Derwent River: Blinking Billy to Hinsby Beach: Part 8

Naming it up

The places I’ve identified have given me the slip so I’m mentally doing circles around High School Point and  the beach some call Beck’s, some call Melinga and some call nothing at all to have a little think about the local expression of the human mind.

This is because in misleading myself when it comes to naming, I’m sure I’ve misled you.  Perhaps the cartographers, surveyors and the Nomenclature Board have not chatted enough over tea breaks or scheduled sufficient meetings, given that for many years they’ve been part of the same division in the same government agency.  This occurred to me because more research this past week indicated one of two things:  1.  I’ve misinterpreted local writers’ beach identification or 2.  The locals simply cannot agree, are occasionally geographically challenged and at other times are simply not precise enough to help confused readers out.  A case in point, Karringal Court is not south of High School Point as one of the authors I read would have it.  Whatever, the maps themselves have so very little to say!

Nomenclature, generally, is further complicated because where no formal name exists the Aboriginal community have naming rights.  But they are made up of several communities and they don’t all know a place by a single name.  Take the Derwent River itself.  It has more than one Palawa name.  According to a member of the Channel community, their name for the river is unlikely to be formally recognised.  I was given this name on a small piece of paper I can no longer find, which is a shame.  The name is beautiful.

The second point of difficulty is in negotiating on names with government.  I had a chat to someone from the Aboriginal Community when I was at Risdon Cove.  They said the government drags its feet.  I spoke to someone in government.  They said it’s hard to get representatives of the Aboriginal community to the table.

I revisited the foreshore and was pleased to encounter a local who told me he’d been walking these beaches since 1948.  An expert, surely!

’Becks, Dixons and Retreat,’ I asked. ‘Can you confirm I’ve got them in the right order?’  He looked at me blankly.

‘I’ve never heard of them,’ he said.  ‘The one you’re calling Beck’s I know as Melinga Place Beach.  Why would it be called Beck’s anyway?’

I went home.  I reopened my books and I clicked through web pages.  I rediscovered an article by Reg Escott on the Taroona Book Digitised website, who in his article on Taroona’s  boat sheds explains that Taroona has five beaches.  Starting at Grange Point, they are:

Retreat Beach [my impression was that he means the whole long strip starting from Grange Beach (not named) and ending at Retreat Cove, the northern beach on ‘High School Point’]

Retreat Cove [the one I thought was Dixons, on the northern section of ‘High School Point’]

Dixons Beach [in front of the high school, south of ‘High School Point’]

Beck’s Beach [Melinga Place beach]

Taroona Crescent Beach [Taroona Beach]

Hinsby Beach.

Have a look for yourself.  It’s an interesting read if you’d like to know more about boat sheds (of which there were many more in the past) – or are keen to stumble across a clue or two as to the interesting placement and formations of boulders / rocks around these beaches.  They have been moved, post invasion/settlement.

I came to two conclusions.

  1. Beach identity is (always) in a state of flux along this shoreline.  For eg, Beck’s is named for a land owner (and perhaps before that was called Mitchells after an earlier owner bearing that name) but now it’s transitioning to being named for a street.  Dixon had a farm somewhere in Taroona.
  2. We keep messing with the landscape.  Had the road not been built down to the shoreline, Beck’s and Dixons (if I’m identifying these correctly) would be one beach.

But, guess what?  I probably still don’t have the order right.  This morning I revisited the Taroona 1:25 000 map (no 5224) and this is the nomenclature that’s listed, north to south:

The Grange Picnic Area (at Cartwright Point!  Go figure.)

Cartwright Creek

Cartwright Point

Dixons Reef (in the region of Karringal Court)

Dixons Beach (which I’d figured was Retreat Cove – see above)

High School – the site indicated but the point not named

Crayfish Point

Taroona Beach

Alum Cliffs

That’s pretty meagre and laxadaisical, if you ask me, given this map is supposed to be authoritative.  What’s more, The Listmap, supposedly the most current source, given that it’s online, has even less information!  And so I’m giving up.  Here, in this city of 250,000 people more or less, we know and care so little about the coastline we haven’t named it up.  The alternative view is that the coastline rejects our spurious naming methodology, if it can even be called that.  Why name something so grand and long enduring after unexceptional land owners?  Why name it’s spots but not it’s freckles?

I like the view of the coastline slipping free of its transient names, even though names would be so helpful when you want to text your lift your whereabouts.  May it stay wild and secret in the city forever.  And perhaps Andrew Short who numbers the beaches, and my friend, who is fine with degrees of latitude and longitude but not with names have a point because if we’re not in a relationship with the coast, and we don’t value it, then it’s nothing but a nameless stranger to us after all.


Moon over Grange compressed
The moon rising over the boulder at Grange Beach

Apart from the links above, see the Place Names Tasmania database.  Here’s the official document on the rules with regard to assigning Tasmanian  place names.

Derwent River: Blinking Billy to Hinsby Beach – Part 5: Cartwright Point

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.

First sighting of Cartwright Point
Taroona in my sights

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.

Cartwright Rivulet
Cartwright Rivulet

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.


Birds yacht from Crawfords
The view from the Cartwright Point area.  This yacht had kept pace with me for much of my walk.

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.

Cartwright Point
Looking back at the cove at Cartwright Point

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.