It’s One for the Birds
Lord’s Beach, Sandy Bay.
In the little nook on the south side of the casino there’s a small, intimate curve of sand that survives despite the development around it. Because it’s below the seawall drivers lost in their own thoughts can overlook its presence. There’s a gate with a Parks and Wildlife sign beside it. No dogs are allowed, and I think perhaps there should be no gate there at all because I’ve gates to beaches are sometimes left open by the careless, making seabirds like penguins vulnerable to attack.
According to Short (2006), this beach was continuous with Short Beach long ago, which means there was once sand around Wrest Point (hard to envisage). Given that early settlers mentioned sea level rise they’d witnessed, this may have been the case although my hunch is that there were some cobbled strips and these days at least, it’s more continuous with beaches to the south.
One day when the weather was still warm I went down to the marina to work on the boat and the dogs came with me. Afterwards we walked along Marieville Esplanade, past the casino and around the corner to Lord’s. I tied the dogs up at the fence and went on down the path. I felt I was encroaching – the owners had risen as one and moved out onto the water. There is a bench. I sat on it as unobtrusively as possible. Around me there were footprints and all of them belonged to ducks.
In the afternoon much of this part of the beach lies in the casino’s long shadow. The view up river is blocked by Wrest Point but there’s a longer view across the river and down the estuary, and in the foreground there’s the much photographed jetty with its boat house as well as a cluster of yachts on their moorings. Out a bit further, the casino buoy cleared, we often turn the yacht into the wind and hoist the sails.
There are actually a couple of buoys in this vicinity that the Derwent Sailing Squadron and the RYCT use for the combined club races. As well as the green Casino buoy just off Wrest Point, there’s the DSS permanent further offshore and the Manning Reef buoy, sometimes camouflaged by moorings.
I’ve sailed past this beach many times, and cycled above it on lazy summer rides from the Cenotaph to Hinsby Beach, Taroona but one summer a few years ago, feeling particularly free on a week day, my friend and I walked north from Long Beach further south. The tide was low, but there were some rocks and bits of branch we had to navigate. And this is the thing – you can come to this beach and think that it’s a tiny cove. It isn’t. That little cove is like the bloom of a lily and its stem is a long slender tapering of sand and rock. Jump onto Google Earth and take a ride from the tiny deltoid mouth of Sandy Bay Rivulet south along the coast. You can see clues as to what was there before, you can deduce that older shoreline, marvel (with some concern) at the myriad changes.
Really, the only distraction on the beach is the sound of traffic coming from the road above so if you feel a real urge to come here, bring earphones and relax to music – and bring a bag for litter collection. Picking up the odd cigarette stub or plastic wrapper is a nice way to reciprocate the avian owners for tolerating your inconvenient presence.
The Lords were once the wealthiest family in Hobart, made good from a convict beginning. James, sentenced in York, arrived on the HMS Calcutta in 1804 and quickly grew rich trading in illicit grog. Goc (1997) describes him as a ‘Bobby Shaftoe’ dressed in knee breaches and silver buckles. He and his sons became large landowners in Sandy Bay and bought the Chaffey’s Land, lending their name both to the beach and to Lord Street not that far north from Wrest Point.
But that day last autumn, while my dogs stared down at me feeling cheated, I envisaged the cultivated fields of the New Norfolk settlers and like the Mouheenener children before them, the Chaffey children and others playing on the sand and exploring Manning Reef. Car traffic faded, the road was dirt once more and the Canadian political prisoners on their unsteady legs, plotting their escape, were road building, there was the foot travellers, the odd person on horseback, the sounds of farming and land clearing as well as the odd shot – which would have to be the Rev Knopwood bagging pigeons. Out on the river I imagined a tall ship, whales breaching, gannets diving, and on a light south easterly breeze, the conversation of penguins carried towards me.
Goc, N. 1997. Sandy Bay, Gentrx Publishing, Hobart.
Short, A.D. 2006. Beaches of the Tasmanian coast and islands. Sydney University Press, Sydney.
Historical Photos in Tasmanian Archives