the beach by two soldiers.  Captain John Laughton purchased the wreck at an auction, but in another nasty twist of fate he drowned while inspecting it (Shipwrecks of Tasmania).

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Hope Beach walked on Friday 13th May 2016.