Tag Archives: harbour

The Last Beach Before My Travel Began, No 43: Lady Martin’s – 17 May 2015

Is this a bit of a cheat?

I visited Lady Martin’s on 17 May 2015 – one week before I departed for my midlife gap year – but never posted about it.

I don’t want to visit it again so I’m going back to my diary from the day to write it up now.

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Lady Martin’s is a wee crescent of beach at the bottom of Point Piper. I suspect in any other country it would be privately held and divvied up among the millionaires whose mansions hover nearby. These include the current Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull. Of course, when I visited back in 2015 he was fuming on the back benches as Tony Abbott went about his business of losing popularity.

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Sneaky access: the pathway next to the Prince Edward Yacht Club.

Here’s what I wrote then:

There’s real and lovely warmth in the sun – which burns bright when not obscured by clouds. The light shimmers blindingly on the weak harbour waves as they flush ashore with a rhythmic, sleep-encouraging hush.

A flotilla or racing yachts rush past out on the harbour.

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There is a party – a birthday party  perhaps – at the Prince Edward Yacht Club. A one-man-band plays groovy guitar jazz.

Among the party guests are many multicultural, multilingual families – a wee girl speaks French, English, and Russian. But mostly people seem to be speaking French. Which seems appropriate as I realised earlier today that I really will need to learn some of that language.

Had I come at high tide I expect there’d have been little beach to visit as the sand is wet right up to the retaining wall. As it is, there’s maybe five meters of beach running 100 meters or fewer and bisected by the yacht club’s pier.

The beach is Sydney-sandstone golden and surrounded by about a billion dollars’ worth of residential property. It’s a place to really celebrate the decision, early in Australia’s story, to keep beaches, all of them, even little ones like this – public.

It’s lovely. I’m so glad I came.

Next Sunday … will I have time for a beach before my flight?

The following … a river ride and the Giro d’Italia?

Close enough to a swim for May.
Close enough to a swim for May.

Lady Martin’s Beach is in the Municipality of Woollhara, the State Electorate of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and Federal Division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal).

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Back On My Bicycle in France – Riding from Cherbourg to Jonville

Bonjour (again) France
Sunday 23 August (Day 91 of my midlife gap-year)
11:35 am , Cherbourg YHA: 

I woke to the ferry-wide announcement that we were soon arriving in Cherbourg. It was raining;  perhaps I wouldn’t start riding straight away after all.

A view of a rainy morning at sea taken from a cabin window.
Hmmm … rain again

Waiting for my passport to be stamped and returned to me, the driver of a car – also awaiting their passport – sought my attention. “Excuse me!” he said, “Yes?” I replied. “Are you from Australia?” The guy waiting for his passport was also Australian and as a huge Oils fan, noticed and loved the Head Injuries t-shirt I was wearing.

Pedalling off in the now heavy rain, my face was soon streaming with it but I spotted and was able to follow street signs to the local hostel.

Of course, now that I’m all settled in here, the weather has cleared so I best go have a look at Cherbourg.

1:00 pm – I’ve Been Attacked by A Giant Hungry Seagull

It’s Sunday and most shops are closed. I found an open bakery and got a Croque Monsieur which I was eating as I walked towards the city centre. I just sensed an approaching mass in my peripheral vision when – swoop, snap, flap-flap to land, and there, a few metres ahead of me, was an enormous seagull gulping down my sandwich. All I could do was laugh.

It’s weird, but good, being surrounded by French and being back in my monolinguist cone of silence. I feel like a traveller again. And, ah, yes, back in a land still full of smokers, sigh. But there is almost acceptable coffee available everywhere, so that’s good.

4:40 pm, in a Parc: From Here …. To a Liberated Europe

This morning’s rain has given way to warm, bright, sunshine and a cloudless blue sky.

It would have been a beautiful day for riding – but I’m glad I stayed. I’ve gotten useful information from the tourist office and visited the Liberation Museum. I hadn’t known that the choice of the D-Day beaches was driven by the desire to capture Cherbourg. The Allies needed a port, a good one. The Germans, of course, destroyed the port facilities and the Allies had to put an insane effort in to clear it and get it operational again. But when they did, it became a busier port than New York – then the busiest in the world. The liberation of Europe – on the Western Front, anyway, began right here with the troops and materials delivered through the Port of Cherbourg.

I am struck by the idea that it was from here – this secured port and the materials it could deliver to the front lines – that the beginning of the end of the Holocaust originated and that soon those who could hold out until the troops got to them would be, forever more, Survivors.

11:30 pm YHA Cherbourg: First day back in France Counts as a Good One

Middle aged, short-haired, glasses-wearing woman against a blue sky and the French flag.
Vive la France

It’s funny how a person can get in your head and settle in there. I’m reading Robert Pinsky’s Selected Poems and I’m having a conversation with him, in my head, which he doesn’t know about. I guess that sort of happens whenever you read a book but, in this case, it’s made a bit more peculiar because I am having an email conversation with him. A chat, an email chat, not so much really a conversation.

I think it’s been a good day. I’m back on the Continent, and back – sort of – on the bike. Someone liked my Oils shirt, I had that weird seagull incident, and the weather cleared. Cherbourg is lovely. I learned stuff about WWII which I hadn’t known before. I didn’t spend much money and I fed myself dinner, and oh – got good info at the tourist office (Do you have … bicycle tour? Oh, of course, yes.) And this is the second night in a row where I expected to share a room but haven’t had to, which is nice.

Tomorrow: I RIDE AGAIN!

Stone French three-story house with flower boxes and a sign for Rue Grande Rue
Old Cherbourg, Rue Grande Rue
Modern apartment blocks with multi-coloured window dressings.
New Cherbourg – I liked how colourful the window dressings are.

2:00 am – Thoughts in a Wakeful Night

I can’t sleep. I don’t know if it was the tea with dinner, the excitement of riding again, or the little nap at 6:00 pm.

There are eucalyptus trees by the waterfront here. I plucked and crushed a leaf – the scent so strong. Home.

I’ve finished reading Jane Smiley’s Some Luck – which I enjoyed – but an e-book doesn’t give the satisfaction of closing the back cover.

It’s raining again – off and on.

In the parc this arvo there was a drug-fucked but friendly enough (not too friendly) French guy – who wanted me to take his photo (I didn’t) and later asked about my writing. I said I write about … stuff. Which is true. I wonder how these notebooks will read later.

They Sent Boys Such as This
Monday 24 August (Day 92)
8:25 am , Cherbourg YHA: 

I’ve just met young Quinn of Utah – recently studying in England. An email from Dad provided the details of Grandad’s service – he landed at Omaha Beach – so he’s come to look.

Grandad was probably no older (probably younger even) than Quinn when he landed on D-Day. Quinn chose the Coco Pops for breakfast and dipped his baguette in the left-over chocolate milk. Soft-spoken, soft-eyes, wheaten hair. It’s hard to imagine such a boy, such boys, retaking Europe from Hitler.

But they did.

1:10 pm – Le Vast: Feeling the Joy of Bicycle Touring (Again)

Sigh, it’s so good to be riding again! To feel my legs turning, hear the wheels on the road, smell the salt in the air.

I’m toying with writing a poem about reading Robert’s poetry. Why not? I mean what’s the point of being out here doing this if I don’t follow some random ideas.

I’m only about half way through Selected Poems but I have some ideas already.

Where I’ve Read Your Poetry

[First line of the first poem in the book]

Keeping one eye on the changing colours of Mount Leinster as the sun set on my last day in Ireland

On board the Oscar Wilde sailing from Rosslare to France and wondering ‘does he have a tattoo on his right shoulder?’

In Parc E. Linis after a drug-fucked and bruised, but happy, young man interrupted to ask what I was writing about. I said ‘stuff’

When I meant – Cherbourg, D-Day, the first day, finally, counting toward the day when the survivors would be freed to tell the truth of the horrors visited upon them (again)

In La Vast – at picnic, beside the river Saire, under menacing clouds. Riding again – joyous (or joyful). Poem with Refrains – dog eared as a favourite.

Heavy grey clouds blot the sky, but a small river courses through a sunlit green landscape.
The view from my picnic spot beside the River Saire

4:45 pm – Camping Municipal de Jonville: It’s Raining in Normandy (Of Course It Is)

My new tent is being put to a test straight away – it’s windy and raining off and on. It started showering with intent just as I got everything into the tent. So far so good – I’m dry and it hasn’t blown away but this being the first use I am a bit nervous.

I have to pee and I’d like to shower – so I’m hoping it will lessen soon. That’s how it seems to go here.

It’s a joy to be riding again. The day was mostly lovely – a little rain, a few hills, a bit more than a little unpaved and muddy/wet road. I rode through what strikes me as a very French landscape – familiar, perhaps, from war movies?

A white-stone French chateau reflected in a pond.
It could only be France, non?

It’s been exactly a month since my last riding day. On 24 July I rode 28.74 km from Laugharne to Tenby (Wales). Today it was 49.65 km and they felt pretty easy.

Where I read

Huddled, hunched and happy

In my new tent as wind shimmys the nylon

And Atlantic rain tap-dances (Jonville)

(Welcome back to riding: Tent cramp – right thigh, ow, fucking ow)

9:15 pm – A Sky of Fuchsia, A Navy Blue Horizon, a Dark Sapphire Sea

The rain has stopped. I went to the toilet, and on the western horizon below the clouds a burst of pink as close to the colour of my jacket, thongs (flip flops), and computer as I’ve seen – brilliant – a reminder that the sun is out there. I climbed a dune to get a better look at the sunset and at the sea as well. Heavy charcoal clouds remain, dropped to the sea. A smudge of navy-blue eyeliner marks the horizon – while the sea … what is that colour of blue? Dark sapphire perhaps.

Rain heavy sky over a deep green to dark blue sea.
The Atlantic Ocean from Camping Municipal de Jonville

Beautiful.

But hard not to think of Nazi German patrols and boys like Quinn’s grandfather coming to take it away from them.

12:40 am

Not only has the rain stopped and the wind relented but the sky is mostly clear. The Big Dipper – big and bold (it’s a plough in Ireland). And Orion – standing tall. I think we can see him in Australia – but he’s upside down.

Right now, I want the riding part of this journey to never end. To ride and camp or stay wherever day after day without destination or deadline. I feel like I’ve just kind of come to terms with a good pace and mindset. No worries about distance. Just ride. Of course, that’s especially easy on a well-marked route.

A fully-loaded touring bicycle leans against an age-wearied memorial cross in a small French village cross-roads, a signe reads: Village de la Croix Perrinot
A photo of near perfect happiness.

Naked Liberation at No 42 Lady Bay Beach – 22 February 2015

Until recently I was dreading Lady Bay. It is the second of, I think, three  ‘clothing optional’ beaches in Sydney (this one granted that status in 1976). The first in this project was beach No 13: Cobblers.

I am not generally inclined to get my kit off in public. Prior to Cobblers I never had and I found the experience fairly nerve-wracking. Back then (20 February 2011 – so almost four years exactly) I was not as well equipped, mentally, to look at things that made me uncomfortable, step back, and question why. But several weeks ago, thinking about Lady Bay, I asked myself what was the worst thing that could happen? My answers were: someone I don’t want to talk to might talk to me and I might get sunburnt is places I’d really rather not. I realised the former was nothing to fear as I’m perfectly capable of walking away from pesky people and the latter I could take precautions against.

So it was that my friends were more worried about Lady Bay than I was.

I rode my bicycle the 22 or so kilometres to Camp Cove in Watsons Bay from which I walked to Lady Bay. Sydney is an undulating city and this was an undulating ride – up down, up down – Google says ascended 265 metres and descended 276.

Camp Cove looks like a beach and is treated as a beach but is not listed by Gregory’s as a beach so I have not visited it as part of this project. But many, many people are visiting it today. There’s an adorable kiosk dispensing ice creams, lollies and coffee to a steady stream of customers. I have a coconut sorbet and a short black – neither is fantastic but both are perfect after the ride.

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The Camp Cove Kiosk.

 

With my courage enforced by cold creamy coconutiness I walk the 300 or so metres to the top of the stairs leading to Lady Bay. The beach is about 100 metres below the walking path but not far enough for me to miss a quite fit very naked man emerging from the harbour on the beach below.

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I’m here, no time like the present. Down the stairs I go. And along the beach looking for a spot to call my own which is near enough the cliff as to not be too visible to the strolling masses of clothed onlookers above and not too close to other visitors.

I am a little intimidated as nearly everyone on the beach is male – maybe 15 or 20 men and three or four women including myself. The men come in all ages, shapes and sizes. Including two quite heavy, quite furry and, if it’s not too much to say, rather, um, tiny, men who – not together mind you – stand about on the beach occasionally smoking cigarettes. But, you know, whatever. Lady Bay is, I understand, a mostly gay beach so it’s likely none of these men will look at me with even a passing glance of interest.

I am hot and sweaty from the ride and the harbour is calling. Off comes the kit, all of it – and especially the glasses leaving the world a soft blur. So in nothing but my tattoos I stride the 10 or so metres to the water and plunge in … knowing I’m visible to those above and, presumably, those in boats not too far off. And … so what? If they are judging me, what do I care? Not a whisper do I care.

 

It’s fantastic. The late summer water temperature is perfect – just cool enough to be refreshing yet warm enough to be inviting. Even out of focus I know the city is all around me and yet here I am naked and floating in Sydney Harbour. It is liberating and genuinely fabulous

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I wrap a towel about my waist and sit topless feeling the late afternoon sun on my wet skin and watching the light jewel off the water. A young bloke notices my “No 42 Lady Bay” sign and asks about it. He is not, I realise, someone I did not want to talk to – I am happy to chat and tell him about the blog. His name is David and he has a website devoted to Sydney’s nudist scene (www.sydneynudists.com).

It is strange but good – I’ve never met someone in the nude before. In fact I don’t think I’ve conversed in the nude with anyone ever who was not, at some point, a sexual partner. If you see what I mean. None of the gyms I’ve belonged to have been the sort where women wander about the change rooms naked, for instance. Ah, well … I have been to baths in Japan where I did exchange greetings while naked with other naked women but we didn’t converse for lack of a shared language. But David and I chat for a good 10 minutes or so, introduce ourselves and shake hands. All very civil. All very liberating … I can’t come up with an equally good word for it.

I swim again then sit and write for a while then swim again. I would stay longer but I hadn’t arrived until nearly 5 pm and it was now coming up on 6 pm. I was taking the ferry home but it would still take the better part of two hours to get there.

Waiting on the wharf I got some fish and chips and rang my best mate who was awaiting a report on Lady Bay and all I could say was that it was fantastic. Really fantastic. For days after it left me feeling fabulous and strong and like someone who had finally learned the value of asking of myself, of anything I’m feeling worried about, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Lady Bay is in the Municipality of Woollahra, the state electorate of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and Federal Division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal).

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You May Have Your Mansion But the Beach is There for All – No 41, Kutti (1 February 2015)

Kutti Beach is in Vaucluse, long the most affluent of Sydney suburbs and still in the top five. Prior to European colonisation the area was home to the Birrabirragal clan of the Dharug language group. They named the whole area, now called Watsons Bay, Kutti.

That the usual Sunday crowds are waiting at Watsons Bay is evident on the wharf at Circular Quay.

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I am set to meet Tom Allen, his wife Tenny and her sister Narineh under the big Morton Bay Fig in Robertson Park at 1 pm.  Tom is a bicyclist and all-around adventurer, blogger, filmmaker and bicycle advocate. I’d been following his blog for a while when he wrote a post saying he’d just arrived in Sydney and would be staying a while. I got in touch and invited him along to a beach outing and he, to my delight, accepted.

It’s not a perfect beach day – the sun comes and goes and its a bit breezy, but its summer, in Sydney, and two of our foursome have just arrived from the UK. (Narineh has been living in Sydney for a couple of years.)

Here’s the thing about the most touristic waterside places in Sydney – if you walk just that little bit further the crowds will drop away.

We walk south past the baths, past the crowded café at the adorable library, and past the Vaucluse Yacht Club. Gibbons Beach has maybe 15 visitors. As we pass through the reserve there I point out the house at the end of the beach of which I’d wondered, when I visited Gibbons, “what sort of life would I have had to live to live there?”

Up to the street, a right turn then another into Wharf Road, and we come to a dead end facing the Vaucluse Amateur Sailing Club.

Having Googled Kutti before coming I knew there would be a narrow stairwell down to the beach and so it was, there it is.

The secret to Kutti is finding the stairs.
The secret to Kutti is finding the stairs.

And so we arrive on an exclusive, obscure, quiet little beach in the heart of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs.

Kutti is about 100 metres long, maybe less, and some 20 metres deep. A couple of very small sailing boats are pulled up on the sand and a dozen or so boats are moored in the bay. Just as we arrive man and his dog, on a paddleboard, return to the beach – both a bit wet and salty looking.

A man and his dog.
A man and his dog.

There are maybe four or five houses that front Kutti Beach. One is for sale if you are in the market of a multi-million dollar home. In many countries this little stretch of beach would have been divvied up amongst these few properties. But in Australia all beaches are public. Tom is impressed.

There are families using the “boathouses” (now more loungerooms/guesthouses with kitchens) of two of the houses – kids are running around, in and out of the houses, into the water and back again. I am sort of amused to see Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags strung on this house  which was recently on the market with an expected price tag of $25 million.

Revisiting the question of what it would take to live here Tom says “good fortune” and I suggest that even if the fortune has been in the family for a century I expect the wealth would have been gained in a way that offends my sensibilities at least a little. He laughs.

The clouds remain mostly at bay; its warm and lovely and very very Sydney. We all swim then sit on the beach and chat about the lives we’ve led, are leading, hope to lead. We swim some more. I take my obligatory photograph and then its time for cold beer back at the Watsons Bay Hotel.

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Before we went our separate ways I even remembered to get a group photograph.

Me, Tom, Tenny and Narineh
Me, Tom, Tenny and Narineh

Then the dark clouds begin to gather making for dramatic light through spray-splashed windows on the ferry ride back to Circular Quay.

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Kutti Beach is 19 kilometres (12 miles) from home. It’s in the Municipality of Woollahra, the state electorate of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and Federal Division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal).

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No 32: Gibson’s Beach – 2 February 2014

Living in Sydney brings joy to my life.  Even when all else is shit, when plans fail, promises are broken and my mood is sour to see Sydney Harbour, the Bridge, the Opera House brings me joy.  Perhaps especially when all else is shit the magic of my own joyful response to the sheer beauty of Sydney Harbour and my endless wonderment at making my life here lifts my spirit and brightens my day.

I love, love this city.
I love, love this city.

I was in a fine mood on Sunday to begin with – slightly disappointed no friends were free to join me at Gibson’s Beach but excited for my first solo visit of this project.  It was late afternoon when I boarded the ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay.  The steel blue water glistened, reflecting the nearly flawless bowl of blue sky above.  The Louise Savage skimmed eastward through a harbour busy with Sunday afternoon sailors and cruisers.  Standing on the open deck smelling the saltiness in the stiff wind we buzzed past Fort Denison and Garden Island.  Sightseeing sea-planes circled overhead preparing to land at Rose Bay.  I felt a rushing visceral happiness which made my heart beat just a little bit faster.  I love, love this city.  I love that opportunity and choice have led me here.

Seaplane preparing to land at Rose Bay.
Seaplane preparing to land at Rose Bay.

From the water, Watson’s Bay looks very much the fishing village it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It has maintained some of that charm while now being a very well-to-do suburb.  Disembarking I am met by a crowd of day-trippers awaiting the return journey.  Doyle’s Fish and Chippery is doing its usual roaring trade.  Chilled out Sunday session music is pumping from Watson’s Bay Hotel.  Families, backpackers, teenagers and tourists are lingering under the giant Morton Bay fig tree in Robertson Park enjoying ice creams and cold drinks in the still hot afternoon.  It feels very much that we are all ‘away’ from the city but looking west, there, on the horizon is the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Watson's Bay still kind of looks like a fishing village.
Watson’s Bay still kind of looks like a fishing village.

Gibson’s Beach is a five minute walk southwest of the ferry wharf.

Turn right and walk five minutes for Gibson's Beach.
Turn right and walk five minutes for Gibson’s Beach.

I pass the shark-netted Watson’s Bay Baths, a small municipal library (surely one of the most prettily situated libraries in the world) and the charmingly simple Vaucluse Yacht Club.

Charmingly old-school Vaucluse Yacht Club.
Charmingly old-school Vaucluse Yacht Club.
Yachts at anchor near the club.
Yachts at anchor near the club.

Gibson’s is pleasantly busy with families and teenaged couples.  I expect most visitors are locals but there’s a large Spanish-speaking family and a trio of Russian-speaking swimmers – all of whom may now be locals, of course.

Lazy Sunday arvo - Gibson's Beach style.
Lazy Sunday arvo – Gibson’s Beach style.

The flat quiet water is just the sort I find imminently inviting.  I waded in and then dove under to wash the summer city heat from my body.  The water is crystalline in a way that always amazes me.  There are schools of little minnows dashing about.

Houses open onto the end of the beach and border the associated reserve.  It’s hard to imagine the lives led here.  Well, no, it’s hard to imagine the life I would have had to have led to now find myself being able to afford a house that opens onto Gibson’s Beach.  It is nice to visit.

It's seems a charmed life to have one's front gate open onto Gibson's Beach
It seems a charmed life to have one’s front gate open onto Gibson’s Beach
Number Thirty-Two: Gibson's Beach
Number Thirty-Two: Gibson’s Beach

The beach was named after Henry Gibson, a shipping pilot who worked and lived in the area for 50 years from the late 1830s onward.

Gibson’s Beach is 23 kilometres (14 miles) from home.  It’s in the Woollahra Local Government Area, the state electorate of Vaucluse (Gabrielle Upton, Liberal) and federal division of Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal).

Twenty-three kilometres from home.
Twenty-three kilometres from home.
Sunday Arvo Session at Watsons Bay
Sunday Arvo Session at Watsons Bay Hotel
From the City of Sydney Archives - it says 1904 but more likely nearer 1894.
From the City of Sydney Archives – it says 1904 but more likely nearer 1894.

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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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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23_Edwards_Map

 

No 22: Delwood Beach – 11 March 2012

I’ve been a bad blogger.  Our visit to Delwood Beach not only seems ages ago but was, in fact, ages ago.  The couple whose engagement party we attended in Manly on the Saturday night have since wed and are expecting their first child.

It was an unexpected almost-weekend away.

The engagement party was at the rowing club on Manly Cove on a bright, sea-sparkly, Saturday afternoon into evening. We had ridden our bicycles to Manly – no small thing at 27 kilometres (nearly 17 miles) and having forgotten just how hilly North Sydney is.  The feat impressed our friends and we were nonchalant about it – “Oh, yeah, we rode.”

Afterwards we had another round of beers at The Four Pines – a boutique brewery overlooking Manly Wharf.  We then retired to our mate Jim’s place for a late night chat and sleep over.

In the morning the weather proved delightful and the beach a welcome place to recover a bit. Delwood is a funny little beach.  Walking west from Manly Wharf, past the Oceanworld Manly Aquarium and up the hill, it’s the first beach you hit.  It’s reached by stairs and consists of a small rocky shelter with a million-dollar view out to the Sydney Heads and the sea beyond with the Manly Ferry plying its way across the horizon.

We hung about for a while enjoying the salty air and watching the sailors, windsurfers and snorkelers doing their Sunday things.  Jim and I ventured in for a freshening dip.  We took our photos and prepared to depart for the rest of our Sunday’s.

Delwood Beach is in the Manly Council LGA; Manly State Electorate (Mike Baird, Lib) and Warringah Federal Division (Tony Abbott, Lib).

Next up: No 23: Edwards

No 15: Collins Beach – 5 March 2011

Collins Beach is in the Sydney Harbour National Park in Manly.  It’s a beach that seems like it should be quieter and more obscure than it is. You have to walk a ways to get to it, it’s not obvious from any roadway but it’s busy.

Heaps of people! There were several big groups and many (seeming) tourists. I guess it’s on the maps handed out by local accommodation — it felt like it’s the “secret beach” for visitors if you know what I mean.

There was an American couple set up near us, speaking loudly on their mobile phones — the guy completely freaked out to see someone wearing a Milwaukee Brewers hat there (as Mitch was).

It’s sheltered and has super clear flat water and backs into bush.

Collins Beach is 24 kilometres (15 miles) from home.  We took the bus to Central Station then got a lift with Erin.

Collins Beach is in Manly LGA, the state district of Manly (Mike Baird, Liberal) and federal division of Warringh (Tony Abbott, Liberal). I think our next beach is actually represented by Labor!  Wait for it …

No 13: Cobblers Beach – 20 February 2011

Cobblers Beach is the, ahem, first nude beach on the list.

It’s a harbour beach located within the Sydney Harbour National Park. It’s right next to the naval base, HMAS Penguin. I was pleased to find bus no 244 from the city delivered us to within a few hundred metres.  Though we found ourselves wondering who among the dwindling passengers were there to get their kit off.

Cobblers is 19 kilometres (12 miles) from home but it felt a million miles from my comfort zone.  I was not looking forward to nuding-up but I’d have felt even more uncomfortable sitting clothed on a beach full of naked people.

For what it’s worth I would say we were on the younger side of the average. There seemed to be a mix of straight and gay beach goers.  I was somewhat surprised by the amount of manicuring these naturists engaged in — not a lot of natural body hair on many of them.  Mitch was surprised by how many wore hats — yeah, good thing your head is covered.

I don’t know when the next nude beach will be; I’m not looking forward to it but I’ll be curious to see how it’s different, if it is, from Cobblers.

Yes, that’s a queue of naked people waiting to purchase coffees and ice creams.

Cobblers is in Mosman LGA, the state district of North Shore (Jillian Skinner, Liberal) and the federal division of Warringah (Tony Abbott, Liberal).