The row of Fig trees on the boat harbour side of Tempe Reserve has always been an absolute favourite of mine for a number of reasons. A row of mature Fig trees beside the water is always a good thing. The trees created a fabulous & quite impressive entrance into the park. The trees are healthy too & produce stacks of fruit for birds & flying foxes, but the main reason why I loved these particular trees so much was that most of them had a natural shape.
Public trees with side branches are not so common in Marrickville LGA. I presume that for public liability reasons Council formative prunes most of the public trees. Unlike other Councils, they appear not to like street trees to cascade over the road, except in a few isolated occasions. Most of our public trees are pruned to have upward reaching branches.
The Fig trees in this section of Tempe Reserve used to have branches that cascaded downwards with some touching the ground. Bench seats had been skillfully placed so you could sit in the shade of branches that were a few feet in front of you & above your head allowing you to watch the lovely view of the boats while sitting in the shade. Other benches had full sun, so you always had a choice.
Not only was it extremely picturesque, but also the branches provided much needed shade as well as a break from the wind, which can be punishing in this park.
A large group of older locals, both men & women, come every day to sit, chat & feed the birds in the shade & the protection of the Fig trees here. They come all year round, except when the rain is too heavy. They never use the picnic kiosk area & when I asked why, they said it was too windy, too busy, too loud & too dirty. Here on the Fig tree walk as I call it, you have a great view, protection from the elements & most importantly, peace.
If you were quiet & looked carefully, you could often find shy White-Faced Herons under the Fig trees searching for food among the vast areas of woodchip. You had to look because they are experts at hiding among the low branches & would dissolve into the speckled shadows if they even thought you were looking at them. I’ve stood here unaware of two herons until they were pointed out to me. What I saw was glimpses of grey stepping behind a branch & as I moved trying to get a better look & perhaps a photo, the herons moved around the branch remaining pretty much unseen.
No more dear herons & so sorry to the older people because this area has been changed forever & not for the better.
Marrickville Council chopped off all the cascading branches of the Fig trees so that what is left is a wind tunnel where one can see from one end of Fig tree walk to the other, with the prominent orange lids of the garbage bins on full view.
No more sitting on a secluded bench because there is no more seclusion.
No more shade unless the sun is in the right position & certainly no more herons quietly dipping in & out of the shadows. I could have cried.