South Arm Peninsula, Tasmania

South Arm Peninsula is one of Hobart's forgotten places. Forming the eastern bank of the lower Derwent Estuary, this U-shaped peninsula is certainly popular with the surfing set, as the beaches on its southern shores are when Hobart's surfers head when they go seeking the perfect wave to ride. Those in the know are aware that Pipe Clay Lagoon near Cremorne produces some of Tasmania's supply of fine oysters. But many who seek an interesting day out don't venture down that way, and for many who do, the winding road beyond Clifton Beach seems to head nowhere, so they turn back, not realising what a relaxing time awaits them around the next bend or two.

The terrain is relatively flat so walking is easy for anyone with an average level of fitness. The view across the river back towards the city, with Mt Wellington forming a picturesque backdrop, is quite different to any you might see at other vantage points around the city. The waters are both calm and shallow, hence marginally warmer than other parts of Hobart, making the beaches ideal for young swimmers; places where children can swim without getting hypothermia.

The rows of social fishing boats on the shoreline of Opossum Bay are telltale signs that this is good fishing territory. There is an abundant supply of flathead in the river estuary or out into Storm Bay, or if you don't have a boat, the chances of you dangling a line for a jetting and catching some squid are high. If beachcombing is more your thing, the peninsula has a string of bays between the easily negotiated headlands, some of which are lined with an eclectic mix of houses, from original weekender shacks to brand new mansions. All have stunning views across the Derwent to Kingston, Tinderboxs and Blackmans Bay. Down on the beach you can do a little beachcombing, past pools filled with little fish and crustaceans.

Opossum Bay, the last settlement before you reach the end of the road, is only 43 km from the centre of Hobart, and takes around 40 minutes to drive to, so on a day trip there is plenty of time for some fishing, walking or just lazing around on the beach before having to head back to the city.


Lauderdale is situated on the eastern side of a thin Isthmus that connects the South Arm peninsula to the mainland. It is popular for fishing, boating and wind-surfing, and is close to the airport. Lauderdale is becoming increasingly popular as a place to live with young people, its relaxed beachside surroundings and lifestyle becoming increasingly appreciated.

The majority of Lauderdale's population live along Roches Beach, which faces Frederick Henry Bay. Along with nearby Seven Mile Beach, it is a popular residential area for people working in the Hobart CBD. A drive from Hobart to Lauderdale and then on to South Arm peninsula is a pleasant half day trip, and gives a different view of Hobart from the east bank of the Derwent estuary.

Lauderdale Beach is a popular suburban beach, which faces east and is sheltered from the southern swells and Tasmania s predominant south westerly winds. The southern section of the beach faces northeast, while the remaining beach north of Ralphs Bay Canal essentially faces east. The southern beach section is very protected and usually receives low waves, 0.5 m high.

Roches Beach

Roches Beach is located approximately 17 km east of Hobart on the western shores of Frederick Henry Bay. The beach is exposed to larger waves (0.5 - 1.0 m) than Lauderdale Beach that have travelled 20 km into Frederick Henry Bay. Roches usually has a narrow dry high tide beach, commonly containing cusps with a wider shallow low tide beach. Rips occasionally occur with surf and increase in strength when waves exceed 1 metre (generally during winter).

Lauderdale and Roches Beach is overlooked by Single Hill, which is just to the North. Beyond Single Hill is the town of Seven Mile Beach. The view from Single Hill gives a clear view of the town of Lauderdale.

Ralphs Bay Canal

Construction of the canal through Ralph's Bay Neck at Lauderdale resulted from deputations to Parliament in 1911, 1912 and 1913. After an aborted start on dredging in 1914, construction was further delayed by the First World War. Clamour from farmers and orchardists resulted in a contract being let in 1924 for a canal 3 metres deep and 10 metres wide at water level. Excavation proved difficult, storms filled the eastern end with sand, anticipated breakwaters in Frederick Henry Bay to prevent silting were too expensive, and the project was abandoned. The body of the canal has limited use for water activities, the dredged western approach is barely discernible and the eastern end is now blocked by a substantial land barrier. The original swing bridge has been replaced with a concrete culvert. Text: UTAS

South Arm Peninsula

South Arm peninsula is a U-shaped narrow neck of land which stretched south from Lauderdale, separating the River Derwent estuary on its western side from Frederick Henry Bay to the east.

The South Arm Peninsula Trail has been developed for both walkers and cyclists. It starts at the carpark opposite South Arm store follows alongside South Arm Road to the Opossum Bay store. A friendly family track for cycle riders and walkers. Stunning views, magnificent beaches, fishing, friendly people and history in abundance.

Clifton Beach is one of Hobart's most popular surfing beaches. Situated some 35Km SE of Hobart it is about a 30 min. drive from the city centre. Clifton Beach is the home of the Clifton Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. One side of the Clifton Beach peninsula faces across Pipe Clay Lagoon towards Cremorne and the other looks onto Frederick Henry Bay.

Clifton Beach

The central and northern part of the beach is backed by the Cape Deslacs Nature Reserve, which incorporates vegetated coastal dunes and bird breeding habitats. The beach is bordered by 40 m high Cape Deslacs in the northeast and 50 m high rocky cliffs in the south that run southeast for 3.5 km rising to 100 m high at Cape Contrariety. The beach faces southeast into Storm Bay exposing it to southerly swells. Waves average 1 to 1.5 m and maintain a moderately steep beach, fronted by a continuous bar which is cut by rips every 200 m during and following high waves, with permanent rips against the rocks at each end.

There is a pleasant 5 km coastal walk from the carpark at the eastern end of Clifton Beach to Cape Deslacs. Beyond the carpark the road is gated, but it can be walked to the Shearwater (Muttonbird) lookout. Alternatively, take the track to Clifton Beach then walk along it towards Cape Deslacs where there is a walking track leading up to the platform. From the platform backtrack to the road and take a bush track that goes gently up to the clifftops. The track then follows the cliff line, passing a junction then reaching a style.

A little known gem and a photographer's desight is a natural square window in the cliff face. A further 500 metres along there are good views back along the cliffs of Cape Deslacs. The cape was named on 8 May 1792, by French explorer Bruny D'Entrecasteaux after Hippolyte Des-Lacs, a crew member of D'Entrecasteaux's expedition vessel, Recherche.

Calverts Beach, to the south of Clifton Beach, is another popular surfing beach located 14 km from Lauderdale. Calverts Beach is adjacent to Hope Beach with Goats Bluff separating the two beaches. The name remembers Christopher Calvert jnr. who leased that part of the land now known as Arm End and lived in the house until he retired in 1914. The homestead quickly fell into disrepair, was vandalised and eventually burned down.


Cremorne is a sleepy coastal community situated some 30Km SE of Hobart it is about a 30 min. drive from the city centre. Cremorne is one of the very few locations in the area for launching boats onto Frederick Henry Bay. Cremorne faces across Pipe Clay lagoon towards Clifton Beach with a beach fronting onto Frederick Henry Bay.

Cremorne Beach is a popular beach for locals. It faces east and is sheltered from the southern swells and Tasmania's predominant south westerly winds. The point at the southern end of the beach is also a renowned fishing spot and a launching place for recreational fishing boats.

Seven Mile Beach

Seven Mile Beach, situated alongside the end of the Hobart International Airport's main runway, is a former holiday home area that offers one of the best 'walking' beaches in the Hobart area. TCurving along a natural sand spit, it extends east from the Seven Mile Beach residential area to Sandy Point. There is a general store at the western end of the beach, day use areas with picnic facilities, showers and toilets, a children's playground and a range of holiday accommodation.

Seven Mile Beach is the closest surfing beach to Hobart. Its long crescent of sand on the northern shores ofFrederick Henry Bay is located 15 km east of the city. The Esplanade reaches the southern end of the beach and Surf Road parallels the back of the beach for 3 km. Between the road and the beach is a forested beach reserve, and the Tangara Trail. At the southern end of Seven Mile Beach there is a store and beach boat launching area next to Acton Creek, which drains across the beach. Northeast along the beach are three day use area reserves. Day use area No.3 has the Parks and Wildlife South East Office.

The beach is 10 km long and essentially faces southeast, curving round to face south to south west at the eastern Sandy Point end. Sandy Point forms the eastern entrance to Pitt Water, a large open estuary behind the beach. The only settlement, called Seven Mile Beach, is toward the southern end. The beach usually has low to moderate waves, 0.5 to 1 m high, that have travelled 20 km into Frederick Henry Bay.

The beach usually has a narrow dry high tide beach, commonly containing cusps, with a wider shallow low tide beach. Rips occur with surf and increase in strength when waves exceed 1 metre. The mudflats of Five Mile Beach are located on the southern coastline of Pittwater, an internationally recognised area of environmental significance. This is a good area for easy, level walking as outlined in the companion booklet, 'Popular walks in Clarence'.

South Arm

The small community of South Arm is situated on the eastern shore of Halfmoon Bay on the South Arm Peninsula. The curving South Arm Beach faces west across the Derwent towards Taroona. There is a boat ramp and jetty on the rocks at the southern end of the beach. South Arm Beach is 2.5 km long and faces west. It is sheltered from swells travelling up the Derwent River by the headland at the southern end of the beach. Please park in the public parking areas provided.

Half Moon Bay Beach is located to the north of South Arm Beach. The beach faces southwest and can be exposed to swells during stormy weather.

Hope Beach

Hope Beach is a popular surfing beach located south east of South Arm, to the immediate east of Cape Direction. Surfers and locals generally call the east area of Hope Beach closest to Goats Bluff - the Wedge. The middle area of Hope Beach that is accessible is commonly referred to as'Sandpits' attributed to the sand mining in the area. The west access from Roaring Beach Road is referred to as RSL's. Vegetated coastal dunes back the entire beach.

A headland in the west and Goats Bluff in the east border the beach. The beach is 5.0 km long and faces southeast into Storm Bay exposing it to all southerly swells. Waves average 1 to 1.5 m and maintain a moderately steep beach, fronted by a continuous bar which is cut by rips every 100 m during and following high waves, with a permanent rip against the rocks at the eastern end.

Spectacular Betsey Island is located 1.2km offshore, directly in front of the eastern end of the beach. There are good views of the western shore, from Blackmans Bay to Mount Wellington.

Betsey Island

Betsey Island, along with the adjacent Little Betsey Island and Betsey Reef, forms a nature reserve around the entrance to the River Derwent. It is classified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International; it is an important site for little penguins with an estimated 15,000 pairs breeding there, short-tailed shearwaters, and black-faced cormorants. The northern part of the island is dominated by Tasmanian blue gum forest, the southern part is mainly sedgeland. and there is succulent salt marsh on the west. Few people land on Betsey Island, and permission to do so must be obtained from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart.

Betsey Island was first named Willaunez Island by Bruny D'Entrecasteaux in 1793 after Jean-Baptiste Philibert Willaumez, the 28-year old commander of the expedition ship, Recherche. Later in his life, Willaumez would rise to the rank of admiral of the First French Empire. Lieutenant John Hayes, on an exploring expedition to Van Diemen's Land for the British East India Company, explored the d'Entrecastreaux Channel and the River Derwent between April and June 1793. Unaware of French visit two months earlier, he is said to have named it Betsey Island after the ship Betsey, commanded by Captain Megson, a naval officer and one of his friends. Hayes also named Risdon Cove, Cornelian Bay and Mount Direction.
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Iron Pot Lighthouse

Ever since Matthew Flinders noted in the late 1700s that the rocks in Storm Bay created magnetic variations that affected compasses, entering the Derwent estuary has been hazardous. For nearly two hundred years the Iron Pot Lighthouse at South Arm has welcomed sailors to the mouth of the Derwent River. The structure was built following a request by Governor Arthur who, in 1830, suggested to the Hobart Port Control that a lighthouse be established after the wreck of the colonial trading ship 'Hope' in 1827. The Hope was wrecked opposite Bruny Island on the beach which now bears its name and soon became legendary as stories of the lost treasure onboard spread far and wide. It is likely that its name is derived from there being a whaling station close by, where a large iron pot was used to extract the whale oil from blubber, or that a whaler's pot filled with oil was originally burnt as a beacon. It was called Iron Pot island by the time James Kelly went past in 1816.

Iron Pot lighthouse from Cape Direction

The Iron Pot lighthouse is Australia's oldest existing tower. Although the Macquarie light in NSW was built earlier, in 1818, that tower was rebuilt in 1883. The tower on Iron Pot Island was first lit on September 16 1833. The lantern, manufactured in Hobart, was raised and held by halyards. Three convicts, John Booth, William Spendelon and John Knox were the first to tend the light. The island was visited weekly, but rations were supplied monthly. The keepers lived in tents until construction of a stone hut began in late November 1832. A permanent tower was designed by Civil Engineer, John Lee Archer. It was three storeys high, of rough rubble work, building in the perpendicular spars erected by Lieut. Hill and using the horizontal headpiece for the purpose of hoisting materials. The new light was lit for the first time on the 16th January 1833 and has shone every night since - focal plane 20 metres; three white flashes every 10 seconds, 12 metre square rubblestone tower with lantern and gallery, painted white with a single broad red horizontal band at the top of the tower.

The third house built on the Iron Pot, which stood between 1885 and 1921.(Supplied: Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office)

Keepers lived on the island from when the lighthouse was built until it became automated in 1921. A two-storey house was built in 1885 to house Irishman James Parkinson and his large family; it was the third house on the island. Parkinson, who lived there for about 15 years and had seven children, wrote home to his family in Ireland about his Tasmanian life, and the letters have survived. The bottom floor of the lighthouse was used as a school, but as they grew older they had to row across to South Arm, where the family established a garden and grew vegetables to be self sufficient. Ships would deliver supplies to the various keepers, sometimes having to throw them from the boat. If the weather was bad, the island's inhabitants would be stranded; a storm in 1890 brought waves as high as the house.

In January 1977 the lighthouse was converted to solar power running a Tideland ML300 light. This was the first time Solar power was used in an Australian Lighthouse. The keeper's houses have been demolished, however the foundation ruins survive. The Light is located on a small rocky island on the east side of the entrance to the Derwent Estuary about 25 km south of Hobart. Accessible only by boat; visible distantly from the northern end of Bruny Island. Site and tower closed.

Sea kayakers regularly paddle around the island and often land. Recreational diving takes place around the island. Day visitors use the island during the summer months, especially as a vantage point for the arrival of the Sydney-to-Hobart yachts. The island has historical significance and is an important black-faced cormorant breeding site for the region. It also plays an important role as an intermittent breeding site for Caspian and crested terns.

Cape Direction

Cape Direction marks the south-western tip of South West Peninsula and the 4 km wide south-east entrance to the Derwent Estauary. Much of the Cape and Fort Hill - on the cape - are part of a military reserve and public access is prohibited.

With the outbreak of World War II, the Department of Defence acquired land at Cape Direction, to the south of South Arm. At first, the land was used purely as a training ground, with mock battles that were disruptive to locals being fought day and night. A gun emplacement was constructed with one four-inch (102 mm) gun. Several huts to house men were constructed there as well as a complicated underground tunnel and command structure. It was named Fort Direction. Local residents recall barbed wire still surrounding the site well after the war and the site's de-commissioning. Nearby Goat Bluff was also the location of further underground tunnel systems. In 1940 with the construction of the camp at Fort Direction, water and supplies had to be brought in by the river steamers.

A 20,000 gallon concrete tank was built just below the Fort Direction road directly above the jetty. A four inch cast iron pipe line was laid under ground from the jetty to this holding tank, and with the installation of the electric driven pumps water was transferred from the river craft to the tank. Since the mid 1970s the site's main use has been as a munitions storage facility and cadet training.

Cape Deliverance

Cape Deliverance is to the south of South Arm, not far from Cape Direction. Views across the 4km wide south-east entrance of the Derwent Estuary extend to Pierson's Point and the Tinderbox area. Dominating Cape Deliverance is the Lone Pine War Memorial. In an arc are seven pillars, on each was the name of the seven Australian servicemen who were awarded the Victoria Cross as a result of their actions at the Battle of Lone Pine near Gallipoli. This was the significant battle fought between Australian and Ottoman Empire forces during the First World War between 6 and 10 August 1915. This open, somewhat isolated spot was considered byb the RSL to be a particularly appropriate site for such a memorial because the physical nature of the location and its views are reminiscent of the Dardenelles.

Lone Pine Memorial

To the north of the cape is Fort Beach, so named because it was here that the equipment and armoury installed on Cape Direction during World War II was brought by boat and landed. The sheltered beach has rocky headlands at both ends. The beach is sheltered from swells coming up the Derwent River due to the Cape Deliverance headland at the southern end, the aspect of the beach and Bruny Island. The beach faces southwest.

Opossum Bay

Opossum Bay is an attractive beachside hamlet on South Arm, on the east bank of the River Derwent near the river mouth. It has the advantage of being not too distant from the city while being at the end of the line. Opossum Bay has expansive views across the Derwent River channel to Kingston and the Alum Cliffs at Taroona, with Mt. Wellington beyond. Opossum Bay Beach is a sheltered beach and a great spot for a picnic. The beach is usually sheltered from southern ocean swells by the rocky headland at the southern end of the beach but can be exposed to some swells during stormy westerly weather.

Shelly Beach is reached via an access track at the end of Bangor Road.

The beach is located in Ralphs Bay and faces northeast, receiving very little swell except that created by strong winds. This is a pleasant beach for walking, paddling and bird watching. As suggested by its name, there are many shells along the beach.

Mary Ann Bay

Mary Ann Bay, near the northern tip of the South Arm peninsula, faces northwest and is sheltered from southern ocean swells by White Rock Point. However the beach can be exposed to swells during stormy weather. There are spectacular views to Kingston in the west, Mount Wellington in the northwest and much of the eastern shore coastline to the north. Parking is available at the end of Spitfarm Road. There is no vehicle access from here to the beach, which is located to the north northwest. Walk through a pedestrian gate and follow the rough vehicle track by foot around the western perimeter of the reserve for approximately 2 km.

Gellibrand Point

Gellibrand Point is the northern tip of South Arm. On the point is Gellibrand Vault, the burial site of William Gellibrand who was the original grantee at South Arm. Along this section of coastline are good views of Mount Wellington and Taroona where the shot tower is visible.

Mitchells Beach

Mitchells Beach is located on the south western side of Arm End and can be exposed to swells travelling up the Derwent River during stormy weather. This is a pleasant beach in fine weather with spectacular views south to Bruny Island and west to Kingston. Park at the end of Spitfarm Road, and walk through a pedestrian gate. The beach is located 200m to the west along a rough vehicle track and over the dunes.

Glenvar Beach is a sheltered beach, suitable for family picnics, walking, jogging and water activities. The beach is usually sheltered from southern ocean swells by its southern headland but can be exposed to swells during stormy south westerly weather. There are good views of the western shore, from Blackmans Bay to Mount Wellington.

Frederick Henry Bay

The large bay to the east of South Arm Peninsula is Frederick Henry Bay. This name was originally given to what is now known as Blackman Bay near Dunalley by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman on 6 December, 1642. It was at Blackman Bay on 3rd December 1642 that Tasman's ship's carpenter, Peter Jacobsen, volunteered to swim ashore with a pole on which was the Prince's flag, which he planted on the shore of the bay. In doing so, Tasman had taken possession of Van Diemen's Land for the Dutch.

The name honours Dutch Prince Frederick Henrijk. Frederick Henry, or Frederik Hendrik in Dutch (29 January 1584 -14 March 1647), was the sovereign Prince of Orange and stadtholder of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, and Overijssel from 1625 to 1647. The "Period of Frederick Henry," as it is usually styled by Dutch writers, is generally accounted the golden age of the republic. It was marked by great military and naval triumphs, by worldwide maritime and commercial expansion, and by a wonderful outburst of activity in the domains of art and literature.

About Prince Frederick Henrijk

Which bay in the area was in fact Frederick Henry Bay was a matter of some confusion for many years. Though Abel Tasman coined the name, he never actually sailed into the bay which today bears his sovereign's name, nor did he even enter it. The first European to enter and explore it was in fact Frenchman Bruni d'Entrecasteaux in 1792-93. He named it Baie du Nord (North Bay) though this name was never used. Twenty years earlier, Captain Tobias Furneaux had become the first Englishman in Tasmanian waters. From South West Cape he had sailed eastward, intending to make Tasman's anchorage in Frederick Henry Bay. Reaching the South Cape, he mistook it for the Boreel Islands, south of Bruny, and mistook the entrance of D'Entrecasteaux Channel for Tasman's Storm Bay. The south point of Bruny he mistook for Tasman's Island (the Pillar) and called it Tasman's Head.

He anchored in what he thought was Tasman's Fredrick Henricx Bay, but in reality he was in Tasman's 'Storm Bay', which would later be named Adventure Bay by James Cook after Furneaux's ship HMS Adventure. Furneaux named the northern cape of Adventure Bay 'Cape Frederick Henry' (today's Cape Queen Elizabeth). It was marked by that name on early charts, a name given by Abel Tasman, but not to this headland.

Matthew Flinders further confused things by giving the name Frederick Henry Bay to Adventure Bay on his 1800 and 1801 charts. In 1814, while correcting them before publication, Flinders noted that the bay Furneaux anchored in was in fact Cook's Adventure Bay, so he placed and named Storm Bay and Frederick Henry Bay in the locations by which they are known today, perpetuating Furneaux's misidentification of Tasman's Storm Bay, and not correctly identifying Tasman's Frederick Henrijk Bay either. Confused? So was Flinders!

Frederick Henry Bay is accessible via Storm Bay from the south, and provides further access to Norfolk Bay to its east. The bay contains Seven Mile Beach on its northern shores, the closest surfing beach to Hobart.

On 10 March 1946 a Douglas DC-3 aircraft operated by Australian National Airways departed from Cambridge Aerodrome with a crew of 4 and 21 passengers for Essendon Airport. Less than 2 minutes after take-off the aircraft crashed into Frederick Henry Bay, killing all on board. At the time it was Australia's worst civil aviation accident.

Ralphs Bay

Ralphs Bay is the strech of water to the west of Lauderdale which is almost totally encircles by South Arm Peninsula. It was named after a sea captain, William Ralph. Aided by Calcutta merchants, Lieutenant John Hayes, a marine officer of the Indian Naval Services, fitted out two ships, the Duke of Clarence, and a sister ship, the Duchess of Bengal, the latter commanded by Ralph, and embarked on a private expedition in 1793 the sponsors hoped would capture some of the spice market. The vessels sailed on 6 February, 1793. Winds drove them south towards Van Diemen's Land.

The two ships entered Storm Bay, anchoring at Oyster Cove where they replenished their supply of water, food (in the form of game) and wood. During his stay, Hayes explored the River Derwent River as far as New Norfolk, the further most point up the river that a white man had travelled, then turned back. Hayes named many sites, including the Derwent, as its stillness reminded him of Derwentwater in the English Lake District; Cornelian Bay; Risdon Cove, after William Risdon, Second Officer in the Duke of Clarence; and Ralphs Bay after William Ralph, his co-captain.

Brief History of South Arm

Prior to European settlement, the Opossum Bay region was inhabited by a band of Aborigines that were part of the Oyster Bay tribe. Living near the coast, they ate what they could catch. Native animals, sea birds and their eggs and bountiful shellfish were easily accessible. There are a number of middens in the area.

In 1824 William Gellibrand and his son Joseph arrived in Van Diemen’s Land. William was a well-connected settler and was granted 2000 acres of land at South Arm and assigned ten convicts. Over the years many convicts, men and women, served under him. He was known for the care he showed them, providing them with a comfortable hut and clothing that did not distinguish them as prisoners. William helped some convicts to establish a fresh start giving them the opportunity to raise families and contribute to founding the community of South Arm.

Shortly after his arrival William built a home made of cedar with sandstone brick foundations on Arm End. William also built his own tomb. Miss Jane Mortimer, a regular visitor to the homestead, mentioned that every morning after breakfast William went to dig the vault located just below the house at the top of the dunes beneath she oaks, overlooking Mary Ann Bay. He liked to spend sunny afternoons sitting on it reading. He must have had a strong sense of attachment to this place.

William Gellibrand was a significant figure in Colonial society. He was a merchant and exporter and served as a Justice of Peace. William and his descendants were active in Tasmanian social and government circles. Joseph Gellibrand became Tasmania’s first Attorney General. Three of Joseph’s sons became politicians. William died in 1840 aged 75 and was buried at the Vault. Two of his grandsons are also buried in the vault.

Arm End then passed to his grandson George Gellibrand who, after leasing out some of the land, placed it on the market in 1844. He described it as being studded with the tallest trees in the colony and having the very best winery on the island, covering two acres of fertile ground with full bearing fruit. Fruit trees were grown and mulberries did very well.