Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Bridgewater Bay and Cape Bridgewater

Bridgewater Bay is a beautiful sweep of sand between the hook of Cape Bridgewater to the west and Cape Nelson to the east. You reach it by driving through grazing country remarkable only for the large number of bold, chocolate-brown bunnies that feed at the roadside in the middle of the day.

The bay was previously thought to have formed when the sea breached the rims of two volcanoes but its origin is probably more complex, involving eruptions, erosion, faults and changing sea levels. Nothing is ever simple.

At the eastern end of the bay, Shelly Beach is mantled in sea-milled molluscs. I didn't get the chance to inspect it but it's on my list for next time. At the western end is a thriving metropolis of ... oh ... six or seven guest houses and a beachfront cafe. Because the rain had held off and the wind was only moderate, I drank my coffee and ate my egg and bacon muffin at one of the outside tables. I was the only one there (apart from the birds) for half an hour or so, until a convoy of grey nomads arrived. At that point, the crested terns, pied oystercatchers and I went our separate ways.

Cape Bridgewater from the cafe

From Bridgewater Bay, the road climbs steeply and curves through more grazing land. Some of the land has been set aside for a wind farm. They won't be running short. The meagre roadside vegetation is packed with yellow-rumped thornbills, which haven't quite got the hang of traffic. The magpies and ravens have better road sense.

The flora fascinated this raven

A pair of magpies accompanied me for part of the walk

Cape Bridgewater was once a volcanic island but is now connected to the mainland by an infill of dune calcarenite. The Great South West Walk passes along the cliff tops with a couple of detours — to the Blowholes and the Petrified Forest.

Cushion bushes on the cliff top

The Blowholes are much more entertaining in stormy weather, when the spray comes over the cliff top. (Not that I wanted to be out there with a gale blowing.) But even on a calm day, the surf sounds like a cannonade and you can almost feel the concussion through the rock.

Basalt at the Blowholes

Kelp ...

... enjoys the pummelling

The Petrified Forest is an unusual formation on the cliff top. One explanation suggests it is the remains of a moonah (Melaleuca lanceolata) forest that was smothered by wind-blown sand. The trees died and decayed, leaving trunk-shaped sandstone crusts. It's a nice story but isn't true.

The Petrified Forest

The tubes are solution pipes. They are thought to have been formed when water seeped down through the dunes, dissolving the lime in it. The water moved laterally and cemented the sand into a pipe. Over time the surrounding material was eroded but the more resistant pipes remained.

The Great South West Walk takes intrepid walkers to Discovery Bay, which extends into South Australia. I didn't wander too far along the track because I had to get back to Melbourne that afternoon. But Discovery Bay is another location on my list, although I'll probably drive there rather than walk.

The view to Discovery Bay


Shorty CreeKI said...

Discovery Bay.
One of my most favourite ever places.

AND the most polluted beach I have ever seen in my life.

Others have been there and found it pristine, apparently.


Snail said...

I will have to check it out and report back!


"mantled in sea-milled molluscs"

Nice pun there...

sarala said...

The "petrified forest" is fascinating. Wish I could visit.
I have seen a real petrified forest in the U.S. but it was many years ago.
Glad to hear you're doing NaNo. I'll have to see if I can find you on the site.
Good luck.

Snail said...

Aydin, I'm ashamed to say that I didn't even spot the pun! Good catch :)

It's a bit of a fake forest, Sarala. Still quite interesting, though. I've seen the petrified forest in Arizona. Was that the one you visited?

Am not going brilliantly well with NaNoWriMo but at least I'm writing regularly now. I can't work out how to search for other people on the site. Is this because my brains are turning to porridge or because the search function is not that obvious? Or a bit of both?