Point Cook Coastal Park in the rain

Sunday 25 October 2020. Following the easing of Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions, on a cold, wet and windy day the Handels returned once again to Point Cook Coastal Park in Melbourne’s southwest. Today we eschewed the gravel path we usually take to the lookout tower on the edge of the Ramsar-listed Cheetham Wetlands, aiming instead to reach the tower from the beach. From the carpark we walked into the Point Cook homestead precinct. The homestead is a significant bluestone building dating from 1857 built by Thomas Chirnside, who went on to build Werribee Mansion. Sadly the attached cafe hasn’t operated for some time. We passed the homestead and covered the short distance to the beach beyond. It is an interesting beach, a gritty, banked-up affair covered in shells and seaweed, often in thick middens. To our right was some kind of old jetty structure, on which were perched two Little Pied Cormorants. Further out in the Port Phillip Bay was the Ocean Onyx, an enormous drilling rig laid up like an awesome metal sentinel, silently waiting… Turning left, we began picking our way through the seaweed as the wind picked up and the rain threatened. Just as we reached the point, which takes one around a 90-degree corner towards the north, the rain broke and I scrambled to put my camera away. In the gale my umbrella struggled to work. We pushed on until we reached what we thought was a creek but turned out to be the South Saltworks Moat. (I discovered later that Cheetham Wetlands used to be a saltworks.) In any case we were unwilling to cross it, so cutting (sensitively) through the coastal vegetation, we gained access to a track running more or less parallel to the beach. So much for reaching the tower via the beach. And in fact, with the rain and wind increasingly ferocious, after pressing on initially we decided to abandon our walk altogether. We turned around and followed the track south towards the point. After a few minutes we left it, turning right onto a path that became a kind of boardwalk as it passed through a wooded area. It must be prone to muddiness. This took us back to the main gravel track leading one way to the tower and the other to the carpark. As the rain continued we drove home and, instead of a picnic, enjoyed a warm, snug afternoon tea.

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