Having researched the location I picked something I would remember, Hollywood Street, no boulevard here. The street I wanted was two past that. I’d chosen not to use google maps in order to save batteries, don’t want to run low while I’m taking photographs. The Princes Highway was busy despite lockdowns so I gratefully turned off and headed up Dowling Street to one of two main entrances.
It was there I was stunned. For decades I’d tried to get a meaningful book on wildflowers, I’d even spent money for heavens sake. Yet, for some reason, I could never crack a relevant one. In Thredbo I was assured that the volume I’d just purchased would identify plants I’d seen and photographed that day. It didn’t.
So, imagine my surprise when I stopped at the entrance to South Pacific Heathland Reserve. Here were some laminated sheets with relevant plant information but, just in behind them, was a free pamphlet that identified half the plants that I’d seen today. If there’s an annual contest for the most useful brochure, City of Shoalhaven would surely romp in. There was a map as well, take a bow Shoalhaven.
The trustees in charge of the 14 hectares of reserve won a best in the state award in 2017. The brochures, track and lookouts are all well developed and when you get a brochure it actually relates to the trails. There are appropriate signs so it’s almost impossible to get misplaced and you certainly can’t get lost because you’re only ever 500 metres from an intersection. In the whole reserve there’s less than 4 kms of trail, no hills, protected by the forest. No wonder it’s popular with locals.
There’s only 14 hectares of the reserve but it’s clear that people care about it, particularly bearing in mind that there was a protest just two days ago about developers wanting to clear more of the wonderful forest that’s left at Narrawallee just down the road. It’s always sad when some of the reasons for people moving to an area disappear. Glossy black parrots are already endangered here and the bushfires didn’t help.
Rennies Beach was my ultimate destination, so I thought. I didn’t even know it existed until one week earlier. There’s many kilometres of coast around here and everywhere I’ve been, you can’t help but notice there’s small unnamed islands and adjacent rock shelfs in many places. Their influence on wave patterns is undeniable but, today, the swell is having a day off. However, on the plus side, the colours are brilliant, the blues and greens as stunning as any you’ll see.
Getting there IS half the fun. The recent sunshine has sparked interest from the plants of the coastal heath. Windblown though it is, flora survive and thrive here on either side of the narrow bush trail that I decide to ride. Here in the land of acacia, she-oaks and banksia there’s any number of flowers competing for space on the floor. On the reverse side, the fire, started by arsonists in 2018, has left its scars on more than one place and the remnants of the banksia stand like wizened old men at odd angles. In time, their seeds will take hold and it will all come again but, for the time being, the low growing flowers are having a field day, literally and figuratively.
The wash sound of the sea floats up the escarpment, enchanting in its own way, controlled by the offshore winds that were dipping over the hill to the waters. Sitting on the cliff edge on this gorgeous day I took time out just to recharge my batteries.
The lookouts here and on Wardens Headland appear to have no maintenance schedule as the vegetation steadily climbs in front of the lookouts, blocking some of the view on all but one I’d been to. Many are the feet that have gone outside the protective barriers in order to get a decent shot. Still, parts could be viewed and the presence of that ocean sound just wafted all over you, something soothing about being beside an active sea.
However, not far away, along a narrow unnamed track, there’s a better viewpoint because of the fires. Naked banksia branches indicate dead trees whose seeds will take a few years to re-emerge. Meanwhile, the view is significantly enhanced so I sit down with a pie and drink and soak it all up.
Just north nearby is Rennies Beach, access to which is via a steep path off Dowling Street but, from this viewpoint, defining individual beaches is problematic, especially when you’re not a local. What you see is a long stretch of sand interspersed with small headlands and/or a rock shelf. It’s quite beautiful, enhanced by the sublime colours of the ocean, changing from green to blue the further offshore you look with dark patches indicating rock slabs. It’s the definition of sublime, and it would draw me back time and time again.