04 October, 2012

Around the bay in a day

The weather over the last few days has been sunny and our waterways have been sparkling. As per yesterday's post, we were down by the river for a stroll. Today and on Tuesday however, we headed away from the river, to that other water source in which Geelong takes so much pride - Corio Bay.
Since my last post on this topic, I can say that the bike lane linking the Barwon with the Bay is complete and gets regular use.
The Esplanade, Eastern Beach
Today the fine weather was showing signs of drawing to a close so it was warm and windy. Well, actually, at Eastern Beach it was blowing a gale and I was very glad it wasn't 9am Saturday morning when I would have been running into that blast!
None-the-less it wasn't too unpleasant and the view was as spectacular as always. Of course, with the co-incidence of school holidays and a temperature increase of a few degrees, it seemed like we were jostling for space with half of Geelong. And the powers that be have certainly done a great job of creating a world class public open space.
The Geelong skyline from Western Beach
On Tuesday however, in search of new running routes and with perfect riding weather we grabbed the bikes and headed around to the less-publicised side of the bay. This was not the first time we'd been in this direction. Every Saturday  I run part of the way to Rippleside with Geelong Runners and somewhat less frequently we take the kids to the playground in the park as we did last week.
Boats moored at Western Beach
On one previous occasion as described in my post from last year, we followed the trail on and off road right around the foreshore, through the industrial northern suburbs of Geelong to the banks of Hovell's Creek and then onwards to Lara. On Tuesday we retraced our steps. This time I was looking at the route not only as a cycling path, but also as a potential running track.
Most people would know the path which runs from Limeburner's Point on the east to Rippleside on the west, with its views towards the You Yangs and Jan Mitchell's internationally famous bollards (a concept which I think could readily be extended to the banks of the Barwon).
Bollards at Western Beach
From this point however, things became less obvious. The track disappeared and a short section of onroad travel between Rippleside and St Helen's was necessary.
Once there however, we came across the following residents enjoying the weater and the low tide:
Pied Oystercatchers at St Helen's Beach
Eleven-armed Sea Star
I had not to this point met a Pied Oystercatcher, nor an Eleven-armed Sea Star (yes, this is the correct term as they are not technically fish and yes, there were eleven arms in this case - feel free to count them!), although I believe the former can be found at Barwon Heads. The views here were equally as panoramic as earlier sections and the track good, until that was, we reached the amassed bulk of Geelong's industrial sector.
At this point we were required to navigate a few back streets and semi-trailers before we picked up the bike path once again beside Corio Quay Road. Sadly, not much has changed since last year and several parts of the route were more overgrown with weeds and less appealing than they were over a year ago which is disappointing to say the least. There was still not the slightest indication of where any of this section of the trail lead or where connections needed to be made. Were these issues to be addressed, this could be an interesting and informative ride through Geelong's industrial heartland.
Piles of wood chips at Corio Quay
Of course, I am far from the first person to have this idea. In 2005, a bold plan was put forward by local historian Ferg Hamilton to create a continuous walking/cycling track from the Geelong Waterfront to Lara, but despite support and lobbying by all levels of government, no progress has been made - a point of which we were recently reminded in a short article published by the Independent last month.

Looking across Limeburner's Bay towards Point Henry
But back to the point! The track once it returns to the foreshore past Shell is excellent and the views of this lesser-used side of the bay are no less impressive than from the east. We paused for lunch (and a discussion on the metabolic needs of distance runners) at the beginning of the Hovell's Creek Trail.
Back on the bikes we headed up the creek. I would like to be able to say that Hovell's Creek is somehow connected to the Barwon and thereby provide a little more relevance to this post, however this is not the case as Hovell's Creek rises in the foothills of the Brisbane Ranges and the You Yangs before flowing directly into Corio Bay at Limeburner's Bay.
Mangroves lining the banks of Hovell's Creek
However, there are some similarities between the mouth of the Barwon and that of Hovell's Creek, the most notable of which are the mangroves which line the banks of both waterways at the mouth. Likewise, each has a raised boardwalk which enables close access without damaging these fragile environments.
In the case of Hovell's Creek, it was only on this second trip that we discovered the boardwalk. From it, we were able to get up close and personal with the creek, the mangroves and any number of White-fronted Chats which at one stage looked as if they were sprouting from the mangroves. They were accompanied completely unseen, by an endless chorus of Little Grass Birds as well as a few swans and high overhead, a Black-shouldered Kite.
Boardwalk extending into the mangroves at Hovell's Creek
It is also worth noting, that like the wetlands around Lake Connewarre, those near the mouth of Hovell's Creek and Lime Burner's Bay have been listed as an international Ramsar site, thus highlighting their environmental signficance.
By this point in our ride, time was of the essence, so suffice to say that once again we rode as far as the Princes Freeway, looked up the hill in the direction of Lara, paid a quick visit to the monument to Hume and Hovell which stands nearby and then headed for home at a somewhat less leisurely pace the outward journey.
On returning home, I think I calculated the entire distance from Lara to Limeburner's Point below the Eastern Gardens as somewhere between about 18.5km and 19.5km depending on the exact route. Not a bad distance for a run and with some stunning views along the way, but I am yet to decide how keen I am on sharing road space with semi-trailers while I'm running.
One way around the problem however, may be provided if plans I have seen mentioned in the paper go ahead. This would involve the addition of a section of track extending the current Ted Wilson trail beside the Ring Road to connect at some point with the trail at the foreshore leading out to Lara.
I might also add that this is just on point at which the Ring Road trail comes close to the various sections of track around the bay and where a connection could be made. As I believe I have mentioned before, the Weir Deppler Park at the end of the Cowie's Creek Trail is only a matter of 800 metres from the end of the Tom McKean Linear Trail running over to Fyansford via the old train line and some 600 metres in a direct line from the Corio Quay track which we used on our ride to Lara on Tuesday. So near and yet so far...

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