Saturday, 10 January 2015

Walking proposed Roe 8 extension with Kate Kelly and Holly Storey

Banksia attenuata (I think) 

Tuesday 25th November, 2014 

One of the participants on the Sunday guided walk around Fremantle was a lovely woman, Kate Kelly. Kate talked to me about the proposed Roe8 highway extension, to which she, and thousands of other locals are deeply opposed. The highway extension would—if built—force a passage through 97 hectares of Banksia woodland and would severely compromise and damage the remaining wetlands in the area, namely Beeliar Wetlands and Bibra Lakes. As mentioned in a previous post, only 20% of the pre-colonial wetlands in the Perth area remain. The last remnants of these wetlands are needed—­­and need to be looked after—if quality of human life and biodiversity are to be preserved.

For some time Kate has taken people along the proposed path of Roe8 extension on foot. She asked me if I would like to join her. Of course I was keen.
It was quite a hot afternoon when Kate picked me up, the same day that I had walked to Leake St, Peppermint Grove. Without thinking I wore the shorts that had served me well on my suburban ramble that morning. The late afternoon walk cutting through the Banksia woodland. My lack of long trousers meant I walked on the lookout for snakes, attending to the ground ahead and beside me. Despite not fully taking in the horizon or middle distance, I was struck by the variety and beauty of the flora growing so close to existing main roads and suburbs.
Surrounded by suburbs, the only way to see this swathe of bush is is to pull up alongside the main road and step out on foot. Driving past it is hard to imagine what is tucked in behind the roads and houses.

Banksia seed pods
Woody Pear Xylomelum pyriforme Photo credit: Kate Kelly

For the past week or so I have been walking around the Swan River Colony. I have tripped along beautiful river foreshores, where residents and councils are rehabilitating the clifftops, and paced around Fremantle where verges are increasingly planted with indigenous species. Occasionally in the hustle and bustle I have seen some bush that might be remnant, I squint my eyes, trying to imagine another time. All around me Melaleuca Huegelii and other plants collected by Hügel, flower and persist, but it was not until I was inside this bush that, for the first time, I experienced something close to the descriptions recorded in Hügel’s journal.
So it is that I include a record of the Roe8 walk here, because while it was not the retracing of a particular Hügel Walk, I sensed, for the first time, a direct connection between his descriptions of the Swan River landscape, and my own experience 180 years later. The air was filled with silence—despite the close proximity of roads and houses. The intermittent sound of birds calling to each other broke the silence, along with the buzzing and zapping of insects.

mulla mulla Ptilotus... Photo credit: Kate Kelly

 We were walking through this Banksia woodland after many wildflowers had already bloomed, nevertheless Banksia attenuata, their yellow candles standing tall bloomed beside giant Nuytsia floribunda trees whose bright orange flowers glowed in the late afternoon sun. Nestled amongst the grand trees were tiny wildflowers: orchids, woody pears and native grasses, all of which required close observation for full appreciation. The silence, despite the proximity of the roads and houses, was utterly peaceful, broken only by bird calls and insect buzzings and whirrings.

Mooja - West Australian Christmas Tree

Wednesday 27th November, 1833 p.24

As I approached the hill, the native flora became more familiar: Hakea, … Eucalyptus, Acacia. Familiar species all, they have me friendly greeting, and even Hügelia* reached up to me in kinship with its lovely blue flowers. For the first time in years—long painful years—I lived for an hour in the full delight of the moment. In my left hand I held an enormous bunch of beautiful blooms while my right was gathering ever more new varieties.

The sun had set, and only the fact that I could no longer clearly distinguish the colours reminded me of where I was and that I must turn for home. I looked about me, but Fremantle had vanished from my sight. Unwittingly I had entered a small valley surrounded by low hills, which kept out the strong wind. Not one tiny leaf of the delicate {flora} stirred, not a single insect buzzed around the many blossoms, not a bird was twittering or winging its way through the air. Not a track, nor a hut nor a living soul was anywhere near. Perhaps no other foot had ever trodden this patch of earth. The silence was profound but not uncanny. The air was balmy, refreshing and invigorating, and filled with the delicate scents of the aromatic plants I brushed against as I walked. I felt not lonely, but very remote. When I looked at my flowers, such a variety of them and so beautiful, I realized that there was no one for me to bring them to. I let them drop from my hand and sadly climbed the nearest hill to find my way back.

*Now Trachymene coerulea. R. A. Graham. Named Hügelia by Reichenbach in 1828 after Hügel sent him a flwering specimen from his Hietzing garden.

Mooja - West Austrlian Christmas Tree 
Bird of prey hovering above the lake
Human and animal prints in the sand
Snake or lizard?

Tuesday 25th November, 2014

On the way back to Fremantle we pulled over and walked back onto a massive median strip at Stock Road. Kate said that last year it had been set on fire (probably by bored teenagers), the heat and fire had stimulated the xanthorrhea, their tall elegant flowers stretching above us into the early evening sky. ‘Nature’ persists where and how it can, but the biodiversity present in this expansive and beautiful median strip is not a patch on the gorgeous woodland Kate and Holly so generously shared with me.

Kate and the mighty xanthorhea blooms - Stock Road
Back at the apartment I removed my trainers, their porous upper allowed the black dust from the sandy soil to penetrate my socks and cover my toes. I was reminded of Hügel’s journal entry, where he describes, not particularly accurately, the white sand with the black ash.

Thursday 28th November, 1833 p.25

Dawn was just breaking when I rose to resume my wanderings. But when I started to dress I was not a little astonished to see my feet and legs up to my knees as black as those of a native Indian. At first I thought I was suffering from some complaint peculiar to this country. On closer examination I found that it was neither more nor less than a black dust contained in the white sand, which owes its origin to the burning of the scrub by the Aborigines. These fires are caused either by the accidental spread of fires from the campsites of these wandering savages, or by the deliberate burning of a large tract of frest so as to force game (Kangaroos and opossums) to flee the flames, and kill them as they escape.

Blackened toes

Friday, 9 January 2015

Leake St, Peppermint Grove

The route from Fremantle to Leake St, before the GPS died. 

Friday 29th November, 1833 p.30 

Yesterday’s excursion had so greatly fatigued me that I resolved to stay quietly at home today and arrange my treasures, but after breakfast I could no longer bear to stay within four walls. Mr Harrison, the Assistant Surgeon of the settlement, paid me a call and I suggested that he take a walk with me to the other side of the Swan River. Some of the plants I found here were new, but the plague of flies was even worse here than on the other bank—Moses could have visited them on Pharoah with the greatest success. I saw here two kangaroos as big as hares, called wallabies by the Aborigines {presumably ‘quokkas’ or ‘tamars’}. The name kangaroo is not known to the Aborigines {here}.

Rail Bridge, Fremantle

View up the Swan from the footpath over the bridge to North Freo

Tuesday 25th November, 2014 

Luckily I am not getting tired of my almost daily walks under the bright West Australian skies. While it feels hot directly under the sun it is in fact only the early part of the summer, or, more precisely it is Kambarang, the Nyoongar season of birth, where wildflowers bloom and new life begins.  

Hügel may have been disappointed with what lay before him as the Alligator approached the coast, but actually he was arriving in Nyoongar country when wildflowers were blooming and the weather was milder than the subsequent months would be, making it more suitable for his collecting activities. Plus, it is invigorating to walk through suburban landscapes on the lookout for traces of what Hügel might have seen.

I followed his walk through what is now North Fremantle. His journey across the Swan was quite different to mine. In place of the Port of Fremantle and the traffic heavy bridge, he would have hopped between sandbars—a shifting landscape between salt and fresh water.

Silos, North Fremantle

From North Fremantle I walked along the high northern bank of the Swan through Mosman Park. I looked across to Point Walter, where I had walked last Saturday and saw more clearly the long sandbank stretching out at least halfway across the river. This thin little peninsula called to me, and mid afternoon I convinced fellow artist and rubbish collector Tim to drive there and we walked out into the middle of the river; tiny Plovers skipped and skittered along the waters edge with their babies. Not wanting to disturb them we stopped short of where tufts of grasses and shrubs provided shelter for their nests.

Continuing along the river frontage I walked through the new suburbs, built in place of the post-settlement Fertiliser Plant and Sugar Refinery, they are abutted by extensive ecological restoration work and accompanying didactic panels.

Point Walter, Perth CBD in the distance

Mosman Park with Melaleuca Hugelii in the foreground

Reveg along the foreshore

More indigenous planting at Mosman Park


Friday 29th November, 1833 p.30

I was astounded by the huge fruit of the Zamia. They grow fairly close together here and several had more than one spike of fruit each weighing between 40 and 50 pounds. This Zamia never occurs as a tree, although I found several with stems three or four feet high and almost as thick in diameter. On the other shore of Rocky Bay opposite the ferry, I found large Callitris trees growing on jagged rocks. Today we dined with Mr Leake. After dinner Mrs Leake played on the pianoforte and then we played a game of whist. I mention this to show some thought was also given to entertainment in the new colony.


Tuesday 25th November, 2014

I had decided to walk all the way to Leake St, Peppermint Grove. I wondered if this road was named after Mr George Leake, the merchant who Hügel met in 1833, or perhaps it was named after one of his descendants. It seemed as good a place as any to turn west towards the sea.

Somewhere near the Coombe Reserve I watched a local resident rush across the grass and empty her lawn clippings and garden waste onto the cliff top plantings. I watched her curiously, and she told me it was fine, only grass clippings. I walked on wondering if I should have told her that the dumping of garden waste into parks and open outdoor space was a key way in which plants ‘jump the garden fence’ and become weeds.

Boardwalk along Mosman Park Heritage Trail

Hardenbergia seed pods

My GPS tracker/camera ran out of charge at Leake St, so my final photo of a gorgeous colonial house on the corner of Leake and the foreshore did not save. In 1891 the tiny and affluent suburb of Peppermint Grove was formed, the subdivision taking place under pressure and advice from George Leake and Alexander Forrest, whose name is given to a parallel street.

Peppermints still line the streets, and I followed Leake St all the way to Cottlesloe where I treated myself to a new publication of Alfred Watkins’ The Old Straight Track, before continuing on my own straight track to Cottlesloe where I cooled off in the sea before walking down to Mosman Park Train Station—2 stops later I was back in Fremantle and thinking about Point Walter’s almost isthmuth and my next walk—later the same afternoon—with Kate Kelly along the route of the proposed Roe 8 Highway.

more trail

Reflective rubbish