Arm End is the northernmost tip of the South Arm peninsula, which sits near the mouth of the River Derwent, south east of Hobart.
While I had visited the area many times (relatives lived at South Arm during the 1970s), I had never ventured beyond Opossum Bay beach. However, at the suggestion of a friend, I did venture there recently and enjoyed a terrific late-afternoon walk around this roughly 7.5km circuit track, which offers fantastic views in most directions, and particularly north up the Derwent estuary towards Mount Wellington, the Tasman Bridge and Mount Direction.
In the early days of the colony, the entire South Arm peninsula was granted to William Gellibrand, a well-connected merchant, who established a home and farm at Arm End, and prepared his own buriel vault, which he occupied upon his death in 1840 (two of his grandsons also are buried in the vault, which sits at the edge of Mary Anne Bay on the western side of the Arm). A comprehensive historical overview of Gellibrand and the convicts who worked for him and elsewhere in the South Arm area has been prepared by historical researchers Penelope Marshall and Alan Townsend.
The vault sits below a ridge, part way down a steep embankment, and a sigh at the top asks that visitors do not attempt to reach it for the sake of their own safety and to preserve erosion remediation works recently carried out. The sign gives the inscription and historical details of Gellibrand and his descendents buried therein. The inscription reads
In Respectful Memory of WILLIAM GELLIBRAND ESQUIRE J.P. The original grantee of SOUTH ARM and father of the first Attorney General of this Colony. Who died at HOBART TOWN 21st Sept. 1840 aged 75 years. After an illness of acute pain and suffering which he bere with Christian Submission and resignation. His Mortal remains lie in this Vault beneath erected under his own direction and superintendence. He was courteous and affable in his disposition Benevolent and in his charge and generous in Generous his character and of uncompromising integrity of purpose.
No-one has lived on Arm End for more than a century, although there is evidence of past gardens, including at the time of my visit, a Century Plan (agave americana) that was about to flower (these live for decades before flowering once, then dying).
The property was returned to public ownership in 1995, and has been managed by the Parks and Wildlife service. It has now been leased by a developer who plans to create a golf course on the land. Details of their proposal are published on the website.
A community group, Friends of the Arm, formed to protect the public interest and access to the property. Their website has comprehensive details of the area’s history and wildlife, as well as details of their negotiations on access in future.
A walking map and details for the circuit are available from the Clarence Council website, although these don’t give much information. For example, the Friends of the Arm ask that visitors do not walk out on to The Spit on the Eastern side of the Arm, as it is a significant rookery for seabirds.
The Arm End Circuit is certainly a walk I would recommend. I’m not sure what the timeframe on the golf course development is, but it’s definitely worth taking a look before that happens.