Walker’s been going coastal for 40 years

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Author Graham Patterson.

Coast with the most: Avid bushwalker Graham Patterson has walked Victoria’s coastline between South Australia and Wilsons Promontory, and written the first in a series of books about his journeys. Picture: Gary Sissons

GRAHAM Patterson’s ambition to walk the entire coastline of Victoria including Port Phillip had an inauspicious start.

In the early 1970s he decided to walk from Port Fairy to Portland but part-way along the route ended up struggling out to the road and hitch-hiking into Portland to catch the train back to Melbourne.

“It was only about two inches on the map and looked easy,” he said.

“But I was under-prepared, young and not very smart: I carried too much in my backpack but not enough water and had to give up.”

Some time later, the avid bushwalker decided to walk the whole Victorian coast but has never again been unprepared.

During the walks he began to wonder about what he was seeing. What are these animals and plants? How was the rock layer in that cliff formed? What was this place like 150 years ago?

Mr Patterson’s inquiring mind and his adventures on the coast over all those years have led to him self-publishing a book, Coastal guide to nature and history – Port Phillip Bay, the first in what he hopes will be a series covering all of the state’s coast with Western Port likely to be his next book.

He started walking sections of Port Phillip’s coast about 15 years ago and has covered all 260 kilometres.

The guide is divided into four sections: Point Lonsdale to Geelong, Avalon to Williamstown, Port Melbourne to Frankston, and Mt Eliza to Point Nepean.

It contains general walking and safety advice, Aboriginal and European history, coastal animals and plants, landforms, and management.

Mr Patterson, who started walking the coast in his mid-20s and is now in his mid-50s, spent hours researching in libraries, historical societies and talking with experts.

He also returned to places previously walked after having the book idea to take photos and has included historic images.

“There are fascinating stories of human enterprise such as Wilbraham Liardet’s original tourism business at Port Melbourne, coastal industries such as the cement factory at Fossil Beach near Mornington in the 1860s, and a depot at Altona for exporting explosives,” he said.

The book covers the creation of Port Phillip and its repeated filling and emptying over millions of years, and the fiery formation of the volcanic western shore.
“Some parts of the coast are not easy to reach, and maps and advice will help people find them.”

Mr Patterson told The News he had walked about three-quarters of the state’s coast.

“I’ve walked every kilometre between South Australia and Wilsons Promontory, and some stretches further east. Well, almost – I paddled a kayak past some mangrove shores, and I missed a few places where access to the coast is forbidden. I think I’ll need another lifetime to tick off the rest of the shoreline.”

- Coastal guide to nature and history – Port Phillip Bay by Graham Patterson, 172 pages, paperback, $30 post-free from www.coastalguidebooks.net.au

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