Kayaking at Port Welshpool
After our earlier visit to Port Welshpool in January this year, Maggie Somerville and I returned several days later with a view to finally wetting the kayak. I had been inclined to avoid Port Welshpool in previous years because it looked rather forbidding but, having checked out most of the other potential kayak-paddling waters in the area, I felt we could not avoid it forever. The forecast was considerably better. The day was fine and sunny. The wind, though nowhere near as strong as it had been during our previous visit, was still quite fresh, and throwing up a significant chop. Launching was also a bit of challenge, as there were a number of much bigger boats also wishing to use the ramp.
We headed east, but the conditions were a little intimidating and Maggie, understandably, was not comfortable. (Neither was I entirely.) This was as far as we got.
I had had a quick glimpse over towards the west, on the other side of the breakwater, before we had headed off, and had a feeling that would be much easier. So it turned out to be.
I got some interesting photos of the undersurface of the Long Jetty.
The jetty has been significantly refurbished in recent years to make it safer. It was interesting to compare the new bolts with the old.
The native grasses along the seashore are very attractive.
After putting the kayak back on the roof of the car, we had a bit more of a poke around. Just before leaving, at the far west of the township, we found the ramp that we should have launched from at the very beginning. Next time!
Visit to Port Welshpool’s ‘Long Jetty’
In January this year, Maggie Somerville and I visited Port Welshpool in South Gippsland, Victoria, with a view to paddling our kayak in the waters there. The forecast was bad, but we decided to check it out anyway. When we arrived it was blowing an absolute gale. Kayaking was completely out of the question, but we decided to have a good look around anyway. The Long Jetty in particular attracted our attention.
There is an excellent array of interpretive signs on the beach near where the jetty begins its long journey out over the water, but the weather was not conducive to spending a great deal of time reading them.
The jetty starts off perpendicular to the beach, but does a full ninety degree turn, and ends up parallel to it. The signs explained that the reason for this was that the jetty needed to line up with the deep channel out there. Interestingly, however, it turns in a wide curve rather than a much simpler sharp turn. The reason for this is that a railway line and train was originally planned for the jetty, but this was never constructed.
There is a lot to see out on the jetty itself. The Broman Diving Bell, which allowed divers to walk on the sea bed of Bass Strait, is fascinating.
You can see the strength of the wind. Maggie is nearly being blown away!
I tried to get a view inside.
I was very taken by this chart showing the various fish species that can be caught from the jetty.
I’m not a fisherman myself, but I can see that these specially built fishing stations could be very handy. (I have only shown one here, but there are several.)
It’s always reassuring to see a lifebuoy, though I wouldn’t want to use it!
Again you can see the wind blowing against Maggie as she made her way back to land.
We didn’t get to launch our kayak, but had a fascinating and very enjoyable day at Port Welshpool nonetheless. If you are travelling down in the corner of the world, I would most definitely recommend a visit.
‘The Landing’ (Stockyard Creek)
The South Gippsland town of Foster is primarily known these days as a farming centre. Its economy is also bolstered by tourism, particularly given its proximity to Wilsons Promontory. However, under its earlier name of ‘Stockyard Creek,’ the town began life following the discovery of gold in the area. A battery from the ‘Kaffir Hill’ mine stands outside the museum now, and across the road is a monument to the four timber getters who first discovered gold there in 1870.
Travel overland was almost impossible in those early days, and prospectors would travel by sea from Melbourne to Port Albert (to the east of Stockyard Creek), and from there, via a smaller vessel, out into Corner Inlet and then up Stockyard Creek as far as the water would allow. From there they travelled the relatively short distance overland by foot to the diggings. Later, a tramline was erected.
The place on the creek where they disembarked became known as ‘The Landing.’ Few records survive, but the following engraving and photograph give us some idea of what it must have been like.
The engraving, by Samuel Calvert (1828 – 1913), is of the SS Tarra of Port Albert, under Captain Pinkerton, arriving with prospectors at ‘The Landing’ on 12th August, 1871.
Caption: Sketch on “Stockyard Creek.” Arrival at the “Landing Place.”
The following photo is taken from the Foster & District Historical Society Inc. 2011 calendar.
Caption: “The Government wharf built at the Foster Landing in 1871.”
Maggie Somerville and I have made two trips in our kayak down Stockyard Creek from ‘The Landing’ to Corner Inlet and back again (once in January last year, and again in January this year), in an attempt to gain some sense of what it must have been like back then. ‘The Landing’ is situated only a few minutes drive south of Foster, at the end of Landing Road, a gravel road which comes off the sealed Fullers Road. It is a very quiet place these days, and it is rare to find another soul there. This year we had the good fortune to share it with three mates – a horse, an alpaca, and a black-faced sheep!
Other than the fact that it must often have been buzzing with humanity 150 years ago, one gets the sense that it has changed little since those days. The area is extremely tidal. From memory, the return journey last year was on a fairly high tide. Both the outward and return journeys this year were made on a very low tide. Indeed, the above photograph of a sailing boat tied up at the Government wharf shows just how little water was in the creek at times.
Fortunately, there is a boat ramp at ‘The Landing’ now, though it is pretty rough, and presents quite a challenge at low tide. The following photos of the ramp were taken at high tide last year.
This next photo, by way of comparison, shows the ramp at the end of our return journey this year.
This photo of Maggie in the kayak at the end of our paddle this year shows just how little water there was. Once again, it appears remarkably similar to the earlier photograph from a hundred odd years ago.
The following photos from last year give some idea of the current woodwork for supporting boats.
Here is how it looked at low tide this year.
We didn’t time the trip down from ‘The Landing’ to Corner Inlet, but my guess is it takes about 30 – 45 minutes in a kayak, paddling at a very leisurely pace. It is a peaceful, beautiful trip, which leads you past mangroves and steep mudbanks (depending upon the level of the tide), with tussock grass rising above the mangroves as you approach Corner Inlet. Thousands of small crabs live in the banks, and it is fascinating to watch the frantic retreating hordes scrambling up the bank and dropping into their holes as you approach.
There are plenty of herons, and last year a couple of wedge-tailed eagles hovered very low above us at one point. (I think they decided that we were just too big!) Once out in Corner Inlet there are large numbers of ibis, and also many gulls.
Navigation in Corner Inlet at very low tide is difficult, as you find yourself confined to narrow channels, surrounded by vast areas of mud. Last year, with a reasonable amount of water, we paddled up Dead Horse Creek to the west. This year I tried to take us up Bennison Creek, to the east, but the low water made it impossible to be sure of one’s bearings, and we abandoned the attempt.
On our return journey this year we ran out of sufficient water to float about thirty metres from the ramp. Pulling the kayak that last few metres through the mud is not something I want to do again in a hurry! That said, it really brought home to us just how well chosen the site for ‘The Landing’ really was!
There isn’t a great deal of information available about ‘The Landing’ at Stockyard Creek, or much awareness of its existence, and I am writing these notes in the hope that it may encourage others to follow in our footsteps (or paddle strokes!), or perform further research on this fascinating history. If you do decide to journey down the creek by kayak, I would advise you to try to avoid low tide if possible. The thick, black mud makes life very difficult.
Finally, a word about the eels in the creek. At very low tide there is not always room for both a kayak and an eel. Don’t be surprised (although I’m sure you will be!) if amidst a great splash of water a large fleshy eel presents itself briefly on the mud beside you before hurling itself back into the water as you pass!
Kayaking at McLoughlins Beach
Last Sunday (7th January, 2018), I went kayaking with Maggie Somerville at McLoughlins Beach in Gippsland. It is not a place either of us have been to before, but looked promising on the map – plenty of sheltered water – and was within striking range (approx, 70 km to the east) of Maggie’s house at Foster, where we were staying.
It turned out to be a great choice!
Firstly, there was a boat ramp. Two trips last year (Tarra River, Port Franklin) had required us to launch on a slope of deep, sticky mud, which is best avoided if at all possible.
The water generally turned out to be far shallower than it looked from the shore. First destination was the pier at McLoughlins Beach. This looked a long way off at first, but we reached it in no time.
Now it was time to head south, and cross a major body of water towards what appeared to be a long sandy beach in the direction of Bass Strait. We were constantly accompanied by bird life during the journey, especially cormorants, ibis and herons. We dislodged this flock of as we searched for a spot for lunch.
As a general rule, there was a wide stretch of soft mud between the water and the sand, but we found a section there the muddy strip was relatively narrow…
…and settled down for a feast of bread, cheese and water!
Say “bread and cheese”!
Thanks for this photo, Maggie. (Sorry about the swimming togs – bought in an emergency in Foster a year or so ago!)
Time to soak up a few UVs…
…then off on the last stage of the journey, and possibly a chance to stand before the Bass Strait breakers.
We headed off across a good stretch of deep, blue water towards a stretch of sand that looked very close to the ocean. (We could see it through a break to our left.) Suddenly, we found ourselves surrounded by tiny seabirds, beautiful little terns, with their distinctive forked tails and small black heads. They were diving into the water from a great height, and at great speed, all around us. It was a truly spectacular sight to behold! (No photos, unfortunately.)
At last we made landfall. (Can you see the kayak? It doesn’t look very big, does it!)
The ocean was indeed not far away. (Again, no photos.) A sign told us that we had in fact landed on a large sandy island. 1080 had been laid to kill foxes. Dogs were banned. No wonder the terns were thriving!
Alas, it was time to make the journey home once more.
A healthy bunch of pelicans awaited us upon our return.
McLoughlins Beach – not a well known destination, but well worth a visit!