On Sunday morning, I looked out the bedroom window to the promise of a beautiful spring day. The Bird of Paradise bush glorious as usual and not a cloud in the sky. A great to be alive day despite the fact it was September and Father’s Day!
Special celebrations like Father’s Day are hard if you are missing a father you loved. My Dad died in 2005, and John, the girls’ dad, died in 2002. The two men I adored no longer around.
We three, remaining Neils have coped with the hype of Father’s Day for a few years now, the weeks leading up to the day where the media and shops are full of reminders, and stories that scream what could have been…
The loss never lessens but there are many people who are in the same boat and deliberately organising the day to focus elsewhere and make a conscious decision to live in the now and not in the past, does help numb rather than exacerbate, the persistent pain.
An Outing To See The St Kilda Penguins
My friend, Kristine who retired to the other side of the city, belongs to the Altona Adventurers, pictured above with yours truly bottom left. They are an amazing community group, exploring local walks and sites as well as going further afield. On Sunday, Kristine had arranged a trip to see the penguins at St Kilda Pier.
How privileged was I to be included in their outing – they are certainly a friendly, hospitable bunch!
The trip to see the penguins at St Kilda Pier included a special talk and tour by Bronwyn from the Port Phillip Eco-centre. Before we met Bronwyn at the pier, we strolled through the beautiful St Kilda Botanical Gardens, land bordered by Dickens Street, Tennyson Street, and Blessington Street. An easy walk from Balaclava Station.
First Stop St Kilda Botanical Gardens
The gardens were formally established in 1859 when a boundary fence was erected. By 1907 significant donations of money and plant material had led to the establishment of a rosary, extensive flower beds, and a nursery. Exotic forest trees were planted during the 1870s and Australian species were included in 1932.
Registered with Heritage Victoria, the gardens contain 810 mature tree specimens eight of which are on the significant tree register. In the 1950s the Alister Clarke Rose Garden was established and a Sub-Tropical Rainforest conservatory added in the early 1990’s. Seasonal displays and local indigenous plants provide a valuable collection to study or sit alongside enjoying a picnic.
Built features in the gardens include a giant chess board, ornamental pond with Rain Man fountain, children’s play space, gazebo, glasshouses and the Eco-centre which facilitate lessons on sustainable living practice.
The gorgeous spring weather helped everyone’s mood but I can imagine the well-kept gardens is an oasis of serenity in any weather. How lucky we are to live in Melbourne – one of the world’s most liveable cities – a title won several times!
The gardens boast an ornamental lake and a lovely sculpture by artists Corey Thomas and Ken Arnold. RAINMAN is a solar powered water feature in harmony with the environment, utilising the sun’s energy, the variations in light are reflected by the flow of water.
On a sunny day, rain will fall onto the figure from under the umbrella, the figure’s hand stretched to feel the day beyond. A cloud passes over, it starts to rain, the solar power ceases, a dry Rainman reaches from beneath the umbrella to feel the rain.
(The solar panels and pump integral to the project were donated.)
I was delighted when I came across a garden bed with ‘desert’ plants because it triggered a memory of San Antonio when Mary Jane and I visited The Alamo Mission. San Antonio must be one of the most beautiful cities in the USA and one I’d love to revisit.
Celebrate parks and open spaces
How they let us breathe and play
They put smiles upon our faces
Nature provides wondrous places
Adding beauty to the everyday
Wildlife parks, wilderness spaces
Trainers recommend 10,000 paces
Exercise and be healthy they say
Remember smiles upon our faces
In childhood egg and spoon races
Kite-flying, hide-n-seek, even croquet
Celebrates parks and open spaces
Living demands no ‘airs and graces’
And whether skies are blue or grey
We must put smiles upon our faces
In the future, they’ll look for traces
Of how we spent our lives each day
They’ll dig up parks and other spaces
Perhaps put names to long gone faces…
Celebrate parks and open spaces
Breathe deeply and enjoy your play
And remember put a smile upon your face!
Second Stop the delights of Acland and Carlisle Streets
From the Botanical Gardens, we walked to Acland Street for an early tea before heading to the pier for dusk. For some of the Altona Wanderers, the delights and oddities of Acland were a joy to behold and will no doubt entertain many a future coffee break chat.
One of the group had extra special memories – she had been married in the Botanical Gardens and the surrounding streets triggered lots of stories too.
Many Melburnians consider St Kilda synonymous with live music venues like The Espy, but heritage buildings are being redeveloped at an alarming rate. There is also the fabulous and wonderful Luna Park. Who hasn’t got a story about the Great Scenic Railway (rollercoaster) and other vomit-inducing rides? How many teenage love stories can those rides tell?
Walking towards the pier I saw Edgewater Towers where I’d volunteered last year for Open House Melbourne. A fabulous day spent in a fascinating place with a great history. What serendipity I could take a picture from a different angle this year and see the building from a different perspective.
You really do notice so much more when you walk!
A Promenade Towards The Pier
We walked past the partly completed Stokehouse Restaurant tragically destroyed by fire but now being rebuilt to the highest of “green” environmentally friendly standards.
There was the famous Donovans, catering for up-market clients and also four-legged friends. It was just wonderful to enjoy expanses of sand and ocean and stroll with happy singles and families as we prepared for the aim of the evening – our date with the penguins!
Despite the sizeable group and people ‘doing their own exploring’ we all managed to make it to the pier.
Bronwyn gave excellent hints, information, and advice about the Port Phillip Environment and future foreshore sustainability in general. The dangers of microbeads to ocean life one of the biggest challenges we face. She searched in the sand to show us some microbeads, and Neil, the other ranger from the Eco-centre explained how natural the pink tide was when we were all imagining something sinister!
We had never seen the pink frill before and thought it may have to do with the dredging of the bay or pollution, but it seems it is a natural and healthy occurrence!
On the way back from observing the penguins nest for the night, Bronwyn threw a stone in the water to show an explosion of the blue phosphorescence underneath the pink. Truly amazing! It certainly kept me and nearby tourists amused.
Watch amazing shades of orange, yellow, pink and blue reflect off Port Phillip Bay’s calm waters. The view from St Kilda Pier is simply mesmerizing. Hang your legs over the pier, feel the cool breeze and gaze at the horizon as the day’s light slowly fades away.
The friends of Port Phillip’s Eco-centre and volunteers looking after the penguins are also helping refurbish the breakwater and extension to the pier that holds the rockery where the Little Blue Penguins nest and breed.
We helped carry buckets of sand to spread alongside the rocks to prevent erosion. Groundcover (Disphyma crassifolium, Rounded Noon Flower) similar to pigface is planted along with saltbush.
We owe much to the dedication of volunteers in environmental groups. They contribute enthusiastic caring for the places that make Melbourne such an attractive city!
Bronwyn encouraged us to have some bush tucker and I tasted saltbush for the first time. I will now learn more about what food and medicine can be found in plants we take for granted.
In fact, the evening was a salutary lesson about how wonderful the world around us can be – the little penguins have returned in greater numbers because people continue to work hard to maintain their habitat and protect them. I’ve heard estimates their numbers to be anywhere from 700 – 1200.
We were asked not to use flash photography, to keep our distance, and respect the Little Penguins. To stay on the viewing platforms or path, and to cover any torch with red paper to limit the shock to the penguins.
It is appalling that many of the public disregard such simple requests and vandals have hurt and killed the Little Penguins this year. On Sunday night, I was surprised that even with volunteers politely requesting better behaviour, onlookers flashed cameras, blocked the path of a Little Penguin trying to cross, and made loud noises and startling movements that would distress them.
If we want close encounters with wildlife lets respect the animals and not treat them as pure entertainment.
If you go down to the pier, perhaps offer to carry a bucket of sand and help the volunteers trying to stop erosion and improve the habitat so future generations will enjoy the penguins too.
The Little Penguins are not the only attraction on St Kilda Pier. One of my favourite birds was there – a pelican. Perched atop a lamp post some of our group thought it was a sculpture!
There are photo opportunities to capture other seabirds and to witness the swift moving penguins come ashore. They zip through the water like torpedoes.
A walk along the pier at St Kilda at dusk reveals another aspect or perspective of the city. The skyline is an imposing backdrop, yet the busyness and noise of traffic remarkably absent once you get to the far end of the pier.
In fact, the noise of the penguins mating (it is breeding season) rose to a crescendo several times on Sunday evening and it was hard to believe you were anywhere near urbanisation!
The hundreds of boats at the marina gleamed in the fading light and once street and traffic lights came on, plus the lights of the city buildings, the reflections on the water were truly enchanting. A veritable watery fairyland.
It was with some reluctance that we made our way back to ‘civilization’ to catch the light rail into the city and the train home.
A perfect day indeed!