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Either side of Cup & Saucer Creek is being naturalised by Sydney Water.  Apparently there are turtles in the Cooks River.

Either side of Cup & Saucer Creek is being naturalised by Sydney Water. Apparently there are turtles in the Cooks River.

The pond or wetland area on the far side of Cup & Saucer Creek.

The pond or wetland area on the far side of Cup & Saucer Creek.  I hope the fence becomes a thing of the past.

Work is well & truly underway to naturalize a section of the Cooks River at Cup & Saucer Creek. For a background see – http://bit.ly/J0WT67

Sydney Water has removed the ugly concrete bank, the fencing & twelve trees to install a sloped riverbank constructed with sandstone boulders. This area will be planted with lots of new trees & native plants, bringing a softer, more natural feel to this part of the river.

On the Canterbury side of Cup & Saucer Creek, they appear to be building another pond – or it may be a saltwater wetland.  A large swale has been created, which would take water from the wetlands to this area. Whatever it becomes I am sure that it will be wonderful.

Personally, I think the Cup & Saucer Creek Wetlands is the best work that has been done along the Cooks River.  The wetlands not only clean storm water before it enters the river, but they also bring an astonishing beauty to what was once just another area of boring lawn.  The biodiversity in this area has increased exponentially with the wetland offering the community a peaceful place to watch waterbirds in their natural habitat. If I were to recommend visiting just one place along the Cooks River, this would be it.

The naturalization works can only enhance this section of the river making this special place especially attractive to those who love wildlife.  I can’t wait to see the work completed & will post an update later.  Fabulous work Sydney Water.

Cup & Saucer Creek

Cup & Saucer Creek with another view of the pond or wetland area.

The new riverbank

The new riverbank.

The swale from Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland.

The swale from Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland.

The very beautiful Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland.

The very beautiful Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland.

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I saw a little miracle yesterday.  It probably happens every year, but this time I was witness to it.  After a delightful picnic on the Cooks River we took a friend to see Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland, which by the way, is fully grown & is now a thriving metropolis of birds, turtles, frogs, lizards, dragonflies & other living beings.  Walking up the side path that runs alongside the concrete stormwater channel that is Cup & Saucer Creek, our friend called our attention to something happening in the stormwater channel.  As we moved to look down into the concrete channel, thousands of small fish flicked in the shallow water & changed direction showing that they were fully aware of our presence.

Cup & Saucer Creek 2011

The concrete stormwater channel looks like all other stormwater channels in the area. It is dry concrete further away from the Cooks River with very shallow water increasing to something that would be perhaps less than 1-metre (39 inches) deep by the time it enters the river.  It’s tidal so the depth changes & also when it rains.

In the extremely shallow end, which would be between 8-20 cm deep (3 – 8 inches), were many schools of very small fish turning & swimming as one unit, some turning on their side looking like flashes of sliver light in the murky water.  Each school had hundreds of fish.

The fish quickly assessed us as limited threat (or their primal drive was too strong to stop) & continued on with their water dance.  It was quite amazing to watch & even more so because this was happening in a concrete environment, not somewhere that one thinks of for a David-Attenborough-type experience.

I have no idea how long it lasts, but if our goldfish are any indication, this probably happens every day for a couple of weeks until the females release all of their eggs.  Amazing too that the Herons were absent because food was in abundance.

Canterbury Council who now manage the very beautiful & entirely successful Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland have put up an educational sign that has a photo of what the creek looked like in 1901.  The difference could not be more marked.  From what was once quite a large creek with small waterfall, ‘modern progress’ has changed it into a concrete stormwater channel.  That the spawning of fish still occurs here despite the environmental changes is astounding to me.  It also gives me hope of the resilience of nature to adapt to quite radical changes.  Many species don’t & so we lose them from areas or they become extinct.  Here at Cup & Saucer Creek, we have spawning of fish that was probably observed by other people in 1901 & for thousands of years before.

I made a 3 minute-21 second video of this little urban miracle here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz95HSoNBSU

Cup & Saucer Creek 1901. This photo is taken from Canterbury Council' s educational sign about Cup & Saucer Creek & Wetland.

As usual, the following is my understanding of the meeting & all mistakes are mine.

Riverside Crescent Subcatchment Management Plan 2010 – A resident who is also a member of the Subcatchment Working Party spoke in favour of the Report. He said that it was important for Council to publicize a description of the water-cycle. He said the rainfall in Marrickville LGA is almost double than what we withdraw from Warragamba Dam & only 10% of this water is used for drinking.  If we managed the water properly, we could use less water from Warragamba Dam. He also said that many of the options involve

Recent re-vegetation work along the Marrickville side of the Cooks River

Marrickville Golf Course a significant area along the bank of the Cooks River. Large sections of the Golf Course can be re-vegetated, which will have an impact on biodiversity.  He also said that many in the community would like to see better engagement & would also like to be involved in many activities such as trees, verges, kerbs, footpaths. He said the community could be notified & could be involved in the maintenance of these areas & the way these were done has an impact on water design.

Clr Tsardoulias was pleased with the Report saying it was overdue.  Clr Olive said there had been good work on naturalization all along the river & that this will continue. Clr O’Sullivan said the Sydney Morning Herald that day had an article on environmental works done by Marrickville & Gosford Councils. She said that Council needed to be daring & the Councillors should encourage this. She mentioned recent works at Cup & Saucer Creek as an innovative model for stormwater management.  Clr Peters said it was fantastic that one of the actions was that 85% of households were receptive to using recycled water. Clr Phillips said he was keen to see the works happen & we need to make the funds available. He said he was surprised at the level of toxins in Dibble Avenue waterhole. Carried unanimously.

I will write about the Riverside Crescent Subcatchment Management Plan 2010 in the following post.

Support for Greenway connection to the Cooks River Shared Pathway – The Marrickville Cooks River Committee in their August meeting asked for Council’s assistance to make representation to Transport NSW to have the Greenway shared pathway continue on from the Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill Light Rail project to the Cooks River.  To do this the bridge over Wardell Road needs to be made suitable for cyclists by either adding a separate cycleway at the side of the bridge as an add-on or build a separate bridge altogether.

Clr Olive supported writing to the minister, as did Clr Phillips. Clr Tsardoulias said this issue was brought up 18 months ago & that it would be great to see something happening.  Carried unanimously.

One of the 3 ponds with sandstone pillars for the birds & the turtles

Today was the grand opening of the Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland in Canterbury.  We missed the official opening & the speeches, but apparently a good crowd of more than 100 people attended.

Sydney Water in co-operation with Canterbury Council have done something very special by creating a wetland from scratch. Despite its pretty name Cup & Saucer Creek is a concrete drain. It leads directly into the Cooks River taking with it anything & everything picked up in the local stormwater drains.

With the new wetland system, stormwater that comes down Cup & Saucer Creek gets diverted by a weir & taken into the first of 3 ponds.  Plants filter the water before it flows into 2 smaller ponds.  From these ponds, the water filters through the ground into the Cooks River or when it is really full, enters the lower end of Cup & Saucer Creek through an overflow system & then into the Cooks River.

30,000 plants (grasses & shrubs) have already been planted in the heavily mulched area with a further 10,000 water plants to be planted in the ponds soon. Around 30 Eucalypts, Turpentine & Angophoras have also been planted. Let’s hope they all survive.  One thing about Canterbury  Council that I like is that they do plant trees species that grow large & they don’t only rely on Casuarinas with a terrific selection of large trees along their section of the Cooks River parklands.

The storm water is diverted from Cup & Saucer Creek into the wetlands, then out into the lower section of Cup & Saucer Creek & then into the Cooks River

They also put down permeable paths. The only bit of cement I could see on the whole site was a little bit used to cement the sandstone seats together.

Elements such as sandstone blocks sticking out from the pond water appear Zen-like, but actually were installed for birds to perch & for the Sydney Long-necked Turtle to bask in the sun.  I didn’t know the Cooks River had turtles.  Apparently the turtles have trouble getting out of some sections of the river because of the steel & wooden purpose-built banks. So, this area will provide a safe habitat for them. Frogs, birds & other animals/insects will also benefit.  It’s like high-class housing for urban wildlife.

Right now the wetland is in its infancy, but it still looks beautiful. In 3-6 months time it will look very different as the grass & the plants will have grown. In 2 years it will look stunning.

Stream Watch will be collecting samples first from Cup & Saucer Creek & then from the end process of filtration to check on water quality & the efficiency of the wetlands. It will not only be a fantastic natural intervention to clean up stormwater pollution before it enters the Cooks River, but it will also do much to improve the water-quality of the river itself.  Imagine if all the councils along the Cooks River created wetlands like these. In time the river would become swimmable & that would be a great gift to leave our grandchildren & the urban wildlife of the future. A pelican was sunning on a sandbar in the river while we were there & everyone admired him.

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