Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Point Walter Walk

Route taken 2014, in green - Map available at Fremantle Arts Centre until 29th Jan, 2015 

Saturday 15th October, 2014
Hügel visited Fremantle in 1833, only four years after it was founded. His first impressions of Australia, viewed from the deck of HMS Aligator were less than complimentary. My own descent from the sky a different entry point to Hügel’s sea level arrival. Perhaps they searched the horizon for landmarks, while for me the suburbs and landmarks of the West Coast gradually revealed themselves. Time spent trawling through satellite maps online helping me to navigate and understand this bird’s eye view.

Wednesday 27th November, 1833 p.21
Naturally we were all on deck to greet New Holland. Not one of the officers had been at Swan River before… Cheated of their expectations, they all gazed in silence at the land towards which the frigate was speeding so majestically over the foaming billows. I myself was especially disappointed. Coming from the steamy skies of India, I expected to find here, at Lat. 32°, Syria’s cloudless skies, or at least the clear skies of Greece. I had confidently looked forward to meadows of unmatched green, to trees and shrubs covered in flowers and fruit in the early southern summer, the entire country a picture of Nature untouched by Man.

East Freo - backyard bore

Saturday 15th October, 2014
The loop to Point Walter took me along the Canning Highway. Perhaps because it was the start of the day, and the sun was not absolutely overhead, and it was Saturday, the traffic and bitumen was not as hot and bothersome as I had anticipated.
At a certain point along the highway the lanes of traffic are separated by a long thin stand of Casuarinas. I love Casuarinas—they remind me of the garden I grew up in, the round seedpods with their textured surface a foot massage on my young feet. One of my children calls them ‘Lego’ trees, referring to the way in which the scale-leaves slot inside each other.

Casuarinas dividing the Canning Highway

Bird Sanctuary with Perth in the background

Later, when walking along the foreshore where a glorious marine park provides refuge for local and migratory birds, I read a didactic panel explaining how the Casuarinas are slowly being cleared to make way for the indigenous habitat. Native, but not to this place, the casuarina’s suckering growth holds back the understory, so important to nesting birds. Nevertheless I understand the urge to plant these stately windbreaks. And I recall the Casuarina cunninghamiana growing beside the Macquarie River in NSW—less plentiful today than when Hügel walked their in 1834.
More signage along the way explains how various community and council groups are actively restoring this section of the Swan River making it a pleasant amble full of hope.

Footpath leading to Point Walter - shoe cleaning equipment at each end, to combat Die back.

Melaleuca hugelii

Return loop with water tower

I paused at the Point, walking round the head for a little way before returning to eat a very early lunch and charge my GPS/phone in the café. The west side of the Point was a steeper and rockier incline down to the Swan. Walking back to Fremantle the view of the great red lifting equipment on the docks provided a landmark as I walked on—for Hügel the ocean, river mouth and sandbanks and dunes would have stood in their place. 

Fremantle Harbour

Retaining wall beneath the Round House - M. hugelii hanging on

Thursday 28th November, 1833 p.29
I roamed the countryside till nine o’clock, finding ever more new plant species. The sun was scorching and the wind extremely unpleasant, blowing the sand into my face with such force that my mouth and eyes hurt. Capt. Lambert had announced that he would come for breakfast, so I returned to the inn at 9 o’clock. I spent just enough time there to savour the pleasure, long missed, of coffee with cream, fresh bread and butter. Then I made my way once more into the scrub, fully equipped with all the apparatus of a botanist and naturalist. So as to take everything I needed, I had engaged a man who was also able to serve me as a guide, so that I could find my back as soon as I wanted. I now set off in the direction of the hills and by evening I had covered a considerable distance in the direction of Canning River without actually reaching it. I found many a beautiful spot and as great a diversity of plants as I could have wished. Under a clump of Banksia grandis I partook of a piece of very ordinary cheese I had brought with me and a glass of brandy and then continued on my way till evening, and finally arrived back at the Swan River from another direction, very wearing from wading through deep sand and clambering over sharp limestone rocks.

Point Walter Sand Bar - photo credit: Tim Pearn

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