Holiday time again for myself and Ghita when she jumped on a plane and flew over to visit. Two weeks is never enough but due to our work commitments we have to make do…..for now.
Deciding what to do in that 2 weeks is tough. Doing as much as we can and having some downtime as well takes a little figuring out but regardless, we make it work.
One thing we love to do is go to the Drive-Ins . I know I wrote about it after our last holiday, but to us it can’t be beat. Great value, great food and relaxing in the car, our own space. This time we went for the double, “Jack Reacher: never go back” and “Inferno”. And this time around we put our inflatable mattress in the back of the car, backed it up to the screen and just laid back to watch Jack Reacher while munching on hot fries, popcorn and coke. A tip….. getting to the Drive-In early means getting a primo spot just where you want. I like to be dead centre of the screen of course somewhere from the middle to the rear of the parking area. Perfect! By the time Inferno started it had grown a little chilly so we retired to the front seats where it was a little warmer. It’s still spring here in Melbourne(might be summer by the time I get this post finished lol). The days are warmer but the nights can still get bloody cold, so if you want to be outdoors, rug up!
We had our plans cancelled one day so we had to find something to do and see. Fort Nepean was the place we chose as it was somewhere I hadn’t been to myself. In fact I barely knew it was there. Located in the “Point Nepean National Park”, I knew there was something military related there but I didn’t know it was accessible by the public. Point Nepean National Park is right down the end of the Mornington Peninsula just down past Portsea, about an hour from our house in the South-East suburbs. Well, it’s a big place so expect to do some walking. However there is an option to ride your pushbike most of the way or catch the shuttle bus to get to Fort Nepean. We chose to walk not realizing just how far you have to walk. From the Gunner’s Cottage carpark it’s 2.8kms to reach Fort Nepean with us choosing to take the scenic route past “Observatory Point” and across to “Cheviot Hill”
There is a lot of history in this area and there is signboards everywhere giving explanations and a little history on the various placements.
Cheviot Hill has a gun placement here installed in 1942 during WW2. One of the many guns in this area, the gun here at Cheviot Hill was capable of firing projectiles more than 9kms. The gun is gone but the shield remains where it was used to protect the gun from aircraft attack. The gunners received their orders from the nearby Battery Observation Post. there was also two remote searchlights housed in concrete buildings. One is visible from Cheviot Hill, the other not.
Nearby Cheviot Beach is most famous here as the beach that one of our Prime Minister’s “Harold Holt” disappeared whilst swimming. Why anyone would choose to swim here has got me buggered as it’s very rough along this coastline. There is a memorial monument up the road a little in remembrance of Holt. From memory, it’s actually prohibited to swim here because of the dangerous rips, rocks and reefs.
Cheviot beach got it’s name from the steamer ship SS Cheviot” which was shipwrecked along this coastline in 1887 after the propeller was disabled and it broke up against the rocks. 35 lives were lost from this shipwreck with a few surviving and rescued by artillerymen from the nearby forts and other rescuers from Queenscliff.
Travelling down the road further we came to “The Eagle’s Nest”. Another gun placement this time housing a 10″ disappearing gun on a hydropneumatic carriage situated at the highest point of the park. After firing, this gun recoiled below the parapet for re-loading in safety. Again the gun is long gone but to walk around the pit and through some of the accessible tunnels was pretty cool. It’s very impressive what we were capable of back in the late 1800’s. It’s said that the defenses to Port Phillip Bay were the best in the southern hemisphere.
One thing we noticed while exploring the park was a lot of warning signs for possible unexploded bombs. Did they lose a few?? Most of the walking tracks are fenced off so I think you’d be pretty stupid to risk it and go over the fences! I know there used to be armed forces training in this park up until around 1985 but there is a LARGE area of the park that has these warning signs.
Fort Pearce is the first of the two forts in the park that we visited. Built around 1911 it housed a couple of 6″ Mark VII guns with a firing range of 12.5 kms. Fort Pearce was in use by the Army up until 1942 when it was decided it was too vulnerable to air attack. The barracks nearby were still used until 1978 for school cadet training. The barracks fell into disrepair after that before Parks Victoria demolished the buildings for safety reasons(asbestos). Now all that remains is the floorplan and a couple of small building that show images of what once was.
Now it’s a bit of a walk between the two forts and on this day we had to dodge rain showers and the wind coming off of Bass Strait was so strong at times we had trouble walking lol. Oh well, we must soldier on. There is a shuttle bus that goes back and fort from the carpark to Fort Nepean but in the whole time we were there, we only saw it once. If you choose to ride your pushbike, you can go as far as Fort Pearce but after that you have to leg it.
The final destination on this little adventure, Fort Nepean is right at the tip of Port Phillip Bay facing across towards Queenscliff and Fort Queenscliff. Port Phillip Bay was well protected. Fort Nepean is quite large compared to Fort Pearce with several gun emplacements, barracks and an engine house to generate electricity. Fort Nepean is well lit in most places with audio recordings to listen to in various rooms. Walking through the tunnels and gun emplacements gives you a good idea of the conditions back when the fort was in use. From memory there is six different gun encampments with an ever-changing variety of guns over the years. Everything from 80 pounder Rifled Muzzle Loading guns in 1878 through to light anti-aircraft guns in 1939. The guns only fired in anger a couple of times, one being 5 August 1914 when the German ship SS Pfalz tried to leave Port Phillip Bay just after war was declared. The orders were “stop it or sink it”. After ignoring signals to stop a warning shot was fired across the ships bow. Common sense prevailed and the ship returned to Portsea where the ship and it’s crew were arrested.
On 4 September 1939 the A1 gun fired a warning shot across the bow of a ship that failed to identify itself. The ship then identified itself as the SS Woniora, an Australian freighter.
Walk outside and downstairs to the engine room you can still smell the kero and oil that was used in the generators. Going outside you can see the latrine/toilet which overhangs the rocks and waters edge. Not much to see but makes me wonder whether the soldiers basically did their business straight into the ocean. Fort Nepean is very impressive, even in it’s current state and if you’re ever down this way, stop in, take a stroll or a ride and check out Point Nepean National Park.
There has to be some thanks to some people here. A dedicated band of volunteers spent years removing sand and vegetation from the network of tunnels, gun emplacements and magazines. Without them there might’ve been nothing to see.
After our long walk back to the carpark, we were knackered(tired to all you readers OS). It had gotten cold and the wind was still relentless so once back in the car we took the scenic route back home and a nice warm bath.
Well readers, I’ll leave it here for now. Next time we’re heading up to Gippsland for a few days…….
Wookie Out 🙂