Poly(1-phenylethane-1,2-diyl) and molluscs

Walking along The North Entrance beach today brought the sight of a dozen or so dolphins cruising through the waves heading North. Attempting to get a photo of them was simply an exercise in demonstrating that dolphins can more rapidly take breaths than phone cameras can take photos. We do have a lovely selection though of shots of what the water looked like a second or so after the pod submerged again.Its always a joy to catch the sight of our snouty aquatic friends, they’re so elusive it feels a privilege to be in the same place at the same time and to happen to be facing the right direction as they pass.

The beach is much eroded at present from recent storms, with the sand cut back right to the dune field. At the narrowest parts of the beach the water had at the last high tide washed up to the foot of a 5 metre tall cliff of sand that is held together by the roots of the dune grasses growing scraggily along the top. The sand cliff is a layering of different sand sedimentation, dark layers half way up indicating periods of organic material deposition.

The recent storms have also left a puffer fish stranded at the high wash mark, their bodies swelling to skin tightening proportions in the heat of the day. Woe betide the first seagull to take a peck at their gas filled corpses. Peck-peck-pop! Ain’t no seaside picnicker gunna welcome that little birdie afterwards.

Along the way some washed up blue mollusc shells caught our eye, their attachment points fringed with bright red filaments. A closer inspection revealed that these molluscs had anchored themselves to a lump of half decayed polystyrene. The ubiquitous plastic takes so long to break down that to all intents and purposes it is in the environment for ever. Floating in the open ocean it seems to be an ideal attachment point for a passing young bivalve mollusc. It’s craggy, it floats, and it doesn’t break down. Perhaps even after this particular set of molluscs have long since died and fallen off this piece of polystyrene, the plastic itself will remain still only to blown or washed back out to sea to become a  home again to another set of bivalves. The really bad thing about these shell creatures making a home upon this toxic substance is that it may make it a more attractive meal to some other creature. If you think trying to eat a puffer fish and ending up with a face full of exploded fish guts is a horrendous idea, try going for a snack of molluscs and ending up with gut full of poly(1-phenylethane-1,2-diyl).

Beach pools

At the Southern end of Ocean Beach about a hundred metres out along the rock platform lies the ruined remains of an ocean swimming pool. Its walls are long collapsed and the breaking waves are slowly filling it with sand and shells, like a walled midden. These ocean pools are a great asset and it is shame to see them left to decay – no doubt a victim of council budget cutting and the rising cost of liability insurance.

Beyond the skeletal remains of the pool, the rock platform continues around the headland, far below the S-bending road that winds its way from the Northern beaches of the headland around to Pearl Beach and Patonga. At the tip of the headland, the rock platform becomes unpassable and to continue onward to Pearl Beach it becomes necessary to clamber up a short way to a wide track that runs along the cliff face, some ten metres above the water. Half way along, Naomi had an attack of the munchies and fell hungrily to her knees to graze on a patch of Warrigal Greens that is growing from under a rock. “Hhmmm…a bit saltier than the one’s we’re growing in the garden”….which I am thinking will save us having the find a salt lick for her later on. Warrigal Greens, orTetragonia tetragonioides, to be precise, are also known as sea spinach – hence their tolerance of salty areas like a cliff face overlooking the ocean. They are also known as “Botany Bay spinach”, due to the fact that Captain James Cook used the greens to prevent scurvy among his men. The bright green, matte, diamond-shaped leaves look like a bit like normal baby  spinach, but come with a distinct flavour of their own

Sadly, upon reaching Pearl Beach we found the water brown and churned up as the waves dumped hard immediately on the edge of the sand. All thoughts of a mid-walk ocean swim disappeared from our minds as the incoming waves layered murky looking foam onto the wet sand.

Fortunately however, Pearl Beach is home to one of the few remaining ocean pools, at the beach’s Southern tip. A small sign proudly proclaims that this pool was erected in 1928, and remains an item of local cultural and historic importance. And long may it remain so. Celebrating the fact that this particular pool had remained unscathed through the night of the long budgetary knives called for some laps – twenty no less. Which is half a kilometre if the pool is 25m in length, and not quite so much if it less than that. In her haste to get out the door this morning Naomi had thoughtlessly neglected to pack the measuring tape and so we will forever remain unsure – but lets assume shall we that the pool is of the more impressive length so as to make my feat of swimming all the more spectacular.

Wednesday Cycle to Woy Woy

What a glorious day for a bike ride…..what a glorious, glorious day. Oh yes. We were dead keen. Due to the hilly nature of our current surrounds, cycling is sadly a thing of the past for Veghead and Spinneychick. Or so it was. We have turned over a new leaf. We’re bringing back the bikes. I personally think it is a Veghead ploy to stop me taking so many photos on our Wednesday Walks. The camera was not even present on the ride, so no photos for today’s post. But, back to the story. Spinneychick has not mounted her bike since leaving England, so that makes almost two years since my last cycle. Veghead has done little more, so it makes sense to start small. Additionally, the bikes were free as other people had no further use for them, so Veghead had done some work on them. Lots of WD40 and a pump….that’s all I know. Spinneychick’s bike had a significant amount of rust, but the wheels were turning without too many sounds, so that’s something I guess. Upon several laps of the visitor’s carpark, Veghead’s bike is given the go ahead. Spinneychick’s bike refuses to change to all available gears, which are now reduced in number from fifteen to five! Golly I hope there aren’t any hills. Veghead has eighteen gears. Spinneychick’s brakes are somewhat less than adequate. The front brake slows the bike if squeezed all the way to the handlebar, but does not stop it. The rear brake also slows the bike if squeezed slightly beyond the capacity of my left hand. Veghead’s brakes are fine. So we’re ready to head off then. Getting down the very steep hill from the apartment requires Spinneychick to dismount several times due to the untrustworthiness of the brakes. Once at the bottom though, its mostly flat sailing. The ride out to Woy Woy is quite lovely. Along the waterfront at Gosford, then out past the netball courts, and there is a cycle path the whole way. Once at Point Clare there are mangroves all along the waterfront, which to my way of thinking are a bit smelly, but a valuable habitat so I can appreciate that. Most of the rest of the ride goes all along the waterfront around the Brisbane Water which is really quite beautiful. After completing the ten kms to get there, we had our picnic lunch on the edge of the wharf across from Pelican Island (and yes, there are pelicans) and watched the Jellyfish go floating by. Sadly for our sitting bones, and for Spinneychick’s thighs, (now we’re wishing we had gotten on the bike at least once in the last two years), we could not rest for very long, as the end of the school day was looming. So butt cheeks back on to those phenomenally hard seats (I think mine was made of solid wood) and on to Gosford (ten kms return and that makes twenty altogether). Of course now we have to get back up the extremely steep hill…..pushing the bikes. Spinneychick is dying. Once back inside with the bikes safely stored on the balcony where they belong, she flops onto the floor in a stupor. Then a brilliant idea emerges from the blur which is currently her mind. Let’s go for a swim in the pool. Veghead thinks this is a bad idea, but relents. An unidentified male is sunbathing by the pool when we get there, but he says that he has no intention of going in. Well, why go to the pool if you’re not going in, I think to myself? Anyway, Spinneychick goes in first (she nearly always goes in first), and the water is breathtakingly cold. Much colder than the ocean at this time of year (and yes I have been in there too so I know). I swim straight to the ladder and get out so that I can breathe. Veghead is even less convinced that this is a good idea, but goes in anyway…..straight to the ladder…. whoop…. try to breathe…. now that…. was invigorating!

Norah Head

We had actually planned to go on a forest walk on this particular day, but alas, we awoke to a day which was rather bleak, to say the least. Grey, windy, drizzle….I thought I had been transported back to England. An obvious joke, I know. So we drove to Norah Head to walk around the lighthouse which was established in 1903. Veghead thought that we may get in a short walk if the sky cleared, but to no avail. The view over the ocean was awesome with all the white caps, and the spray over the rocks was pretty wild, but Spinneychick was getting damper by the minute and blustered about, which is really not great for the hair. I managed to collect some interesting bits that had been blown off the trees, and brought them home for a photo collage. Not much exercise today.

Katandra Circuit

Good day to you. This week’s walk was to a place called the Katandra Reserve. What a lovely spot. The reserve is connected to the Rumbalara Reserve (which is basically our back yard) via the Mouat Walk, which Veghead has done, but Spinneychick has not. So this week we are quite close to home. The walk was filled with strangler figs. Some of them grow up trees or around boulders, and some, like this one on the left, grow around fallen logs. The log has rotted away and one is left with the ‘Strangler Fig Tube’, which is listed as one of the things to watch out for on the walk. We had experienced quite a lot of rain recently, so some of the walk was a bit muddy. Lucky we were wearing our hiking boots so this was not a problem. There were plenty of the gorgeous Angophora trees. So gnarly some of them, with smooth bark and twisted branches, and a pinkish-purple tinge to them. Spectacular. In the middle of the reserve is Seymour Pond, where many a pond dipping school excursion is undertaken, and indeed so was one on this day. LeStrange and KarateKid’s primary school in Datchet took a minibeast hunt at Braywick Nature Reserve every year. It was great fun. Spinneychick always volunteered for this excursion because you get to scoop waterboatmen out of the pond with a net.

Strickland Falls and Cabbage Tree Loop

This week we headed off to Strickland State Forest, which is quite near home. The waterfall is pretty small but it gives you somewhere to walk to. This area of forest is filled with banksias, and in the wetter areas, cabbage-tree palms, hence the name of this week’s glorious loop walk. Sometimes I take a lot of photos on our walks. Veghead doesn’t seem to mind, although I worry that sometimes he must be thinking “there’s not a lot of walking happening on this walk” but Spinneychick must have visual evidence to go along with the story. That yellow corally-looking thing is actually a fungus which was growing on the forest floor. I couldn’t describe it with words. Awesome, isn’t it. And those gnarly-barked banksias too. They’re so lumpy. They need to be seen to be believed. Anyway, enough of that and on to something else. The scribbly bark trees for instance, which always remind me of snugglepot and cuddlepie. Apparently the scribbles are made by a bug crawling around under the bark of the tree before it falls off, but I prefer May Gibbs’ idea that its the newspaper for the gumnet people. And have a gander at that tiny treelet growing straight out of the rock. Now if I didn’t have a photo, you just wouldn’t believe me, would you?