Wednesday 17 August 2016

Derwent River Walks: Shag Bay Track

[Part 3 of a series featuring short walks along Tasmania's Derwent River]

What do you do when you have a free morning, but the rest of your day is busy? For the two of us the Shag Bay Track looked a good choice, given it’s one of the shortest walks along the Derwent. But if we were expecting the walk to be short on interest, we soon found otherwise. It may be less than 2km long (each way), but this walk packs a great deal into a short distance.

[Near the start, above Geilston Bay] 
We parked at the start, in suburban Geilston Bay, on Hobart's Eastern Shore, and walked up a well-marked and easy track. Through the sparse trees we looked out at dozens of colourful yachts that bobbed at anchor in sheltered Koomela Bay.

Just a few minutes up the track we started to get broader views across the Derwent. To the south the Tasman Bridge, almost side on, looked particularly impressive. To the west we had glimpses of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, its exotic and deciduous trees a contrast to the muted colours of the drier Eastern Shore bushland.

[View downstream to the Tasman Bridge] 
As we turned north we could hear and see the Nyrstar Zinc Works across the Derwent. For nearly 100 years the factory has processed minerals from Tasmania and beyond, turning them into zinc for use in galvanising. If a century old factory seemed ancient, we were in for a surprise when we got down to Shag Bay itself.

[The Zinc Works across the Derwent] 
A steepish track led us to the narrow, bush-enclosed bay, where we found remnants of old industry, including a rusty boiler. Shag Bay was once the site of a mill that transformed bones into fertiliser. But it was also the scene of a tragedy. A high-pressure boiler exploded in 1915 killing two workers and destroying the factory. Today’s peaceful setting seemed at odds with that sad story.

[Remains of a boiler at Shag Bay] 
We soon found a far deeper story. Aboriginal middens, with shell and bone fragments from thousands of years of food gathering, still sat there alongside recent industrial ruins. Given the whole area’s panoramic setting, its proximity to the shortest crossing point of the lower Derwent, and its access to rich marine resources, we weren’t surprise that it was favoured by Aboriginal groups.

[Aboriginal midden alongside industrial remains] 
We sat awhile to contemplate the many generations of Aboriginal people who must have known and loved this place. Their long history was changed forever by the arrival of Europeans in 1803. The first British settlement at Risdon Cove, only a short walk from Shag Bay, was also the site of the first violent Aboriginal deaths.

[An ideal spot for quiet contemplation] 
With our minds full of deep time and sad stories, we were quiet on the return walk. As we ambled slowly down the track, it took the sharp call of some honeyeaters to bring us back to the present. We soon found ourselves back in yacht-dotted Geilston Bay. We were surprised it had taken us barely an hour to do a walk that truly spans thousands of years of history.

*This series was prepared for the Derwent Estuary Program and Greater Hobart Trails 

Thursday 4 August 2016

Derwent River Walks: Cornelian Bay to the Botanical Gardens

[Part 2 of a series featuring short walks along Tasmania's Derwent River]

Are you suspicious when you hear the words “suitable for all ages”? I usually am. But I must say it’s actually true for the walk from Cornelian Bay to the Botanical Gardens. 

[Looking upriver from the Botanical Gardens] 
 Still dubious? Consider these attractions:
  • Easy waterside walking
  • Two quality cafes
  • A children’s playground
  • Colourful boat sheds
  • Boats on the water
  • Wildlife
  • A superb botanical garden
  • Extensive and ever-changing river views

[The Derwent from the Boathouse Restaurant, Cornelian Bay] 
We chose a warm morning to try out the walk. The Derwent was silky and shimmering, the breeze just a whisper.  Testing out the “all ages” theory – our group ranged in age from two months to over sixty – we started our walk near Cornelian Bay Point.

[Our toddler enjoying the ducks at Cornelian Bay] 
The pram-friendly track soon led us to Cornelian Bay itself, where the playground was a magnet for the group’s two year old. The adjacent Boathouse Restaurant would have been the same for the adults if we hadn’t just had a coffee.

[On the shady, pram-friendly path beside the Derwent] 
At the city end of the bay sits a huddle of quaint, multi-coloured boat sheds. As we walked past them along  the undulating gravel path, we welcomed the shade of she-oaks. From the path we had views of the Derwent, the Tasman Bridge, and a lone white-sailed yacht, which barely kept ahead of us in the calm conditions.

[Walking towards the Gardens from near Cornelian Bay]

[Cornelian Bay's boat sheds] 
By the time we’d reached the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, both children were asleep. That left three adults to enjoy the green tranquility of the gardens, surely among the best in Australia, if not anywhere. Boasting everything from huge trees to tiny blooms; and wide lawns to intimate themes gardens, it could have held our interests for hours. 

[Parental peace in the Botanical Gardens] 
But the sleeping children would soon need wrangling, so we decided one adult should go back for the car. That left the rest of us to buy lunch at the kiosk and keep exploring the gardens.

[There always some colour in the Gardens] 
Allowing for toddler stops and photographic pauses, it had taken us about an hour to walk the 2km from Cornelian Bay to the Gardens. Onward options from there include walks to central Hobart via the Garden and/or the Cenotaph, but for our group two hours out was enough. There would always be other days for further walks.

*This series was prepared for the Derwent Estuary Program and Greater Hobart Trails