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