[Guest post by Angela Williams in Melbourne, Australia] Returning home always provides the opportunity to revisit places of precious childhood memories. For me, many of these memories are of weekend or holiday walks and picnics, usually along the coast. My Christmas summer holiday break is always spent with my independent 97-year-old dad and my extended family in Warrnambool, the town where I grew up, a three-and-a-half-hour drive from where I live in Melbourne. Warrnambool is a small city of 35,000 people, located at the end of the Great Ocean Road in southwest Victoria.
I love the beach. The opportunity to swim or walk along the beach is tempting in any weather. Christmas is a busy time, with lots of people around and chores to be done to keep everyone occupied and fed, so sketching this year fitted in when possible. There were no lazy days at the beach – the weather was a bit patchy during my break, with just one hot day.
Shelly Beach: This year I visited Shelly Beach, Warrnambool, for the first time in decades. It was one of my mum’s favourite school holiday clifftop walk and picnic spots when we were children, the one you did only when it wasn’t a beach day, as there were rock pools to explore, cliffs to climb and plenty of shells. I visited at low tide, noticing the erosion along the cliffs, and paths now formed to contain the damage – the sandy tracks we knew as children no longer encouraged. A wallaby jumped out of the bushes on my way out there, and an echidna was busy searching out ants on the side of the track on the way back.
Middle Island: Squeezing in one more sketch before heading back for dinner I stumbled across the 5pm Meet the Maremmas tour on Middle Island. The Maremma dogs are trained and then placed on Middle Island to protect its penguin colony from foxes during the breeding season; they found fame with the film Oddball. I was able to plonk down on the sand within earshot of the tour leader’s talk, and sketch and then meet the dog they brought along at the end of the tour.
Lady Bay from the Flume: The long expanse of the main beach in Lady Bay has many different sections, the sheltered waters near the breakwater, the swimming and surfing areas near the surf club, then the rougher more challenging surf for the board riders accessible from the Flume. On one of the stormy mornings at the Flume I was able to position myself on a damp sand dune, and look east (above) and west (below) to take in the whole of the bay. By the time I looked to the west the sun had started to break through.
Holidays over, it was time to head back to Melbourne, and at the last minute I decided to drive back the long way, via the Great Ocean Road, and then cut back through to the highway. A three-and-a-half-hour trip took eight and a half hours, with the slightly longer route, and stopping for sketches and more childhood picnic memories along the way. I have seen this coastline in many moods, but it is always breathtaking when the sun is shining and the sea is roaring. This day was so windy, and the paint palette kept blowing closed.
London Bridge: London Bridge was named for its original double arched formation. We walked from the land to the tip of this many time as kids. At 7pm one January night 27 years ago, the span connecting to the land collapsed. Two tourists had just walked to the furthest part of the formation when they heard cracking, and they were stranded for three hours while a helicopter was sent from Melbourne to rescue them. With the numbers of tourists visiting this area each day, this could have been a real tragedy.
Twelve Apostles: My last stop before heading inland to get back to the city was the famous Twelve Apostles, though there are only eight (above and top image). The chances to sketch in relative peace are next to none, and you certainly cannot move off the main walkway to let the crowds go by. Photographers with tripods were starting to set up in time for the sunset, but it was time for me to move on.
I take for granted this wonderful stretch of coastline that has always been a part of my life, but in recent years I am seeing it through new eyes with my sketchbook.
Angela Williams has a background in architecture, and lives in Melbourne, Australia. She has been a member of Melbourne Urban Sketchers since it was established five years ago, and posts her sketches on Instagram.