Saltwater Creek at South West Rocks

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Hi everyone,
Well, although last Sunday’s paddle was probably the shortest paddle we have done, ( courtesy of a fallen tree which could not be navigated around ) It certainly rates up there with the most picturesque.

Saltwater Creek at South West Rocks meanders behind the sand dunes & up into a beautiful lagoon full of birdlife. Sadly we did not make it up to the lagoon being stopped just shy of it by a fallen tree. Despite this, & the shallow areas, this is a beautiful little paddle & well worth the effort.

The creek takes off from the beach below the surf club & is flanked by fabulous melaleucas, the shapes of which further upstream are amazing ( see photo of the one in front of German bridge ) . As we negotiated the shallows there was plenty of time to look at the vegetation & listen to the whispering of the tall grasses alongside the creek, a sound akin to the swishing of silk or taffeta. There were lovely glimpses up the creek to a hill in the foreground in Arakoon NP, & a pristine white heron posed atop a casuarina for us.

South West Rocks, traditional country of the Dunghutti people, is best known for Trial Bay Jail, the heritage listed former public works prison. Construction of the prison, which overlooks Trail Bay, commenced in 1886 when prisoners were brought to the area to construct a breakwall to make Trial Bay a safe harbour half way between Sydney & Brisbane. Work began on the breakwall in 1889, but progress on its construction was constantly hampered over many years by being washed away during storms etc. Due to a range of issues, the breakwall was never completed & the project was abandoned in 1903. However,  the jail’s  history had only just begun.

During World War 1 the jail was used as an internment camp for local German residents who were suspected of conspiring with the enemy. These were said to be Germans of ‘social standing’, professionals, German naval officers & other ‘elite’ German residents. It was the only internment camp to house internees from overseas as germans from British Commonwealth countries in the Pacific & South East Asia were also interned at Trail Bay Jail. Quite a community sprang up in the jail which seems to have had had an active social/artistic scene including a gourmet restaurant ( the Duck Coup ) & a more bohemian ‘hang out’ on the beach referred to as The Artists Den.

The bay immediately below the jail became known as Trial Bay after the brig “Trial” which was wrecked there in 1816. The brig had been hijacked by convicts in Port Jackson who, in a bid for freedom, forced the crew to sail north.

Thanks Leon for organising this paddle which attracted 18 members.

Even though it was short & sweet, the beautiful surroundings made me appreciate how lucky we are during this pandemic to be able to escape to areas like this so close to home.



Pipers Creek

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What fantastic paddling last Sunday; Pipers Creek at its best.

As we drove in, the sleepy hamlet of Kundabung was coming alive with the Sunday markets being set up at the old hall. The enjoyment of this paddle for me starts with the drive into the reserve along the lovely winding dirt track through the tall trees with glimpses of the sheltered creek through the vegetation.
The calm, cool morning was perfect for paddling & enjoying the gorgeous reflections & creekside landscaping.

We split into two groups; the larger group, led by Greg, paddled the picturesque & meditative upper section of Pipers Creek & then Smiths Creek. They reported being able to navigate further up both these sections than we have in the past. The smaller group, led by Bill, paddled downstream enjoying the wider part of Pipers Creek with jaw dropping reflections showcased in the morning sunlight. At the end we turned left into the Maria River & paddled up to its junction with Connection Creek (approx. 24kms return). The last km or so of this section the river narrowed & with the overcast conditions that had come across throughout the morning the river & surrounding forest looked & felt isolated & remote, setting all your senses working & making you want to stop, listen & scan  the vegetation, like you were being watched from amongst the foliage. Tall trees towered above on both sides with cascading vines coming all the way down to the water. Elk ferns could be seen on many tree trunks & there was a great variety of vegetation.  It is an interesting stretch of water & on this day an atmospheric section of the river which links up our well known paddles on Pipers & Connection Creeks & the Upper Maria.

The whole area has an interesting history. In 1831 Surveyor James Ralfe discovered a stratum of limestone of superior quality about 6 miles from the head of navigation of Pipers Creek ( thought to be names after one Captain Piper). Between 1832 – 40 lime kilns were constructed ( most probably by convict labour from Port Macquarie). These kilns, now heritage listed, were referred to as Bonnie Corner Lime Kilns or Smiths Creek Lime Station. They are located in the Kumbatine NP 12 kms south of Kempsey & west of the highway. Cells were built in the area of the kilns where the convicts were locked up at night. The limestone burned up there was conveyed down to a loading wharf at Kundabung by low wagons with wooden wheels drawn by a team of convicts. It was then loaded onto barges & convicts rowed them down to Port Macquarie. Here it was used in the building industry, at least up until the 1880’s. (Every now & again heritage tours of the remnants of the kilns are conducted by National Parks & Wildlife. If you get a chance, go on one as its is fascinating. I have included a photo I took years ago on such a tour).

The first settlers in the district were all engaged in the timber industry & logs were brought out of the bush on skids & then hauled by horses to the wharves on either side of where Smiths Creek enters Pipers Creek. The logs were then transported by log punt to Hibbards Mill in Port Macquarie.

The early settlement was referred to as Smith’s Creek, but following the opening of the railway , people started a village close to it & the name proved unsuitable. It was renamed Kundabung ( meaning Black Apple tree in the local language) which was also applied to the railway station & the school which opened in 1909 & closed in 1967. There have been several timber mills in Kundabung over the years.

Although the four paddlers who did the longer option got back just as everyone else was finishing up, we could not resist having a campfire for awhile as it is almost club tradition to do so at Kundabung.

We hope everyone enjoyed their paddle. Thanks Greg & Bill for leading. Hope you have a safe & happy Easter break.


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