Reflection: Beach Pebbles

My touchstone.jpg

‘What compels us to walk along the beach, our gaze fixed upon the sand?  We can’t resist the smooth, surf-polished stones that have been tossed this way and that by the waves.  Their intriguingly varied colors, patterns, and shapes draw us to the hunt, and soon our hands and pockets are full.  Something about beach stones is comforting.   They don’t age, die, or fade away.  We perceive them as paragons of permanence and immutability.

But in fact the timelessness of stones is merely an illusion born of our own fleeting presence on Earth.  Their features are a testament to impermanence, a witness to change.  Every spot, stripe, fault, and fold that tempts us to pick up a pebble holds a garment of Earth’s four-and-a-half billion-year history.

A beach is a strip of loose material at the water’s edge, a collection of sand and stones assembled, disassembled, and reassembled by the sea.  On the geology time scale, its ephemeral.  And for most stones, the beach is just the latest stop on a journey that began eons ago…’

~ Iselin, J. & M.W. Carruthers 2006. Beach stones. Abrams, New York.

Book Beach Stones.jpg
Book cover image

D’Entrecasteaux Channel: Tinderbox Beach (475)

Ancient Ripples

Queensland man with little mate
Tinderbox Beach with jetty & Bruny Island across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel

The headsail was torn, the furler broken and so on that fine day last summer I found myself down on Tinderbox Beach as the seabreeze swooped in and the tide ran out.

This beach is small and beautiful, with a jetty, yacht moorings and the great bulk of Bruny Island protecting it from the worst of the Southern Ocean’s temper tantrums.

I walked east, past children playing on the sand and adults relaxing and on to the rocks, heading for the small cobbled beach below Pierson’s Point. I hadn’t gone very far when a man stopped me.

‘What’s over there?’ he said, sweeping his hand across the northern extent of Bruny Island. ‘More of the same?’

‘Not at all!’ I said and passionately described the unique qualities of Bruny Island. ‘Not to be missed,’ I concluded.

‘More of the same,’ he said morosely. ‘I think I’ll just climb in the back of my ute and have a sleep with my little mate.’

He was well set up. He and his travel worn blue heeler had driven down from Queensland rather quickly, then crossed to Tasmania on the overnight ferry which makes port on Tasmania’s north coast.  They’d then hurtled down the extent of the island to this beach at the southern end, all in one day.

Walking on beneath the cliffs, I found some beautiful rock platforms that were (at least to my untrained eye) tessellated. There are well known ones at Eaglehawk Neck but on my walks I was finding them in many more places. Soon I noticed a couple who had set themselves up in a small, sheltered corner and I stopped to ask how far it was possible to continue walking in this easterly direction.

‘Not far,’ they told me. ‘You come to a gulch that’s just too wide to jump. We’ve often thought we should bring along a plank to get over it.’

Looking north again from Tinderbox Beach
From the rocks at Tinderbox looking north into the Derwent River

It wasn’t long before I came to that gulch. I had paused at many rock pools along the way – amongst the most beautiful I could recall seeing in Tasmania – but this gulch was exceptionally dense with beauty – kelp and a variety of other bright seaweeds. I regretted leaving my rocky shore guidebook at home because quite clearly a person should never visit a marine reserve without one.

Seaweeds at Tinderbox

The gulch was just too wide for me to jump. The pebble beach beneath Pierson’s Point was simply unattainable, at least today.

The other exquisite thing about the gulch was that it led into a small sedimentary sea cave. The rocks at its base and under the water had a shimmery pink glow. Right at the end of its deep resounding depths, small cobbles had been pushed up in a pile by the water, which was just deep enough to deter me and so I took a seat at the entrance of the cave and listened meditatively to what it had to say; and taped its voice.

Seacave and gulch at Tinderbox Beach
The sea cave

I could have sat there all afternoon, listening to that gurgling water resonate in the cave but eventually I roused myself and walked back, climbing the cliff and finding that it ended up in someone’s garden. The man who had given me directions was now alone. We discovered we had mutual friends and I told him about the places I’d been and what I’d seen along the coastline and how puzzling the paucity of nomenclature was. We were standing on Mouheener land – they’d once enjoyed the bounty of the Derwent’s western shore, the Channel and Bruny Island. He thought the Aboriginal tribes probably named significant spots on the landscape for people in much the same we so frequently name them but I shared my different perspective, that places are named in accordance with long held myths, that the landscape is redolent with story but has lost its voice and then I walked back along the rocks, wishing I’d brought a plank with me.

The blue heeler was not asleep although his big mate was. We acknowledged each other and then I crossed the beach and walked westward, bound for North West Bay.

Tinderbox Beach with swimmers.jpg

Swimmers told me the temperature was not too bad and in fact, that summer, the waters around Tasmania experienced heatstroke, their highest temperatures ever, the East Australian current extending further south than usual and bringing with it fish from warmer climes.

Rocky platform west of Tinderbox Beach.jpg
Rocky platform west of Tinderbox Beach.  Looking into North West Bay (right)

I had the rocks to myself. The sandstone cliffs were photogenic. I was able to walk almost to the point where North West Bay begins – but not quite. Still, I was satisfied to have discovered that kayaking along here was likely to be rewarding, and so after studying the ripple marks of ancient beaches etched in the surface of ancient sandstone I followed the sea breeze back into Hobart, feeling exultant.

Tinderbox Beach

Historic photograph of this view is at https://stors.tas.gov.au/AUTAS001124067968w800 – View of Tinder Box Bay, the northern part of D’Entrecasteaux Channel Residence of Joshua Fergusson Esq. Walter Synnot.

Breaking Away: Hong Kong to London by Train

 The Joys and Sorrows of a Small Blue World

The owl is calling in the garden.  The river is quiet, the mountain is alive with night life of a different kind… the wallabies, bandicoots, sugar gliders, frogmouths and the moths.  This is home but sometimes it’s nice to go away and expose yourself to the joys and sorrows of a greater world.

The Trans Siberian Express, and Then Some

I had thought that by focussing my attention on the local coastline I’d subdue the travel bug but that’s a hard call when someone you love wants you to visit them in London.

Of course you say yes.

But to tread more lightly on the earth we decided to take the train from Hong Kong to London – a cruise overland, country and cultures slowly revealing themselves.  Sailors who have spent days at sea get this but most people I told were bemused. ‘That’s a long time on a train,’ they said.

In fact, the days flew.

I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat even though you see the damage as well as the beauty.

Silent Summer

Whenever he emerged from the vodka soaked conviviality he was enjoying with the Russians in the next compartment, the American would say, ‘Why has China got no bugs?’  And I would reply, ‘Why are we not seeing any birds?’

It seemed a silent summer.

Between Hong Kong and Beijing we saw a horse, a cow and a few tiny flocks of sheep but no birds.  We saw new cities of derelict buildings and a countryside devoid of life.  As we walked seven stages of the Great Wall  one hot and humid afternoon we encountered two red bottomed bumble bees (name unknown) and although about half the bumble bee species known to the world occur in China, I see heaps more in my garden on any sunny summer’s day.

Siberia does have insects. We met our first big winged thing at the border. Siberia also has a multitude of mosquitoes, but across it’s whole extent we barely saw a bird, let alone a flock, despite passing wetlands, Lake Baikel and rivers.

‘There’s plenty of wildlife in Russia,’ said one of the Russians.  ‘I’m going hunting as soon as I’ve unpacked my bags.’   And after giving the matter some more thought, he said the train probably scared the birds away.

Slicing through country in a train is no way to monitor wildlife  but in trying to find out why the emptiness I found my concerns are shared by Pakistan – they’ve noticed a drop in migratory birds from Siberia.

Australia has also noted a similar collapse.

Personally, I’m sad the birds were foraging elsewhere because Siberian birdlife is magnificent and migrating flocks, though smaller, are also  apparently returning home  earlier than usual each year.

We saw two storks in Poland, the odd bird in Germany and a small flock of waterfowl  in Holland. In the UK the skies were busier but we were on foot and bicycles there and that might have been the difference.

Plastics Rule

Walking through history and past longboats along the lovely Regents Canal in London, birds were nesting amongst the plastic drifting on its surface (see below – that mound in the water is a nest).

Regent Canal plastic

We rode along the Thames to Greenwich, looking at the little beaches where in the nineteenth century mudlarks (the human variety) searched for pickings. A small yacht negotiating the lock from the Thames into the Limehouse Marina was surrounded by plastic litter, a bit like that nest.

 

Yacht entering Limehouse Basin Thames River bike ri

No Tasmanian Coastline, This

We cycled from St Michael’s Mount to Mousehole in Cornwall and walked from St Ives to Zennor.

It was summer; it was magical. The weather was warm, the leaves full of sap, the wild flowers  in blossom and the breeze was fragrant.

Land's End

It was tough returning to winter.

Storms had pummelled the island while we were away. The Hobart Rivulet, imprisoned beneath the city streets had flooded and damaged buildings.  It had been an expensive and inconvenient pest, apparently, but I felt empathy for its bid for freedom.

It just wanted to do what rivers do best: shape and nourish landscapes.

And me: I’m just dancing in the rain because hey, it’s still a vibrant, abundant world with far more joys than sorrows, and there’s an owl calling in the garden.

 

 

Derwent River: Kayaking the Tinderbox Peninsula

Smacking Down Fear with a Paddle

It’s a little known fact but upstream of Dennes Point, just across the water from Pierson’s Point, there’s a shark refuge and the men in grey suits and the freezing water in which they undertake business were on my mind as I climbed into my kayak to paddle the Tinderbox coastline.  I would have liked company but I had no takers and so I’d decided to go alone.

On a fine day.

With the water like a mirror.

And on a low tide.

‘We’ve kayaked it before,’ the geo had said. ‘You don’t need to do it again.’

I could not remember kayaking the whole length of Tinderbox, and if we had done so it was back when I thought of Tinderbox as one long stretch of formidable coastline with no discerning features other than cliff face and rocks. Now I knew better and had reached the conclusion that the best way to get to know the peninsula was by kayak, right up close to the rocks, in part because I didn’t want to be that kayaker who made the headlines through being snaffled in the Derwent.  After all, Hobart is full of sea kayakers who paddle this stretch and think nothing of it.

But I wasn’t one of them.  I simply had a little goal to achieve and a mystery to solve: where was the door to the underground tunnel behind the cliffs?

‘Sailing is all about anticipation,’ my friend M, used to remind me and it’s perhaps more so with kayaking. I checked the Bureau of Meteorology site and chose my day – swell beneath 0.5 m and north westerly winds below 10 knots turning variable later in the day. It sounded perfect.

A small wave splashed over my map as the geo pushed me off and even before I’d made it out to Flowerpot Point, kayaking through the moored yachts in the southern corner of Blackmans Bay, I could tell the river was intent on being a trickster. Because the water was in fact lumpy, and so another fear assailed me.  If I fell out, it would be mere moments before I died of the cold and much as I love the river I did not want its bed to be my last one.   As I rounded Flowerpot Point I felt threatened by swell coming at me from all directions, no doubt lingering from previous bad weather. The surf breaking on Soldier’s Rocks a couple of hundred metres away looked downright intimidating.

I stopped.  ‘Too rough… poor visibility,’ I advised myself and I wobbled into the little cobbled bay (T468) that I thought I had befriended on one of my earlier walks only to find it fractious and lumpy, the water disconcertingly black.  I began to reach for my mobile (geo, come back!) but I didn’t feel steady enough to use it.

‘You miserable little coward,’ admonished the chorus in my head.  I could already see Passage Point and North Bruny Island and they didn’t actually look that far away. We’d figured it would take me three hours (based on my dawdling on previous paddles) and certainly sailing along here sometimes takes a goodly length of time. And so I pointed my kayak south again, put my head down and paddled briskly towards my first waypoint, Soldiers Rocks, adrenalin ratcheting up my heartbeats. My seat wasn’t properly adjusted; my legs were already going numb.   This was affecting my balance.  No ways was I going to reach for my camera.

I burned passed Soldiers Rocks, keeping a distance between us because of the toothy break and  reflective swell,  and my compromised ability to use the pedals I could no longer feel. The Lucas Point Sewage Plant now seemed more friend than foe. I could see how in this little bay the beaches from the water seemed a single beach rather than two or three, but I was not game to reach for my iPhone.

There was no going back now.

Because of the slop I couldn’t get near the shoreline  and so I had to put a big fat cross through the image I’d had of myself, drifting along a feet or two from the cliffs, trailing my hand along rocks from time to time (hello, rocks!  hey, sea anemone!) imprinting the geography in my head,  scrutinising the cliffs for the hidden doorway.

My next waypoint was Fossil Cove and I could see the arch ahead of me.  The geo and the dogs were going to walk through it to the part of the beach on the northern side and I’d said I might see them here but little did I know, they were way behind me.   (And little did they know I was ahead.  They waited here a long, long time.)  Ahead, closer to the eastern shore, was a ship at anchor. There is often a ship at anchor, presumably waiting to proceed upriver but they are like ghost ships. Sailing past, you never see crew. Back when Sandy Bay was barely populated, the ships at anchor often had clandestine grog on board that was collected by smugglers under cover of darkness.

A smaller ship came around the Bruny Island coastline and headed down the D’Entrecasteaux just as a boat came roaring out of it, headed my way.  Fishers, I thought, but no.  They began to reverse their boat into an extremely narrow gulch on the southern side of Fossil Cove.  Neat!  And what a clue!  They’d been invited to lunch!

To keep my mind off sharks I contemplated the cliff top with its magnificent view, far more alluring IMHO, than an underground dining room but I guess diversity is the spice of life.

Lucas Point came and went.  Before I knew it I was past Passage Point where, in the wind shadow, the water lay down. The tide was more resistant here but I was quickly through the gap between Dennes Point on North Bruny and Piersons Point on the Tasmanian mainland and in the channel flat water with a quiet lattice of ripples welcomed me. Beneath me, arrow squid, australian salmon, barracuda, pike, flathead, whiting and silver trivially glided, but I was unaware of them. Beneath the cliffs a seal lolled in the water, one flipper up. I paddled past the two little cobbled beaches, the tiny gulches and the sea cave and made it on to the beach before the geo and dogs arrived to give me a lift home.  I hadn’t managed to explore the beaches but, chased ever onwards by imaginary sharks snapping at my stern, I did do this leg in 1 hour flat!

Cobbled beach, Pierson's Point
Cobbled beach, Pierson’s Point and quieter water

 

The day I kayaked from Blackmans Bay
Cliffs at the start of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel

 

Taken the day I kayaked from Blackmans Bay to Tinderbox Beach.
Moorings off Tinderbox Beach.  Bruny Island (left).

 

Derwent River: Tinderbox coastline: Passage Point

With a Dark and Stormy in one Hand and a Pencil in the Other

PASSAGE POINT

Passage Point is a notable promontary at the mouth of the Derwent Estuary and is both lovely from the water and green and pleasant from the road – a rolling hillside, a rustic shed, an abrupt cliff line carved by the waters of the Derwent, the D’Entrecasteaux and Storm Bay.

Signage
Map from the Kingborough Council Signage at the start of the Tinderbox Hills track:  nomenclature is thinly used.  Passage Point, Piersons Point and Tinderbox Beach,  all important landmarks, are not noted. (Passage Point is to the left of Mount Louis.)

Having finally decided that ‘not the real Fishermans Haul’ was in fact the real Fishermans Haul (see last blog post), we went to Passage Point to see if there was some way we could access the little cobbled beach I’d noticed.  There wasn’t.  We had to make do with expansive views but as these were superlative and so vast in scope we could hardly complain.  Mount Louis, Tinderbox’s highest point and forested in eucalypts rose behind us.

Birngana long distance race off Tinderbox
Birngana off Passage  Point

My guess on how Passage Point got its name was all tied up with waypoints, landmarks and the ocean because if you’re heading off in your yacht on a trip of any distance, it pays to sit down and plan your passage.  With a ‘dark and stormy’* in one hand, and a pencil in the other, take a careful note of the tides, currents and potential hazards.  Become familiar with the landmarks you’ll pass, navigational signs you’ll encounter, channels or reefs you may need to negotiate and choose your waypoints.  Make Meteye your new best friend and despite being in love with your chartplotter, tuck the paper version into your nav table too because it’s less likely to let you down.  Departing the Derwent at this point to head out across Storm Bay is always a bit of a passage into the unknown because the bay is notorious for conjuring tempests up out of the most benign conditions.

Because  this familiar promontary is just there where the waters of Storm Bay, the Derwent and the D’Entrecasteaux merge, it’s symbolic of passages about to begin and passages almost completed.  So it goes without saying that this is how it got its name, right?

Wrong.

I checked Placenames Tasmania and found some unverified information. A boat called the Fancy was one of ‘the few remaining trading boats called passage boats.’ Back in slower more leisurely days these boats used to ply the Derwent and the Channel.  In doing so, they had to round Passage Point and in so doing, they gave the point its name.

This information in the database comes from a boating article in the Saturday Mercury, Jan 2002 where it’s also noted that ‘most features on coasts were named by mariners and seeking reasons for names means looking at it [sic] from a mariner’s point of view.  Thus Passage Point was a marker for south-bound boats of the entrance of ‘the passage’ or the Channel.’

Exploring the sweep of shoreline from Sandy Bay to Tinderbox had triggered my curiosity about the way places were named but I had not considered that mariners had a big hand in the names of the places I was exploring.  This was an unforgiveable oversight because it’s obvious that many major features first got their names from the early voyages of discovery.  My impression of the western shoreline of the Derwent was that places were usually named after the early landowner’s or overlooked in the naming process altogether but I could see that in a tiny colony at the end of the world there’d be a sense of familiarity and homeliness for locals who plied these waterways in naming the places they were passing by the names of the people they knew. On dark and stormy nights in particular, the ability to recognise familiar landmarks and tick off waypoints is comforting and engenders hope when you’re toughing out rugged conditions.

We paused here to savour the view.  Passage Point felt extremely evocative for me:  I had walked out one wintery morning and followed the Sandy Bay Rivulet down to its mouth.  I had turned right and wandered the shoreline from there to here, a distance of some 35  kilometres, give or take a few and although I had done this as an urban explorer, little bit by little bit, it had been fun, it had changed the way I related to the coast as well as dramatically expanding my knowledge of the city I live in.

And then we continued on our ‘way ‘ – a word itself entangled with ‘passage’, and like ‘passage’ one with an evocative history.  I liked the definition from the Free Dictionary best:  ‘a. A road, path, or highway affording passage from one place to another. b. An opening affording passage’.

  • Dark and Stormy: rum and Coke / ginger beer or ale; a drink that’s popular with sailors.  The link is to one version, but there are many.

 

 

 

 

Derwent River: Tinderbox Beaches: Not the Real Fisherman’s Haul

Beaches T 471 (Fisherman’s Haul) & T472 Fisherman’s Haul South

Having scrutinised more maps I began to doubt that the Lucas Point Sewage Plant was actually at Lucas Point.  It’s the landmark that helps identify Fisherman’s Haul and as conversations with locals had helped me fix it in my mind that it lay just south of Flowerpot Hill I started to think that the problem was one of language – ‘just’ is a stretchy kind of word for a start, and may not have been used by anyone I’d spoken to.  It may simply have been a supposition I’d made from what had been said to me.

Our modus operandi was to drive along the Tinderbox road slowly (not difficult – there were quite a few cyclists out and about) and check for detours down the slope.  The geo noticed a sizeable piece of green land with car tracks on it, somewhat sheltered from the road by a partial row of caesurinas.  We did a u-turn and went back to investigate.

Close by a man was burning off.  He ambled over to talk to me and I asked him if this was Lucas Point.

‘Some people think it is, but it isn’t really.’

‘Is it back where the sewerage plant is?’

‘Nope.  Some people think that’s Lucas Point too, but it isn’t really.’

‘So where is the real Lucas Point?’

He pointed vaguely over his shoulder. ‘Back there a bit.’

‘Okay…  And so I’m wondering, if Lucas Point is back there, then is this Fishermans Haul?’

‘Some people say it is but it isn’t really the real Fishermans Haul.’

‘Is there a beach down there?’

‘Nope.’

‘Is there a path down?’

‘Maybe.  You should be okay if you’ve got your balancing shoes on.’

‘Well, thanks, I might go and explore.’

The geo  was down at the bottom of the slope reading a sign.  It stated ‘Lucas Point’.  A thin band of caesurinas lined the vertical cliff top so we put the dogs on leads and slithered down a very steep path of sorts beside a short deep gully carved by another youthful rivulet, at that time dwelling soley in a few remnant pools.  An old rusty cable lay beside the track but we couldn’t identify a use for it unless haulage came into it.  It didn’t take at all long before we came to the end of the path.  It stopped for me at a rather cracked and fragile looking rock arch left over from a previous coastline.  It might have been fine to walk over it onto the high rocky platform but I didn’t like the look of the cracks in the unconsolidated cliff face to which it was attached.  The geo and the dogs stopped a bit further back because it really wasn’t a place for the dogs to be at all – it was all rather precipitous.

Looking down at Lucas Point Tinderbox
The rocks at the real Lucas Point; climbers’ secret

It goes without saying that the long views  were superlative.   Down this end of the river we were getting closer views of the Iron Pot, the lighthouse at the entry to the Derwent River and in the southern curve of Lucas Point (the cliff I was presumably standing on) was a very beautiful and quiet cobbled beach and just to the north of where I was standing was another cobbled beach.  Looking directly south at the cliffs that work around to Passage Point I saw a third.  And looking directly down was a tiny narrow gulch.

Fishermans Haul North from Lucas Point
Fisherman’s Haul
Looking south to Passage Point from Lucas Point
Looking south from Lucas Point, the beach below Passage Point just visible.

Andrew Short notes a Fishermans Haul (S) and a Fishermans Haul.  Here’s his description of Fisherman’s Haul:

‘Fishermans Haul is a small curving cobble beach (T 471) located to the lee of 40 m high Lucas Point. Steep vegetated bluffs rise to 50 m behind the small beach, which is partly sheltered by the point and rock reefs resulting in low waves at the shore. The road runs along the top  of the bluff 100 m west of the beach with access via a steep descent. ‘(Short, 2006)

And here’s his description of Fishermans Haul South:

‘Beach T 472 commences 100 m south of the Haul, and is a 200 m long east- to northeast-facing narrow high tide cobble beach located at the base of 50 m high cliffs, with a steep gully descending to the centre of the beach.’ (Short, 2006)

New discoveries!  Seen so often from the water but not really properly seen at all.  I was happy to believe the sign and this time, added to the slippery geography I’ve been doing battle with, was that local’s wicked sense of humour and the entertainment he got from causing confusion.

This coastline may seem impossible to access on foot but later I discovered that it’s loved for being a climbing area rich in deepwater solos, that method of climbing that evolved in SW England.  Nick Hancock makes it clear that for this you need a kayak you can tie up while you climb up dolerite boulders or columns at this point and you need to be confident that the water is deep and safe enough to splash down into.  Don’t even think about trying this unless you have plenty of experience, not just about deepwater solos but weather conditions and the sea state too because Tinderbox is unforgiving. And if you think the name makes it promising for fishing, pack your tackle and take your rod further afield.  Too many fish have been hauled and this area is now protected within the bounds of the Tinderbox Marine Reserve – no fishing allowed.

The view east from Lucas Point Tinderbox
View across the river to South Arm from the real Lucas Point.  The Iron Pot is that tiny dot to the right.

 

 

Derwent River: Tinderbox Beaches: Flowerpot Coastal Reserve (T469?)

The Artist and the Donkey

Flowerpot Coastal Reserve Beach

Beneath the Lucas Point Sewage Plant there’s a bay and in that bay there’s a thin cobbled beach divided by boulders from another stretch of tide constricted beach.  (Possibly Andrew Short’s beaches T469 & T470, but I could well be wrong.)

We’d started the day with brunch at MONA, Hobart’s incredible Museum of Old and New Art, way upriver and  I only mention this because I’d spent an inordinately long time at the Marina Abramovic exhibition, engrossed in watching her meditatively regard a donkey and the donkey’s long considered response to her. The immaculate stillness of it all; the way the observer is absorbed into the dynamic of the interaction and how, in paying attention, new details about the donkey, or Marina, or even the pared down environment emerge into focus long after you think you’ve observed everything there is to see alerts you to the fact that perception is fickle and attention is a skill that needs honing.

It made me wonder how long I should spend regarding a beach and how you express gratitude to such a multi-diminsional part of this planet.

Later we packed a rucksack and headed down to the Tinderbox Peninsula. The off the leash exercise area behind the Lucas Point Sewage station was vibrant with canine energy but we detoured up Flowerpot Hill’s southern slope. A blue sky, and a light sea breeze …we reached the place I’d stopped before  and paused to consider the various blossoms in flower along the edge of the cliff line.

Gum blossom Flowerpot Hill south
This beautiful eucalyptus is not indigenous to this area. 

 

 

I quizzed each local I met about beaches. I was particularly after information about a beach called Fisherman’s Haul but no one could enlighten me.

We snooped around the sewage plant and debated taking a tangled path then elected instead to descend to the shore via another steep path that followed the edge of the short deep gorge carved by the rivulet that inhabits this valley. There’s no sign to identify it but it reaches the Derwent via a cobbled beach and there, that day, it stopped behind the pebbles heaped up on the steeply sloping little beach that was being pounded by business minded waves. Occasionally we’d hear the sound of those cobbles making music as the waves retreated.

The tide was high and I had to calculate the time between waves in order to reach a spot at the northern end from where I could peer over boulders into the Lucas Point Sewage Plant’s beach  (if indeed it really was a separate beach).

Tinderbox Flowerpot Coastal Reserve Beach
Lucas Point Sewage Plant’s beach just north of the Flowerpot Coastal Reserve beach.

The tide had left only one small, dry patch  at the southern end and so I didn’t think it was wise to gamble with the waves. There was graffiti on its cliffs and above that I could see the sewage plant. Both detracted from its original beauty, one of austere rock and wild water. I could see Soldiers Rocks and just this side of them a lone man  fishing. It seemed somewhat too close to the sewage plant to be a palatable past time.

Meanwhile, the geo had brewed the tea given to us by a friend who’d departed in his yacht to sail home to NZ. We sat back and contemplated the beach and the little rivulet, the cliffs to our south and the kayaker who surfed one of the breaking waves before heading on north with no break to his momentum.

Tinderbox Flowerpot Coastal Reserve kayaker
Lone kayaking along a rugged shore ~ Soldiers Rocks in the distance

In that beautiful setting the tea tasted divine and lent a meditative quality to the attention I was lavishing on the shoreline.  Then I performed a tea ceremony to honour the beach. A little liquid connection. A means of feeling my way towards how one says thank you to a beach for its existence.

Tea at Flowerpot Coastal Reserve Beach
Gratitude to all things beach and water

 

Afterwards I walked the small bushland path beyond the dog exercise ground by myself, wondering where it would take me. Like a lot of my coastal explorations, I ended up walking a circle. What beach we’d found I did not  know but I did find out it wasn’t Fishermans Haul – the map said no. So for want of knowing the local name, I’m calling it Flowerpot Coastal Reserve beach and if you’re idling in this area it’s worth seeking it out. Because it exists, and it’s hidden away, and it’s very Tinderbox.

 

 

 

 

Derwent River: Tinderbox Beaches: Zawns and Sea Caves

Walking on Sunshine and Fat Boy Splashes

Leaning into the Vertical along the Tinderbox Shoreline

Looking south to Passage Point from Lucas Point

 

This Tinderbox shoreline is another where the cartographers have pretty much mooched on by, leaving others to fill in the blanks. But it would seem that many locals, spending their time on the clifftops only, are ignorant of the particular beauty of zawns and arête,  cobbled beaches, sea caves and the communities living below the water.

Down on the reefs it’s a multicultural world.  There are green and snakeskin chitons, common beaked and flea mussels, tall-ribbed and scaly limpets, chequered, ribbed and tessellated top-shells, common shelf-limpets, banded austral winks, lined whelks and common cartrut-shells…  and there are the refugees that  jumped ship and found a rock to cling to, escaping the polluted bilge water of their vessel of choice – the mediterranean mussel and pacific oyster may have arrived this way. (Grove, de Little).

These fantastical names and molluscs could arguably be equaled by the climbers  who have transported a love of a particular sort of coastal climbing (deep water soloing) from the Cornwall and Devon coastlines to Tasmania and who have applied colourful names to the vertical routes that they alone can see and cling to.  Pinnacle zawn has climbs called Fatman’s Splash and Fatboy’s Swim, Walking on Sunshine and Danni’s Pants.  Climbers’ fingers and toes have found cracks in the chimneys and buttresses, they know the arête and sea caves and they’ve swum or kayaked across gulches to reach their next challenge.

This coast is loved by  jumpers too.  The young and the reckless risk broken backs, head injuries and death, doing backflips off Soldier’s Rocks and leaping off the Cemetery at the Blowhole (see Blackmans Bay Beach).

Lacking this intimate geography of place,  no boulders known to me, I checked my chart, I peered at my maps,  took a spin on Google Earth, then set off in search of hidden beaches.  Top of my list was Fishermans Haul or Fisho’s and I thought I knew exactly where I could find it. 

© Tasmanian Beaches: Small Adventures Exploring the Coast on Foot, by Bicycle, Kayak and Sail

Derwent River: Blackmans Bay and Beach T468: from Boronia Hill to Flowerpot Hill

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.

Long shadows and moorings
The view over the beach from Boronia Hill

 

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.

Looking north along Boronia Point
The view north along the cliffs

 

‘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.

Best photo of sea arch blackmans bay
The Blackmans Bay blow hole (currently a sea arch)

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.

Rose and white sandstone
Patterns in the sandstone, Flowerpot Point

 

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.

Beach T468
View from the Suncoast Track of beach T 468

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.

Dinghies at Blackmans Bay

 

Source:  Short, A.D. 2006.  Beaches of the Tasmanian coast and islands.  Sydney University Press, Sydney.

Derwent River: Boronia Beach (T466A)

Carnage in the Cove

Kingston has three beaches.  Boronia, tucked away behind cliffs is the most southern one.

Boronia Point: returning to Kingston
Looking back at Kingston Beach from the Boronia Point track

May 2015

‘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.)

From Boronia Point
The great view east:  South Arm Peninsula hiding Ralphs Bay from sight
Boronia looking south down the cliffs
Looking south with the Tinderbox Peninsula in the distance
The cliffs at Boronia Beach
Boronia’s cliffs.  Not short on character

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.

IMG_3445
This sign reads no dogs, no cats, no camping… and people!  Shut the gate!
Jindabyne Rd entrance to Boronia Beach
Jindabyne Road above the beach.  Pony trap and picnic basket required.

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.

Easy access for scuba diving
Making like a swimming pool

Boronia Beach

Looking north to Hobart and across the river to the eastern shore.
Looking north up the Derwent River from Boronia Beach

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.