Category Archives: Mount Wellington

Hobart and the Derwent River from above

Recently, as I delved into the National Library of Australia’s online digitalised newspapers for family research purposes, I stumbled across the following image.

The newspaper was the now defunct The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil produced in Melbourne Victoria between 1873 and 1889.  The image below was published in the Saturday issue of 17 April 1875.

Taken from the vantage point of Mount Wellington we are looking down onto the dots of a growing Hobart city, across the Derwent River to the eastern shore which is as yet unsettled in any dense sort of way.  As usual, the River is the star!

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Max Angus

Thanks to blog reader Marion I have been reminded of well-known Tasmanian artist Max Angus and his connection with the Derwent River. His biography (up to 2003) can be read here. Max died aged over 102 years almost a fortnight ago in February (on my birthday so I will never forget it) this year.  You can refer to an ABC news report for more information .

As a celebrated watercolourist, Max documented coastal and inland Tasmanian landscape scenes, and over the decades of his life the Derwent River often featured as a subject for his paintings.

In 1990, one entire exhibition at the Freeman Gallery in Sandy Bay was devoted to the Derwent River Aspects of the Derwent from the Source to the Sea.  I am on the trail and hope to be able to post more exacting information in the future.  Perhaps a blog reader owns a catalogue from that rather special exhibition so I can see and learn more.  I suspect, like so many local art exhibitions, reproductions of the paintings on display were not included.  Nevertheless the descriptive titles which Max used for his work will be informative.

As an example of the artist’s Derwent River related work, a locally owned watercolour (included in this blog with permission from the private owner) titled ‘The Flying Cloud in Victoria Dock’ painted in October 1990, is shown below.  The waters of the Derwent River look fairly glassy in the foreground and a moody Mount Wellington provides a background to Hobart’s port.

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Walking on an industrial site – posting 2 of 5

Once decked out in our safety gear, Nyrstar’s Todd and I strode off down the road towards the entrance to the industrial estate all the while admiring the day and the view of the Derwent River whenever it appeared around buildings and between parts of the landscape.

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Once through a gate in a high protective fence, we came to a junction. Should we walk forward directly to the river or turn right on a track around a hill shaped by metallic discards decades ago?

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The choice was easy. We turned right and continued as the track took us above but on the edge of the Derwent River in New Town Bay.  20170227_103354.jpg

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I could look inland to Mount Wellington and across the Bay to Self’s Point.  An early record of my walk along the Derwent at Self’s Point can be read here and here.

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As usual, I loved the brilliant colours that a clear day produces on the river and the landscape.  I hope you find the photos as stunning as I do – long term blog followers know I never set out to create heart-stopping reproduction photos only to record in a casual way what I see. During my walk on Nyrstar property, the world and the Derwent River in particular, seemed spectacular.

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As we walked around the hill, the eastern shore came into view – some of it built up with private houses and other parts remaining as uncleared bushland. My host and I mused on how the first European explorers and settlers would have seen both sides of the Derwent River completely forested. By  being able to see such forests today helped me to have some appreciation of their world at the end of the 18th century.  If those travellers arrived on a day like we were having then the landscape would have looked wonderful, although somewhat impenetrable.

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Where have I been?

Answer: Mostly looking through my windows and watching the seasons pass across snippets of Derwent River and Mount Wellington.

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For the past six months, the almost daily posts of earlier times on this Walking the Derwent blogsite stopped. While my thoughts have never been far from the Derwent River, since March I have posted only two or three stories. Avid followers of my walk along the Derwent River from the mouth to the source,  will realise that stories of particular sections of the walk have not been recorded.   Over the next month or two that gap will be filled.

When I halted writing this blog, I focused on compiling and publishing the book William Baker Tyzack and descendants in Australia  and running a blog associated with the anniversary of my great great grandfather’s arrival in Australia 150 years ago. Then I authored and published a book of an artist friend’s letters that had been sent to me over a quarter of a century.  During the processes of putting both books together, an opportunity to author and publish a third book came to my attention. Recently I published a book about my goddaughter. All non-fiction. All personal. I have been enthralled by the wonderful ease of self-publishing resources, and the professional look of the final publications.

Now I am inspired to turn my Walking the Derwent blog into a user-friendly book, which can be purchased both in book shops and on the internet.  But first, I need to finish writing the posts which record the remainder of my walk. I aim to complete the posts within the next two months then, early next year, begin the massive task to condense over 200,000 words and thousands of photos into a comparatively tiny tome.

Tasmania’s Derwent River continues to remain a feature of magic for me. I have missed my past regular walks inland discovering its nature and its pathway through the landscape.  Thankfully, here in Hobart, I live with a constant view of the changing appearances of the Derwent and the glorious sky above.

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What goes up goes down

In any landscape, every hill has its ups and downs. Having crested the hill separating me away from Lake King William but with the Derwent River on my left as I walked northwards, I was astonished that I could see Lake St Clair.  There, as a bright white beacon on the water surface, was the Pumphouse Point Hotel. You will need to enlarge the photo below to see the tiny white block in upper left centre. To its right a small portion of the Derwent Basin can be seen. The Derwent Basin empties into St Clair Lagoon, and where that Lagoon is dammed, the Derwent River starts its long run to the sea.

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Of course the source was still a long way away, but I knew seeing this vista meant I was closing in on the point where the Derwent River started.

Then I started downhill on the sharp rocky track.

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At the halfway down point, I photographed the view both up and down.

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Before long I was walking with the River to my left and a dry forest beside me.

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Crossing the plain

Before reaching the plain, I stepped across a couple of tiny rivulets the waters of which were heading to Lake King William. The map indicated I should expect a number of these. None impacted on the ease of the walk. 20160103_075628.jpg

After walking approximately two thirds of the length of Lake King William from the south northwards, the track ended in a mire of deep dry criss-crossing ruts a few hundred metres inland. Obviously when the land was wet, vehicles had tried to continue onto the plain using bits of driftwood to give purchase – but the ruts soon stopped so I knew these man-made beasts had retreated, albeit with difficulty. My photo below, with Mount Charles looking down, does not adequately present the depth or the complexity of the intrusion of vehicles.

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In a recent posting I added in a link to Tassie Rambler’s blog . I suggest you revisit that site to look at the photographs showing what the area looks like when wet. Look for Mount Charles in the photos and then, in the photos that follow, you can see the wet plain that the Tassie Rambler experienced. I am immensely grateful for the dryness I found.

Mount Charles looked down on the plain which stretched wide and extended perhaps a kilometre inland from the Lake.  I knew I needed to aim at the pointed hill (see photo below) in the distance and be prepared to walk around it.

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A snaking crevasse meandered through this seeming flatness. My map named Bethune Creek as the main watercourse in the area so I knew I needed to make a water crossing at some stage.  My passage point was a log resting on both sides of the land. Crossing Bethune Creek was easy.

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The ground either side of the Creek and presumably across the plain was not wet, nevertheless it was springy under foot and I bounced as I walked.

Acres and acres of this ‘ground’ extended in all directions and a decision was required. Should I walk beside Bethune Creek until I was much closer to Lake King William and then try and get through the bush, find a track and continue on solid ground? Alternatively, because I could see the power lines in a row parallel to the plain, I wondered whether I should walk through the bush towards them as soon as I could see an easy route.  From where I stood it was not clear that accessing the power line area would be easy or even possible if I proceeded closer to the Lake so I decided to make a path to the power lines through the band of small bushes and undergrowth which seemed to be the narrowest.  It didn’t look difficult.

This was where the fun started.

Over the years, bushwalkers have groaned at the memory of experiences crossing button grass plains. Until this walk, I had no experience of walking through these plants.  Now I understand bushwalkers’ groans. When you see the images below of the button grass it appears not to present difficulties for walking – but appearances deceive.

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Despite the fact I only needed to cover about 100 metres of these beautiful looking plants, it was one of the most exhausting and frustrating processes I have ever endured. However, even as I tried to negotiate the distance, I could see the funny side if someone else had been watching my antics and halting progress.

Each button grass plant has a thick roughly circular base and then sprouts long arms some of which end with a spherical seed case, the button. Around and between each plant run channels which, in wetter times, would be a muddy, marshy, boot-removing quagmire.  Thankfully, these channels were bone dry when I made the crossing.  The channels were the width of one of my feet so on occasion I tried to walk in the channels. The channels are deep so that the top of the surrounding button grass plants were sometimes around my armpit height. This meant seeing the best forward path was not always possible. After making a few steps around a few plants, I would think I had found a way to continue reasonably comfortably, albeit not in a straight line to my destination. Then suddenly a mesh of grasses from a number of close growing plants would be so thick that I could not force my way through nor step over.  Then I would hump myself up to balance in the middle of a grass plant, my backpack changing my centre of gravity.  The irregularity of the height and thickness of the plants required constant rebalancing to stay upright. And I didn’t stay upright. I couldn’t.  So I would fall onto my back perhaps across a plant or two or perhaps into or straddling a channel. I lay there, rather like a beetle with legs and arms flailing in the air where turning over or getting up seems impossible. Then I would unhitch my back pack, firm my footing in a channel, load my backpack on, and start again. How many times did this happen? I cannot say.  But the landings were always soft and not jarring. These were gentle falls backwards offering marvellous sky views!

After much time – was it an hour or more? – the vegetation changed to a combination of few button grass plants, a nice little short spiky leaved plant (mind over matter was required to proceed through this), and a deeply spongy moss.

In the photo below, across the low level growth, the taller spiky plant can be seen left of centre, and the pale green plant in the foreground is the moss.  Again this photo shows a landscape that looks easy to walk through.  I promise you that looks deceive greatly. The ground beneath the plants was uneven, and some of the plants were deeply compressible by different degrees.

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I do not think the soft mossy plant, which slowed my progress considerably, was Sphagnum Moss one of Tasmania’s endemic species; however I am unable to identify it. Looking firm, I would step onto a smooth looking mass and that foot might sink a few inches, twelve inches, or I might drop down to knee height in the mass. Meanwhile the other foot and leg stayed elsewhere up someplace on another firmer plant. Unused muscles got a stretch. Keeping my balance was crucial because falling on the spiky plants held no allure.

A couple of years ago I attended classes to learn to dance the Argentine Tango in which balance is critical to success. During the dance, the man leads and the woman may need to stay balanced mid move on one foot for an unknown time. This means every time I made a step I needed to be prepared to stop, not sway, and keep centred. The dance experience proved useful in Tasmania’s wilderness as I negotiated a path through these plants. Speed was never an option.

I am not proud to say that I disturbed the landscape on this section of the walk.  However, the extraordinary resilience of the plants on which I stepped amazed me. They bounced back to their original shape immediately. When I stepped off the button grass plants and the moss, I could not see any mark of where I had been, although I recognise that at a micro level (perhaps even closer inspection) my steps would be in evidence on these plants.

Eventually I reached the power line clearway. It wasn’t clear. Dreams of easy walking remained dreams.

Season’s greetings

When I am in Hobart on Christmas Day, as I will be this year, I make a point of finding time to walk along Bellerive Beach which forms one border with the Derwent River.   I love the bonhomie of people who walk there that day. Good spirits abound. I can almost hear their bodies groaning from eating too much Christmas food. Many are happily dragged onwards by joyful dogs that are delighted to be out in the fresh air. All of this is a wonderful spirit lifter – the goodwill of people, their gambolling dogs, the grand Mount Wellington in view over the water, and the lapping sound and salty smell of the blue river.

For some people Christmas is a happy time, for others it is surrounded by sadness, and for many people Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is a rush of stressful events.  Of course a person’s level of interest and engagement with Christmassy activities depends on religious persuasion and so some people are never involved in the festivities.  But if Christmas is your thing, then I hope you have rituals with family and friends that relax you and, if not, then I urge you to find a way to be calm.  All in all, I wish everyone happiness during the Christmas season.