Tag Archives: Alum Cliffs

The ebb and flow of the Derwent River against the Alum Cliffs

I made a 25 second video of the seemingly gentle movement on the surface of the Derwent River as it moved backwards and forwards to and from the Alum Cliffs, as seen through dry forest. It was rather hypnotic and I can now see the video would have been more powerful if longer.

To see South of Hinsby Beach with waves on the Derwent River Tasmania go to : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdnLETfiRWA

Onto the ‘proper’ Alum Cliffs track near Taroona Tasmania

After walking across the Shot Tower carpark I had one last look back to where I had been. The sky was amazing.

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In the trees then and often further again along the track, Kookaburra birds laughed at me many times. Ha Ha Ha Ha!  Ha Ha Ha! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.  Their feathers camouflaged perfectly with the shadows from leaves and the colours of tree trunks and branches.  They were impossible to photograph. Ha Ha Ha Ha!  Ha Ha Ha!

A sign seen at 10.08am indicated the start of the Alum Cliffs track.

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Then I began the careful descent on a steep 100 metres or so length of a four wheel drive wide smooth gravel track. Partly eroded. Basic stairs were irregularly constructed on one side of this incline.  Bush either side.  A small wallaby surprised me bouncing through the undergrowth.

At 10.15 am I reached the creek crossing below. Peaceful.  Looking up, an even longer climb on the other side was rather dispiriting. On the trek uphill I stopped and sat for a while to take in the view of dense gum tree foliage. There were smooth gum trunks as far as the eye could see.  No wind. Trickling creek below. Peaceful.   As I walked higher, the Shot Tower came into view bit by bit over the trees.

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It was 10.33am when I reached a picnic table and lookout at the top of the Alum Cliffs.

Passing white crowned toadstools with sharp white gills when open, I walked along a shady path which was quiet except for the occasional birdsong, rustling water in the creek below, or the soft voices of other walkers. I learnt from one of the walkers that the Alum Cliffs track used to follow the edge and in order to cross creek gullies, ropes were installed up and down the cliff to steady yourself during the climbs.  Part of those walks included rock hopping along the shoreline as well.

At 10.45am I reached the turn-off to Taronga Road – I did not want to exit the Cliff walk so I continued on. At 10.53am I reached the junction with the Brickfields Track – another time I will return to this area and walk that track to look at the remains of any social history along the way.

A few minutes afterwards, I felt I was identifying exposed alum rock.  I decided it was the rock which had partly oxidised into a greenish colour in places. Whether or not it is the real deal I cannot say.

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Despite tree roots and rocks intruding on this track, the well-trodden dirt with a slight leaf covering made for very easy walking.  Off to the side of the track walking would not have been quick and easy.

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I loved the colours on gum tree trunks as bark peeled away naturally.

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I loved seeing the signs of insects which once burrowed their way under the tree bark.

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At 11.07am I reached a seat with a viewing platform from where I watched an oil tanker motoring up the Derwent, having passed Gellibrand Point on the eastern shore.

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It was a long way down to the River over the Cliffs.

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Then I walked some way with another walker until I needed to stop and start with notetaking and the clicking of photographs.  I continued down across another creek and stopped when I noticed the clay at the bottom.  My earlier research/posting had indicated a connection between the alum rock and clay.

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The track passed through a tiny wet forest area with green pronged tree ferns.  Back up onto a drier track I reached a picnic table at 11.26am. Nearby, a teepee of tree branches and leaves had been built casually.  Would it be better than no shelter in a rainy storm?  Not too sure how long the ‘tent’ would survive much wind.

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Walking past native flowers; pink heath, lots of yellow tiny daisy like flowers, and a delicate 5 petal lavender blue coloured solitary flower.

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I passed smaller tracks off to the left which ended by hovering over the edge of the Cliff, and some to the right which I imagine found their way back into suburbia or onto the Channel Highway.

A glossy scarlet red spider, black legs with a blue iridescent tail crossed my path.  I have never seen one before and knew nothing until I researched once back home; this was Nicodamidae –Red and Black Spider.  Apparently, ‘toxicity unknown, treat with caution’.  Trust me – I didn’t touch it.  The size was that of a woman’s finger nail.

Not long after chatting with a man and his dog, at 11.40am through the trees I could see bits and pieces of Kingston Beach.  My trek across the Alum Cliffs was almost over.

Wandella Avenue to the Shot Tower, Tasmania

My previous posting explained that the first part of my Stage 12 walk along the Derwent River took me to Wandella Ave but then I retraced some steps and took an Alum Cliff-side disused track, which ultimately resulted in my returning to Wandella Avenue.

So – when you walk from Hinsby Beach and the track arrives at Wandella Ave, turn left, walk for a short while and then turn right into Baringa Rd (the signpost for this is missing). Continue walking around and uphill until you reach the junction with the Channel Highway. I reached there at 9.44am

Nearby was bus stop 32.

I enjoyed soaking in the view across the Derwent River where I could see Gellibrand Point and Opossum Bay.

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Further down the River, South Arm and Fort Direction Hill were visible at the mouth of the Derwent on the eastern shore.

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I turned left onto the Channel Highway (which has no footpath) and was able, for some metres, to walk inside a guard rail and then later on a narrow gravel verge with traffic streaming by.  At 9.50 am I was passing the sign indicating this was the Huon Trail Touring Route.

In the bush which I had clambered through earlier and now as I walked along the road, I was concerned to see an exotic which has escaped and been self-seeding rapidly everywhere.  I don’t know the name of the plant but from experience in my own garden, I know it grows fast and furiously into a medium sized plant with a purple pea flower. I did pull out some of the smaller plants and with the moist soil the roots came out as well.  But there were thousands of plants and continuing my walk was the greater priority, so I stopped pulling.

Further up the road, I could see the top of the Shot Tower above the trees.

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Before long I was standing outside the Shot Tower complex. The time was 10.05am.

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The person manning the souvenir shop and entrance to the Tower gave me a booklet with all the tracks and walks in the Kingborough area, and he pointed out a nearby gum tree just over a rise. ‘That’s where the Alum Cliffs track starts’, he told me. He felt sure the Kingborough Council were ready to build the final part of the Alum Cliffs track from the Shot Tower to Hinsby Beach so I guess we wait and see what progress is made in the months to come.  However, it does seem the track won’t be marked out close to the Cliff edges on that northern part.

On my list of things to do in the future will be to return to the Shot Tower to take the walk up the many stairs and look out over where I have walked. The cost is only $8 including the opportunity to watch an interpretative DVD. The Shot Tower site includes a shop, museum, carpark and public toilets.  Plus the fabulous view!

Starting out from Hinsby Beach and walking south to Wandella Avenue – Stage 12

I left home in Bellerive on the eastern shore of the Derwent River before 7am while the morning was cool and the light was soft grey. By the time my bus into Hobart city was travelling over the Tasman Bridge, the sun had hit the top of Mount Wellington, the sky was blue, and the day promised to be sensational.   The dramatic circus tent on the Queens Domain was being dismantled. People on the bus seemed to be dozing. Yet outside the bus, I wondered at the stunning crispness of shadows and sunlight causing windows to sparkle.  The look of the day made me feel like I was sparkling.  But my eyes were wide open.  Waiting at the bus stop at Franklin Square for a bus headed towards Kingston but passing through Taroona,  all I could think was ‘glorious, glorious, glorious’.

With few people on board, the trip to bus stop 30 in Taroona (the one where I finished in Stage 11) only took 22 minutes and then I was out in the fresh air on the Channel Highway at 7.52am. Gulls calling. Gardens were flush with sunflowers, roses, agapanthus, wandering pumpkin plants, lavenders of all types, and flowering gum trees.  All overlaid by the sounds of bush birds flitting here and there.

By 7.58am I had walked down Hinsby Street and reached the top of the walkway leading to the Hinsby Beach.  I could hear the shushing of the soft waves along the beach and glimpse a tiny bit of water at the end of the shady path.

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I could see the Alum Cliffs through the trees.

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A swimmer was leaving the water as I clicked a photograph. When I registered his angry body language, I realised I had been feeling the place without really seeing.  Of course my finger on the tablet’s camera clicked mechanically without seeing or feeling – but featuring photographs with him was not to his liking. I immediately claimed to be photographing the Alum Cliffs at the end of the beach and promised not to blog his picture.

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I guess the swimmer was not used to sharing the beach with anybody else that early and could only repeat rather manically, ‘you must come in’, ‘you must come in’ as he gesticulated towards the water.  I was thickly dressed from neck to toe and already wearing my sun hat.  ‘Going in’ was not in my plan.  I continued along the beach. A little later on a path, I took the following photo – I hope you can understand that getting undressed would never have been an option.

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At 8.05am, at the end of Hinsby Beach, I looked back for one last sea-level view of Hinsby Beach.

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I reached a stairway with rails and walked uphill until I seemed not to be on a clear track.

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When you read further below you will realise the photo above does not show the start of the track which I should have taken.

Very soon I arrived at a gully with a small trickle of water passing downhill. I chose not to cross by balancing as a gymnast on the dead tree trunks that criss-crossed it. Instead I simply walked easily down, stepped across a few rocks and walked up the other side.  Before long it was clear I was fenced in and that a proper dirt track passed on the other side of the fence. The fence was elastic so I swayed over it rather dramatically without falling off and down the cliff on the other side of the track. When I righted myself and looked back along the track which I hadn’t known existed, three women and a dog stood very still, their mouths agape. ‘Are you alright?’ they chorused. ‘Yes’, I assured them as I smiled.  Some moments I wonder if I am losing my once good judgement.  ‘But where have you come from?’ I asked with a puzzled wrinkling of my forehead. ‘Where did you find this track?’  Apparently, if I had bypassed the stairs and track I had chosen and walked around over the rocks of Hinsby Beach a little further, the real track started there.  Time for the installation of a few signs!

This ‘new’ track was fine.

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Although there were occasional diversions across the track.

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The view back towards Hinsby Beach was clear.

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The time was 8.22am as I offloaded my jacket, smeared sunscreen across exposed parts of my body and continued walking along the track until it extended up into a suburban street.  At 8.25am I turned left into Wandella Ave, wandered along past houses for a while, could not see any further tracks back to the Alum Cliffs, talked to a local who did not think there was one and recommended that I should walk up to the Channel Highway and continue southwards on that road.

Not to be defeated, I retraced my steps down the original pathway until I discerned an old disused track that seemed to continue along the Cliffs.  I walked it but casual inexperienced walkers and those walking alone absolutely should not. Incredibly unsafe in just about every way.  I didn’t fall nor receive injuries but there were so many ways and places I could have damaged or killed myself on that route.  I won’t relay all the details of that walk except to say that the views across the Derwent River though the trees were grand. Blue Wrens darted around me through the bush. Waves pounded against the Cliffs, and I could hear the roar of waves crashing on distant beaches.  Because photographs flatten the vistas, the ones I have taken do not present the feeling of isolation, steepness nor roughness of this non-track.  But it was incredibly beautiful and I am glad to have seen that landscape.

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I started this diversion at 8.37am. After following a collapsing path (although parts were good), I managed a deep descent into and an ascent out of an unnamed gully by 9.12am, rounded an extensive private house, talked with the house owner about the future of tracks along the Alum Cliffs and the non-availability of any tracks passing his house (which stood on the very edge of the Cliff) around 9.25am, and walked down and around the very long winding private driveway over a trickling creek, I reached suburbia again at 9.35am – the same point on Wandella Ave I had been earlier in the morning. I had completed a loop. Certainly I had been close to the Derwent River more than most but I had not advanced along the River.

The first photo below shows the house I climbed up to on top of the cliff after descending into a gully, the waters of which plunged over a rocky edge to the River.

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I recommend that all evidence of the existence of the disused track should be eliminated.

From Hinsby Beach to Blackmans Bay accomplished on Stage 12 yesterday

The goal of my walk along the Derwent River for Stage 12 was to start at my last stopping point, Bus Stop 30 on the Channel Highway at Taroona on the western shore of the Derwent River, and continue to Blackmans Bay in the local government area of Kingborough.  I did not get as far as expected, but I was satisfied when I finished 2/3 of the way along the Blackman’s Bay Beach.

Over future posts, I will write up the stories of the walk, what I saw and what I experienced, but for now it’s enough to say that I am continuing with this massive project to walk both sides of the Derwent between the mouth and Bridgewater, and then onwards to Lake St Clair.

Yesterday I covered 5 ¾ kilometres of the length of the Derwent River on the western shore (making 35 3/4 kms in total on the western shore), and walked approximately 11 kilometres (making a total of 154 kms to date) to achieve that distance; there were a lot of steep ascents and descents.

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This distance also takes in the streets and paths on which I walked that led to dead ends so that I needed to retrace my footsteps.

The highlights of the walk include finding a way through some of the early part of the almost untracked Alum Cliffs, the delightful walk along the tracked part of the Alum Cliffs, meeting some friendly people along the way, the unusual snake sign at Tyndall Beach, stopping for a long cup of tea in Kingston with a friend, my discovery of another tucked away beach – Boronia Beach, and the Blackmans Bay Blowhole.

There are many memorable images but my favourite for today is one of my photos of mussels growing on the rocks at Boronia Beach.  I have already made it my desktop background image. When enlarged, the blues glow.

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Fundamentally the Stage 12 walk was about forest and water.

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The day started with my being roughly opposite Gellibrand Point at the northern tip of South Arm and finishing opposite the long South Arm Beach.

I intend my next walk will start from where I left off at Blackmans Bay and then continue into the Tinderbox area to Fossil Cove.  But before then I need to record the details of yesterday’s walk.  So Stage 13 will be a while away.

Geological and Social History of our Alum Cliffs

Patricia Roberts-Thompson (http://taroona.tas.au/assets/document/1354363720-a_walk_along_alum_cliffs.pdf) indicates that the first recorded reference to the Alum Cliffs was in 1847.  She explains that these rocks, Permian mudstone (250 million years old, contain iron pyrites and, as the rock weathers, the pyrite oxidises and produces sulphuric acid which reacts with the limey clay to produce alum. Roberts-Thompson could find no evidence that the alum has been extracted from our cliffs for commercial purposes.

Simon Stephen’s research (http://taroona.tas.au/assets/document/1352547986-geology_reduced.pdf) is in sync with that of Patricia Roberts-Thompson  when he says the mudstone on the Alum Cliffs contains much sulphur so that when struck a strong smell is emitted. “Much of the sulphur manifests itself as a white encrustation on thee sheltered areas of the cliffs. It has a distinct bitter taste…”  (Trust me – I won’t be taking a bite or licking it). Stephen’s article is exceptionally interesting not the least because it pin points a geological fault line which is near Crayfish Point (where I have already walked) and which extends out through the end of Hinsby Beach and then under the water along the Alum Cliffs.  I don’t know if any seismological activity has occurred in my life time there nor whether any is expected. I’d rather nothing happened during my forthcoming Stage 12 walk along the Alum Cliffs.

The Kingborough Council distributes a brochure with the following information: “The route followed by today’s Alum Cliffs Track has long been a coastal path used by local people. In 1988 it was formally developed as part of Australia’s Bicentennial celebrations. In more recent years, Council has upgraded the southern section of the track, which climbs from Tyndall Beach through coastal blue gum forest with tall silver banksias. The track then winds up through silver peppermint bushland, dips into a glorious fern filled gully, before rising again onto headlands for commanding views over Storm Bay and the Derwent Estuary. A new start to the track without steps has now been constructed above Tyndall Beach to make the track accessible to more users. The Alum Cliffs are so named because alum – a compound used in dyeing, tanning and medicinal products – is found in the cliffs.”

It is a shame that all instructions to reach and walk the Alum Cliffs use Kingston Beach in the south as the base to walk north and then return. Websites provide information about multiple entrances along the route at Tyndall Rd, Harpers Rd, Taronga Rd.  Apparently a Metro bus stop is located 100m south of the intersection of Taronga Rd and Channel Highway. I wonder how many people have walked the Alum Cliffs Track from the northern end and, if not, like me would like to read advice about how to tackle the cliffs departing from Hinsby Beach.

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It may be that, on Stage 12, I will start out at the end of the Hinsby Beach and then be forced to retrace my steps, return to the Channel Highway and walk up the winding fairly narrow Highway with no pedestrian walkway until I reach the Brickfields Track. From http://www.greaterhobarttrails.com.au/track/brickfields-track I understand that “the Brickfields Track links between Taronga Rd (adjacent to the Channel Highway) in Bonnet Hill and links to the Alum Cliffs Track. The route of the Brickfields Track takes you through the historic remains of the brick-making area; part of the nearby and short lived 1840’s convict probation station. The track is a mix of narrow bush track and timber boardwalk with some steps along the route.”

Taroona’s coastline as experienced on Stage 11 of my walk along the Derwent River

The last leg of this Stage was the most interesting because I made discoveries which delighted me deeply.

At 12.18pm, I left my Channel Highway resting spot and walked downhill toward the people-free Taroona High School (closed for school holidays). Close to the bottom of the hill I could see the tops of boathouses and a ‘beach’ to my right so I took a dogleg to Melinga Place on my right and continued downhill.

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I didn’t know this existed. Mostly a rocky shore, a little sand, edged by a mown green lawn.  Serene.  Across the Derwent River, I could see Gellibrand Point at the north of the South Arm peninsula.

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Walking southwards it wasn’t long before I entered the foreshore bushland on an easy-to-walk dirt track.

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Later I found this had a name: the Taroona Foreshore Track. At one point the ‘track’ passed over a ‘beach’ of shells and rocks then returned to dirt and rose up over areas raised above the water.

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An onshore breeze kept me moving.  Every so often, steep trails descended to the rocky shore but I realised that staying on the track would be more comfortable than rock hopping the edge of the River.

When I walked through a grove of trees that were obviously different, I was delighted to read an information panel which informed me this was an “unusual and isolated stand of blackwoods.  Acacia melanoxylon.”  The species is also known as Sally wattle, lightwood, hickory, mudgerabah, Tasmanian blackwood or black wattle. Their rough bark seemed as if it would flake off in small pieces but it was toughly attached.

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At 12.46pm I looked back northward and could still see the boathouses near the High School.

Looking back to boathouses below Taroona HS

A couple of minutes later I reached Crayfish Point where I noticed craypot markers bobbing in the Derwent River as evidence that fishing for crayfish/lobster was taking place.  However, a sign seemed to indicate this was part of fisheries research by the University of Tasmania.

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Brilliant orange lichen sprawled across some of the rocks.  Huge Pied Cormorants rested on rocks with water lapping at their feet.  This was one of those brilliant days when all the superlatives in the world seem inadequate.

It was near here that an information panel enlightened me about some of the native vegetation.  Now I can identify not only Pigface which I love, but also Bower Spinach and Grey Saltbush. Why I didn’t take photos of the real thing while I was walking I cannot say. Daft!  So I have Googled for images:  If you type in Bower Spinach Tasmania Images, up comes a suite of pictures showing this fleshy leaved plant.  Try something similar to find images of the softly grey coloured Grey Saltbush.

When I reached the start of Taroona Beach at 12.53pm, I looked up the hill and in the distance I could see the Shot Tower that had been built in 1870 (the Shot Tower, a major tourist attraction, is normally accessible from the Channel Highway).

The Batchelor’s Grave Historic Site, just above the foreshore of Taroona Beach, was a surprise.  Wikipedia provides the information that this is “the grave of a young sailor, Joseph Batchelor, who died on the sailing ship Venus in the Derwent Estuary in 1810, and was buried ashore on 28 January 1810. It is reputed to be the oldest European grave in Tasmania”. I am amazed at this idea.  I cannot imagine that many Europeans didn’t die and were buried in Van Diemens Land before 1810 – however, maybe this is the only stone grave marker left from early in the 19th century.

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Taroona Beach is backed by Taroona Park with pleasant picnicking facilities and public toilets.

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I left at 1.06pm and walked along Niree Parade for a couple of minutes until the Taroona Foreshore Track restarted.

Within moments I arrived at Hinsby Beach, which was the find of the day as far as I am concerned. Isolated.  Small.  Tree edged. Calm.  Small wave break.  A few boathouses.  A family beach with a few swimmers and sun bathers.  Located at the end of the River edge before the steep Alum Cliffs which flow for 3 or four kilometres to Kingston.

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I soaked in the atmosphere before starting uphill on a public access walkway at 1.22pm, under shady bushes with lush surrounding ground cover. The track connected to the bottom of Hinsby Road. At the top of Hinsby Road the Channel Highway flowed by. As I arrived at bus stop 30 at 1.36pm, a Metro bus came by on which I made the trip back into Hobart. Half an hour later I was in the city and ready to make the bus trip back home in Bellerive.  I walked in the door at 2.40pm after an exhilarating day when my feet didn’t want to carry me, but I insisted and they persisted. This really is a wonderful part of the world.