Wednesday 25 November 2020. Before today I had never cycled as far as Cheetham Wetlands in Point Cook. I hadn’t intended doing so; I was aiming to ride only as far as Laverton Creek Conservation Zone in Altona, but I was enjoying the expedition so much I just kept going.
Following a coffee with Mrs Handel at our usual café, Cornershop in Yarraville, I set off, riding along Hyde Street and Douglas Parade to Williamstown, then via Electra, Parker and Garden Streets to the Esplanade, passing Williamstown Beach – already busy at 10.00 a.m. – en route. At the end of the Esplanade I turned onto Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail at Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, one of the Handels’ favourite spots; I stopped here to photograph some curious Royal Spoonbills, assorted cormorants and a lone Pied Stilt, an adorable shorebird.
Leaving Jawbone Flora and Fauna Reserve, I followed Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail through neighbouring Paisley-Challis Wetlands, a reclaimed stormwater drainage area, and from there, via Kororoit Creek, to Altona Coastal Park. This interesting park, formerly Williamstown Racecourse, features woodland, grassland and coastal habitats and is a lovely place to stop for a walk or for a spot of bird photography. Traces of the old grandstand can still be seen, and paths radiating out from the coastal trail lead to hidden bird-information panels.
I meandered around Altona Coastal Park then proceeded to P. A. Burns Reserve, near the Altona dog beach. Here Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail runs along the foreshore and passes through the micro-suburb of Seaholme before re-entering Altona. Before long I was cycling past a very busy Altona Beach and soon reached Doug Grant Reserve and the Laverton Creek Conservation Zone, a series of sand spits in the mouth of Laverton Creek and a good spot for shorebirds.
Moving on, I crossed the Laverton Creek footbridge and arrived at Truganina Park in Altona Meadows. I decided to leave Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail at this point, instead following a rough track through a small but inviting area of coastal woodland. Beyond the fence to my left as I bumped along were the Truganina Wetlands, a northern extension of the Ramsar-listed Cheetham Wetlands; to my right, obscured by trees, were Truganina Park’s ‘100 Steps of Federation’, which lead up a hill to Time Beacon, a large sculpture that looks something like a public-address system.
I followed the fence separating Truganina Wetlands from Truganina Park and presently came to another fence, perpendicular to the first, in which a gate gave onto coastal grassland. I passed through the gate into an area that seemed oddly remote, as though I were miles from suburbia. To the northeast lay the city, ever expanding, while to the east, in the distance, the Dandenongs sat on the horizon, a purple haze. Overhead a lone Australian White Ibis wheeled gracefully before flying to destination unknown. The silence was remarkable.
I followed an increasingly rutted track through the coastal grassland, first south then west, in effect describing an arc around Truganina Park’s hill with its sculpture. Passing eventually through another gate, I found myself back on Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail and riding through a swathe of grassland separating Cheetham Wetlands from residential Altona Meadows.
After a kilometre, Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail ran into Skeleton Creek Trail and came to an end. I turned left and began to follow the new trail along the course of Skeleton Creek. To my left was another interesting sculpture, H2O Stint Map, in which a water molecule sits atop a globe of the Earth mounted in turn on a Fibonacci spiral. Looking something like an enormous dandelion clock, the sculpture symbolises the relationship between migratory birds and the adjacent Cheetham Wetlands.
Presently I came to an impressive new boardwalk-style bridge spanning Skeleton Creek; I paused on it to photograph a Little Egret and a White-faced Heron, then cycled on for a few hundred metres until I reached the end of Skeleton Creek Trail at the Sanctuary Lakes South Boulevard bridge. Having run out of trail, I decided this was to be my terminal point too.
From the Sanctuary Lakes South Boulevard bridge I looked across to the Cheetham Wetlands Tower, a viewing platform dedicated to migration and aspirations. This Point Cook Coastal Park landmark symbolises, among other themes, the migration of peoples but also the migration of scores of species of shorebirds that fly to and from Cheetham Wetlands each year. The Handels have often visited the Tower; we find it rather wonderful. Before I began my return journey I photographed a pair of Pied Stilts. Then I turned for home.