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The pleasures of Bar Beach North (Narooma) come from its layering: the wriggly tree trunks on the hill in the background; the slice of road; the cloud-catching spiky wetlands; the extensive back dunes; the beach with its story of flood and high seas; the curling waves; the lowering clouds; and the faint echo of the past.

I stop at the wetlands, gleaming in the morning light. I spot a gangly moorhen, with its copper sulphate blue chest and red beak; a few ducks; a white crane; and two black swans. The sandy track is inviting, winding between the croaking of frogs; the persistent sound of the surf; and the chirping of busy small birds. The air is heavy with perfume, the source of which I can’t locate, although the dune wattle is the likeliest suspect. Banksias, coastal rosemary, the tiny furry flowers of monotoca, the fluoro purple-pink of pigface, and a mauve sand-flower complete today’s botanical assemblage.

The rockface patterns continue to draw my eye. I’m hoping that a serious perusal of Geology for dummies will begin to give me some insight into the earth-processes at play, and also explain why every bit of rockface I encounter in this 30 kilometres of coastline looks very different from its neighbours less than a kilometre away.

As I walk back along the beach I can see the breakwater, and all the sea-wrack piled on the beach after recent flooding and heavy seas, including pumice, legacy of an underwater eruption far out to sea.

If we could transport ourselves back to the late nineteenth century, we’d possibly see the Bettini family rowing down the inlet to do their washing in the spring at the southern end of the wetlands. We’d hear the hammering from the four shipyards in the inlet, or the sound of picks quarrying rock for training walls to tame the sea at its entrance. However, the only presence today, apart from mine, is a man walking his gallolopy dog.

For Gilly, who liked mangrove pneumatophores

Top 2: monotoca. Bottom left: coastal rosemary. Bottom right: sand flower

For the taste of history I’m indebted again to Laurelle Pacey, local historian and journalist. This time my source was her Coastal Reserves Dalmeny – North Narooma: Historical Review