I THINK it began in Port Willunga.
The old round hills of Willunga roll smoothly down to McLaren Vale’s plains before meeting the shore. In summer they are golden yellow and in winter they become a green baize.
Along the shore there is a cove, eroded into the clay and limestone cliff, where a small creek meets the sea.
The weathered remains of a few jetty piles and a handful of small boat sized caves carved into the ochre cliff tell of the times when a storm wrecked the Star of Greece at Port Willunga.
This is the place of holidays where memories of the shoreline were relived over and over. Sparkling blue waves and white foam in salt water. The touch of the wind, the heat of the sun. Fine white squeaky sand, cockle shells, smooth blond pebbles. The early morning fisherman with a wooden boat casting his net, silver fish jumping. Red and gold languid sunsets. Long walks in the shallows, lazy swims out to the old piles. The ripple of the sea touching the horizon, white seagulls in the sky.
Time slowly stopping.
The road to Ventnor can take you past the Bass hills from the north or the Kilcunda hills from the south; either way it reminds you of Willunga. It leads to the bridge that crosses Westernport’s eastern arm and lands on Phillip Island. Then it wanders through rolling farm land, and with a right turn you will find Ventnor.
Grossard Point is the gentle headland that surveys the shoreline, and looks north across the water that meets Mornington Peninsula not far away.
This place has drawn people for thousands of years: Aboriginals, sailors, sealers, whalers, convicts, fishermen, squatters, settlers, visitors, and holiday makers.
It stands in the middle of a meandering wonderland called Ventnor beach.
Sandy coves, flat reefs of rock pools filled with life, mounds of sea weed, sand dunes and clay cliffs, native grasses and scrub that fringe the sand, ancient moonah trees, banksias and tea trees. Wading and circling sea birds and colourful birds of the land, seals, penguins, echidnas, wallabies. Sunsets with the most magnificent displays of colour, silver moonlight turning water into mirrors. Clear air filled with the smells of the sea, sometimes at peace, sometimes wild.
And the ever changing tide.
Like breathing, Westernport fills and empties, moving sand, revealing secrets, clearing footprints. The shoreline moves forever up and down at the calling of the moon.
When the tide fades to its lowest, it is a time of peace, the water is exhausted, and all the shoreline’s secrets are revealed as the last trickles find their way through the corrugations of the sand and the cracks in the rock pools.
You can imagine this moment travelling for ever around every shoreline at every ocean’s edge.
Time stopping slowly.
This is an extract from Tim Shannon’s memoir Bumbler Chronicle