Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Swimming with Bruce and Stephen at the Werri Beach Rock Pool

On Sunday morning the water gushed into the Werri Beach Rock Pool and spilt over the sides.

Near the deep end turquoise waves reared up and splashed white on to the rocks.

Two boys stood near the edge and waited to be pushed into the pool.

I waded into the pale green water and stared through my goggles to the bottom.

"It's beautiful," I said to my swimming mates, Stephen and Bruce. "So much cleaner than yesterday!"

I cleared my goggles and set off again, delighting in the weightlessness that salt water brings.

We divided the pool into three and swam up and down in our marked out space, careful not to cut our feet on the wall of oyster shells and periwinkles at the end.

On the rock face a fisherman cast his line. Near the wading pool surfers waited for the perfect wave.

The sun started to peak through the grey turning the water from green to blue.

I paused in the shallows and looked across at the hills above the beach.

And wondered if I was ever going to be able to leave this pool.

*Thanks to our host Trudy for a relaxing Australia Day weekend stay at her lovely house at Gerringong's Werri Beach on the NSW South Coast.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Sea eagles, Dad's Army and the Black Head Rock Pool

Travelling up and down the Pacific Highway over the past three weeks we visited a number of pools. First stop was the ocean baths at Black Head about 235 kilometres north of Sydney.

NSW is blessed with 100 ocean baths but there are only five north of Newcastle. There used to be six but I will tell the story of that pool another time. As well as Black Head, the surviving ones are Forster Ocean Baths, Sawtell Memorial Rock Pool, Yamba Ocean Baths and Shelly Beach Wading Pool at Ballina.

The Black Head Pool is the second oldest of the five north coast ocean baths. It was opened on Boxing Day 1941, five years after the Forster pool came into existence. The Sawtell Memorial Rock Pool was opened in 1962 and the Yamba Baths in 1969. I couldn't find a date for the rock pool at Ballina's Shelly Beach.

But back to the Black Head Pool. It was very popular with the locals when it opened but with many away serving in World War Two it fell into disrepair. At one stage local fishermen used the pool for a lobster pen as the bottom filled up with seaweed and oysters covered the sides. Fortunately when the war was over members of the Black Head Surf Club and local volunteers cleaned and renovated the pool. They also modified the wading pool and built the footpath and concrete surrounds.

In 2005, Greater Taree Council reconstructed the wall separating the wading pool and larger pool and resurfaced part of the walkway and steps. Two years later, with funds raised from the community and a donation from Dr Billie Greening, Taree Council completely renovated the pool.

We had two swims in the 100 feet long (just over 30 metres) by 30 feet wide pool when we stayed at Diamond Head nearby with keen long boarders' Graham and Denise. We enjoyed our first dip but our second swim was even better thanks to 'Dad's Army'. 'Dad's Army' is a local volunteer group that empty, sweep, hose and refill the pool at low tide every second Thursday.

The second time we swam at the pool it had been cleaned that morning and the water was crystal clear. Late afternoon when we visited it was peak hour with locals and visitors enjoying a dip.

A woman I chatted to had that day recommenced her swimming routine and was pleased to have completed 14 laps. Another local told me she loved to float on her back and watch the sea eagles soar above the pool.

It was great to be back in salt water again and a nice start to our journey to Brisbane. Thanks to Graham and Denise for their wonderful hospitality.