Derwent River: Blinking Billy to Hinsby Beach – Part 3: To Mitah Crescent Cove

I Know You, Boulder

The walk continued…

At the end of the beach I had to hop onto rocks and make my way between the river and a concrete wall.  Around  the corner  a wooden boatshed looked as though it might end my walk but I found a way around it and although my walk felt seamless this is where I regard the Blinking Billy Beach 3 section as beginning.   Just look at this picture.  Who’d think there was a city here?

Boatshed marking beginning of BB3
As you turn the corner at the point at the southern end of  Blinking Billy Beach 2 (aka Half Moon Bay) you see this structure.

The same subjects preoccupied me as I walked along – the geology, the history, the structures – and, specifically, locating myself on this piece of shoreline.  I kept changing my mind as to where I was in relation to the road above me but I wanted to do this walk without the help of Google Maps so that I had a real sense of (urban) adventuring into the unknown.

Blinking Billy 3 wild coast
As you turn the corner at the point at the southern end of  Blinking Billy Beach 2 (aka Half Moon Bay) you see this structure.

In  wild weather this would be a windswept stretch of rocky coastline with views north to town, south into Storm Bay and across the river to more loveliness along the southern section of the eastern shore.  On the day of my walk these lonely stretches felt pensive, secret and self-contained, and I felt myself more likely to encounter a nineteenth century smuggler along here than back at Red Chapel Beach or Blinking Billy Point.  At the same time I felt as though the shoreline was as aware of me as I was of it.

I figured I was out of Geography Bay and this new perspective of the river renewed my feeling of exhilaration in the landscape and perplexity about ourselves – that we Westerners have been here since the beginning of the 1800s and yet, so close to the city centre, the nomenclature is still so sparse as to be mostly non-existent and so slippery where it is there at all.   Many of us know more about London, Paris and places overseas than we do the intimate nooks and crannies of the river, the mountain and the great rifted catchment.

A few months after this walk I had a debate with a friend over just this issue.  He’s a man that does real adventuring and exploring – the further off the beaten tracks of this world and out of communication the better.  He is against nomenclature.  He wants the earth’s places (mountains, rivers) left untainted by names but is prepared to compromise on a latitude/longitude co-ordinate.

I feel differently.  As I walked along this stretch of coast wondering about the original aboriginal names for the places and features I was passing – names that over 30,000 years just have to have been rich, dense and redolent with mythology – it struck me like an epiphany, the extremely serious and overlooked disconnection we have with the earth.  A shrieking Disconnection.  A Disconnection so profound we’re trashing the planet beyond redemption and losing ourselves.  No names – no recognition. No relationship.  No honouring.  No sense of gratitude. I looked at the magnificent, powerful river that I love so much, as much a goddess as the Ganges, and wished ‘sacred’ had not become a disparaged word because if anything felt sacred it was the animation I perceived in this river and its shoreline, so dynamic and timeless despite our culture turned beautiful parasite glued to its side. At the most profound level this existential disconnection is manifesting in more damaged psyches as each generation becomes less connected to the earth because how do you honour yourself if you can’t relate to and stand in awe of the greater entity you’re part of?  As I wandered along the rocks, pausing to ponder their origins, diversity and beauty, I felt so utterly enthralled at the profligate beauty about me and a real grief that so many other compelling distractions have made it difficult for us to immerse ourselves in a landscape unfettered by human notions of time as was the case before our cultural evolution careered us away from hunting and gathering.

I had begun to pay more attention to my thoughts and less to the landscape when a sloping and strangely familiar boulder blocked my route.

Boulder and yacht
Hello, Boulder.

About two feet of estuary rose and fell about its base.  I didn’t want to take off my shoes and wade, the river’s temperature making it somewhat untouchable.  On the other hand, my first strategy for climbing up the boulder’s side was hampered by the fact that a few weeks before I had dislocated and fractured my little finger while working on the boat with our mechanic, who I think of as being to engines what Leonard Cohen is to music.

I put my hands on the sloping rock.  ‘I know you, Boulder.’  We had not met for a Very Long Time.  Looking up I noticed a huge house with enormous windows.  Now that was new to me.

When we were a whole lot younger we had come to  look at a  house – a beach shack really – at the bottom of Mitah Crescent.  The owners walked us through their cacti and succulent garden down to a large boulder.  The river lapped around its base but they assured us there was sand when the tide went out.   We desired that boulder and that river access but knew that once we had paid for the property we would not be able to afford renovations for a while to come and so we sadly and stupidly decided not to make an offer.

I  leaned my back against the boulder for a while, thinking that on this walk I’d barely noticed the Eastern Shore – I was so busy ‘paying attention’ (my current mantra) to the rocks about my feet and the all enveloping personality of the shore.  My iPhone was losing power rapidly because of happy snapping and  jubilant voice memos.  I looked back along the way I’d come.  I tested my finger’s capacity to help draw my weight up the side of the boulder.  Not looking good.

Looking back from Mitah Crescent
Looking back at Blinking Billy Beach 3 from Mitah Crescent

My options were limited – I could fall, climbing that boulder.  But if so, there was reason to hope that I’d be spotted sooner rather than later by the big windowed houses above me because at this point of the walk they had drawn closer and lower to the shore  and so I took my chances, shifted my weight from disabled finger to used-to-being-bruised knee.   Trying to be discrete, because I could not definitely recall whether the  boulder was a right of way, I crept across it, slithered down over the boat shed’s jetty and found myself in an intimate and beautiful sandy cove.  If the tide had been out when we’d viewed that house, we would both have lost our heads and hearts.

Cove at Mitah Crescent
Looking back at Mitah Crescent cove

More rocks, more pebbles, the occasional rivulet and astonishing discoveries.  I sometimes thought that paying too much attention to where I was about to place my feet I was missing out on rivulets, but in fact the way you find a Hobart rivulet is to use your nose.  As they emerge dishevelled and emaciated from their concrete prisons they bring with them a distinct smell: stale old detergent.  Yep.  The cleaner we are, the dirtier we make the environment.

Then I encountered another boulder and, with an awkward gap, a double set of rails leading from boat sheds to the water.  I slithered down to the base of the boulder and timed my scramble for a gap in the waves – and made it under the structure.

Double boatshed
Double boat shed

I was about to leave Sandy Bay and enter the suburb of Taroona. but a little way around the next corner I found some more appealing structures and to my surprise, a sphinx like rock gazing out to sea.  It’s waypoints like this that would undoubtedly have carried names earlier in the Holocene and I paused, feeling the loss of the language that once sung this landscape into being, the loss of a way of being in the landscape and interpreting the subtle nuances our less sophisticated gaze  misses.  I work with people who have dementia.  In a more holistic way I think we have robbed the landscape of its earlier identity and a significant part of its memory.

Sphinx
As you turn the corner at the point at the southern end of  Blinking Billy Beach 3 you see this structure.  In the absence of official nomenclature, my personal name for it is The Mouheenener Sentinal

 

And it was along this stretch of shore that I nagging awareness came to the fore – one huge river, but only a handful of avian wanderers.

Where the hell were the birds?

Next blog entry: Photographs – Blinking Billy to the Sandy Bay border

 

 

 

 

 

 

Derwent River: Marieville Esplanade (South)

Still Just Hanging In

Sometimes you just don’t see what’s in front of your eyes.

The cardboard sign at the start of the track gave me pause for thought ‘Snake Spotted Lying on the Path’ someone had written, and so instead of exploring new territory I headed down to the marina to do a bit of work on Samos. The dogs lay and watched me.  It’s currently the summer solstice, the day was hot, the moon  a waxing gibbous and the tide  low but oblivious to all this I was tending the engine and talking to my neighbour.

At a certain point I looked past the yachts and ducks to the houses that occupy the foreshore.

There at their base were remnants of beach.  Rather sorry looking remnants but large enough patches of  polluted sand to provide private coves for those lucky enough to live in those houses.  Not that long ago it was a longer stretch of cleaner sand and boats swung at their moorings in the lee of Wrest Point.  Now the marina’s been extended and there are new floating berths.

This view has become so familiar to me but in failing to question it I hadn’t seen it for what it really was: a beach still present enough to make a statement:  well may I go unnoticed but I’ll be back in one guise or another long after the marina and these activities are gone.

Beach at the DSS

Beach remnantsDSS Beach remnants

Meet Me in Tokyo

When someone you love says ‘Meet me in Tokyo,’ the temptation is just too great. I put my blog aside, abandoned social media and headed out into the world on a small adventure that involved food safaris, onsin challenges and meditative pilgrimages to shrines, both Shinto and Buddhist.  In Kyoto the leaves were turning.

Sky tree golden flame river.png
Sky Tree, the Asahi Flame and Sumida River

We took up residence for a while in Asakusa, an old part of Tokyo, where the Sky Tree towers over an already tall city and the Asahi flame, such as it is, lies heavily on its side beneath it. We were close to shrines, big and small, that honour the Bodhisattva Kannon who is intimately linked to the Sumida River.  The story goes that back in 628 AD when the area was a delta, three fishermen hauled a statue of this particular Bodhisattva out of the river.  The first shrine was made of straw.  Now there’s a complex of wonderful shrines, including Tokyo’s biggest and most visited.

IMG_6153

The gift of the Sumida River hasn’t saved it from all sorts of atrocities.  It may know daylight but it has concrete hips. There’s minimal habitat for river species. The Derwent in comparison is a wild eyed hippie, a moody and creative artist with a flare for change.

I didn’t notice anyone fishing in the Sumida and barely a bird apart from a lone cormorant and a tiny flock of seagulls that flew into sight beneath a bridge. In fact, with a bridge literally every kilometre along its length there’s not much river traffic either because the bridges are so low.

Derwent from the Mountain (1).png

Flying back into Hobart is a beautiful experience – that first riveting sighting of the mountain and that most magnificent of rivers, always so spectacularly stunning from the air, is riveting.

Once my feet were on the mountain and my eyes on the river, I felt reconnected to home, ready to curl my hand around the tiller, jump on my bike, lug my kayak down to the water or take another stroll along the coastline somewhere.

Derwent River: Sandy Bay Point

Thomas on Fire!

Nutgrove north to south
Nutgrove Beach with Sandy Bay Point at the far end.

Two beaches radiate from unassuming Sandy Bay Point: Nutgrove to the north and Long Beach to the south, with green and leafy Sandown Park fanning out behind the point.  The Sandy Bay Sailing Club is prominent above the dunes.  It, along with its parking area inhabit the dunes and the area behind them.  Last summer a creative French traveller parked his colourful van here and settled in, just one of the travellers passing through in their camper vans, their tenures normally much briefer affairs.

French van

The day I walked from Lords Beach to Sandy Bay Point I had Hobart’s early regattas and yacht races in mind along with that first horse race (see post on Nutgrove).  In the early years of the colony  Nutgrove was a wider beach and on this particular day I got a clue as to what it had once been like because as I walked around the Red Chapel cliffs and found the little cove the birds have been gifted I saw that everything about the beach was different. It was wider than I think I’ve ever seen it before and at  Sandy Bay Point, where beach access at high tide is often not possible except over the fragile dunes, there was a surprisingly generous sweep of sand.  I was so deeply absorbed in the past that it was almost unsettling that no horses hurtled around that corner as they did back in the early 1800s when local accents were different, dresses were long and riotous parties were a part of the regatta and racing celebrations – to the point that Sir John Franklin (of North West Passage fame and, locally, as the Governor) put a stop to the regattas below Government House because there was too much unruliness and litter.  James Kelly, chair of the Regatta committee (who’d circumnavigated Van Diemen’s Land and discovered Port Davey), moved it to Chaffey’s Point (today’s Wrest Point). Mr Chaffey made a killing at his pub – and  Sandy Bay Point featured more strongly in the races.

Wide enough to race horses
Wide enough to race horses

Sandy Point, back in the 1800s, had smuggling coves to the right of it and smuggling coves to the left. The little rivulets – Waimea, Maning and Lamberts, for example, provided access routes for getting smuggled grog up into the bush but the inns along the coastline were conveniently located for receiving rum and other spirits from the ships anchored offshore too.

One of these ships was the Thomas.   One dark night in 1833 Captain Hanley anchored off Sandy Bay. He’d cut deals with the smugglers, so his pockets were full and likewise the longboats were all weighed down as the smugglers rowed back into the coves.

Later that night the Thomas went up in flames and the fire raging on the river lit up the sky, mesmerising those awake on shore and  ‘looking almost splendid’ according to an onlooker. Hanley and three other crew members were the only ones on board at the time.  They jumped into a longboat and set off for the shore but because the fire seemed contained to the stern they returned for another look, while two boats, the Mary and the Stakesby came slowly to their  rescue.  As they stood near the poop the fire reached the magazine and their was a massive explosion. In the little farm houses along the coast people asleep in their beds shot upright and got to experience an unanticipated fireworks night.  Somehow the sailors escaped with their lives.

‘At eight o’ clock on the Sunday morning the dying Thomas was towed burning to nearby Sandy Bay Point where she grounded in about five feet of water and continued burning through the Sabbath with crowds flocking to Long Beach to view the spectacle. (Goc, 1997).

Suspicion over who’d started the fire swirled through the community and over the ensuing days what was left – casks of rum and casks of salt floated on the water, easy pickings for the opportunistic.

The Thomas stamped its presence on the point, predating the ‘boat park’ with its pirate ship in Sandown Park.  In fact, in 1880 ‘H’ wrote ‘…anyone walking now along the beach at high water past Murdoch’s fence would hardly believe that the ship Thomas which was wilfully burnt about 1831, and was beached at Sandy Bay Point, was available to ramblers at low watermark. Many a time I have with my young companions mounted the ribs of the old ship, which stood on the sands, a place which to get at now would be in 20ft water.’

It’s a whodunnit without an answer.  The fire may have been caused by a smuggler dissatisfied with his deal, a mutinous crew member or, for all we know, the captain himself.

Source: Goc, N. 1997. Sandy Bay: a social history. Gentrx Publishing, Hobart.

 

 

Sandy Bay Point

 

Sandy Bay Sailing Club
Sandy Bay Sailing Club
Sandy Bay Point
Rounding Sandy Bay Point

Approaching Sandy Bay Point: the path over the eroding dunes

Prossers
Prossers Restaurant: a prime position on Sandy Bay Point. Rocks shoring up the eroding beach, usually below water
Path down to Sandy Bay Point
The Sandy Bay Point walkway to the beach

Derwent River: Wrest Point, Sandy Bay

Old Sorrows
IMG_3941

View of the Casino from the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania

Puzzling over Sandy Bay’s earlier coastline I browsed books and clicked my way through  archival images and concluded that for thousands of years Wrest Point had more delicate proportions.  Before the Mouheenener were forced off their land in 1804 it would have been used as a landmark, a camping spot, a pantry and a kitchen, with Lamberts Rivulet on its northern side creating a diversity of plant and marine life – that is, if that rivulet hasn’t been diverted.  I checked the stormwater map. Drains and rivulets join up but I was reasonably confident it was entering the river in much the same spot it always had.

People were possibly born on this point of land and they certainly died here, hung for misdemeanours on Gibbet Point, as it was known in the early days of settlement, because it was far enough away from Sullivan’s Cove not to cause offence but still a visible reminder of the ultimate punishment.

These days bitumen and the casino weigh down those old sorrows and more besides, because apparently the Sandy Bay Station was in this general vicinity, the home from 1838 of a cohort of homesick Canadian political prisoners, rebels in an uprising, the Battle of Prescott. Their voyage out from Quebec on the Buffalo took a hellish four months (sickness, injury, fear and hunger) and when they arrived, swaying and staggering on their sea legs, they were, that very day, forced off to build Sandy Bay Road. The station was rough – a circle of basic huts – and their provisions were meagre. But they managed to write diaries and when the Governor, Sir John Franklin, who later died searching for the North West Passage, came visiting, one of them wrote this:

He made a very edifying speech to us, in which he was pleased to say that we were very bad men, very bad, indeed; and intimated that we all deserved to be hung. He said we had been sent there for one of the most aggravating crimes, putting much emphasis on the word ‘aggravating’, and, at the same time, as if unwilling to look us in the face, rolled his eyes up to heaven, like a dying calf, if I may be allowed to use a a comparison suggested by my former business…’ (Captain Daniel Heustis, a butcher prior to exile).

Thomas Chaffey, who owned the point, tried to help them escape.  He’d come out to the colony aged 45,  having narrowly missed being hung for robbery and having served time on Norfolk Island.  His land extended from the point up the slopes of Mount Nelson but he and his wife Maria (a Lady Juliana convict with a sentence for shoplifting) built a modest stringybark cottage on what then became known as Chaffey’s Point.  The couple and their seven children had a front row view of executions for several years and after that a foul smelling try works may have been established on the point (Goc,1997).  Thomas’s son, William, built the Traveller’s Rest hotel on Chaffey’s Point. Later, a hotel, the Wrest Point Riviera, was built there and in 1973 the Wrest Point casino took its place.

The Boardwalk at the Casino traps the sun and is built over the water. For a brief period one summer I liked to walk the local beaches then go there for a coffee, the papers and a view of the yachts. This was before we actually bought a boat and I could elevate that experience to coffee on board wherever on the river I chose to have it.  (Today it was mid river, the water quiet, the breeze minimal and five dolphin in a tight pod swimming slowly by.)

The point has been the site of much happiness and sadness and these emotions are still very much entwined  in terms of the current business of tourism and gambling. As for the land itself, it’s been beefed up, extended, and when you sail by you can see pipes entering the river beneath the casino as well.  Although  the cormorants and seagulls hang about on the rocks close by, the contamination from the hotel and the marina has to be detrimental.  It’s no place for swimming and no place to feast on the stoic molluscs that survive there but apart from all that, it’s an iconic local landmark.

Archival Images (Tasmanian Archives and Heritage)

Early Buildings on Wrest Point

Photograph – ‘Wrest Point’ House, Sandy Bay

Wrest Point Hotel

Marieville

Further reading:  Goc, N. 1997. Sandy Bay: a social history. Gentrx Publishing, Hobart.

Inspiration Has Many Threads (3)

Small Adventures

Version 3

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open. 

~ Jawaharial Nehru

This year no further overseas travel is on the agenda. A small yacht, perfect for exploring the Derwent and the D’Entrecasteaux, has been nibbling at my wallet as yachts and ponies are known to do.  But the boat is a partnered venture. There are weekends when I’m free to do other things.

One Sunday, with the boat on the hard, I suggested we go up the Derwent Valley, away from the coast, to see the leaves turning. At Plenty we kept on going. Soon we were passing the farm where we’d once holidayed with friends. A fine drizzle blurred the land but on we went into territory I’d all but forgotten. I could barely remember the Craigbourne Dam and it was a novelty to stop in Hamilton (a tiny sandstone town surrounded by hills) for a coffee.

This sense of disconnection had me thinking about local adventures – small adventures with more modest carbon footprints than jet planes. Deciding against googling the definition of ‘small adventures’ I decided that for my purposes a small adventure would be limited to the state, either planned or serendipitous. I believe you can have an adventure sitting mindfully in a garden if you are open to the world about you. It’s how birds land on your head and skinks climb over you. There does not need to be high drama or fear of loss of life or limb. An event or occasion can be an adventure, it simply depends on cultivating a particular state of mind, squeezing adventure from what’s already known and ordinary. An adventure can be minuscule but the pleasure can be immense. It could involve an epiphany. Conversely, there could be terror.

I had thought, when I took up sailing, that I would drift beneath a blue sky sipping gin and tonics. Instead I’ve got to know the wild wind and I’ve enjoyed countless exhilarating days on local waterways, getting to know these aspects of the island better but neglecting to stay in touch with others.
So I made a decision. My year of small adventures would be opportunistic and would focus largely on sailing and beaches, be that by foot, kayak or bicycle.  And for that I needed a plan.

Kelp detail