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Lush, beautiful landscaping with plenty of shade-producing trees are just one of the factors that make Green Bans Park an excellent small inner city park. 

Last week I needed to travel to Erskineville. While I was there I discovered Green Bans Park & what a lovely park it is.  It’s actually 2 parks, smallish spaces across the road from each other.

A bit of history – “In 1996 ownership of the land was transferred to the former South Sydney Council following a campaign by local residents, unions & Council to have the land, which had previously been earmarked for development dedicated as public open space.”

City of Sydney Council has created something quite lovely here.   Green Bans Park has many features that I think make it a great park.

HEDGES – The park perimeter along Erskineville Road not only looks great, but it also blocks out some of the traffic noise & the visual impact of the traffic.  As this is a high traffic thoroughfare, not being able to see the traffic immediately allows one to feel that they are somewhere peaceful.  Not the same for green space like Enmore Park, Marrickville Park & Wicks Park.  In all these parks & others like them with a clear sightline from road to road, I never get to feel that I am away from the traffic. I can see it, hear it & often I can smell it.

Hedges are also good for wildlife, especially insects & small birds.  If they are food-producing hedges, even the better for wildlife.  They not only block traffic, they also serve as a windbreak allowing the park to be a pleasant place on windy days.  Try Tempe Reserve if you want to experience a park where there are few windbreaks.  It can be miserable even when the sun is shining, that is, unless you like the wind as I know some do.

One final thing about hedges is that a large & long block of living green colour is good to look at & has a positive impact on our subconscious. Green is very calming, balancing, healing, relaxing, & tranquil. It represents growth, vitality, abundance, & nature. Green stimulates possibility & is very inspiring.”

To be surrounded by a green hedge has got to be better that looking through the park at traffic whizzing past & houses, shops & signs.

TREES & SHADE – I counted 65 trees in this relatively small park & as I was leaving saw others that I hadn’t noticed.  Trees were varied & tall. No 5-metre trees in this park, unless they are growing.  This provides for trees to be visible on the skyline instead of roofs, which helps green up the local area.  Many of the trees are grouped together giving the feeling of a forest. Trees are also used to very good effect to block & screen the railway line.  There are trees in the middle of the park, not just around the perimeter. The trees are useful habitat & provide food for wildlife.

One very beautiful Fig tree

There is no need for shadecloth over the children’s play area because the trees provide natural shade. This makes the environment much nicer in my opinion. Natural shade is cooler on hot days, provides a dappled effect that again is calming & allows the breeze to flow.

A Fig has been planted at a corner, that will in time, grow to become a feature tree with branches cascading over Erskinville Road, offering shade & beauty & softening the landscape.  We need this kind of addition to our municipality on as many corners as is possible to soften the landscape, add beauty & cool us down.

One big beautiful healthy Fig decades old stands as the crown jewel. The City of Sydney Council has allowed it to grow aerial roots that work to prevent heavy branches falling.  These aerial roots actually make the base of the tree wider as it literally spreads to match its growing canopy.  This makes for a beautiful & visually interesting high-impact tree & it really is the main feature of the park.  That it has survived this long on a small street is wonderful.

The Council has planned for the Fig tree’s health by rounding the kerb around its roots & importantly, not shaving them off at ground level like some Councils do to remove trip hazards.  Problem is they do this to Fig trees in parks, even if the Fig is a fair distance from the pedestrian pathway.  Above ground Fig tree roots are not only of vital importance to the health & stability of the tree, but they are of immense beauty & interest.  It is very sad to see them shaved off & looks like butchering.  The ground around the Fig tree in Green Bans Park is permeable, even that which is beyond the footpath.  This tree doesn’t have to struggle for water when it rains.

SEATING – There is lots of seating in Green Bans Park on both sides.  There are park benches, plus interesting long curved benches that promote group get-togethers & little one-person stools.  There is seating in the sun & in the shade catering to all needs.  Benches are mounted on a concrete base that is covered in old bricks. This causes them to blend in rather than the usual stark white-grey of a concrete slab that gradually becomes darker & filthy.

LANDSCAPING – I didn’t notice woodchip in this park. Instead I saw leaf litter, which made it nice to walk through the play area.  I actually like the sound of walking on leaves.   Leaf litter was also in the landscaped areas, deep enough to be able to cool the roots of the plants & prevent weed growth. It looks nicer than woodchips.

Unlike the beds of woodchip with the odd plant, as is a feature in many of our parks, Green Bans Park has significant landscaping.  An under-storey of plants is grouped & follows the line of Eucalypt trees.  Elsewhere garden beds full of plants, some flowering, follow the perimeter & serve to block sight of the railway line. Also along the railway line fence is shrubs & smaller trees. Until a train goes past you are not aware of the railway line because you can’t see it.  The garden beds look well kept & pretty.

There are a couple of largish lawn spaces where games like touch footie could be played or people could lie in the sun if they wanted to.  While I was there, everyone was sitting somewhere in the shade.

SIGNAGE – One sign that I love warns that this is Magpie nesting area so to be aware during the 6-weeks of August/September when the chicks are in the nest.  Such a small consolation for a big gain because there is nothing like Magpie song to make you feel happy.  It’s nice to see the wildlife acknowledged too.

Open space showing the hedges that block visibility to busy Erskinville Road

The park is not full of signs.  I don’t know if you have noticed that all the green spaces across Marrickville LGA have signs.  There is the sign to say the name of the park, signs to say what you can’t do in the park, signs to say this is a walk wise park, signs to say – no alcohol.  Soon there will be signs to say – no smoking.  Most of the signs are repeated in other areas or entrances to the parks.  Someone or many people are systematically going around & spraying all Marrickville Council’s signs in parks with either a tag or a squiggle – a message that I read as, ‘stuff your signs.’

Green Bans Park has a good-looking sign against a house wall with a map of the park. It provides information with a few dos & don’ts & it has Braille for the blind.  The sign also tells you that City of Sydney values your feedback & provides a 24-hour phone number that you can call if there is litter to be removed or something is broken for example.

The other signs are hand-painted tiles that are mounted into the brick fence at the main entry points.  These colourful signs are quite beautiful & they tell the history of the park.  They add art to the landscaping, rather than being an assault on the eyes.

LITTER & GRAFFITI – There is an important lesson here…. provide something that is beautiful, useful & maintained & the incidence of graffiti & littering reduces markedly. Studies have shown that people are less likely to graffiti areas that have many trees & are well maintained.  I saw 2 pieces of litter & 2 tags in the whole park.  Pity though, that the tags were on the trunk of the beautiful Fig tree.

SAFETY – Paths curve through the centre of each side of the park.  Even with hedges, garden beds & trees in the centre of the park, there is high visibility.

DOGS – There is off-leash areas for dogs to play.

I made a short video of Green Bans Park here –

This beautiful Fig tree with aerial roots makes quite a statement

Landscaping & plenty of seats, plus another section next to Erskinville Road

I found a 2009 TAFE paper that says, Marrickville LGA is densely populated with 4,325 people per square kilometre & has the least amount of green space of any LGA in Australia.”  This is an astounding statistic & with something like another 4,300 people going to live here as part of the last state government’s housing strategy, our green space will become even more important than it is now.

Some of our larger parks are classified ‘active parks,’ that is, parks that are primarily used for organized sporting activities. As such, some residents feel they cannot use the parks for much of the time.  Therefore, ‘passive,’ parks with playgrounds, picnic or grassed areas become very important to the non-sporting association community.

Residents need both ‘active’ & ‘passive’ parks.  Some like those along the Cooks River blend active & passive beautifully because of the size of the parks & access to the river.  A number of our passive parks are beautiful & visiting them is worth a trip out.  I will post about these over time.

A beautiful mature Fig tree complete with a great set of aerial roots in Weekley Park. Council has planted another Fig tree recently.

A couple of weeks ago we visited Weekley Park.  Almost everything about this grand old historical park is beautiful in my opinion.  Located between Percival, Albany & Clarendon Roads Stanmore, Weekley Park is full of large, tall trees & is laid out in grid pattern with every path meeting in the centre where there is a circle of very tall Canary Island palm trees.  20-years ago there used to be prolific flowering red, pink & white roses in the raised central garden, but instead there is now a few Nandinas with empty garden beds.  Some of the roses in other garden beds that connect with the central paths are still here so hopefully they will continue to be retained.

The Nandina look very ordinary & a bit scraggly in the centre feature garden that is supposed to bring the components of the park together.  Perhaps one day when Council has the funds they might bring back the roses or plant something a bit more dramatic & beautiful that suits the park, though this is a matter of personal taste. Other people might like Nandina. They certainly sell at nurseries.

Weekley Park is very popular green space as evident by the many people sitting in the shade on benches, on the grass or watching their kids play in the playground.  Lots of people, including adolescents, were in groups or alone reading.  It was nice to see.

The park is also full of bird song & this coupled with the visual aspect of the many tall trees makes it quite a relaxing place.  The playground equipment is new & there are toilets & drinking bubblers.  You can take your kids for a while & have no need to rush home because someone needs to go to the loo.

There are 2 large trees towards the centre that look to me to be in trouble, maybe even dead.  It’s hard for me to tell because it is still winter.  They have large areas of decay, holes & dead areas in the branches.  Actually, these holes would make fine homes for urban wildlife, but I doubt that the trees will be allowed to stay.  I hope when they do come down that they are replaced with equally large growing trees so the feel of the park can be retained.  The rest of the trees are in great health & there is a nice variety that all seems to come together well & give a stately look to the park.

Art installation 'Tree People' by Graham Chalcroft

There is a great piece of public art called ‘Tree People’ that was created by artist Graham Chalcroft & installed in June 2009 as part of Marrickville Council’s public art strategy.  I like it a lot. It’s whimsical & also functional as it includes double-sided benches.  Year 5 students from St Michael’s Catholic Primary School collaborated with the artist by drawing the animals that are ‘the guardians of the park.’  Council contracted public art is popping up around the LGA in public spaces, which is very nice.

One of the old Fig trees has the best aerial roots forming that I have seen in the LGA.  It’s great that they have been left to grow & have not been chopped off. One day they will do what they are supposed to do & offer structural support to the branches when they grow larger.

If you like parks, then I think you will like Weekley Park.  It is worth paying a visit & spending some time.  Dogs need to be on a leash & there are free poo bags supplied & a bin on site.  There are a few chess tables with bench seats, loads of park benches all facing good views of the park.

Council has recently planted quite a few new street trees on the verge that will also add beauty to the area.  The intersection is a Box or Murraya hedge (I didn’t go close enough to see) & this too looks grand & lovely.  Green intersections make any street look great in my opinion.  All these things work unconsciously in the mind saying this is a nice area.  One block away is the intersection almost everyone knows about.  It is the hundreds of agapanthus & white roses at the roundabout at Salisbury Road & Northumberland Avenue.  This was radical for the area in the mid 1980s & I remember a friend taking me from Balmain just to see it.  It’s still there, though not in as good condition, but still giving a strong message that Stanmore is a nice area.

I imagine some would wonder why I go on about such basic things like intersections.  I do so because the majority in Marrickville LGA are concrete or concrete patterned bricks.  Any green landscaping that softens the hard infrastructure is a plus in my opinion.  I strongly believe that landscaping makes an area nicer as do a sufficient number of good-looking street trees.  Some suburbs in Marrickville LGA have this as a norm while others look bare & somewhat harsh in comparison.  This has an impact on how our society feels about an area or even a whole suburb.

I have made a short YouTube video of Weekley Park here –


& the Salisbury Road  intersection here –

The centre of Weekley Park has a circle of mature Canary Island palm trees. There are also a couple of Canary Island palms at the perimeter. Instant charm. In the foreground are two rose gardens, dormant because of winter.

The injured Fig is shown. It's a beautiful tree

There are 2 fantastic Hills Figs in Lillian Fowler Reserve Newtown, part of Sydney City Council LGA.  They are mature & in very good health.  To protect these trees, a small picket fence has been placed around the drip line & the area under their canopy is heavily mulched.  One of the trees looks to have lost a branch, as there is a large wound on the trunk.  To me it looks like the branch was too heavy to sustain itself, but it could have been rot or any number of other reasons.

Showing the damage

Instead of chopping the tree down, Sydney City Council are encouraging aerial roots to grow from another large & heavy branch on the tree. They have packed soil & braced the lot inside a sack & a series of milk crates.  It looks clumsy, but is a very effective method.  Aerial roots form naturally & this setup with the crates will assist the roots to grow quite quickly.  It won’t be too long before these roots establish in the ground & the milk crates & material can be cut away.

The Fig trees in the Domain have been allowed or encouraged to grow aerial roots to stabilize themselves in the way they do naturally. Unfortunately, some see these roots as untidy & chop them off.  Neatness is the rule.

Assisting the growth of aerial roots

I was really pleased to see that the Newtown Fig is being retained despite its injury.  When I was growing up, this is how I understood Tree Surgeons to work on tree injuries. Somewhere in the intervening years the name of the profession was changed to Arborist & with it came a propensity for removing trees when they grow older rather than keeping them.  I am talking in generalities, as there are plenty of Arborists who work hard at keeping mature trees healthy & dealing with any problems that arise through size, aging & the environmental difficulties trees face. There are also Arborists who are specialists in veteran trees.

However, having spoken to Arborists & witnessed for myself how low trees are on the scale of importance within many Councils, I was very happy to see the work done by Sydney City Council for this tree’s particular problem.  Some Arborists may have said the Fig had reached its safe useful life expectancy (SULE).  These Figs are a huge asset to the park & the local area as well as urban wildlife.  I hope they live for many decades more.  They probably will with this care.

The other Hills Fig in Lillian Fowler Reserve. What a stunning tree




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