Beautiful & historic Northwood Street Camperdown - an asset to Marrickville LGA

For years when driving along Salisbury Road I have thought I must stop & have a look at this beautiful street.  I never have.

Recently I was walking in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park & instead of putting my attention towards the church wall, steeple & canopy of trees within the church grounds as usual, I looked the other way & between the boundary trees, saw a street full of Hill’s Figs.  I realized that this was the other end of the street I had always meant to have a look at.

It is Northwood Street Camperdown, lined with beautiful mature Hill’s Fig trees that have created a gorgeous canopy over the street. It’s like walking through a green tunnel & reminds me very much of Laman Street Newcastle.  Northwood Street is peaceful, shady, cool & filled with birds so it sounds nice too.  I would guess the age of the trees to be around 80-years-old.  It looks like over the years some trees have been lost, but the overall feel remains.

Ausgrid (the new name for Energy Australia) have done something wonderful by putting up aerial bundled cabling eliminating the need to do any further pruning for power lines.  This was especially nice to see as it is recognizing the history & value of these street trees.

When doing a Google search to see if there was anything written about the Fig trees of Northwood Street I happened across the February 2011 edition of ‘Branch Cuttings’ – the newsletter of the Sydney & Northern New South Wales Branch of the Australian Garden History Society.  The lead article, ‘Wauchope’s & Newcastle’s figs to stay’ written by Eva Cassegrain & Stuart Read made for very interesting reading.  http://www.gardenhistorysociety.org.au/branches/sydney_&_nthn_nsw/branch_cuttings_34_feb_2011.pdf

The article lists where now historic Figs were planted around Sydney as well as in Wauchope, Sawtell & Newcastle & also mentions the mature Hills Figs that were removed last year from Wahroonga Railway Station much to the community’s dismay.

The main section of the article speaks about the median avenue of Hill’s Fig trees in Hastings Street Wauchope planted in 1938.  “Over the years 2007-2010 there has been an active public campaign to protect these against proposals to remove them due to complaints of damage by roots to plumbing on adjacent properties also because of invasive roots causing trip hazards, dislodging paths & walls. Wauchope received a wonderful christmas present when Hastings Valley Council decided to preserve the trees in the block from Young to Bain Streets.”   To fix the problems the Council installed a root barrier & planted gardens underneath the trees.  The before & after photos show a profound difference & illustrate the benefits of retaining these trees for the streetscape.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing the Laman Street Figs were thought to be safe from the axe. Not so, as the strong community opposition to Newcastle City Council’s decision to proceed with removing these trees continues.

In amongst this great article, the street trees of Northwood Street Camperdown rated a mention.  “Northwood Street Camperdown is another example of an avenue of Hills figs under pressure of removal, thwarted so far only by vigorous resident opposition.”  It was very nice to read that the residents have stopped the removal of these trees.  Northwood Street residents have benefited from these trees by raised property values, much beauty & wildlife & lower bills for cooling.  It’s worth a stroll down Northwood Street. I should have stopped here years ago.

I feel it is a shame we can’t have more of these trees planted in appropriate places around Marrickville LGA.  We do have a few suitable places that remain as barren areas.  A large canopy tree in these locations would improve the streetscape dramatically & add much needed green to the skyline.  Planting a Hill’s Fig or two in the vast areas of lawn in some of our parks would also be beneficial as the trees would provide shade & beauty.  Most people love large Fig trees & because they live so long, they become part of the community’s history.

Hills’ Figs can be managed by installing root barriers when planting them which increases the options of using them as street trees (in appropriate places).  The article also says, “San Francisco still uses them as street trees but with careful management including use of root barriers. Spain & the Canary Islands use Hill’s figs proudly in town squares, plazas & streets.  Beirut sports Hill’s figs in similar situations.”

The Australian Garden History Society have regular lectures, outings & publications.  If this newsletter was any indication, their publications should be great & of special interest to those interested in gardening, gardens, soils, trees & so on. You can find them here – http://www.gardenhistorysociety.org.au/  & the Sydney & Northern New South Wales Branch page – http://www.gardenhistorysociety.org.au/branches/sydney_&_nthn_nsw/

I made a short video of the Figs of Northwood Street Camperdown –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j99XA6E6SLc

Google Earth map of Camperdown showing the difference between the canopy of Northwood Street & the surrounding area. The street trees make this area in the image quite leafy compared to many areas across Marrickville LGA.