Farewell To A Local Legend

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Sixty one kayakers & forty five onlookers gathered at Settlement Point Reserve last Thursday morning to farewell local ‘legend’ Roger Price.

Roger passed away on December 28 aged 81. Born in Wales, he arrived in Australia when he was 16. Many locals will remember seeing him cycling around town, bushy beard flying in the breeze.

At 7am, as the sun broke through the smoke haze, the cicadas were singing up a storm, the surf was pounding in the distance & bubbles glinted on the water. From all directions, members of the Port Macquarie Hastings Canoe Club (PMHCC), family & friends assembled to participate in, & be a part of, a moving water tribute to Roger. Friends from across Roger’s past & recent areas of activity gathered on the water, or lined the shore, to witness the raised paddle salute & observe a minute’s silence in his honour.

Roger (& his partner Barbara) were foundation members of the PMHCC & Roger was vice president in 2010. The couple has also been involved & well respected in several paddling disciplines including white water, ocean & flat water.

Roger & Barbara moved from Balmain to Port Macquarie in 1993. They have been familiar figures around Port on their tandem bicycle which has taken them on some epic cycling adventures around the world covering many thousands of kms.

Roger’s solo adventures, & those he undertook with Barbara, read like something from an adventure book. They are something many of us at some point or another have dreamed of doing.

After the water ceremony, flowers were scattered & the colourful flotilla then paddled around Pelican Island, a paddle Roger had undertaken many times. At the conclusion of the paddle everyone gathered at Pipeworks  Café to share stories & memories of Roger & listen to anecdotes of his adventures & instances of his kindness & generosity of spirit.

Roger lived life to its fullest & touched many with his kindness, knowledge, warmth & friendship. He will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.


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Pelican Point Littoral Rainforest Reserve

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Twelve of us took part in our short paddle & stroll through the Pelican Point Littoral Rainforest Reserve.

It was just a short paddle across the Hastings from Settlement Point to the North Shore where we went past Coal Wharf Reserve before pulling up On the little sandy beach opposite Pelican Island.

The North Shore Progress Association has tidied up this area, built a shelter, erected seating & constructed a lovely fire pit ( for winter…if we ever have one!!). It is A lovely spot, much quieter & less crowded than Settlement Point Reserve.

While Bill guarded the kayaks, the rest of us set off on a lovely stroll through the rainforest area. Earlier in the week Bill had been over & checked out the condition of the track & left little markers along the way as parts of it are a bit overgrown. It is a pleasant walk, parts of it adjacent to the river & the canopy affords constant shade. There are some lovely trees in here & beautiful views of the river through the foliage. We walked right through to North Wall Rd. near the beach & view Gwen O’Dea’s memorial cairn tucked away in the bush out of the way of potential vandals. Gwen was awarded an OAM for her environmental work & her plaque states that she loved, protected, weeded & tended the little rainforest pocket. It was erected by her family & the Mid North Coast branch of the National Parks & Wildlife Association.

**Postscript: After Gwen died, Bill decided to at least carry on removing weeds etc from the little rainforest. Thankfully, Thor Asso, who at the time was senior environmental officer with the PMH Council, provided all the necessary gear. In recent years Landcare has taken over responsibility for the work.
Under our present climate conditions, if a fire was to destroy this little pocket of rainforest, it would never recover.

Littoral rainforests are generally closed foresst (70% covered), the structure & composition of which is strongly influenced by their proximity to the ocean (generally within 2 kms). Plant species, predominately rainforest & vines, maybe a major component of the canopy. They occur only along the coast  in small stands & comprise less than 1% of the total rainforest area of NSW. The sign at the North Wall Rd. entrance states that there are six pockets of this plant community along the Hastings coastline. Within it are 74 plant species including rainforest fruits which are an important source of food for seasonally migratory birds such as the white headed pigeon.

Back at the reserve we had a light snack while enjoying the river vista across to Settlement Point & Pelican Island. Our paddle back was not as laid back as a gusty wind had sprung up making conditions a bit challenging. We had planned to paddle around Pelican Island but as the gusts buffeted us around, most of us opted to cut through the mangroves into the back channel & calmer waters.
After loading boats etc most of us adjourned to The Point for coffee.
Thanks to those who participated. We hope you enjoyed it.

Caroline & Bill

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‘Mariaville’, Upper Maria River

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Before Christmas, Bill & I did a ‘reccy’ paddle up to the head of navigation on the Upper Maria River.

While many of us have, in the past, paddled up to the lovely deck where we enjoyed a cuppa & a stroll amongst the elk ferns, or a bit further up to ‘John Brown Flat’ ( named for when John Rennes  encountered a Brown snake on this piece of Flat land!!!), not many have paddled right to the end, including me.

It is remote & untamed up here, simultaneously beautiful, impenetrable & relatively inaccessible  as only wild areas are. However, the prolonged drought has left its mark on this pristine area, most noticeably  amongst the wonderful elk ferns, many of which are faded, wilted or dying in the tree tops. Even the normally luxuriant grasses along the river’s edge seem to be browning off.
The whole return paddle from Connection Creek ( approx.. 30 kms) took us about 4 hours with a break at John Brown Flat. When we reached the fork at the top we took the left hand side (the right was choked with fallen timber) which, many years ago, was the site of ‘Mariaville’, & the head of navigation for the early European settlers travelling to Kempsey & the Macleay region. These settlers travelled by way of water transport from Port Macquarie via the Hastings, Wilson & Maria Rivers to this spot. From here they continued on their journey by wagon along Rifle Rd. & Settlers Way ( which are still within the Maria River NP) into Kempsey. While ‘Mariaville’ was surveyed in 1872, no substantial township was ever constructed. Remains of what was believed to be a dwelling were found & recorded in the 1970’s.

A little bit of history for those interested.

The Maria River National Park ( through which the upper reaches of the river meanders) was created in January 1999 & covers 2385ha. It lies within the Hastings/Macleay Important Bird Area; most of the area was formerly part of the Maria River State Forest.

The Maria River rises on the eastern slopes located in the Kumbatine NP near Kundabung. It descends 132m over its 62km course. It was previously known as Maria River South Branch Scribbly Creek (NSW Government Geographical Names Board).

A detailed assessment of the upper one third of the Maria River was carried out to determine if it qualified for ‘wild river’ status. This status requires the river to remain in substantially unmodified geomorphic & hydrological condition & therefore of high conservation value. Sadly, despite meeting many of the required criteria  for such classification it was not recommended because this part of the river occurs in 5 different tenures. However, it still looks & feels like a ‘wild’ river up here.

The Maria River NP contains 11 significant vegetation species & 9 threatened animal species. Its natural value includes stands of red bloodwoods, tall grass trees & scribbly gums.

If anyone is interested in undertaking this paddle, please contact Bill to discuss tide requirements as water height is a critical factor due to several obstacles.

(Information from the Maria River NP Plan of Management)

Cheers Caroline

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Queens Lake Nature Reserve & State Conservation Area

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Last Sunday twelve of us paddled Bob’s Creek from the Queens Lake picnic area in the reserve adjacent to little Wellington Creek.

In what seems to be the new ‘norm’, our paddles are scheduled with the proviso…’smoke & bushfires permitting’!!.

Being on the water can give a false sense of reality of prevailing conditions, & this paddle was an example of this. While paddling up the creek was pleasant & seemingly benign, the whole area is tinderbox dry & the atmosphere has a highly combustible feel to it. The vegetation is parched & fragile looking with trees having shed foliage to survive. Fallen branches & crispy leaves crunch underfoot & the slopes down to the lake & the creek are covered in leaf litter. Many trees bear the black scars of previous burns.

Despite these observations, Bob’s creek was relaxing & scenic as it meandered along. Although the creekside ( & lakeside ) vegetation is dry, the vistas are lovely with towering trees & graceful natural landscaping. The light, as a result of the continuing smoke haze, had a faded & washed out feel to it, the colours not as vivid as on previous paddles. As you looked up into the canopy, many of the trees had large clusters of dead/dying leaves waiting to fall, while down below in the understorey the grasses & other plants were far from vibrant. Towards the end of the navigable section of the creek a large tree right across the creek brought this paddle to a halt. Also in this area, just below the surface & lying haphazardly, limbs akimbo, are huge fallen trees , reminiscent of giants felled in some ancient battle. It was like perusing a disturbed graveyard.

This area has an interesting back story.

The parks comprising the Queens Lake Nature Reserve & the Queens Lake State Conservation Area are relatively long & narrow, stretching approx. 12 kms from north to south & covering approx.. 2449 hectares. Official dedication of the Nature Reserve occurred in stages commencing in January 1999; the State Conservation Area was reserved in July 2003. Most of the parks within it were previously part of Queens Lake & the Burrawan & Cowarra State Forests. The parks lie within the traditional Country of the Birpai People The parks are underlain by a range of rock formations of sedimentary, igneous & metamorphic origin, some up to 350 million years old. The parks protect stands of several threatened ecological communities & the habitat of approx.. 170 species of native animals, including 19 threatened species.

Based on written accounts from the first half of the 19th century, the parks once supported a strong population of Aboriginal people, particularly in & around the shores of Queens Lake. Four Aboriginal sites are currently recorded in the parks & there are believed to be many more within the general area.
In the 1820’s lime was extracted from the area to support the construction of the penal colony in Port Macquarie. The parks also supported a timber industry for 170 years.

In 1818 John Oxley camped for a night somewhere near the current picnic area near the mouth of Waterloo Creek ( where we launch). The boat ramp at the creek’s outlet is one of the few remaining sites where the heritage of the early timber industry can still be seen. Oxley traversed the northern & western shores of the lake & described the construction & use of canoes & bark huts by the local Aboriginal people. He described hunting in bark canoes, one of which he stated was large enough to hold 9 men & resembled a boat. In 1844, botanist/explorer Clement Hodgkinson commented that Aboriginal people living in this part of the east coast had plenty of food, claiming ..”a few minutes fishing would provide enough food for the whole tribe” . No detailed descriptions of local indigenous peoples around the lake were published after Hodgkinson’s 1845 report. It is thought likely that the traditional lifestyles around the lake & adjoining forests were completely disrupted around 1870 when intensification of both settlement & the timber industry occurred. The lime burning industry also modified the landscape & it is believed likely that this contributed to the displacement of the Aboriginal community from culturally important & resource- rich sites.

Management of the parks today is undertaken in conjunction with the Bunyah & Birpai local Aboriginal land councils (Information derived from the Queens Lake Nature Reserve & State Conservation Area Draft Plan of Management) Hope the above information is of interest. I hope bushfires do not ravage this beautiful area over the next few dangerous months.

Thanks Peter for leading the paddle.


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Camden Haven River, Kendall

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After all the recent smoke, heat & winds, Sunday was a perfect day to be out paddling on the beautiful Camden Haven River at Kendall.

With everything still so parched, it was a pleasure to paddle the calm waters bathed in a light sprinkling of rain. The droplets looked lovely as they landed gently on the water. As we headed downstream it was hazy in the distance & views towards North Brother were smudged somewhat mysteriously against the sky. In the absence of the smell of smoke, this haziness was quite atmospheric.

This is always a calming & relaxing stretch of river, meandering as it does down towards the highway bridge, & everyone ( nine of us ) enjoyed the scenery & the pleasant conditions. (Another four paddled across Watson Taylor Lake from Dunbogan & caught up with us at the bridge).

I saw five Azure Kingfishers streaking along the banks, narrowly avoiding collisions with branches,  a swamp fowl preening at its own reflection & two fearsome looking ‘watch’ geese. As we hugged the right hand bank going down the strait towards Rossglen I spotted a grove of grassplants/trees just below the railway line. You have to be right alongside the bank to see them. They are amazing, growing straight out of the rocks on a slope!!

Back at Kendall we washed our boats & settled down under the verandah of the shed for lunch.

Thanks Stephen for leading the paddle & Bill for the longer one.


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