Tamar Island Wetlands, Launceston

During a trip to Launceston, Tasmania, earlier this year, I ventured out to Tamar Island Wetlands Centre and Reserve. On a windy day in the middle of winter, it wasn’t perhaps the optimal time to have a look but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I trotted to the visitors’ centre and paused for a moment to watch black swans on the water. There is something mesmerising about watching them dip deeply into the water for food with their impossibly long necks. I had been spotting them around most bodies of water that I’d passed in northern Tasmania, but it was nice to be able to pause and really watch them for a while.

Tamar Island views

Tamar Island views from the boardwalk

A boardwalk travels across reed beds, winding its way over bodies of water. The boardwalk is well designed and wire ensures slippage is minimal. This matters, particularly as the walk is a long one and it was busy enough on the day I was wandering about. Along the long bridges across the waterways, there were inset areas for resting or watching, which came in handy.

Black Swan

A black swan landing in the estuary

Guides suggest an hour and a half to two hours for the walk out to Tamar Island and back, and with some dawdling it took me about the two-hour mark, although I was quite a bit quicker on the way back courtesy of a strong tailwind.

Tamar River

Tamar River views

But what of the birds? Apart from black swans, there were ducks, lots of fairy-wrens, strident purple swamphens, Tasmanian native hens and chestnut teals, amongst others.

Common starling

Common starling on Tamar Island

Tamar Island is about seven hectares, and there are signs of earlier use around the island. A number of exotic trees can be spotted, including cedar, elm and an English oak tree. The oak tree has an old plough embedded in it. There are some fruit trees and pathways which provide hints of the occupation of the island before usage of this Crown Land was returned to the government.

Swamp paperbark

Swamp paperbark

This was an enjoyable walk through estuarine wetlands with many highlights including the common reeds along the boardwalk, the swamp paperbark and, of course, the birds. The Tamar Island Walk is another of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks.

[Photo: black swan in flight above the Tamar River]

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A Walk Around Lake Pillans, Lithgow

Named for the first Labor mayor of Lithgow, Lake Pillans is located near the Blast Furnace park area in Lithgow. I recently came across it quite by chance whilst looking for something else. It was my intention to take some photos of the blast furnace site, as it had been a year or so since I had been out around the area. But there are extensive works underway and there is limited access to the ruins.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I took the turn to Lake Pillans and followed the track around to a parking area. This urban wetland was constructed in the 1990s with a number of functions in mind. It provides a place for recreational and educational activities, along with beauty and solitude. It also cleans and filters water as part of the larger ecosystem of the area. And it provides a place for wildlife, including frogs, birds, reptiles and fish.

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Wetlands views with Blast Furnace park in the background

The lake is also a great example of repurposing an old industrial site. It was created in 1911 by the construction of a weir across Vale Creek to provide cooling water for the Hoskins blast furnace. From its early days, it was used for recreation and was a popular swimming and boating venue. The site fell into disrepair when the steelworks relocated to Port Kembla around 1928 and it became an industrial dumping site.

In recent years, a mixture of local and state government funding has contributed towards the establishment of pathways that link the wetlands and the Blast Furnace park.

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One of the walkways around Lake Pillans

This link provides another viewpoint as it touches on the experience of one of the engineers involved in the creation of the wetlands project in the 1990s.

A quick aerial tour of the lake can be seen here, and there is a great photo of the lake in its earlier years in a blog post by Pauline Conolly featuring some Lithgow characters here.

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Looking towards one of the lakes with a sculpture in front

Walking around the lake is an absolute delight, from the wetlands and reeds to the water thrumming with tadpoles. Pathways circle the lake and nearby wetlands, and one path winds up towards the Blast Furnace park. There are a couple of metal sculptures along the way, including one which I think looks like an elephant. There is a boardwalk over part of the wetlands and there was a rustle of reeds before I realised that the birds darting about were purple swamp hens. There were also ducks and brown thornbills, magpies and peewees, to name just a few of the birds around the lake.

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Purple swamp hen at Lake Pillans

I’m very pleased to have found Lake Pillans and will return many times I’m sure to enjoy the walk around a pocket of nature circled by the history and modern realities of an industrial town.

Have you stumbled across a hidden treasure recently?

[Photo: wetland views]