Category Archives: Northern Beach

Long Time a Coming – Long Reef (No. 47*: 16 April 2017)

You’d almost think I’d grown weary of this project given how slowly I’ve returned to it after my time away, but that’s not it at all. I continue to love the idea but sometimes it just becomes hard to get there.

No 47: Long Reef ... slowly, slowly
No 47: Long Reef … slowly, slowly

While unemployed, my weekends weren’t a break from my labours – I could just as easily search for jobs at the weekend as any other time. Even if I wasn’t looking for work at the weekends I felt the pressure that, perhaps, I could be, I should be.  While unemployed, I was also more conscientious of spending money and felt that if I stayed close to home I’d spend less than if I went to the beach. That may not be true, but that’s how I felt.

So, I’ve been meaning to get to Long Reef for weeks but now that I am again professionally employed in a 9-5, Monday to Friday kind of way – it’s finally time.

It’s Easter Sunday and a cracker of a day: blue sky, light breeze, hot for April but not scorching. Australians being Australians are flocking to their chosen places of worship: the beach, the footy grounds, and other places of recreation and beer. I’m heading for the Manly Ferry – such a perfect day for it.

I walk through the picnickers and off-leash dogs in Hollis Park on my way to Macdonaldtown Station where I join a trainload of Sydney’s diversity for the ride into the city. At Circular Quay, I make my way through the throngs to Wharf 3 – where I find there are enough passengers queued to fill a ferry and a half. I guess I’ll take the bus.

From Wynyard Station I get a limited-stops bus which drops me at Collaroy Beach in about 40 minutes, from there I catch a local bus back two stops and pop into Outpost Espresso for a pick-me up.

It’s nearly 2 pm, and closing time, the only other customers are a salty, sandy, end-of-summer bronzed family of five getting milk shakes and iced lattes.

I find myself in a state of joyful liberation because I am employed and it is Sunday and there’s nothing I must do. I have employment and pay coming around the corner – so, no worries.

With this feeling of lightness, I set off for the walk past the golf club and Fisherman’s Beach (No 27 – visited in April 2013). Around Long Reef Point the footpath is crowded with families and couples. A paraglider is circling on the breeze, casting the occasional shocking shadow – like a giant raptor looking for prey. The sea is an autumn steel blue and crashing into the rocks below. I turn the corner and eye Long Reef Beach from its tucked-in northern end sweeping south and melding into Dee Why Beach (No 21 – visited February 2012).

Looking south from Long Reef point to Long Reef Beach and Dee Why beyond
Looking south from Long Reef point to Long Reef Beach and Dee Why beyond

 

Walking on Long Reef Beach
Walking on Long Reef Beach

I walk up the beach to the flagged area, plant myself near the Surf Lifesavers marquee and survey my fellow beach-goers. They are mostly white, mostly local – I’m guessing. There are a lot of families, a few clusters of teenagers, a smattering of couples. A toddler with caramel skin, curly locks and nothing but her Manly Sea Eagles bottoms on – dashes, laughing, away from her Surf Lifesaver father, who is trying to wrap her in a towel.

The sea is a bit dumpy and the flags are planted narrowly together so it is through a crowd I wade into the surf. The water is cool but I grow used to it, dunking my whole self beneath a folding wave and I’m happy to bob in the power of the ocean for a wee bit while dodging little kids on boogie boards and full-grown men body surfing into shore.

I realise I have not been in the open ocean – not a bay or harbour – since before I left for my Midlife Gap Year. Anywhere. I visited some on my ride home to Sydney from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland but for one reason or another didn’t swim at any of them. Admittedly I’m a bit intimidated by the surf – as a native of the American Midwest I came to ocean swimming late in life and being dependent on glasses to have clear vision – the power and mystery of rips and waves unsettle me. The last ocean beach I visited as part of this project was No. 31 Freshwater back in January 2014 – wow.

Autumn, Sydney-style.
Autumn, Sydney-style.

Wet and sea-salty I take up a position on the beach in the sun and enjoy the warmth of the autumn sun – generally more pleasant than Sydney’s often bitingly hot summer sun. It’s already late afternoon and I don’t stay long – but it’s been a lovely day for it and I’m glad I got to Long Reef before the beach season ends.

Long Reef was part of the homeland of the Dharug people, probably, before European invasion of Australia. The commonly used name, by Europeans, for the people who had been living in this area is Guringai, however, it now seems this is not what the people who lived here called themselves. Some rock engravings done by these people remain in the area.

European settlement began in 1815 when William Cossar (a master shipbuilder) was granted some 500+ acres (200+ hectares) including Long Reef. By 1825 it was in the hands of James Jenkins, a former convict who had been transported in 1802 for stealing sheep. His eldest child, Elizabeth, had inherited land in North Narrabeen in 1821 and with the 1825 acquisition, the Jenkins family owned all of the foreshore form Mona Vale to Dee Why. At the extent of their holdings they had 1800 acres (728 hectares).

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 Long Reef is 24 kilometres (15 miles) from home.

For census purposes it’s in Collaroy, which was, in 2011 home to 14,388 people of whom 50, or 0.4%, identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Conversely, 110 residents listed the United States as their country of birth. So there are more than twice as many Americans in Collaroy as there are Indigenous Australians.

It’s in the Northern Beaches Council local government area, the state electorate of Wakehurst (Liberal – Brad Hazzard), and federal division of Mackellar (Liberal – Jason Falinski).

*The next beach in the alphabetical list is actually Little Patonga – another Pittwater beach needing a boat. Four of those have now been set aside to be visited in one weekend out on the water, eventually: Gunyah (Brooklyn) No 35, Hallets No 37, Hungry No 39, and Little Patonga No 46.

No 34: Great Mackerel – 22 June 2014

2014-06-22 13.07.31 (2) On Friday I woke to a radio program about ceremonies people create for themselves. A caller described a women’s winter solstice ceremony she had been conducting for some years. The Winter Solstice marks the moment when more light begins to fill your days. It is the beginning of a new cycle of growing then diminishing sunlight – it’s the nadir. The caller’s ceremony involved acknowledging the events of the past year and letting them go while looking ahead to future plans. It got me thinking.

I’m so keen to close the door on the past year – to set aside both what was bad and what was good and say of it all: done. Let more light shine, let new challenges present themselves, let’s go. I began to mull over a little ceremony for myself.

Of course the winter solstice in Sydney is not exactly a short, dark, cold day. Anything but – we had a gloriously sunny warm weekend. As a one-time resident of colder climes I find Sydney’s winter deliciously decadent and I was happy to incorporate the next beach in our tour into my Solstice plans.

Google was wrong - three hours from home to beach.
Google was wrong – three hours from home to beach.

Great Mackerel Beach is about 50 kilometres from home. It took just shy of three hours for me to get there by train, bus and ferry. The beach is backed by a small community of mostly-holiday homes – no shops, no cafes, just the beach and a few houses.

Free community library on the wharf.
Free community library on the wharf.
Beach number thirty-four: Great Mackerel
Beach number thirty-four: Great Mackerel

When I arrive other passengers from the ferry make their way up the beach to the walking track into Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and an elderly man is fishing with his grandson, otherwise the beach is deserted.

The ceremony I settled on is this: I will take a few minutes to write down all the bad stuff which has happened in this past year – and then burn it; I will then write all the good stuff – and burn it too. 2014-06-22 12.57.25 (2) 2014-06-22 12.59.08 (2)

The thing about ceremonies is you don’t know if you’ll feel different for doing them, you just do them as a way to mark something. I didn’t really expect to feel differently for having burned some bits of paper.

After the ceremony I went for a long walk in the National Park. The first long walk by myself in the bush in way too long. The last was probably in December when I visited Uluru. And I have to admit to feeling released, feeling like that the past year was really over that I could say “Right that’s done now, what’s next?” and mean it.

It helps to feel fresh air in my lungs and my body working hard; it helps to look out to a turquoise-to- lapis-lazuli sea which glistens in the sharp sunlight of Sydney’s winter.

Winter in Sydney - so tough.
Winter in Sydney – so tough.

The walk takes me to a shelter used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years and also a site of Aboriginal rock carvings. I sit on a rock in the sun and think of how long people have sheltered here – experiencing love and loss, the rising and falling of hopes.

Carving of a man made by Aboriginal Australians up to a couple thousand years ago.
Carving of a man made by Aboriginal Australians up to a couple thousand years ago.

Such places help me put things in perspective: my problems are not original or unique to humanity, my life is but one infinitesimally small strand in the story – what I say and do is unlikely to matter much beyond me and the people I know and love. And that, for me, is both a liberating idea and one that brings the focus back on making the most of my time and not stressing too much about the concerns, the rules, and the expectations of others.

As I walk I think about plans for the future and commitments I might make to myself about the coming year. I’m not looking for resolutions or to-do lists but something more general and here’s what I come up with:

To cherish and nurture my existing friendships and leave my heart open to beginning new ones; and to cultivate habits which are in alignment with my values and serve my goals.

That’s it – a pretty good way to think about life, for me, for now.

Three coloured soils/sands
Three coloured soils/sands
I didn't swim but I did dip.
I didn’t swim but I did dip.

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Great Mackerel is in the Pittwater Council LGA, Pittwater State electorate (Rob Stokes, Liberal) and the Federal Division of Mackellar (Bronwyn Bishop, Liberal).

 

No 31: Freshwater Beach – 5 January 2014

I would have posted Freshwater sooner but I got distracted by Duke Kahanamoku.

Kahanamoku, a native-Hawaiian, Olympic swimming champion and sometime-movie star, is credited with introducing board surfing to Australia.  Australia without surfing is unimaginable; surfing culture is, to many, synonymous with Australian culture.  Board surfing surly would have arrived by another route but we can credit Duke for surfing starting when it did and where it did – Freshwater Beach, Christmas Eve, 1914.

This from a report in The Daily Telegraph of 25 December 1914:

Going out into the water some distance, the Hawaiian laid full length on the board, and, waiting for an inrolling wave, he propelled himself beachwards with his hands.
As the roller gathered momentum, he raised himself on to his knees, then stood up, and rode gracefully for a considerable distance.

Duke surfing Freshwater as depicted in the Daily Tele on Christmas Day 1914.

When Laura and I arrive at Freshwater the local denizens are readying for Duke’a Day, which is to be held the following Saturday.

The beach itself is utterly chock-a-block.  I haven’t been to Freshwater often but I’d never seen it this crowded.  At a guess there were a thousand people there.  Swimmers, including a great gaggle of children, are massed between the flags with more filling the rock pool at the northern end of the beach.  Surfers fill the rolling waves at the south end.

It’s steamily hot in the sun and I cower beneath my beach umbrella.  New arrivals wander about looking for an empty spot to make their own.  The waves land rhythmically on the shore with a sprinkling of excited children’s voices greeting each arrival.

I go for a dip.  This will be the last surf beach for a while and I can’t avoid getting in it.  I wish I had grown up with surf and had learned to read the ocean and feel comfortable with its power.  Without my glasses I’m not blind but I can’t see well and that undermines my confidence in the sea.  So I don’t spend long in the surf – I fight with the muscles of my legs and torso against the pull and push of the current, the power of a wave knocks me off balance.  It’s all good but it’s also enough.

We finish our visit to Freshwater with a coffee at the Pilu kiosk.

Although a land grant was made in 1818 by Governor Macquarie the area wasn’t really settled by Europeans until the 1880s.  From 1900 a working-men-only camp was established at the beach with tents soon giving way to huts.  After World War I working-class families began establishing camps in the area.  In the early 1920s the camps were viewed as disreputable by the local burghers – they were particularly concerned with those who flowed in at the weekends.  They lobbied to have the destination sign-board on buses coming to the area to read ‘Harbord’ rather than ‘Camp City’.  The beach didn’t regain the name Freshwater until 1980.

Freshwater marks the northern end of the Manly-Freshwater World Surfing Reserve which was declared on 10 March 2012.  Its one of only five reserves so-dedicated worldwide, the others are: Malibu, USA; Ericeira, Portugal; Santa Cruz, USA and Huanchaco, Peru.

Freshwater Beach 30 kilometers (18 miles) from home.  It’s in the Warringah Council Local Government Area; the Manly State Electorate (Mike Baird, Liberal); and the Warringah Federal Division (Tony Abbott, Liberal).

Mateship means helping each other with the sunscreen.
Deceptively peaceful … thousands await over the horizon.

No 30: Forty Baskets Beach – 28 December 2013

I’ve been to the beaches but not blogged about them.  It’s been quite a year for me.  Sundays the Beach was our project and now it is my project.  Change is hard and change is good.

I’ve decided that counting the beaches with fingers is fun and worth doing when I can but failing to have sufficient numbers is no excuse for not going to the beach on a good beach day.

So I’ll tell you about the latest beach, Forty Baskets, today, and fill in the missing beaches over time.  This season I will post the beaches as I go and make this a more active blog.  Bear with me.

I’ve been trying to get to Forty Baskets for a week or so.  Some friends and I were going to do the Spit to Manly Walk, stopping at Forty Baskets, and finish with a Manly Ferry ride home.  But one friend’s plans changed and another was sick.  I thought I’d go on my own on Christmas Day but it was not a beach day – overcast and cool.

But Saturday dawned a gem of a beach day – sunny, warm, not too hot, breezy but not too blowy.  Laura and I drive to Manly and walk the two kilometers to Forty Baskets – passing Delwood and Fairlight Beaches and through North Harbour Reserve.

We are greeted by an informational sign which tells us that the original inhabitants of this area were the Boregal and Gorualgal groups of the Gatlay family group of the Gai-marigal clan who made their homes in what is now northern Sydney.

The first land-grants were issued to settlers in 1834 but the first homes weren’t built until 1887.  Being remote from Sydney it remained lightly populated until the 1940s when modern development began.

The name derives from the forty baskets of fish caught by local fisherman to deliver to soldiers from the War in Sudan who were being held at the Quarantine Station upon their return to Sydney in 1885.

I was intrigued by the name even before I learned the source but … the War in Sudan??

Yes.  In brief, the British Empire got involved in a bit of a fuss in Sudan involving a Muslim sheikh separatist.  The British thought they’d ride in and sort it out but were out-manoeuvred, defeated and got bogged down (sounding familiar?).  They sent a famous general in to get them out of the quagmire.  He decided the British might yet win but he too was outsmarted by the locals.  He was quite famous and the Empire was impassioned about his predicament.  New South Wales was keen to help out and offered to raise a contingent to come to his aid and so they did.  These were the first Australian troops to depart for a foreign war and they are sort of a big deal in Australian history.  Many New South Welshman and women supported the raising and sending of these troops – thousands turned out to see them off.  But many others thought it a lark and a tugging-of-the-locks towards the Empire and opposed the raising of funds to support the effort.

The NSW contingent went to Africa, did a lot of marching and practicing, didn’t see much action and came home.  When they arrived they were quarantined for a few days to make sure they weren’t disease-ridden.  It was then that the fisherman caught and delivered the Forty Baskets of fish.

Soldiers returned from Sudan … having had the Forty Baskets of fish.

A 1966 movie, Khartoum, staring Charlton Heston and Lawrence Olivier is set in this 1885 Sudan War – I haven’t seen it but when I do I will add a review here.

The river runs red … they say.

Forty Baskets is the perfect sort of beach for this project.  I’ve walked past every time I’ve done the Spit to Manly Walk and never stopped.  It’s just a pleasant little spot: a caged harbour beach, family friendly, boat-y.  Not a place you’d make a point to visit if you weren’t a local – and most of the visitors seem to be just that.

There are loads of picnicking family groups, little kids splashing in the shallows or building sand castles, bigger kids bombing off the jetty.  We’ve just missed the ice cream man in his tinnie and melting treats are clutched in sticky little hands.

Forty Baskets of inviting beachy goodness.

Laura enters the water boldly – I mean, it is quite warm, but I’m still tip-toeing in while she’s splashing about like an otter.  It’s so clear – the water, it’s striking because we’re in a busy harbour surrounded by one of the world’s great cities and yet the water is clear as glass.  It shimmers and sparkles, the boats at their moorings bob, an expanse of dark sapphire sea stretches toward Manly proper.

Offering the Sydney summer soundtrack, cicadas screech and pulsate hidden in the Norfolk Island pines.  When they quiet: the laughter and cries of children, the rumble of loads of different conversations near at hand but not near enough to hear clearly and the light jingling of boat rigging in the wind.

We’d stay longer – it invites lingering, but we’ve forgotten our snacks and its well past lunch time already.  We retrace our steps back to Manly and into Four Pines for a late lunch and cold refreshing beverages.

Forty Baskets is 26 kilometres (16 miles) from home.  It is in Balgowlah, a suburb within the Manly LGA, the state electorate of Manly (Mike Baird, Liberal) and the federal division of Warringah (Tony Abbott, Liberal).

Twenty-six kilometers from home.

All that and a Naked German too – Beach No 29: Flint & Steel (24 November 2013)

If I were ranking the best named beaches Flint & Steel would be near the top. That I can’t find anything explaining the source of that fantastic moniker adds mystery – maks it even better. I can tell you it was already called Flint & Steel by 1832.

Flint & Steel was an exciting beach for me for three four five reasons:

One, it was the first beach of the 2013/2014 season.

Two, it was the first beach I visited after the demise of my marriage

Three, it was the first beach I was visiting with my old mate Laura whom I was grateful to have back, and more central in my life, since the demise of my marriage.

Four, the beach is called Flint & Steel – which is awesome

Five, there was a fine looking German boy (well, mid-to-late 20s) doing what Germans do – enjoying a nackt (nude) swim. He was there with his girlfriend/wife – and, physically anyway, she had nothing to complain about.

It was an utterly perfect day – sunny and warm but not too hot.

We drove to the Resolute Bay Picnic Area car park, on the Lambert Peninsula, in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and before heading for Flint & Steel Beach we visited Red Hand Cave. It’s a rock shelter with a 5,000 year old Aboriginal hand stencil. To be reminded of a wholly different life that was lived right here so recently, and which had been so lived for so long, is always grounding and connecting yet saddening and remorse-inducing – a reminder of our tenuous place on earth and the damage we do to one another (with intentional cruelty or ignorant carelessness). Live now – the future is unknown.

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We began the walk down to the beach. It was pleasant – shaded with occasional views of Broken Bay, Lion Rock and Patonga on the opposite shore – and, in part, steep. The return trip would be a thigh-burner.

Flint & Steel, like all of these northern non-surf beaches I’ve visited so far, is a shallow-curve of maize-coloured sand buffering the bush from the bay. It collects driftwood and man-made detritus from the soft waves – waves driven as much by the wake of boats as tide and winds.

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There was a young family on the beach and the aforementioned German couple. We walked to the far end and took up comfortable spots on the rocks from which to enjoy the sandwiches Laura had brought and the sight of the nackt German as he came and went from the water.

It was a lazy, summery late Spring Sunday. Other visitors came and went from the beach; all manner of boats cruised or rushed past. In due course it was time for a swim for Laura and a wade for me – the water was still a bit cool for me.  But Laura strode purposefully into the water up to her neck, plunged in, and floated about. It is the most wonderful sort of nothing – to be in gentle salt water, floating or wading, looking back at the sand and the bush (and the nackt German) under a Sydney-spring-blue sky with the sun glittering off the greenish water.

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As expected the climb back to the plateau and the car is a rigorous effort. We stopped for a salty selfie and to visit with a big-ol’ goanna.

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Flint & Steel was 44 km (27 miles) from my suburb of Concord. It’s in the Hornsby Local Government Area, the Hornsby State Electorate (Matt Kean, Liberal) and the Federal Division of Mackellar (Bronwyn Bishop, Liberal).

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A Bush Walk and Apple Strudel (No 28: Flat Rock Beach – 12 May 2013)

At the Austrian Club.
At the Austrian Club.

Here’s an interesting and unexpected story from Killarney Heights, the suburb where you’ll find Flat Rock Beach:

In February 1979, a Lithuanian couple who believed they were being chased by Soviet agents were discovered in bushland adjacent to the suburb. Stepan Petrosys (81) and his 68-year old wife were discovered after having lived in a cave for 28 years.

That small discover was too good to bury deep in my post. Now that is out of the way, let me tell you about Flat Rock Beach.  This is the last of the beaches I visited with Mitch and I have contemporaneous notes to work from – which is good because it’s just been so long and really feels like a lifetime ago. Just to make it feel a little closer I’ve put this in present-tense.

The day dawns cool and very foggy.  I wish the fog will remain to give our bushwalk and beach visit an atmospheric air but know it won’t.

Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge
Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge

We leave home around noon to collect Sabra – fighting Mother’s Day traffic en route.  Flat Rock Beach is in Garigal National Park and on the upper reaches of the Middle Harbour. We park and join the Flat Rock Track climbing from the waterside to a ridge-line overlooking the harbour. We have views of the water all along the walk and it is glorious. The sun in warm in heat and light; it sparkles. Sail boats, motor boats, kayaks and canoes crowd the calm green water.

Middle Harbour
Middle Harbour

The track is busy with families and groups of friends. Strangely, for a track that seems pretty obscure, most walkers we encounter do not have Australian accents but hail from Europe and North America.

On Flat Rock Track.
On Flat Rock Track.

We negotiate the stairs down to the beach and find there are three or four boats at anchor in the bay of the beach. Across the water is a rising green landscape peppered with suburban houses.  A waterfall of a sort sounds in the bush behind us, trickles onto the beach, and into to the harbour.

We sit and snack and look.  It is a glorious autumn day.  We wade into the still-warm water and it is lovely.

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On the drive over I’d spotted a nearby little black square marked ‘Austrian Club’ on the map.  I think ‘Let’s see what that is.’

We find a typical Australian club building but with Tyrolean touches and a big Austrian flag dancing in the breeze. Emerging from the car we hear Austrian music playing and we think this is promising. Entering, we find a large hall with a stage, dance floor and a bistro on a platform looking out on the park. There are hand-painted plaques in German, a mounted deer head and a big display devoted to the World Cup. The far wall is decorated with the club shield flanked by the Australian and Austrian flags. An old tv in the corner is showing Austrian music videos.

Say it with me: Austrian-Australian
Say it with me: Austrian-Australian

There are a couple of families in the bistro including one with one bloke in lederhosen and another in an awesome sort-of Tyrolean cap with a feather.  A woman greets us in German to which we reply in English.  A bloke wanders over from another table – a fellow in his 70s, maybe 80s.  He proves to be a bit of a fly who hovers about us chattering away but moves on when our food comes only to return when we finish.  He is an Austrian-Australian – which I like a lot, just to say it: Austrian-Australian.  He’d come to Australia, then went back to Austria, then to New York for a time, back to Austria then moved here permanently 57 years ago.  He goes back to his village between Salzburg and Innsbruck every year.  He was wearing a very Austrian-looking green sort of cardigan.

They have Stiegl and Erdinger Weissbier on tap – wunderbar.  The food comes – Sabra and I both have the goulash with spätzle while Mitch has roast pork with sauerkraut and potatoes. I love my goulash.  The beef just falls apart and the sauce is spicy and gravy-like.  The spätzle is buttery with a few crisp bits which are very nice.We don’t need to have dessert but we do: Sabra and I have the apple strudel, Mitch has the Sacher torte.

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We speak with one of the waitresses – they’d just had some new people take over the kitchen – I see on-line its Erich and Kitty Koenigseder.  It is all good reviews for them and we can only add our own.  I explain how we’ve been at the park and spotted them on the map so came to see what they were about and how glad we did.  It is really like a little quick trip to Austria in a lot of ways.

Flat Rock Beach is in Killarney Heights, part of the Warringah Council Local Government Area. It’s in the Wakehurst State Electorate (Brad Hazzard, Liberal) and Warringah Federal Division (Tony Abbott, Liberal). It lies some 32 kilometres (20 miles) from Croydon Park, where I was then living.

Distant Memories of Fishermans Beach (No 27 – 28 April 2013)

These beaches – the ones in this gap, the ones I visited during my old life, I had to wait to do them because I didn’t need anything extra to make me sad.

Now, however, it’s been so long (it’s now October 2014) I am the opposite of sad. I’m really very happy in my life and looking forward to the future. Going back to these beaches is now just sort of a pain in the ass rather than a pain in the heart. I don’t care. It doesn’t hurt to look at the pictures so much as it makes me gaze with wonder at this life of old.

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Now it’s a matter of just getting them done – the one’s without notes are difficult because I need to scratch away the barnacles and try to remember something of day.

Here’s what I can recall … it was warm but with something a bit cool in the breeze. We again collected Sabra for the journey north. I’d never been to Fishermans and it proved a weird sort of beach. It’s an ocean beach but not a surfing beach – there was a diving class going on, and there were – not surprisingly – fishermen.

We sat, we swam, we watched for the scuba divers. We went for a walk around Long Reef Headland and had coffees at Outpost Espresso – which I remember as good.

 

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Fishermans Beach is in Collaroy which is the Warringah Council LGA, Wakehurst State Electorate (Brad Hazzard, Liberal) and Mackeller Federal Division (Bronwyn Bishop, Liberal).

Ice Creams at Fairlight Beach (No 26 – 14 April 2013)

Writing about our visit to Fairlight Beach is an exercise of memory. If I wrote something at the time I’ve lost it and it’s now August 2014.

April 2013 feels like a lifetime ago in so many ways but I do remember the day. It was hot. We had Mitch’s parents’ car while they were on holiday. We collected Sabra from her flat in Balmain and drove to Fairlight. We found a car park almost immediately. As we walked down to the beach Sabra’s then-fiancé-now-husband, Pietro, rang from Italy. They spoke in Italian and catching a few words I felt my study of the language wasn’t entirely a lost cause.

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The beach was crowded. The sand was hot. A tap at the back of the beach was broken and gushed fresh water wastefully. Anita, who lives nearby, joined us. The man with the ice-cream tinny arrived and we got cold treats.

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We girls swam. Was Mitch thinking of how to get out of this marriage as he sat on the beach? Or did he merely stare at the glistening blue harbour blankly? If I asked I think he’d say “I don’t know” and maybe that would be true.

Perhaps we shouldn’t meddle too much with our memories by applying later knowledge to rearrange the stories we’ve saved.

We weren’t on the beach long, an hour or so – but I think it was good. I remember it as having been good.

Fairlight is named after Fairlight House which was built by Henry Gilbert Smith on land he bought in 1853. The house was named after a village in Hastings, East Sussex, on the south coast of England. The house is long since gone.

http://www.sydney-australia.biz/photos/sydney-harbour/fairlight-house-sydney.php
http://www.sydney-australia.biz/photos/sydney-harbour/fairlight-house-sydney.php

Fairlight Beach is a harbour beach in the Manly Council LGA, the State Electorate of Manly (Mike Baird, Liberal) and the Federal Division of Warringah (Tony Abbott, Liberal). It is som 25.1 kilometres (15.6 miles) from home.

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Remote Beauty and Quietude (No 24: Eleanor – 3 February 2013)

It’s time to fill in the gap in this blog.

I visited beaches 24 -28, Eleanor to Flat Rock, in late summer/early autumn of 2013. These were to prove the dying days of my marriage. At the time I hadn’t realised that cowardice and silence were eating cancerously at our relationship – his fear of saying what was going on in his heart and mind, my fear of asking. It all seems kind of obvious now, as these things do.  It’s taken me a while to get to the place where I can work with these words and photos – and it may yet take me a while to get them all up. Number 24, Eleanor, however was all but ready and just waiting to be posted … so here she is, enjoy.

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Although it’d been planned for a week I wasn’t sure I was up for the journey to Eleanor – the morning was grey, the distance great and I was in an utter post-holiday funk.  We’d been back from our time in Korea, Japan and China for a couple of weeks and I was staring down a long-road of sameness which felt like it stretched before me forever.  I’d been planning the holiday for months, then we were in it – busily discovering something new every day, moving from place to place.  But then suddenly we were back in Sydney and … now what?  It was that kind of a day.

I was torn between my desire to sulk at home wrapped in my blanket of blue and fulfilling our commitment to Jim and Ev to go boating with them and visit one of the most remote of Sydney’s beaches, Eleanor.  Thankfully the latter won out.

Eleanor is a stretch of about 150 or 200 metres of sandstone-coloured beach backed by National Park bush which slopes upward to a ridge-line.  It’s on the Pittwater south-east of Brooklyn.

As we motored toward the beach, consulting maps and nautical charts to make sure we were arriving in the right spot, I knew I’d made the right choice to come out.  Per Google maps it’s about 55.5 kilometres (34.5 miles) from our place to Brooklyn which is where the road ends and the bush begins.  Eleanor has to be approached from the water.

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Eleanor Beach is north of Eleanor Bluffs
Gullsweep – to keep the birds at bay.

The ying of this project is learning to enjoy the busy beaches, like Bondi, and the yang is putting in the effort to get to beaches nearly no one else ever visits because they are so remote and difficult to get to – of which Eleanor is like the poster-beach.  It’s a beautiful, quiet place with driftwood and seaweed, shells and wallaby tracks.  Gentle waves of the Pittwater lap at our toes as we look out on a classic Sydney vista – boats plying the Sunday calm of late summer, green and softly rounded bush on every shore, jutting cliffs of sandstone, and in the distance the imposing prominence of Lion Island.

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Having spent some time exploring the beach we returned to the Robyn for a picnic lunch, a tipple, and, for me, a bit of lie down.  On the return to port we motored though the criss-crossing path of a beautiful big sailing boat tacking its way home in the golden late afternoon light.  The trip had cleared a few of the funky cobwebs from my soul.

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Eleanor Beach is in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, one of the several which more or less encircle Sydney-proper.  The park was created in 1894, making it Australia’s second oldest National Park after Royal.  In 2006 Ku-ring-gai was added to the National Heritage List.  The park’s creation can largely be credited to the efforts of Eccleston du Faur – a surveyor amongst other things.  He helped found the Geographical Society of New South Wales.  He was himself something of an explorer as well as a financier of othes.  Du Faur was also an original member of the NSW Academy of Art and established artist camps in the Blue Mountains.

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Eccleston DuFaur

A Warm Spring Dip in the Middle Harbour – No 23: Edwards (11 November 2012)

Somehow this beach went missing … even though it was written up and the photos were edited, ah well. Here it is now.

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It’s funny how a project designed to get me to the beach more often has sort of fallen away.  Here it is autumn already and we’ve only been to two beaches this summer and I’ve posted neither of them until now.  In part the weather is to blame – as it hasn’t been inviting.  And travel – not a bad thing at all, of course – but our having travelled to Korea, Japan and China this January and missing the hottest of the summer days means we also missed several weeks of beach-going opportunities.

In any case, Edwards, our 23rd visit and our first of the 2012/13 season is on the Middle Harbour – specifically on Hunters Bay.  It is the neighbouring beach to Balmoral, number two.  The area was once famous, back in the late 19th century, for its artist camps.   Adherents to the movement of painting in the outdoors, especially landscapes of a newer sort, came from the city to live in tent camps on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour while it remained near-enough but distant and still ‘wild’ territory.  Robert Louis Stevenson once spent a night.

Author Ada Cambridge described a camp as:

… a cluster of tents, a little garden, a woodstock, a water tub – almost hidden in the trees and bushes until one was close upon it; and the camp looked out upon the great gateway of the heads, and saw all the ships that passed through, voyaging to the distant world and back again.

We visited on a warm and sunny, inviting day, in late November, when the view of the heads remained but the scene was otherwise wholly transformed to one of 21st century Sydney suburbia.  It was the sort of day bound to bring people out but especially in early summer and the beach was bustling.  A wedding had just concluded when we arrived and guests were still milling about as photos were taken and before the party moved on to the reception.  The couple were evidently locals as guests in formal attire were seen chatting with dog walkers and swimmers.

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We had come by bicycle and ferry – pedalling over from the Taronga Zoo Wharf in yet another reminder of just how hilly North Sydney is.  We arrived hot and sweaty; laid our towels beneath a towering Morton Bay fig near the kiosk at the Bathers’ Pavilion and took in the life and liveliness around us.

These middle harbour beaches tend to be full of, one, locals and, two, people more used to the Mediterranean for whom the sea is mostly a calm beast.  People who associate a day at the beach with playing ball games while standing in chest-deep water enjoy Middle Harbour beaches and they were out in numbers.

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When Anita, our third hand, arrived we moved to the beach itself.  She and I took a dip and found the water surprisingly warm for so early in the season.  On our ride back to the Wharf we stopped at the Buena Vista Hotel in Mosman for a bite to eat and a few cold ones. It was a nice way to start the season and little did I know at the time how long it would be before we got on to number 24, Eleanor.

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