Sunday 6 December 2020. Circumambulating Cherry Lake, in Altona, is a pleasant activity, even on extremely windy days, as today most certainly was. We had parked at the Sugar Gum Drive carpark and had found a table by the adjacent lakeshore. It’s infinitely quieter here than at the Millers Road or Fresno Street picnic areas.
Unrelenting wind does not make for pleasant picnics, however. Napkins fly, plates rise and flip, cups skitter… Nevertheless we carried on cheerfully, then set out to walk (and scooter) the three-and-a-half-kilometre circuit around the lake in a clockwise direction.
The western half of Cherry Lake is a conservation zone; tall reedbeds protect valuable and precious birds and other species. The eastern half is given over to recreation: boating, fishing, sailboarding etc.
Cherry Lake is an example of a modified wetland. Originally covering an area of seasonally flooded marshland, the lake caught flood runoff from Kororoit Creek. If flood water was too great, the lake itself would overflow; water would inundate houses in Seaholme before draining into Port Phillip Bay. In the 1960s levees and a spillway were built, and overflow is now channelled directly into the bay.
Our walk was most enjoyable. There were no startling vistas to behold, no stunning scenery. Perhaps the abiding feature of the landscape is the Altona oil refinery, visible from many points around the lake. But the proximity of water, the presence of birds, the wild wind, and the colours of the vegetation – the browns, flaxes and greens of the grasses and other coastal plants, the pale pink of the final vestiges of Pigface – conspired to create harmony, beauty and interest. Even the refinery was (almost) transfigured. It was altogether a marvellous day out.