The tucked away cove of Second Valley on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula is both picturesque and rugged and offers plenty of opportunities for water based outdoor recreation. For me though, dawn dogs walks on the shapely hills and a good book were the activities I indulged in on our annual family holiday.
In the week following Australia day we staked our own ground in the Second Valley Caravan Park for a weeks family holiday before the new school term began for 2015. The park itself is small with modest facilities but for me, its best features are the ageing Norfolk pines that fringe its northern boundary and the swollen hills that frame it on East and West.
A brief walk from the park is the bay with its beach, short jetty (a good place for catching squid), and natural rocky spit with long views up and down the coast, all this to a backdrop of steep crumbling cliffs. Inaccessible as the cliffs are the coast line below them is opened up via a number of coves, many of which can be reached by scrambling over the rocks but a few are only accessible via the water. It’s these hidden coves that raise Second Valley’s already ample cachet.
On this occasion however my exploring was on foot over rock and hill. The first of three hills to the east increase in scale, each in turn dwarfing the bay whilst increasing the view of the valley to the south. Tieing their tops together is a well worn path through the grass, which at this time of the year is a rich, dusty gold. On the middle hill is a rock which supports a reclined position. On some mornings I lay here taking time to watch the long dawn shadows shortening with the rising sun and letting my eyes freely follow the lay of the land as it went from one side of the wide, shallow valley to the other.
At other times I looked to the sea and watched how the wind (which had blown stifly most of the week) would funnel through the gullies and change course as it hugged the form of the land pushing ripples along it. Where the wind met from opposing directions, (fed from gullies on either side of a hill) it was possible to see how the lesser wind faltered giving way to the greater force. All up and down the coast these rippling patterns pushed and shoved one another this way and that, turning the water into a boisterous playground for unruly winds.
Much calmer were the rocks which rested immovable and sheltered in the lee of the hills. It was here that I did my playing. As a child our extended family used to holiday on the Isle of Anglesea off the North Welsh coast. The house we stayed in was a short walk to a largely rock enclosed bay that was separated from the sea at low tide. Either side of this mouth the rocks stood defiantly against the cold and feisty Irish sea. Our best game in all weathers was to explore the nooks and crannies the teeth and jaws of this hardened landscape. Even as we outgrew innocent childhood and became self-conscious, awkward teens those rocks remained a free space to which we could retreat and just be.
“just being” was how I felt as Luna the dog and I picked way our way from one rock to the next. Unlike the worn and singular path on the hills, here on rock my way was for the choosing. For the sake of safety each step was consciously placed and with my gaze down to the immediate my eyes and then mind came to a sharper focus.
Often when noticing rocks keenly two thoughts occur to me. One is that I like to view their form as a microcosmic representation of an actual sized landscape. In the miniature world I can see mountains and valleys and where water has settled a vast lake. In these moments I view the patch of land below me as one might view a region from the window of a plane at altitude.
The other thought is that when looking at rocks rounded by water, especially those along a sea shore, I am reminded of planets. In them I see the textured ethereal surfaces of other worlds and the rings that round them. Rocks to me are time and space traveller’s and I am in awe of how they became and the journey they took. Formed then broken down over millennia, seemingly static but always in change albeit imperceptible.
An age to form an age to wear away
Rock boulder stone pebble sand
Around the rock a ring
An orbit etched, times silent pulsing vein
I pottered about in this manner my imagination somewhat under a spell, Luna following her nose from beach to rock to hill then back to camp to a captivating book on mutineers, castaways and lost souls from the colonial age of sail. Grim but hopeful.
Around me was the relaxed chat of adults and the buzz of kids going back and forth from beach to camp, in and out of games, all to the relaxed hum of summer holidays.
If you enjoyed reading this please leave a comment or share your own reflections. Thanks, Ewan