Sunday, June 5, 2011

Brighton Beach to Elwood

On this cold blustery winter's day, twelve Walkabouters and one guest bravely set out
on an 11, no sorry, a 10.6 km, bay side walk. We met at Brighton Beach Railway station with the intention of following the shared walking / cycling trail from Brighton to Elwood and return.

We carefully negotiated Beach Rd making sure to dodge cars and the many cyclists and gained our first panoramic views of Port Phillip Bay.

Port Phillip Bay, geographically covers 1, 930 square kms and the shoreline stretches for about 264 kms from Point Lonsdale to Point Nepean. 'The Heads' is the 3.5 km gap between the the two Points and is the only entrance to the bay from Bass Strait. The Bay contains approximately 25 cubic kms of water.

Prior to the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago, the Yarra River and other tributaries flowed down the middle of the now bay to form a lake that was damned by the Heads before pouring out into the Bass Strait. As the sea rose, it drowned the lower reaches of the Yarra River, wetlands and lakes forming the Bay as it now exists (Source: wikilink).

Following the path we walked up to Green Point and down the ancient sand dunes which is now mostly covered by car park.

 The path meanders through the Willis Reserve which preserves remnant coastal flora,
that provides a natural habitat for local wildlife. Before the expansion of European settlement the shoreline of the Bay was covered by a wide range of vegetation including Coastal Banksia, Honey suckle, and grass trees (Xanthorrhoea australis) that were suited to the coastal environment.

We continued along the path and gained our first sighting of the
famous Brighton Bathing Boxes.

Bathing Boxes were built in many places around the shoreline of the Bay from around the 1860's. They were built to accommodate the public decency laws of the time for local wealthy landowners who wished to bathe in the 'health' giving sea water of the Bay. Of the original 100 or so bathing boxes 82 remain standing along the high water mark of Dendy Beach in Brighton.

These Boxes originate from Victorian architecture consisting of timber framing, weatherboards and corrugated iron roofs. They are not connected to service amenities such as electricity or water (Source brightonbathingbox). Two new Boxes were built to replace boxes that were destroyed by storms or neglect and were recently sold for over AU$200,000 each.

Not bad for an empty box!
If you would like to buy one you first need to be a rate paying resident of Brighton.

After taking in the colour of the bathing boxes and our obligatory artistic photos...(some examples above), we continued along the trail.

There were some brave sea birds resting on the rocks that were being buffeted by the wind and waves.

Many species of birds make live around or visit Port Phillip Bay on their migratory flights including various waterbirds, migratory waders, the White-faced Storm-Petrel, the Australian pelican, the Silver Gull, Pacific Gull and Australian Gannet as well as the Orange bellied Parrot which is critically endangered.

Further along the path, we could see the remains of the sea walls that were constructed by the blue stones that were originally used in one of the outer walls of the Old Melbourne Gaol.

 We rested under a large palm tree near the historic Brighton Sea Baths.

Sea baths were all the go in Victorian times (1800's) as bathing in the open sea was prohibited during daylight hours. The old Victorian's had very strict morals about men and women bathing together, as such there were originally 2 sea baths in Brighton one for women and one for men and were built off shore which required bathers to access the baths by a long jetty.

The sea baths were built in their current location in 1881 and reconstructed in 1934 after they were destroyed in a storm.

The above picture shows the walls of the sea baths.

We continued past the bath resisting the temptation to shelter from the wind in the enticing cafe / restaurant in the Brighton Baths and headed towards Elwood, taking in the views of the City skyline in the distance.

Along the trail, there are a number of interesting stops which provide an opportunity for rests and to also learn about historical and environmental aspects of the coastal area.

At this resting place we read about this sculpture (see below) that depicts the Emu Constellation that was important in the culture of the Bunurong people, who lived primarily along the Port Phillip and Western Port coast prior to European Settlement.

We also read about the celebrated works of famous Australian painters including Arthur Streeton, Charles Condor and Tom Roberts who depicted the area during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Port Phillip Bay is usually calm and placid as it is sheltered from the wild weather of Bass Strait. Today the bay was very rough, with waves whipped by the strong northerly wind ahead of the approaching cold front.

Walking into the wind was really hard going.

Lunch was enjoyed inside the Elwood Sailing Club which provided a welcome relief from the relentless wind.

After we satisfied our hunger and thirst we followed our footstep back along the path we had come which made for much easier walking as the wind was behind us.

We came across some people who were putting the windy conditions to good use
and provided many onlookers with exciting entertainment.

We continued back past the colourful boxes and observed the much larger boxes
overlooking the ones on the beach from the hill above.

We arrived back at Bright Beach Railway station and all enjoyed a hot drink and cake at a local cafe before heading home.

It was an invigorating walk!

Walkabouters Club of Victoria Inc.

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