Friday, May 29, 2009

Exploring the Shoalhaven Coast / Part 3

The sun rose into a clear sky and all looked promising for a nice day so we prepared to head north for another coastal exploration. But soon dark clouds started to gather and showers were showing up on the weather radar by 9am. The weather bureau also changed its forecast to "occasional showers". So we decided to still head north but only as far as town with the intention of exploring the north and south heads of Ulladulla Harbour.
On the north head is One Track for All, with its four lookouts providing spectacular views of the coast and harbour. It is a cultural trail with the stories of southern Shoalhaven Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal history, told from an Aboriginal prospective, illustrated through many relief carvings and paintings placed around the two loops of the 2km track. This is the work of local Aboriginal, Noel Butler, who sees it as a tool for linking indigenous culture with white history.
Before white settlement this land was occupied by the Budawang tribe, who spoke the Dhurga language, for probably around 20,000 years. They were the first indigenous Australians to be sighted by Captain James Cook, during the first recorded European exploration of the east coast of Australia in 1770, on Koorbrua beach at Murramarang. The tribal area of the Budawang lies from Conjola in the north, Lake George in the West and the Moruya (Deua) River in the south.
The first of the two loops circled north with wonderful views over the harbour entrance to the south point, Warden Head, with the lighthouse prominent.
As with our previous trips I had to do some research on shipwrecks of the area. Despite the fact that Ulladulla is a very safe harbour, the entrance to it is fraught with danger with reefs both to the north and south as well as at Warden Head. Four wrecks were noted. The "Susan" in 1849, the "Currency Lass" in 1851, the "Medina" in 1852 and the "Alfred Edward" in 1882. No loss of life was recorded for any.
A little further on, the view to the north towards Mollymook and Jervis Bay in the distance was just as fascinating . And we were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins surfing the rolling waves into the rocky shoreline, just pulling out at the last minute to avoid disaster.
As on our other walks, I was interested in the plant life. The north head was covered in a extremely dense growth of stunted mallee like Casuarinas or She-oaks. This genus has a large number of species ranging from small shrubs to 20m high trees. What these were exactly, I was not sure. The foliage consisted of small branchlets with leaves reduced to rings of small triangular scales. Some were in flower with their tiny red spikey blooms.

In the clearings were native grasses, a few Banksias species and plenty of Coastal rosemary (Westringia fruticosa) which was also in flower.

And in a "soak", I came across the rare Christmas bell (Blandfordia nobilis) which was in full flower. Very unusual for this time of year.

The southern loop with views over the harbour and the town contained even more wooden carvings and paintings. Some were sadly faded and in need of restoration. We were informed by a lady, who suddenly appeared out of the bush with a survey form of questions about our opinion of the walk, that plans to do this work were well in hand.
I particularly liked the lookout with its carved balustrade of fish species that swim in the surrounding waters.
And then, as suddenly as we had left it, we were back in 'civilisation' with a great view over the Ulladulla breakwater and the town centre.

With even darker clouds gathering and the odd spit of rain, we decided to throw caution to the wind and head for the north or Warden Head to another nature walk. Here the lighthouse overlooks the ocean from its place high on the vertical cliffs with the surf pounding on the rocks and surging on the hidden reefs below. This a favorite haunt of whale watchers during the seasonal migration both up and down the coast. They should have been around heading north for the winter but it's early in the season and we unfortunately didn't see any.

The lighthouse was built in 1873 and was originally located at the entrance to the harbour.
It was relocated to Warden's Head in 1889.
The light is now battery operated and float charged from 240v mains supply.

(Photograph: Milton Ulladulla and District Historical Society)
This track was not as developed as the others we had been on but some effort had been put into constructing look outs from the steep cliffs over the ocean as well as board walks over the more environmentally fragile areas. To my surprise the vegetation on south head was completely different to that on the north. Here initially it was more like the the coastal heath country that we saw around Jervis Bay.

Many different Banksias and Acacias as well as Hakea were present. Then suddenly after we crossed a small bridge across what is now a dry stream, the country changed again into almost the same type of forest we were in at Monument Beach. Here we found great examples of old man banksia (Banksia serrata)and their seed cones that inspired the Bad Banksia Men in May Gibb's children's stories.
So with rain beginning to fall, we headed back into town for lunch after another successful day's exploration. And this time right on our doorstep.

1 comment:

myolivebranch said...

very cool carvings and i especially love the little white flower