Derwent River: Tinderbox coastline: Passage Point

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


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.

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?


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.





Tasmanian Beaches: Reflection 2: On Rivulets and Reciprocity

The Long Bond


Since completing my walk along the rivulet I’ve struck up a different kind of relationship with it. At night, I might see the moon or hear the owl – or, like last night – go out to see the aurora – but I‘m also conscious of the rivulet flowing down it’s almost totally urban catchment and I can visualise its whole sinuous extent.

In spare moments I’ve been seeking it out again – in Greenlands Avenue, down the Jackson’s Bend Path and on into Turnip Fields. Once I noticed a soft, earthy hole on the high side of the O’Grady’s Track into which (when its running) it disappears to travel under the path.

One very still day on that track, I stopped and looked up. The summit road wasn’t far away. Even with my poor spatial skills I could not get lost. And so I left the path and bushbashed up, through deep leafy deposits and over rotten, mossy tree trunks, perfect places for leaches to lay their eggs, dragging myself up onto the road as car tyres whooshed past quite close to my nose.

And I can say with authority that when you emerge on the summit road it is right there on the other side keeping company momentarily with the Radford Track. A cloth nappy lay in the stormwater drain that carries it beneath the road, a disposable coffee mug some distance off but otherwise, for a moment, the road was quiet and the forest fragrant.

I reflected that in the short time I’ve properly known it, the rivulet has taught me, profoundly, that small, local adventures ground you in place.  The day was a still one but just briefly, the breeze came sweeping through the canopy and elevated the moment into a happy sense of contentment.
My tiny quests had solved a mystery. One report I read said that the rivulet rose no higher than Huon Road. Another said it begins above O’Gradys at The Springs. I dispute both. Where there is a summit there is a source. You could say that it begins as that raindrop hanging from the tip of that rock on the peak. I will contend it rises in the steam from my coffee, the warmth of your breath.

I felt I owed reciprocation for the gifts I felt it had bestowed on me – perhaps go and hitch those underpants off that rock or gather up the garbage to make life that bit easier for those most tolerant of native fauna who still, astonishingly, manage to inhabit some of the rivulet, for the duck and her ducklings and for the grey heron I saw one day on its banks.

But then I found The Friends of the Sandy Bay Rivulet and took myself off to meet them. I grabbed a rubbish bag and while some people planted I yanked out sticky weed and picked up litter. Afterwards, over a cup of coffee I discovered one person had a deep knowledge of local history including beaches. Two others were yachties and so we sat in bands of sunshine and drizzle and talked about history, the rivulet, beaches and sailing and I would not have missed that morning for the world.

I’m not done with the Rivulet yet but that’s secret business between the rivulet and me.  The next posting really will be on beaches.


About two weeks after writing this Susan Murphy came to Hobart to talk about her new book, Minding the Earth, Mending the World.  What she had to say about our disconnection from the earth really resonated with me.  I went up afterwards to have a chat.  In my copy of her book she wrote ‘luckily we can’t walk the same rivulet twice.’

Back at home I opened her book and began to read, and this is what I read on pg 1.

Perhaps the origin of any book, like the source of a river, is finally impossible to separate from all that is and will be.  For which of a dozen or more feeder springs do you choose; or earlier that that, which moss bank dripping over a rock ledge, which raindrop that fell in a catchment; and how to put a date to a raindrop which is really as old as the earth, and in fact even older, as old as the elements formed in the earliest supernovae explosions?  Or back to the start of time itself, arriving together with matter and energy some trillionth of a second after whatever unimaginable occurrence marked the birth of the ongoing revelation that we call the universe?’

Cleaning up with the Friends of the SBR

After we’d finished our work today a duck and her ducklings manoeuvred up the rivulet.  This is the habitat we’ve left for other species to struggle with. (Rushes courtesy of the Friends of the SBR.  If you live in the catchment (and even if you don’t) please consider helping out.)



The literature is full of detail I’d have loved to add to these posts.  See The Book Shelf for further information.

Walking the Sandy Bay Rivulet From Source to Estuary Part 4

Roughed up in the ‘burbs.

Track to Romilly Road
Track to Romilly Road

South Hobart, Dynnyrne, Sandy Bay – the suburban route began with a nondescript path outside the park gates that ran downhill to the rivulet, returning in a rush to its natural bed. I explored a bit, then crossed it to reach the forest track above it through to Romilly Road.

So here’s the sobering truth.  The houses begin and the rivulet gets roughed up.  A sign of worse to come, it travels between banks entangled with blackberries and forgot me nots, lawns and paddock.  Some gardens make it their focus, others shun it.  Regardless, it sounded almost cheerful flowing thin and narrow at this interface between forest and habitation. I had a good view of the state of affairs; this path follows a higher contour just below Stony Steps, another of Hobart’s secret places.   There were cliffs; I reflected on how this rivulet, eons ago, before its landscaping capacity had been thwarted by us newbies, had carved an impressively deep valley.

I arrived at Romilly Street.  After my wanderings the concrete seemed cold, shadowed and unforgiving.  I, myself, mentally immersed in the rivulet, felt out of place as I paused to take some photos from the bridge.  I could see no way of getting to the bottom.  It was the domain of the ducks.

You barely catch a glimpse of the rivulet on the last stretch of Waterworks Road and what you see is hardly edifying. By the time it gets to Linton Avenue it looks scruffy and unkempt – and then it’s gone!  it simply disappears beneath the road.

With a sense of anticipation, I  took the little path I’d discovered at Linton Avenue on a previous sortie, full of anticipation that I would burst through into the park but my conjecture was wrong.  It led me through to an enclave of flats. Back on Linton, I peered through a wild tangle of tall, dense brambles and weeds, a sign of neglect that indicated a rivulet could well be travelling underneath.   There was nothing to see, nowhere to go and so at the Foodstore on King I turned into Overall Street, braving a soapy smelling periwinkle clad bank, down to the rivulet, where I stood over it taking photos of where it emerges from its tunnel and its route down through the park.  Then I chose to walk the road rather than that sodden weed infested bank and encountered it at Parliament Street where it travels beside the oval. I was retracing my steps from a brief exploration of this area the previous week.

That morning frost had crunched under my shoes as I walked upstream along the rivulet flowing  between gardens and park.  I’d tiptoed past a tiny tent in a hidden glade (someone sleeping rough)  and had expected to emerge on Linton Avenue but had arrived, instead, on the freeway, quickly ducking back down lest I be noticed by the morning traffic.

Again I crossed the road.  There was the place where I’d stopped to chat with a man who directed my attention to a house, once a mill, on the banks of the rivulet, and there again, down a steep descent, was the end of  Fitzroy Place and the woebegone rivulet now in a stormwater drain heading beneath Regent Street.  I sauntered down Queen Street and detoured into Lincoln Street to meet it again where the story was one of ducks and daks – ducks fossicking on the bank and old underpants caught on a rock.

I walked down Jersey Street and found the rivulet carrying a plastic bag.  I was there to greet it at Dr Syntax, where it had accumulated plastic cartons and I was there as it entered another stormwater drain (yep, we really esteem this rivulet) and was there to witness it running down its gutter behind the back gardens on Osborne Road.  Sombered, I headed down Quayle Street.

Down near the beach the rivulet gets some recognition but litter marrs the scene – spray cans, McDonalds takeaway products, trapped by a buffer – Mary Ann Bay Beach is grateful. What a terribly filthy, crass minded species we are, I was thinking, and then a welcoming tide came rolling in, and the rivulet, once fragrant, now toxic, depleted itself into the Derwent.  My dogs rushed to greet me and the geologist waited.  Short Beach was lit with slow afternoon activity and the light was mellow.  Feeling like a traveller arriving in another land, I was both buoyed by the loveliness of the walk to Romilly, the activity on the Esplanade and sobered by how quickly the rivulet had been ravaged.

We found a bench, we spread a cloth, we poured puerh tea, and sitting side by side eating chocolate and imbibing this smooth antique tea, I told the geologist of the places I’d been and the things that I’d seen.

SBR at top of Wwks Rd
Meeting forget-me-nots, top of Waterworks Rd


Sandy Bay Rivulet running past Pillinger Road
Sandy Bay Rivulet running past Pillinger Road
Sandy Bay Rivulet from Dr Syntax
Sandy Bay Rivulet from Dr Syntax
Sandy Bay Rivulet mouth, Short Beach Sandy Bay
Sandy Bay Rivulet mouth, Short Beach Sandy Bay
Tea time after the rivulet walk
Tea time after the rivulet walk

Walking the Sandy Bay Rivulet from Source to Estuary Part 3

Part 3:  Hall’s Saddle to Waterworks: A rivulet’s point of view

Ridgeway 1 The third stage begins:  Hall’s Saddle

I was strolling a high contour,  the tiny cluster of houses at Finger Post on the far side of the valley.  Far below, the rivulet flowed beneath the forest canopy in the Turnip Fields valley and as I walked I tried to hold its presence in my mind.    Turnip Fields Turnip Fields

The houses on Huon Road hove into sight and the  Derwent River in the distance.  Gracious eucalypts beside the path had bark I had to stop and admire, she-oaks, orange banksia in blossom, and closer to my feet the tiny red flare of epacris impressa.  I was relishing my solitude, enjoying the rhythm of my stride but making slow progress – there were a lot of little water courses I kept stopping to examine.  Alone with my thoughts I faced the same question with the rivulet that I’d had when walking above Mitchells Beach on the South Arm Peninsula:  how close must you physically be to something to be actually walking  it?  And in what way can you be said to be walking something when you don’t know it’s there?  (I was thinking particularly of rivulets in the city and how, walking down a road we are most of us unaware that a rivulet might be flowing beneath us, imprisoned in a drain.)

Ridgeway 3 Near McDermotts Saddle

I reached the abandoned paddocks of McDermotts Saddle, the lumpy land that bears old traces of a building.  Superb blue wrens flitted ahead of me and a raven called lazily.  A little while later I got a view of dark water down at Waterworks. I came to the steps and descended, then lingered.  Gentle Annie Falls and a series of cliffs demanded exploration – their’s is a long quiet dreaming up here in the eucalypt forest.   Contemplation over, I followed the Circuit track, paused again at a poignant memorial seat to young life cut short, then finally arrived down at the rivulet at last, just where it emerged from the forest running small and shallow, slightly cloudy, over its dark forest bed, a stride wide, meandering around boulders.  I walked beside it companionably, stopping to capture its voice at a cliff and again where it runs over pebbles.

Rivulet The rivulet enters Waterworks

Shortly after this I had a choice of path but the rivulet had none. The rivulet is tricked as soon as it enters Waterworks,  apparently for the misdemeanour of flooding (or landscape building, depending on your perspective) in earlier days.   It is  sneakily led into a moat that runs around the reservoir to the right while the usurper, the reservoir, inhabits the bed the rivulet made like a gigantic cuckoo’s egg.

Reservoir Cuckoo’s egg: The Reservoir

I could have walked beside it, commiserating, but having been that way so many times before (the bitumen, the picnic tables), I went left and walked a forest trail.  As usual the gulls were hanging out on the water and when I crossed over between the upper and lower reservoirs  there was a raven grubbing for food, some tassie hens, ducks and plovers. Munching on an apple, I rejoined the disheartened rivulet as it moved unwillingly down its moat, squeezing itself into the very centre as though it didn’t really belong there.  I passed a bbq in action and a couple arm in arm enjoying the view.   Two ducks, flying low, winged pass me on their way up to the top reservoir and as I approached the gate I spotted the first exotic plants: an escaped agapanthus.  It was a harbinger of things to come.

MoatDisplaced rivulet: the ecosystem blanks out. No life to foster, no landscape to build

Walking the Sandy Bay Rivulet from Source to Estuary Part 2

Part Two:  So You Think You Know Who I Am?

A milky sky, a pensive day. The geologist, still concerned that I would leave the path to seek the rivulet, was not impressed that I was mapless, but I was in familiar terrain and wanted to intuitively feel my way towards the rivulet, maintaining all the while an awareness of the catchment.  There were two rivulets to chose from, if my reading of the landscape was correct.  The one I feel a certain attachment to, that heads down to Turnip Fields via Jacksons Bend and the one that Radfords and Fern Glade, two of my favourite tracks, keep company with.  I chose the latter.

From The Springs I plunged down into the forest along Radford’s Track, conscious of the rivulet somewhere at the bottom of the slope to my right, and the sound I could hear, while possibly the rivulet, was really more likely to be the breeze soughing through the canopy.  It was damp, the vegetation flourishing and aromatic with minty overtones.  Occasionally there was birdsong.

From the Springs to the River: Radfords Track
From the Springs to the River: Radfords Track

I turned on to Reid’s track but ignored the turn off to Silver Falls because that’s in the Browns River catchment.  I figured I was walking along a spur dividing the two catchments from each other and so I stuck with my choice, deciding to walk the full extent of Radfords the next weekend, more closely shadowing the rivulet. (And we did, slipping and sliding, initially, in the newly fallen snow at The Springs). Further down, where the trails diverge near the concrete reservoir covered in graffiti (despoiling the forest with a reminder of urban grit) I turned down the bitumen track the council workers use, enjoying the light south easterly and the quiet calls of small birds as I went from valley edge towards the rivulet itself.

From the Springs to the River: Reids Track
From the Springs to the River: Reids Track


A mountain biker whizzed by, a friend passed at a jog and then I stopped to chat to a woman who told me, as though it was a perfectly ordinary thing to do, that she had walked the Overland Track more than 20 times.  That’s massive! She talked about the enjoyment of taking a backpack and bushwalking alone for days at a time. I was so captivated by her self reliance that when I finally walked on, I took my more usual route and had to backtrack to the Fern Glade path beneath the high canopy with it’s dense understory of tree ferns through which the rivulet weaves, making its way beneath a series of wooden bridges.  Often on this track light falls in luminous bands through the foliage.  Despite the rain and snow we’d had, I’d walked some distance before I found the rivulet pooled in a puddle, and further down the soaked bed, a silvery trickle slipping modestly over the waterfall at the old quarry on Huon Road, a road originally carved out of the forest in the 1830s.

Fern Glade 1

Fern Glade 2

I would not know this until I finally picked up a map a few weeks later but the rivulet along the Fern Glade track is the Longhill Creek.  At its confluence in Fern Tree it travels west.  The actual Sandy Bay rivulet heads down Jacksons Bend and so I should have walked the leech track, (as I’ve done on other occasions) and defied the dangers of the copse.

Rivulet sighted on the Fern Glade track. But who is it really?

In my ignorance, I began my next descent from within the tiny heart of Fern Tree, on the Pipeline track, passing old sandstone structures associated with the early supply of water to Hobart, cheering on the trickles of water trying to create new beds for themselves, noting the swish of a cyclist above me on Huon Road, and careful not to disturb two rosellas murmuring sweet nothings to each other in a eucalypt tree above my head.  I co-own a yacht with a friend/neighbour and I co-own a copper beech with some neighbourhood rosellas.  I looked up at them looking down at me and wondered if they are a part of that small flock that make a gentle rain of husks from the swollen leaf buds in the days before the new leaves unfurl.


On Hall’s Saddle the path crosses the road.  I walked on into a dry sclerophyll landscape, heading for Gentle Annie Falls and the Waterworks Reserve.  Finally I really was in the Sandy Bay Rivulet’s catchment and the real walk was just beginning.

Walking the Sandy Bay Rivulet From Source to Estuary Part 1

Part One:  Being Random

Because I live in the Sandy Bay Rivulet’s catchment, it seemed symbolic that I should kick off my beach walks by strolling the Sandy Bay Rivulet from its source at The Springs (about half way up the mountain) to Short Beach where it enters the Derwent.  I looked at the spurs high up near the summit, figuring out the catchment zone.  I read reports and discovered some conflicting facts about where its source is believed to be.  I did some sleuthing, discovering it here and there as it meandered through its urban reaches.  I made an astounding discovery – or so I thought.  It’s the rivulet that flows beside my favourite forest track.

‘You’re going to walk the what?’ said my friends.  It seems that even if you live in its catchment, on the landscape it has made, the rivulet is out of sight and out of mind.

While vacuuming one day, it occurred to me that it must flow through Turnip Fields.  I cut that chore short and went to explore this little known spot.  From the road I saw new houses with names like Mystic Way, and the Derwent, like a heart-shaped lake, captured by the foothills.  I saw the reservoir at Waterworks and down on the valley floor, blocked by private property, I saw the forest it must surely run through.

The one thing I didn’t do was consult a map.

Confident I now knew its route, I told the geologist I would follow the rivulet that slips down beside ‘the leech path’ to Jackson’s Bend on Huon Road.  There’s a steep, forested valley on the lower side and I imagined I would slither down into this copse with my sailing boots in my rucksack in case I had to slosh my way down the rivulet itself.  Over drinks the geologist explained that I would need a compass, that the bush would be dense, and quite possibly impenetrable over the rivulet.  He told me it was even conceivable I could fall over a cliff and die.

I was disbelieving.  The copse is narrow but it’s true the slope is steep.  I had thought of my descent into the valley as a drop into an unknown world – old memories of the Famous Five had stirred, awakening my inner George.  ‘Forget it,’ said the geologist, and told me of his efforts to push through horizontal and the achingly slow progress he had made.  ‘Only masochists will go into that stuff.  There’s too little reward.’

I was unconvinced but I didn’t like the idea of encountering old bones (that cliff!) or trespassing and encountering a landowner bristling with weapons, as occurred to some others in a 4×4 recently.  And so I agreed to begin at The Springs and to follow a more conventional way down to the river.

From the Springs to the River: Radfords Track
From the Springs to the River: Radfords Track