#AToZChallengeJamaica: H is for Hellshire


In the 1980s, Hellshire was the playground of uptown Kingston. Every Saturday morning, a phalanx of UWI lecturers sunbathed and gossiped on wooden benches at the top. Lower down, families played together. We waited for the fishing boats to come in, bought fish and took it home. What a life!

All that is gone now, although the fish and festival vendors remain. The wide white sand beach of thirty years ago has vanished – due to various man-made environmental factors: Dynamiting of fish on the reef, destruction of mangroves, unplanned illegal structures on the beach, pollution and climate change (sea level rise and storms).

Recently, we drove straight past the non-beach, and entered a magical, wild place I had never visited before. The Hellshire Hills were originally settled by the Tainos (Arawaks), and runaway slaves later lived there. Some European settlers were there in the eighteenth century, but it was deserted by the nineteenth again. Now there is “development”: big houses looking like iced cakes (where do they get water?) Beyond is a rare landscape of dry limestone forest – thorn bushes, cacti, brackish ponds, tiny flowers, sink holes, caves – a remarkable ecosystem.

We arrived early on a Sunday morning to watch birds. The yellow cliffs glowed. Waves sighed on the rocks.

I hope the Hellshire Hills (in the Portland Bight Protected Area) never changes. Here are some of my photos that may give you a “feel” of the place.

Early morning sunlight on the sea.
Early morning sunlight on the sea.
A remarkable cactus plant.
A remarkable cactus plant.
The flora - all kinds of cacti, large and small - is unique to dry limestone habitat.
The flora – all kinds of cacti, large and small – is unique to dry limestone habitat.
Early morning sun on the seashore in Hellshire, St. Catherine.
Early morning sun on the seashore in Hellshire, St. Catherine.
The Yellow Warbler is a delightful bird.
The Yellow Warbler is a delightful bird.
One of the many ponds, inhabited by crocodiles one suspects, with the sea beyond.
One of the many ponds, inhabited by crocodiles one suspects, with the sea beyond.
This is the Bahama Mockingbird - a beautiful bird, which lives ONLY in the Portland Bight Protected Area. It was a joy to hear them singing to each other!
This is the Bahama Mockingbird – a beautiful bird, which lives ONLY in the Portland Bight Protected Area. It was a joy to hear them singing to each other!

 

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