Friday, 9 May 2014

A freak of nature - Awabakal Nature Reserve, Newcastle

I don't know much about geology but I got a good lesson in wonder from this place.


The ongoing, and the visibly ancient, creation of land and rocks is on display along this small stretch of coast - seams of coal are exposed in the cliff faces, huge chunks of sandstone lie scattered like building blocks. The ocean is taking chunks of rock and earth when the swells are huge and driving. Landslips along the cliff face, especially after heavy rain, are sliding the bush into the sea. 

And beneath that dramatic backdrop is a littoral of rock platforms that have eroded into a beautiful mosaic of shapes and protrusions and grooves. These emerge at low tide and on calm days to make us question the randomness of nature.




Accessing the rock platforms at Awabakal Nature Reserve is not without adventure either - the unmarked fisherman's tracks that provide access are eroded, steep and tricky as they lead you up and down the sea cliffs to the rocks between Dudley and Redhead.  At the bottom of the cliffs there is some nice clambering to be had over boulders and around narrow inlets where the sea slaps against the coast and tries to pull limpets from their homes. For this reason, any exploration of this coast is best done at low tide and on calm days.




As a good day walk, head from north to south, starting at the carpark at the Dudley end of Awabakal Nature Reserve. Heading through some nice angophora forest to the cliff lines there are a couple of lookout points where you get views right along the coastline north to Newcastle with the distinctive Dudley Bluff in the foreground. An unmarked fisherman's track leads down to the rocks below and at low tide you can then scramble and walk southwards below the cliffs. 

Eventually you will stumble upon the wondrous shapes of the tessellated pavement that is this coastline's secret puzzle, its game of dominos, or is it nature doodling on a blank canvas, fitting shape into shape, like you do when left on hold one the phone at work.

Part of me wants a geology lesson on this place, wants an explanation as to how these symmetrical but varied shapes have emerged. Part of me just wants to be left with the wonder. 



Continuing south from the patchwork rocks, there is another fisherman's track that leads up the cliffs to the streets of Redhead. From here you can join a marked track that links you back to the car park at Dudley. It takes you through coastal heath and banksias and of course, having left the strange pavement of shapes below, you could try humming Silverchair's 'Freak' song as you walk along; remember that one line they sing about being 'a freak of nature' and wonder if, as Newcastle boys, maybe they knew this spot too.


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