Five Mile Beach (NSW28616)

Beach trip report

General Location Jervis Bay
Alternative Name Bherwerre Beach
Aboriginal Tribe/Language Group Dhurga language
Access to beach 400m walking track from Cave Beach Campsite and vehicle access near Sussex Inlet
Beach Classification Wave Dominated – Intermediate – Rhythmic bar and beach
Start Date/Time 29 Mar 2017 06:44 (before sunrise)
Start Location (inc Lat/Log) S35° 09.800’ E150° 39.749’
End Date/Time 29 Mar 2017 09:51
End Location (inc Lat/Log) S35° 11.002’ E150° 35.693’
Mode/s of Travel Bike/walk
Record Distance Travelled 7.4 km
Location of Sand Sample (lat/Long) S35° 10.108’ E150° 37.756’

Having successfully completed my first mile beach the previous day, I was eager to commence my next challenge. This beach is commonly referred to as Bherwerre Beach however was listed in Geoscience Australia’s Place Name Search as Five Mile Beach. It is located inside the Jervis Bay Territory which is officially administered by the Australian Capital Territory. Technically with this beach in the mix, it enables me to say, “I will visit a mile beach in each State and Territory of Australia”. 

Five Mile or Bherwerre Beach is the longest, highest energy beach on the south coast. The 7km long beach occupies much of Wreck Bay, a 9km wide south-facing bay bordered by St Georges Head to the east. Sailing ships heading up to Sydney were wary of this beach as they endeavored to stay far enough seaward to clear Jervis Bay and its eastern heads. The beach is bordered by a 30m high rocky headland in the east and the mouth of Sussex Inlet to the west, while it is backed by the largest transgressive dunes south of the Myall Lakes. The beach can be reached on foot via a 400m long walking track from the Cave Beach Camping Ground, and in the south off gravel road that leads to the small camps at Christian Minde and Lumeah. The beach in between can only be accessed on foot. The beach receives all swell out of the east and southeast with the waves averaging 1.6m. These combine with the fine to medium beach sand produce a double bar system the length of the beach. The inner bar is usually attached and cut by rips every 200-300m resulting in up to 30 rips along the beach, while the outer bar has more widely spaced rips and a deep trough. There is a permanent rip against the northern rocks, while at the southern end the shifting tidal shoals and channels of Sussex Inlet create additional variations in the surf. There has been some interesting events associated with the beach two historic wrecks:

The Convict Transport Hive and Schooner Blackbird Wreck

Midway along the beach and buried in the sand of the surf zone lies the remains of The Hive – a convict transport ship wrecked in 1835. The 200 convicts and the bounty of gold on the vessel were got ashore and eventually returned to Sydney.  The Schooner Blackbird also grounded on the same beach attempting to salvage cargo and stores left on the beach from the Hive. Further details and Maritime Archaeological Reports NSW Heritage  The convict ship Hive (1820-1835)

The Mokau Ship Wreck

The wreck of the Mokau lies under sand near entrance to Sussex Inlet, Wreck Bay. Periodically exposed. A wooden screw steamer, 194 tons gross, 35.05m length, built at Balmain, Sydney 1901. Register of British Shipping, Sydney, folio 42 of 1901, Official No. 112543. Driven aground on 26 January 1922.”

I rose from bed at 0600 and quietly wheeled the trusty mountain bike out of the Cave Beach Campsite before first light; not wishing to disturb Joanne or any of the other young campers from their slumber, using a headlamp to show the way, I pushed the bike along the narrow awkward bush track down to the eastern end of Five Mile (Bherwerre) Beach. When arriving on the beach I was greeted, in the darkness, by a friendly elderly fisherman. He cheerfully advising me it would be a great morning for a ride on the beach. I in turn, wished him success in his morning angling, both of us obviously expecting clear skies, a warm day, calm seas and light winds. We would not be disappointed.

I commenced my beach expedition, peddling off down the beach at 0644, with the very first indications of a pending sunrise behind. Low tide was at 0300 and high tide was predicted to be 0915 so there was no time for dawdling. Sand conditions at the start were excellent for riding, it wasn’t long and I was greeted with a spectacular sunrise over the Jervis Bay Territory and by 0700 I had completed 3.2km. Expecting I was close to half way, I stopped collected my beach sand sample thinking I had plenty of time to burn, I stopped and had a leisurely swim in the surf, body surfing in the gentle waves. After about 30 minutes of way too much fun, I dried off in the warm sun and recommenced my bike ride again.

I stopped again after a further 300-400 metres, still thinking I had plenty of time, it would be good to experiment with tyre pressures. Taking the earlier advice from the young bike mechanic at anaconda, back in Canberra, I let some air out of my tyres. Riding higher up the beach profile, further away from the breaking waves, the sand was softer and the lower pressure seemed to handle the conditions slightly better, even if it required a little more effort on my part. In a few days time I would be tackling the mighty Ninety Mile Beach in Victoria and I thought this was important testing and training. It was all going so well, I was 1km further down the beach, full of confidence, I was becoming the master of beach bike riding and Ninety Mile Beach was not looming as such a fearful conquest. However, a few minutes later suddenly pushing on the peddles became a real challenge, I look at the condition of the sand it didn’t look that bad, so I stopped looked down at my rear tyre, it was completely flat.

My next challenge, a flat tyre, I had my tube repair kit and bike pump; so how hard could this be. Calmly, I found a good spot on the gentle sand and in the warming morning sun, I sat down to examine the damage to my rear tube. [BTW, I wasn’t carrying a spare tube on this beach ride, something that would change before attempting Ninety Mile Beach.] I remove the tube from the rear wheel and on close examination, to my dismay, I discovered a significant perforation situated at the base of the valve stem. I realised that my idea of “little bit of air out of my tyres” was obviously way off the mark. The lowered tyre pressure cause the valve stem to wobble around in wheel rim and I caused a hole to rub through in a extremely difficult location to affect a repair. After a hour, a complete box of patches, all the rubber cement used, I still could not affect a complete seal. I basically conceded and by then the incoming tide had consumed most of the good compact riding sand anyway. With about 2.6km to go and time running out, I proceeded to push my bike to the end of Five Mile Beach. I only managed to get about 400m further on when the rear wheel fell off. Apparently, I hadn’t tightened it back on the bike correctly in my haste to get moving again.

Nearer the end, I met a not so friendly fisherman, who didn’t seem to offer much sympathy for my plight, so I kept on going. I arrived at the end at Sussex Inlet at 0951, having arrived just nine minutes before the agreed meeting time with Joanne.  It was here that I saw my first bit of beach art, which I awarded a 4 out of 10 score. I have a long-time interest in beach art and hope to photograph and give my appreciation on many more works of beach art as our journey continues.

After reviewing this, well average work of beach art, I took my mobile phone out of its special location in the bike pouch, only to find I had no reception. This was not good, after having a good look around I also had no obvious track or path to use to exit beach, the dunes and vegetation seemed difficult to make passage through. So my dilemma, no communications, no track to follow to meet up with Joanne, my immediate thoughts were; Happy wife, happy life, this is not happening! Without panicking I proceeded up the Inlet for about 400m having abandon the bike on the beach in search for Joanne. I entered a private cabin facility which I can only believe had something to do with the mining, railway workers union of NSW. I think this was next door to the advertised Bay of Plenty Lodges. After wandering around for about 30 minutes I eventually located some friendly people who helped me establish communications with Joanne.  Joanne at that time was on the beach waiting for me, she had found a vehicle track to the beach about 500m further back from the Sussex inlet end, near where I met, the not so friendly, fisherman.

So, ended this apparent leisurely ride with quite a few lessons learnt. With my tail between my legs and a firm lecture from my devoted support crew, a few ground rules were set in place for all future beach expeditions. I was to always carry a spare bike tube, satellite phone and would be required to report in, to Joanne, on the hour every hour. We also had to plan our meeting points more carefully and alternative plans if things went pear shaped. In many respects, this was a good practice run for the beaches to come, especially Ninety Mile Beach in East Gippsland, Victoria.

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