Girraween National Park is not far from my daughter’s place near Stanthorpe. It’s in the Granite Belt which stretches for 250 kilometres from Warwick in Queensland to Armidale in NSW.
For its creation story, take yourself back 240 million years. Two tectonic plates approach each other and compress the crust of the eastern side of whatever was sort-of Australia then. The heat is intense, and a molten mass of magma invades older rocks. Two kilometres below the earth’s surface, it cools very slowly, creating coarse-textured granite. It’s under an immense weight of older rock which is gradually eroded away. The upper face of the granite expands upwards and cracks and large slabs, sometimes metres thick, break away from the mother rock. Gradually, where there are a lot of fractures, sheets break into blocks and the roughly rectangular blocks become weathered into rounded boulders, like the ones I’m walking through now. But there are less-fractured places in Girraween, now beyond my aging reach: broad slabs, steep domes and pinnacles of bare granite with names like The Pyramid and Castle Rock. The creation story continues today: chemical reactions dissolve the boulders into a mixture of kaolinite clay and quartz sand; each episode of freeze and thaw enlarges cracks; wind, water, animals, algae, bacteria, lichens and mosses also play a part in weakening and shaping the stone.
My Girraween walk this visit isn’t a long one (less than 2km): it meanders between boulders, the legacy of the processes of long time, as it makes its way to today’s goal, the Granite Arch. I have two cameras slung around my neck and my sturdy walking stick, just in case I want to venture beyond the well-made track.
The trail begins with a creek crossing, concrete bridges joining granite slabs. But the main beauty is the rockscape, everywhere rounded boulders, leaning over and resting on each other amongst the scrub, sometimes paddling in bright wattle, sharp leaved bell shaped heath flowers, a couple of white correas. Where the rocks are sparser there is plenty of moss and sundews.
I round a corner, and there’s the Granite Arch: a huge rounded lintel-rock, supported by two doorposts.
For once geological information is easy to come by, easily understood and accompanied by explanatory photos. I am grateful! For a photo gallery covering more of the park than my legs can manage, see here.
The panel near the Granite Arch was also informative, although geological processes satisfy me: I don’t need the handiwork of giants. It’s a pity too that the Thoreau quote is so apposite: David Henry is not my favourite person!
Every year my friend of more than sixty years and I try to spend a week together. This year we rented a stone house on the edge of the Wollemi national park, overlooked by sandstone cliffs.
From this base we walked around Ganguddy where a dam built by nearby cement works in the 1920s has metamorphosed into a beautiful lake.
We photographed in Rylstone and Mudgee; and in Sofala and Hill End, two nineteenth century gold mining towns.
We captured the remnants of railway days in Lue.
We walked on the edge of sandstone gorges and past sandstone pagodas at Ferntree Gully.
We lunched at the Pipeclay Pumphouse at Robert Stein's Mudgee winery to celebrate our 70th birthdays, both now well in the past.
And of course we photographed flowers, and even found a few orchids.
Thank you, Rosemary, for a lovely few days exploring the central tablelands of NSW.
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 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