Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Walk #67 - Pearl Beach

Pearl Beach is beautiful. Really green streets, plenty of trees and some great home design beach, long beach between two rocky heads, views over at Box Head and to Ettalong, and that great aural landscape I'm always banging on about.

It's also small enough to walk all of it in one day (twelve streets to Patonga's five) and that's what I did yesterday. I shot off two rolls of film and bunged them in for developing. In the meantime there's a few nice photos here and here.

Pearl Beach

(Pearl Beach is in the red circle. The head above it is Patonga Ridge AKA Mt Ettalong, which is at the bottom end of Woy Woy.)

Pearl Beach is one of the spots Governor Phillip and some of his men visited in 1788, a couple of months after the First Fleet arrived in Sydney. There's a quote on a plaque on a rock. Part of it says:

"At 9 at night moored the boats in a cove on the N. side of the bay off which the surf broke violently"

"N. side of the bay" is at the Mt Ettalong end of the beach. You can get to that end of the beach from the end of Coral Crescent. The beach slopes steeply there and there was a dull thud as the waves hit and then the sound of them breaking. The waves come in stronger at Pearl Beach than at Patonga because it's directly opposite the mouth of Broken Bay. The sand was coarse and new. Up the other end of the beach and in the middle the sand's the normal fine stuff.

There's a narrow bush track going off the access from Coral Crescent. The sign had the usual warnings about nicking native plants and dune erosion. It also said the track was dodgy and using it put you in danger of "death or serious injury". Coupla minutes later I saw someone cycling along one of the dodgier parts.

Took my hist list with me this time. The list of historic houses and sites from Beryl Strom's book. I found "House, 'Payne's', 59 Coral Cres. ... 1931" and "House, 'Coolabah', 2 Pearl Beach Drive ... c.1934". Both of them were in good nick and both have been recently and pleasantly renovated. 'Payne's' is painted in a darkish blue that looks good on a beachside house. 'Coolabah' had a lighter blue trim and its main colour was a deep cream. "House, 'Yamba', 13 Crystal Ave ... 1929" I didn't find. I think I saw it but I wasn't looking at the hist list while I walked Crystal Avenue.

There was a more recent bit of history up on Green Point. There's a road up it, almost to the end. Then the end bit slopes down to a bit of a cliff and some of those rock ledges fishermen get swept off. The sloping bit is a park called Paul Landa Reserve. Got a bit of deja vu when I got to it. When I read the plaque I found out why. This Paul Landa bloke was government minister, though he seems to've been more of a statesman than a politician. (They shoulda had him cloned.) The phrase repeated in most of the Google links about him is that "under his guidance the national parks of New South Wales doubled in size". That explains why I thought I'd seen the Reserve before. I've seen a couple of Paul Landa reserves and parks in WA (Western Australia) and they could've been done at the same time because they had the same sandstone blocks in a curvy line making a wee sheltered spot to sit and read the plaque and the same wooden steps down to seats where you could sit and enjoy the view.

I sat for a bit and enjoyed the view. It was great. I could see right along the beach, across to Ettalong and the Excresence (which wasn't great), across to Box Head and Barrenjoey Head and out to sea, Lion Island was quite close and I could see down into Pittwater to Palm Beach & Stokes Point and down to Newport & Church Island. The Palm Beach ferry inched its way along. It was sticking close into the lee of Box Head. It probably takes it twenty minutes to cross the mouth of Broken Bay and I bet there was a few green passengers by the time it got behind Barrenjoey.

My feet were aching a bit and I'd run out of muesli bars. So I found the State Survey mark ("PWD NSW State Survey No 459") and went off to lunch. Had it at a table under a big old pine in the foreshore park. Great spot for it. From there I could see across to Green Point at the southern end of the beach. It blocked my view of Pittwater and Lion Island. But I could still see Lobster Beach and Little Box Head and Box Head straight ahead, and across to Wagstaffe and Ettalong on my left and, blocking my view of Umina Beach, the head of Mt Ettalong where the surf thudded.

It was beautiful. Bit windier than I usually like my lunch. It was overcast all day and the wind was picking up. The school holidays just started and there were a dozen kids on the beach with their goosepimpled parents. Of course the kids were too engrossed with playing to notice the wind.

Pearl Beach Streets

I'd walked waterfront and the long street behind it before lunch. The road into town (Pearl Beach Drive) comes straight down the middle and ends at the beach.

On its left is Coral Crescent. There're houses on the beach side of Coral. They block the wind and some of the wave sound so it wasn't a very windy walk. Between it and Diamond Street there's a small lagoon. The lagoon was still and had algae blooming in patches on it. All the local creeks and lagoons are getting their Spring bloom of algae. Along the edges were clumps of reeds and paperbark trees. Ducks were waddling about enjoying the sun and looking for things to eat.

On the right of Pearl Beach Drive there's a footbridge taking you over a creek to the other half of the beach. There's no houses between the road and the beach there. Just a foreshore park with the usual grass and picnic tables and a couple of big old pines. At the end near Green Point there's a shop, a coffee shop, two restaurants and the plaque rock celebrating Phillp's visit in 1788.

After lunch I did the rest of the streets. I went up Pearl Beach Drive to the first elbow bend. After that it'stoo easy to get wiped out by a car on a blind curve. Amethyst and Emerald were flat streets running straight back from the beach to the back of the town. I could hear the waves all the way up them to the end. Then the rush of wind in the gums of the bush drowned out the waves. Jade Place was a high street. It sloped up steeply from Pearl Beach Drive then flattened out. On the hill side there were maybe a dozen houses. They have long staircases up the their front doors and huge balconies and windows staring out to Box Head. The aural lanscape up there was great. There was nothing blocking the sound of the waves so the wind in the gums didn't drown them out. Beautiful.

They were all pricey houses. One had a flag flying from its biggest balcony. According to my 1980s atlas it's the Czech flag. White stripe on top, red below and a blue triangle on the pole end. The house looked really Spanish though. Sandstone and render, the row of poles on the white veranda-cum-cloister, the details if the woodwork on the storey above that. Anyways, it was a pleasant bit of domestic architecture.

Although Pearl Beach has got some very pricey houses and a lot of great modern design, there's a patch of seventies hideousness lurking in the top right corner (looking from the beach) and at least thirty small old forties places scattered about. Some of the forties places have been recently renovated and added onto but quite a few still had a Dear Old Thing quietly mouldering away in them, enjoying their final years in the beauty of the town.

In the sheltered streets back from the beach there were a lot of birds. Even more than at Patonga. Magpies, a kookaburra dozing on a fence with its beak tucked into its chest, another one had a bit of a laugh to itself on an overhead wire, mynah birds (non-native species), rainbow lorikeets feasting off flowering bottlebrushes and off bread on someone's lawn. The same bread was feeding a male brush turkey and I saw six males all up, though three of them might've been the same one. I s'pose they're looking for mates now it's Spring. They're certainly less shy than usual.

I didn't hurry but walking the whole of Pearl Beach took only four and a half hours, including time spend on the beach and Green Point just goggling at the view. It's a small town ("population category 351-1,200" according to the 1995 Tidy Towns plaque on the Progress Hall) but I've got faster. It's months since 80-year-olds passed me as I tottered slowly along the footpath. Now my leisurely walking pace is faster than my fast walking pace in March. Go me!

By the time I got the afternoon bus home the wind was pretty much a howling gale. The parents had scurried indoors, dragging the littler kids with them kicking and screaming. The bus was toasty warm. It also had views down over Pearl Beach and Patonga, and at one point on the road down to Patonga, a brief glimpse across the hills to the Hawkesbury River near Brooklyn.

It was a great walk, one of my favourites of this Walk and I'll be hauling friends off there for picnics this Spring.

The wind's gusting strong again now. It's shrieking through the crack in the kitchen window and there's an unbroken line of raincloud coming up from Sydney. A thunderstorm was promised on last night's weather. I've got my fingers crossed.

Photos from this walk


Suzanne said...

Many lovely things in this post. This bit stood out:

Now my leisurely walking pace is faster than my fast walking pace in March. Go me!

Yes! Go, you!

Spike said...