What to do on a sunny Sunday but drive to the beach. Not a relaxing well-behaved beach, though, where a dip, a lie down, and a gentle stroll are par for the course. Here on the east coast of the South Island around Banks Peninsula way we don’t rate very highly in the picture-postcard-type of beach, so going in search for one of those is bound to end in disappointment. Admittedly, not all the beaches dismay the pleasure-seeker, most are respectable enough, but some are just not tame. Birdlings Flat is just such a one.
Birdlings Flat is around 45 mins drive south of Christchurch, and was named after the Birdling family, who were the first European settlers to farm the area. There are still Birdlings living in the area today. The original Māori name for the area is Te Mata Hapuku. It used to take a little less time to drive here, but the speed limit on the winding road from Christchurch to Akaroa, with Birdlings Flat being about halfway, got dropped to 80 kph in September 2022 for safety.
Birdlings Flat is also a little township with roughly 200 or so permanent residents. There is no shop, although there is a ‘book drop and vege share’ shed, along with community notice board shed.
The nearest pub and shop for groceries is at Little River, a 10 or 12 minute drive away. I’m quite fond of the area around this neck of the woods, which may be partly to do with coming to stay on one of the farms in the surrounding hills during school holidays where my older sister worked for a couple of years in her late teens. I wrote a little bit about that in a previous blogpost Delighting in Little River’s library – A B’Old Woman (aboldwoman.com). I’ve sometimes thought I wouldn’t mind living around here, but knowing myself as I do, I think I also know enough to leave that thought in the realms of a pleasant fantasy where I can visit from time to time, but not stay.
In addition to the roadside sheds, there are community rooms, public toilet, and a children’s playground, complete with a water tank in a tower.
Did I mention the beach wasn’t tame? It looks tame enough in these pictures, but it’s windy, stony, and has one helluva drop just where the waves hit the shore. They break in a spectacular fashion when the water hits that ledge, and there’s a mighty suction as it rolls back out again. Yes, it has caught more than one person off-guard. But there’s something about the place, which – if I might be so whimsical – makes one’s spirit feel free.
Just a little further back from the beach where the township resides, there’s less wind and the day less boisterous.
Of course, it’s almost compulsory to bring stones back from a walk along Birdlings Flat beach to put on the garden, but I also brought a bit of driftwood which had the look of a (truncated) three-eyed eel about it 😊
I noticed a wee art and craft gallery at Birdlings Flat, as well. I’m not sure how long it’s been there, but I left off exploring it today as an excuse to go back another day. Not that I really need one.
4 thoughts on “This beach doesn’t play nice”
Definitely worth going back to explore further – Ruth
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It’s always nice to see pics of my old stomping ground … or close enough anyway as I’ve never visited Birdlings Flat.
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A lot of beaches along the Pacific are like that, gray and rocky, with rough, dangerous surf. There’s probably a geological (or oceanographic?) explanation for it, but I was surprised the first time I saw a beach along the Atlantic coast of North America: fine white sand, a gentle, lapping surf, cool but not freezing cold water (people were actually swimming in it, which you rarely see in the Pacific Northwest), the rocks far out to sea if there were any at all. I know the US enjoys the Atlantic’s current coming from the warming south, while the PNW gets slapped by a current coming down from Alaska and the Arctic. Maybe something similar is playing in Birdlings Flat, though I find these kind of beaches soothing in a wild, isolated way.
I also like collecting rocks and driftwood from the beach. There are some beaches in California where they ask you not to take anything, I suppose because there are too many visitors who virtually strip the land of anything remotely pretty. But from the places where there are few visitors and no prohibitions, I love bringing home a sea-polished rock or piece of wood, sometimes to adorn my garden, but more often to sit on a bookshelf and remind me of the beach. Which I would also like to retire to, except the quiet and lack of things to do besides beachcombing would make me squirrely!
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Yes, I’d have to agree with you that these beaches are soothing in a wild, isolated sort of way. Maybe it’s because we can see that they don’t follow any ‘rules’ and that feels liberating for a while.
It crossed my mind, too, about the appropriateness of collecting the stones, and if one day there’ll be a sign there not to do that. For the moment, however, I’m picking that the visitor numbers aren’t high enough to need it, and probably won’t be for a long time, if ever.
I think to live in a place like this, one would need to be the sort of person who likes living very ‘close’ to the land and sea. By that, I mean that you interact with them to the extent that they are an integral part of your life. Like you, though, I gravitate towards different things, so I know it wouldn’t suit me in reality to live there.
Perhaps when my three-eyed eel dries out, I’ll bring it in to peek over a bookcase shelf, too 🙂
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