Burleigh Heads – makes it sound like there is two roughly equally sized heads together doesn’t it? I wonder if it should be called Burleigh Head as one side of the river is a small mountain while the south side is flat as a pancake. This side has been bolstered with concrete blocks for a groin for safer access to the Tallebudgera River.
The mountain side of Burleigh is covered by windswept stunted trees, grasses and a substantial walking trail which has been well trodden for many years. Burleigh is a good place to surf and has developed as a major township along the glittering Gold Coast beaches. It is ripe now for further high density development with a tramline planned to cut through the middle of both the township and the mountain. Many feel the future looks bleak through further overcrowding, urbanisation and the risk of being overrun by tourists and machines.
Every time in the past few years that I’ve been here there is some kind of mechanical noise with drainage upgrades, turf replacement and new buildings going up. This is my local beach and over the 20 years of being here the enjoyment of the place has gradually been eroded.
I look to the natural places to overcome my disappointment and regularly walk the paths over the headland but increasingly the tracks are closed due to erosion. After heavy rain, huge boulders are loosened up above and when they are ready they descend fast through the undergrowth and crash their way downhill to the sea along with the soft clay soil and their crust of shallow rooted grasses. This is a Conservation area to protect sites for Koalas and Aboriginal cultural sites so it is left mostly to its own natural processes so human safety consists mostly of exclusion. Although the tracks are upgraded every now and then, the hill is and always will be, constantly eroding into the sea.
It is like a metaphor of our lives here. Both vulnerable to Nature’s Plan – knowing oblivion awaits but letting go of our grip on integrity very, very slowly.
With this in mind, how do I paint this message hidden in the Burleigh Hill. What shapes and colours represent this downhill run?
I could choose a profile of the sloping hill but that’s a bit simplistic. I could paint one of the landslides which stand out against the greenery but as I was walking back toward my car I caught a glimpse of a pristine white high-rise building through the trees and I wondered if the encroachment of buildings on the Conservation area had played a part in hastening the erosion effect.
The headland is an interesting one. From a distance it looks like a solid mountain rounded in form and extending back from the beach quite a way. It is in fact a fingertip of a long run of lava stretching 20-30kms south west toward the Mt Warning volcano and it’s caldera of Tweed Valley fame. Both Currumbin and Tallebudgera Valley were formed in this way along with many others (Springbrook, Tambourine etc) extending right round Mt Warning, the volcanic plug left over after exploding the Tweed caldera leaving a crater and these finger-like lava flows all the way across the land to Burleigh Heads. Quite amazing really!
So how can the Burleigh Hill and Heads be represented in paint? I needed more walking.
This time I chose the southern ‘head’ and walked out along the groin with its tumble of huge black boulders. I was too close from this vantage point so I chose the path which runs south along the beach. As I walked and looked back for signs of erosion at sea level, the high rise buildings of Southport appeared behind the hill and the subject of my Low Tide painting ran along the horizon line way out to sea in the distance.
Now this was interesting – Erosion of a different kind. My sightline was gradually being eroded by the distant buildings and the magic point where hill meets sea was compromised. Perhaps this is the message of Burleigh Heads. Erosion in all its forms. I chose a view from a low sand dune up to the Burleigh headland, with people, beach and sky and took a photo. I may use it as reference in the final painting.
As you know I am preparing these experiences for chapters in my book, so I looked into the tramline being considered for this area. An extension line is due to be terminated in a cutting through the headland where four lanes of traffic now flow and I was struck with sadness that this area will be ‘interfered with’ even more. I chose to photograph the location of the terminus as this will be changed irrevocably if the tramline goes ahead. I’m not sure how to depict the deep vibration of cars and tramways, footfalls and machinery, which loosen the tenuous hold of gigantic rocks on the hilltop. Let alone the erosion of conservation values for the koalas and wildlife that live on the hill and the beautiful trees, shrubs and undergrowth. Pollution, noise, people and their waste – the list of erosion events grows daily. Such a shame.
My painting will be named “Erosion” and will try to capture the erosion of ocean against rock as well as erosion of conservation values and sightlines.