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The view of housing development on Canal Road Alexandria.

A little further along Canal Road Alexandria – housing.

Sydneysiders need to be aware & highly concerned at the rapid growth & loss of green space that is currently happening, plus the plans to take even more green space away.

Once the green space is gone, it is gone forever.

The loss of green space is a serious public health issue.  Green space not only provides valuable habitat for wildlife, but it also cools the area around it.  We need places with trees, grass & other vegetation.

We need green places for our mental, physical & spiritual health.  Without access to decent green spaces human beings tend to suffer.   People who suffer from mental illness can feel more settled when they are out in nature.

Recent research found without going into green spaces on a regular basis, people tend to get stressed, anxious, depressed, move less & gain weight.  Many of us suffer morbid rumination, where we go over & over what we perceive are our failings or what is wrong with our lives.  Just going for a walk where there are good trees can stop this mental thought process & improve our happiness & life satisfaction levels.

Green spaces provide us with a stress break in our busy lives & gives our mind a break from mental fatigue. Regular experience in the leafy outdoors helps improve work performance.  It also helps improve our cognitive function, memory & ability to learn & retain information.

The intellectual development of children improves when they have contact with nature.   Those who have ADD/ADHD tend to respond well to time spent in nature & have more content retention ability.

Research found that plants in the workplace resulted in decreased sick leave, so imagine the impact if there was nice green space for workers to have their lunch.

Those with Alzheimers or dementia are helped by being in green space & being able to touch plants.

Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.”  See – http://nyti.ms/2lmPlzr

It is a fundamental need of human beings to have access to good green spaces.  By good green spaces, I am not talking about a small patch of green on a main street or in a shopping mall, though these do have a significant role to play in offering areas of respite & helping lowering the urban heat island effect.

We all need areas where we can exercise for free without needing to pay for a gym membership.  We need space to let off steam, to run, to shout, to play games alone or with friends.

We also need spaces where were can walk or sit quietly – where the only sound is nature; the wind in the trees & birds singing.  We must keep those we have & not over develop them.

In my opinion, Council has a fundamental responsibility not to turn every green space into an entertainment venue.    Places must be left where the only entertainment is what you can see in the natural environment around you.  If people become depended on things to be provided for them to do in parks, they will lose the ability to relax or amuse themselves with whatever is around.

As our suburbs become more developed, our stress levels are likely to rise just doing everyday things like driving & shopping.  Already traffic is a major negative issue in the locality & parking is often a nightmare.

Our streets are also green spaces – or they can be depending on the species of street tree planted.  Squatty small canopy street trees do not have an impact, but big, full canopy street trees do.  Have a look at the streets that are fortunate enough to have 80-year-old plus Brushbox trees.  In the evening on hot days you will likely see pockets of people who have gathered outside in the shade.  Good street trees are excellent at fostering connectivity between neighbours.

Verge gardens encourage connectivity as well.  People like to talk about plants & gardening.  Verge gardens offer the ability to swap plants & provide cuttings.

Today the news reported that the Total Environment Centre has identified more than 70 green spaces across Sydney at risk of being lost to development.  See – http://bit.ly/2nrf0qZ

This is most concerning.  If allowed to go ahead, habitat will be lost, wildlife will suffer & in cases like Cooks Cove where they want to develop the wetlands in Barton Park (see – http://bit.ly/2jey4Xi ) migratory birds, frogs & other creatures will die.

The report from the Total Environment Centre said, “Sydney will build 664,000 homes between 2011 and 2031, with 60-70 per cent coming from “infill” developments within existing city boundaries.” 

We as the community will have to make our voice heard, considering the views of Anthony Roberts, the Minister in charge of Planning and Housing Affordability who said, “Anti-development activists are welcome to suggest ideas to me that will help us grow housing supply in NSW while protecting their favourite trees.”

I’ve got an idea Minister Roberts.  How about leaving all the green spaces alone & not allowing development in these areas.  It’s quite simple really.  Leave the parks, the golf courses & riversides for the community & so people in the future can use them as well.

I get annoyed at the simplistic view of politicians who, whenever the community speaks out against developing areas like Barton Park wetlands, say they are anti-development NIMBYs wanting people to move out of Sydney.  Do these political leaders not see another way in which green spaces & areas of vital habitat cab be retained for the benefit of the whole community now & most certainly for the benefit of future generations?  It can be done.

We had three heatwaves in February 2017 & this is expected to get worse as climate change accelerates.  Green spaces are essential components of a livable city.  That or we take a risk every year that heat wave events will be more frequent.  Loss of human life has happened in cities across the world as a result of heat waves.  Our government warned us that the power supply was likely to be shut off because of increased use of air-conditioning.

The urban heat island effect is another serious health issue that is relatively ignored.  Roads are still being covered in black bitumen as a way of maintaining them despite knowing that these are major heat sinks.

On 10th February 2017 the temperature at Blaxland Riverside Park in Sydney Olympic Park was 41.6 degrees in the shade.  However, some of the soft play surfaces in the children’s playground were around 84 degrees.  The road surface in the car park was almost 73 degrees.  This gives you an idea of our future if our gardens & streets are not significantly greened & if we lose green spaces.  See – http://bit.ly/2lxujhu

“As Sydney’s population is growing there’s more houses, less trees, less green, more roads … it’s adding to the heat.  ….. The way we’re going – and adding another million people plus an airport, more roads, more pollution, more industry, we can expect 10 more extreme hot days a year over 35 [degrees] ….. It will become the norm. Without the proper designs [and planning] the problem will only get worse.” ~ Stephen Bali, president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils.

I remind you that the former Marrickville municipality has the least green space in Australia.  We cannot afford to lose any of it, not even a morsel despite whatever the so-called gain to the community is slated to be.  We cannot comment on public consultation in either the Leichhardt or Ashfield LGAs, despite being amalgamated into one large council.  Therefore, Marrickville’s abysmal amount of green space should not be watered down by including green space from the other two municipalities we have amalgamated with.

Council should be taking every opportunity they can to add to the green space by transforming suitable areas of public space.  I think they failed with Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville Road Marrickville, the Marrickville Town Hall Forecourt & the latest being the unusually large street space area on the corner of Canterbury Road & Herbert Street Dulwich Hill, though this is my own opinion.

The public space outside the Victoria Road entrance of Marrickville Metro is also an area eliciting much conversation within the community.  All that I have read or heard has been negative.  Whether you like what Metro has done is personal, but there is no doubt a heat sink has been created with all that concrete & tiling.  It is also a big loss to see that a number of mature trees have been removed.

Corner of Canterbury Road and Herbert Street Dulwich Hill – an unusual opportunity by Council to make a truly green and inviting space for the community in this location. Missed opportunity and I bet this work cost a lot.

The space behind the above photo in Herbert Street Dulwich Hill. I am glad it is grass and not concrete, but what would be wrong with planting a couple of shade trees here and adding some benches. It could be a useful space for the community.

Marrickville Town Hall Forecourt today – ugly and hot.  Not an attractive meeting place for the community.  This cost $575,000

Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville Road – speaks for itself.

Alex Trevallion Plaza. Two of the skinny gum trees died, so instead of replacing them, Council filled the holes with bitumen. Message: we cannot expect this place to look better for a long time.

New entrance to Marrickville Metro. I will post photos of their other landscaping work next post.  Numerous mature trees, a grassy knoll and plumbago hedge on three sides of seating was also removed.  It has been suggested that C stands for Concrete.

My photo does not do this space justice.  It feels good to be here.  There are lots of birds & the place feels cared for.

My photo does not do this space justice. It feels good to be here. There is  a very large Brushbox & a line of Casuarinas that sound great when there is a breeze.  There were also lots of birds & the place feels cared for.

Recently I received an email telling me about what appears to be community planting along the bicycle route in Stanmore, so we took off on our bikes to have a look.

The route takes you off Crystal Street, down York Crescent, into a path along the railway line & then out into Gordon Crescent. Then you come into something rare in this municipality – a wide strip of grass lined with mature trees. The space is like a long pocket park.

It is here that someone has been busy planting a mix of shrubs along the roadside in-between the lovely stretch of trees & also along the cyclone fence that borders the railway line. Some vines have also been planted along the fence.

I always think it is great when I see planting done by the community. Verge gardens interest & often delight me. Most street planting adds beauty as far as I am concerned & shows care toward the environment.

This particular work has the potential to create a very nice pocket of green that could double up nicely as a place of respite.   It is intermittently noisy around here because of the planes & trains, but cars are few. There are many parks in Marrickville LGA that just as noisy.

Eventually the vines will screen off the railway line. I can well imagine sitting here reading in the shade of the trees if I lived close by.

So I thank whoever is working on this patch knowing that it can be a considerable cost to buy plants & then the effort required to look after them.  With all the development due to happen in Marrickville municipality, green spaces like this one will increase in importance.

As an extra because it in in the same location - it was sad to see the whipper-snipper damage around the base of this old and grand Queensland Brushbox tree.  This tree is slowly being ringbarked.   In my opinion, it should be surrounded by some mulch to protect it.

As an extra because it in in the same location – it was sad to see the whipper-snipper damage around the base of this old and grand Queensland Brushbox tree. This tree is slowly being ringbarked. In my opinion, it should be surrounded by some mulch to protect it.

 

Thank you to the National Library of Australia for permission to publish this 1845  [View of Tempe on Cook's River, near Sydney, N.S.W] watercolour by  Martens, Conrad, 1801-1878.  See -http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/32299232

Thank you to the National Library of Australia for permission to publish this 1845                         [View of Tempe on Cook’s River, near Sydney, N.S.W] watercolour by
Martens, Conrad, 1801-1878. See -http://trove.nla.gov.au/version/32299232

Tempe House - a wonderful piece of local history that has been retained.

Tempe House – a wonderful piece of local history that has been retained.

 

Tempe House as seen from the Mount Olympus Heritage Gardens

Tempe House as seen from the Mount Olympus Heritage Gardens

The very special Mount Olympus Heritage Gardens

The very special Mount Olympus Heritage Gardens & part of Mount Olympus.

I see the high-rise buildings of Discovery Point often, as they are visible from so many areas where I either drive or cycle, but I have not been to look at Tempe House in all this time.  I’ve missed two Open Day events & never quite got myself to take the turn into the new suburb to have a look.  That is, until recently.  What a nice surprise this was.

It wasn’t an Open Day, just a nice sunny day before Christmas.  We rode over & had a look through the grounds of Discovery Point.  Then we had a good look around Tempe House from the outside, including the rather wonderful garden.

One of the interesting things about the Discovery Point development is that they have kept a substantial chunk of land in front of the Cooks River free of buildings.  3.5-acres of the original 12-acres has been left as open space behind, beside & in front of Tempe House leading to the Cooks River foreshore.

Looking up on the porch of Tempe House

Looking up on the porch of Tempe House

Development of this area started in 2002 & the Wolli Creek Railway Station was built.  The development targets housing for 6,500 residents & 7000 workers.

With most high-rise housing built right to the footpath, even on the Princes Highway, it is great to see a large area of open green space with gardens as part of a housing development.  To me this means more livable housing & a community that will be happier & healthier for this ability to look at, as well as physically access such a large area of green space.

Alexander Brodie Spark purchased the land in 1826 for 100-pounds.  Architect John Verge, who also designed Elizabeth Bay House, was commissioned to build Tempe House & it was completed in 1836.  St Magdalene’s Chapel, which stands behind Tempe House, was built in 1888.  It is in the style of Victorian Gothic architecture.  Both these buildings were assessed as high historical & archaeological significance in 2001.

The estate was named after the ‘Vale of Tempe’ in Ancient Greece.  Mount Olympus is a rock hill between the house & the Princes Highway.  This is closed to the public, I assume to protect the remnant trees & plants.  A wharf was built in 1838, as the house was only accessible by boat across the Cooks River.  The gardens also contained 50 varieties of French grape vines.

The Heritage Council of NSW says the following –

“The grounds are of exceptional importance for their ability to demonstrate close adherence to early nineteenth century design principles, including the modified natural element Mt Olympus – an unusual example of a detached shrubbery, and for surviving early fabric – walling, gateposts and sundial. They are important for their association for one hundred years with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan and for their framework of mature plantings, particularly the early Olea europaea subsp. europaea.  The group of eucalypts on Mount Olympus has value in providing evidence of the natural vegetation on the site. Mount Olympus and the group of eucalypts which, as a group, are rare on a local level. These are an identifiable natural landmark on the Princes Highway.”

Heritage steps up to Mount Olympus.

Heritage steps up to Mount Olympus.

A dam using stone from local cliffs was built in the river in front of Tempe House between 1839 & 1841.  This has not survived.

Alexander Brodie Spark lived at Tempe House with his wife & children until his death in 1856.  After this, the estate was subdivided & sold off.  Caroline Chisholm from Northampton, England, a widely traveled philanthropist, who worked tirelessly for newly arrived girls in Australia amongst many other compassionate welfare works, came to live at Tempe House between 1863 to 1865.  Here she ran an educational establishment for young women.

After other owners, the Good Samaritan Order bought Tempe House in 1884.  Functioning as a prison for unmarried mothers & other women “at risk of sin” lived & worked in accommodation & laundries built onsite.  St Magdalene’s Chapel was built in 1888.  From 1944 onwards, the estate became a training centre of “delinquent girls,” essentially another prison.  The Good Samaritan Order sold Tempe Estate in 1989.

In 1990 Tempe Estate became protected by a conservation order that included the landscape.  Quite a history, though there is much more that I have not included in this brief summary.   There are a number of detailed posts about the history by the ‘Friends of Tempe House’ for those interested – http://friendsoftempehouse.blogspot.com.au

Work has been done to save this tree, rather than remove it.

Work has been done to save this tree, rather than remove it.

So what is it like now?  Beautiful.  Both buildings are lovely & I am glad they were saved & we got to keep this part of important local history.  From the outside, Tempe House appears very well kept & I certainly wouldn’t mind living there.  The view to the river is great & would have been even better when there were five islands to look at.  Now there is only the rapidly disappearing Fatima Island left.   I bet the bird life was fantastic.

The trees in the grounds are obviously quite old & substantial in size.  They are excellent for the units to look out on as they break up the vast expanse of lawn & we all know a view of trees is actually very good for your health.  Some have had recent Arborist intervention with reduction pruning to assist them to recover from whatever ailed them.  All the trees are free of grass & mulched.  It is great to see veteran trees obviously being looked after.

The Mount Olympus Heritage Gardens are fabulous & really worth a wander.  Many of the plants are old & are labeled by our own Marrickville Heritage Society, which is an excellent touch.  Australand looks after the gardens & they do an excellent job.

Mount Olympus is gated & locked.  I would have liked to have explored this area, but hopefully one can do this on one of the Open Days.  You get a good view of Mount Olympus from the ground.  In it I saw one of the tallest flower spikes of the Giant Cabuya (Furcraea foetida) I have ever seen.

Curved to look natural. It's a very nice place to sit & watch the river.

Curved to look natural. It’s a very nice place to sit & watch the river.

Nearer the riverbank, which has been curved to create a more natural look, is a barbeque area & children’s playground.  Although you can hear the cars of the highway whizzing past, the area is well below the road giving a feeling of privacy.  It is also relatively free of people & a good place to go if you are looking for a river experience.  There are patches of mangroves & also Sea Blight used in saltwater wetlands.  The sandstone walls at the bank create seating so one can watch the river.

Rockdale City Council, St George Historical Society & Australand have organized an Open Day during the upcoming Heritage Week in April.  This is the only open weekend planned for the year.

The St George Historical Society will be conducting talks & guided tours of Tempe House & St Magdalene’s Chapel.  To add to the experience, a café will be serving high tea.

WHEN:  Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th April 2014

WHERE:   Brodie Spark Drive,
Discovery Point, Wolli Creek.

COST:   Gold coin donation.

TIME:  10.00 am – 4.00 pm on both days.

For information see – http://bit.ly/1j1IgAF

Part of St Magdalene's Church

Part of St Magdalene’s Church with the housing behind.

Children's playground next to the riverbank.  The barbecue is close & out of view on the left.

Children’s playground next to the riverbank. The barbecue is close by on the left.

One the the beautiful veteran trees on the estate.  Behind is a heritage wall with white crosses at regular intervals.

One the the beautiful veteran trees on the estate. Behind is a heritage wall adorned with white brick crosses at regular intervals. St Magdalene’s Chapel is visible behind this tree with Tempe House on the left.

A wide-angle lens has flattened this image, but it shows how much green space has been left for people to use.  I think this is fantastic.

A wide-angle lens has flattened this image, but it shows how much green space has been left for people to use. I think this is fantastic.

Another veteran tree in the grounds

Another veteran tree in the grounds. There are quite a few. 

 

 

 

 

 

Panorama of Tempe Reserve playing fields

Panorama of Tempe Reserve playing fields

Parents & children gathering under the shade of trees in Enmore Park

Parents & children gathering under the shade of trees in Enmore Park

“Savvy states & communities are starting to think about green space in a more thoughtful & systematic way. They realize that green infrastructure is not a frill—it is smart conservation for the twenty-first century.” ~ Mark A. Benedict & Edward T.McMahon, Conservation Fund

It’s ‘Parks Week’ in Australia & New Zealand.  I’ve not heard of it until today.  Parks Week aims to –

  •  “Highlight & celebrate the important role parks play – across people, communities, & the natural environment;
  • “Highlight & celebrate the important role parks play – across people, communities, & the natural environment;
  • Encourage greater use of parks;
  • Celebrate the contribution that volunteers make to parks;
  • Promote the healthy parks, healthy people message;
  • Promote park management agencies & the work they do.” http://bit.ly/1hEEF7Q

We know there is a clear connection between access to good green space & the quality of the urban forest to mental & physical health.  Marrickville municipality has the least green space in the whole of Australia & researchers from Deakin University found that in 2010, Marrickville was the unhappiest suburb in Australia.

For residents of Marrickville municipality, our urban forest & parks are of vital importance & will become more so with the fairly intensive development on the horizon.  Approval has been given for 12,000 new residences, so there will be more people using the limited green space.  Hopefully developers will stop building right to the footpath & will include trees & green space in their housing developments, as this will increase livability & make for happier residents.

One thing is certain; we cannot afford to lose any of our public green space & what we have needs to be made so that it is inviting & useable.  We have a number of great parks, but we also have green space that is no more than an empty block of grass. This is a wasted opportunity that whether consciously or not, has a negative impact on the immediate neighbourhood.

Parks are more than a piece of ground with a few trees & grass.  They are essential to neighbourhood & community wellbeing.  To complicate matters, we all have different ideas of what makes a park great.  Some want natural bushy sections; some want a playground, while others want playing fields.  If a park is big enough, it can incorporate all of these aspects.  Pocket parks however have limited space & so often have a limited ability to meet a range of needs.

A good example of a virtually worthless pocket park that fortunately Marrickville Council are going to upgrade is Murdoch Park in Illawarra Road Marrickville.  Until recently it was called Murdoch Playground, yet there was nothing in this park except grass, a concrete path from one side to the other, two old broken concrete benches & some signs.

Council intends to spend $20,000 upgrading this park in 2014 by adding plants, shade trees & new seats.  I imagine it will go from a place that no-one uses to a place that people will use, all because it will have been made inviting.   I am looking forward to seeing what Council does.  If Amy Playground is a benchmark, I expect it will be good.

Parks can show off a suburb if they are great.  If they are empty, ugly or in disrepair they can negatively effect perceptions of that neighbourhood & can also attract criminal behaviour.  Therefore beautiful parks are a bonus to the neighbourhood & their presence has far reaching impact.

Parks can revitalize a community. They can bring people outdoors & break down barriers.  People can make friends in parks because they may be doing the same activity allowing them to feel comfortable speaking to people they do not know.  Children’s playgrounds & exercise areas are a great example of this, as are dog-walking areas.  Everyone knows that if you want to meet people, walk your dog or even someone else’s dog.  Great parks also attract older people & so can break down age barriers.

Parks offer respite & if designed as such, can offer peace away from the hubbub of traffic, noise & other human activity.  Central Park in Manhattan is a great example where one can find peace & quiet in a city of 1.619-million people (2012) living in an area of 87.46 km².   Much has to do with both the size (340-hectares) & design of the park, as well as the 24,000 plus trees.  By comparison & closer to home, Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens cover 64-hectares (Botanic Garden: 30-hectares & The Domain: 34-hectares) & between them they have approximately 4,770 trees.

Research has found that people who only have a view of concrete experience greater levels of aggression & violence & their children have a greater range of psychologically aggressive behaviours, than those who have a green outlook.   This shows that it is better for your family’s health is you forgo the stamped concrete driveway or concreted back garden & put in the least amount of hard surfaces as you can.  Green is far better for mental health than grey surfaces.

Parks also absorb stormwater & cool the urban heat island effect.  I was surprised to read that the Western Channel Subcatchment in Marrickville South has 78% hard surfaces.  This is terrible for stormwater management, but it also shows that grey infrastructure is dominating the visual outlook in this area & this is not good for community wellbeing.  The riverside parks would be offsetting this to a large degree, but only for the people that use these parks.

Parks can also build communities, but they need to be appealing to attract people to use them.  Parks also have an important role of supporting biodiversity & they passively educate people about the importance of nature.  Kids who often spend time in parks & other natural settings are more likely to grow up to be adults who care about the environment.  There has been lots of research focusing on the change where children are now spending the bulk of their time indoors & under adult supervision.  There are many research papers on the change in kids play here – http://bit.ly/MHsL1C

Parks need good trees, shady trees & trees that are shaped liked trees, not shaped like street trees.  Side branches are an inherent part of a tree & do not need their side branches to be pruned off when the tree is in a park.  The beauty that a tree provides is an important asset in any park, so trees should be allowed to look their best.  Monoculture is not a good look either.

Parks also need sufficient seating, including seating away from busy areas such as playgrounds, barbeques & major pathways.  Facing them to look at the view is a good idea.  Older people or those with health issues often do not go to the park because of a lack of seating or they do not want to sit in or near the playground.

Shade is also important.  I don’t know about you, but the sun feels really harsh to me these days & I often find it too hot to be outdoors.  Steel Park with its magnificent broad-leafed Poplars that provide dappled shade across the park bring coolness that is wonderful on a hot day.  Kids can run where they please & people can spread out because they are not trying to fit under limited shade.

A tin roof kiosk may look good, but you can bake sitting under these structures on a hot day.  Trees cool & clean the air & that green that is so positive & potent to the human being’s health.  All our parks should be filled with all kinds of trees.

“Show me a healthy community with a healthy economy & I will show you a community that has its green infrastructure in order & understands the relationship between the built & the unbuilt environment.” ~ Will Rogers, Trust for Public Land.

Marrickville's newest park at the end of High Street & fronting Ruby Street.  I don't know if it has been officially named yet.

Marrickville’s newest park at the end of High Street & fronting Ruby Street. I don’t know if it has been officially named yet.

Warren Park Marrickville

Warren Park Marrickville

Sydney Park is not in Marrickville municipality.  I include it here because I think the trees & the variety of species is wonderful.  Just imagine what this place will look like in ten or twenty years.  They have planted hundreds of Fig trees too.

Sydney Park is not in Marrickville municipality. I include it here because I think the trees & the variety of species is wonderful. Just imagine what this place will look like in ten or twenty years. They have planted hundreds of Fig trees too.

 

 

A section of the outside area og The Grounds.

A section of the outside area of The Grounds.

Sitting around the water feature.

Sitting around the water feature.

Yesterday I went with some friends to ‘The Grounds in Alexandria.’  Many of you have probably been, but it was the first time for me.  This is an enormously popular place & no wonder.  The food is great.  Prices are reasonable.  You can eat inside at a table or ‘take-away’ to eat outside in the extensive garden area.

Part of the outside signage.  Cute.

Part of the outside signage. Cute.

This post is not a restaurant review – though my meal was great.  What I am writing about is the site & what they have done with it.  The complex, located on the corner at 2 Huntley Street Alexandria, used to be the Four ‘n Twenty pie factory & had been so since the early 1900s.

The Grounds is in the heart of Alexandria’s industrial estate, where the street trees are really tall & the parking horrendous.  Once you walk through the entrance, all is forgiven, as the grounds are an utter delight.

On the left is the restaurant, easily found because of the line-up of people patiently waiting for a table.  In front & scattered around are barrows selling organic breads, tarts, coffee, cakes, fresh lemonade & other drinks, strawberries, nuts & even gelato.  The kiosks are beautiful, as are the displays of food.  Prices are well within the range of impulse buying & quite satisfying because of the quality.

To the left of the entrance is the ‘take-away’ food eating area. I should say areas, because the more you wander, the more the environment changes & you can sit anywhere to eat.  A massive pergola & clear roofed section with a few walls made out of recycled timber create an indoor/outdoor seating area.  Tables of all kinds are scattered around & people were everywhere.  Friday lunchtime was buzzing & I am told it is vibrant every day.

There are interesting tables made of industrial trolleys on steel wheels, complete with giant hooks that obviously dragged the trolleys through old factories.  Cleaned up, these look great & very chic.  There are places to sit in the sun, around a large water feature, under grape vines, in the shade & around raised garden beds.   There is even a glasshouse covered in vines with a large table inside – perfect for a group of 10-12 people to have a ‘private’ party.

They do wedding functions here, which is not a surprise to me at all.  I thought the place was extremely pretty.  Everywhere you look there are interesting items hanging from the ceiling, attached to walls or scattered around on the ground.  The set up is chic & colourful with real flowers growing in industrial containers all throughout the area.  I think you would notice something different each time you visited, simply because of the enormity of visual stimulation.   I also suspect the displays change with the seasons.

One of the many raised garden beds that grow produce for the kitchen.

One of the many raised garden beds that grow produce for the kitchen.

Surrounding & intermingled are raised garden beds filled with herbs, flowers & other edible produce, which is used in the kitchen.  The Chef must pick what he/she needs for that day.  ‘No food miles’ is really sustainable & quite impressive for an industrial area in the inner city.

There is a florist onsite with an appealing selection of flowers.  Tucked in amongst the flowers are organic skin products & displays of industrial, vintage & other interesting items.  To their credit no plastic bags are used onsite.   I didn’t stay long enough to find the chickens & the resident pig – Kevin Bacon, but I am told they are there.  Apparently there is also a children’s playground area.

It’s part farm, part factory-like, part country & the mix is great.  Even outside on the street frontage they have planted gardens & shrubs, as well as strung ropes with Chinese Jasmine growing along the ropes.  Hanging pots dangle from signs or wrought iron scraps.  So much has been repurposed.

It’s obvious that great care has gone into the design of The Grounds.  It is not just a restaurant/café – it’s an experience & importantly, a green functional space in the inner west.  Who would have thought that an industrial complex could be transformed into a place where people can have a nature fix, as well as well as eat good healthy food?

It is their gardens & they way The Grounds have set up the area that prompted me to think that this could be the way of the future for our cities & our living spaces.

Right now it is known that businesses in green leafy environments generate 11% more income than those located in a mainly concrete/asphalt environment.  The fact that you can eat at The Grounds is just one of the functions of the complex & I can easily see something similar to The Grounds concept as part of any high-rise housing development.

A currently controversial development proposal to build a 16-storey residential tower next to the Marrickville Railway Station on Station Street is angering a considerable number of local residents.  See – http://bit.ly/18dbumc   As I understand it, the developer is offering a ground floor area for community use, half of which is under an awning, so he can get permission to bypass the eight stories limit that the Marrickville Local Environment Plan (MLEP) imposes for this site.

This was spoken of by some Marrickville Councillors as a boon for the community, as it will offer a space to just hang out or be used for weekend markets.  My guess is people will still prefer to go to the Sunday Organic Growers Markets in the very green & leafy Addison Road Centre Marrickville.  This place offers a nature fix leaving you with the feeling that you have been somewhere away from concrete & asphalt.

Flower displays like this one were scattered all over the place.  There was an emphasis on creating beauty.

Flower displays like this one were scattered all over the place. There was an emphasis on creating beauty.

In my opinion, all new high-rise housing developments should include green space, not just a tiled or concreted area with a seat or two & some token landscaping that is likely not to last the distance.  The Grounds has shown what can be done to create a great space that significantly increases the livability of an area & is valuable to the community.  It is much, much better than what is currently & has been on offer with development across Marrickville LGA.  Incidentally, The Grounds also has monthly markets on the first weekend of every month.

As Sydney gets more populated, our parks are going to be equally populated.  Marrickville has the Cooks River & already many families travel great distances to come to the riverside parks.  As time goes on, these & other parks will become busier, so we need to have other spaces that double up as green space & recreational areas.  After yesterday’s experience, I can easily see how new housing/shopping developments can offer more.

The proposed new Marrickville Library is also a prime opportunity to step outside the box of what has been done for decades & provide something as innovative & useful as The Grounds.  This would see us into the future in a way that is environmentally sustainable in a people way, not just about water use, air-flow & the like.

Marrickville municipality has the dubious honour of having the least green space in Australia, so new developments really need to be different & provide green space, even if mixed with business, to ensure a sane population in the future.  That Marrickville was identified as the unhappiest suburb in Australia also bears mentioning.   Improving livability needs to be at the forefront of architectural design.  The more confined people’s living arrangements become in the future, as more & more apartment blocks are being developed, the more people will be needing open natural space close to home.

I’ve said enough.  Well done to The Grounds in Alexandria.  They pushed the gauntlet in a very successful & beautiful way.  Go visit their website.  There is heaps going on, including workshops in coffee roasting & gardening.  http://groundsroasters.com/

One of the barrows in The Grounds.

One of the barrows in The Grounds.

One of the many seating areas.

One of the many seating areas.

The Glasshouse

The Glasshouse

Everywhere you look you seen green.

Everywhere you look you seen green.  This is good for people.

 

 

 

 

Park(ing) Day poster

Park(ing) Day poster

Peaceful civil action is happening in Newtown this Saturday 21st September to celebrate Park(ing) Day – started in 2005 in San Francisco with a single metered parking space transformed into a temporary public park.  The event has grown to include 162 cities in 35 countries.  Now it is Newtown’s turn.

This event is where residents transform parking spots into temporary green spaces to highlight the need for more urban green space to improve livability.  With Marrickville municipality having the dubious honour of having the least green space in the whole of Australia, this event has great meaning.

Newtown organizer, Nic Lowe (GoGet car-sharing founder) & local residents will create a ‘parklet’ & have a good time.  There will be synthetic turf (a big topic in the LGA these days), hay bales, gnomes. seating & umbrellas to keep the sun off your face, plus live performances throughout the day.  There will also be Twister & a ‘Before I Die’ wall where you can write your contribution in chalk.

Christopher Thé of Blackstar Pastry said in a media release –  “My longterm goal is to get the footpath widened.  We’ve been here for five years & we do our bit to keep things compact & safe. But it’s time Council reconsidered the community needs….to look laterally & think about some new uses for old spaces.”

More than one thousand parklets will be created across Australia with one being in Newtown.  It should be fun.

WHEN:  From 7am this Saturday 21st September

WHERE:  In front of Blackstar Pastry, 277 Australia Street Newtown.

Garden beds have been created infront of the cul-de-sac & beside the school fence. The kids might use these rocks as a place to sit in the shade.

I recently came across a wonderful new project by Marrickville Council at the top of Kintore Street Dulwich Hill where it meets Hercules Street.  Sometime ago, the road was blocked & the space reclaimed to make a pocket park.

Google Street View taken around 2000-2002 in the photo below shows it to be a drab hot grassed space with a path, a couple of trees & a couple of park benches.  It wasn’t at all attractive.

With this recent work Council has planted 2 new trees in the centre area & placed 2 park benches next to trees. This will eventually provide shaded seating, which is always a good thing.  Another park bench has been placed beside a mature tree at the side nearest the school.

The grassed section remains, though it is new turf.  A number of garden beds surrounded by attractive sandstone barriers have been created.  These mimic the sandstone barriers in historic parks across the municipality.   The plants are grasses & other plants like Coastal Rosemary.  These too will look good once they have grown.  A couple of other trees have been planted in the garden beds.

Photos do much more justice than my words. Suffice to say that this is a big improvement to the local area & once grown should look terrific.

Google Street View image taken around 2000-2002. It was a space of great potential.

Council has created a garden bed at the street side as well as along the school fence & infront of the cul-de-sac. Decorative sandstone edging defines the space. The orange barrier will remain presumably until the lawn gets established & may have already been removed.

Side view of the grassed space with 2 new trees

New seat that gets afternoon shade. The garden beds are new.

The new landscaping at the end of the cul-de-sac

 

 

 

 

 

Tilman Park Tempe has some lovely features & some beautiful tall trees, including a Fig. Boulders are placed under the Fig so you can sit in the shade & watch the park.

Today I came across a wonderful article from the website The Conversation – “an independent source of information, analysis & commentary from the university & research sector.”  The article was written by Jason Byrne – Senior Lecturer/First Year Advisor at Griffith University & published 9th January 2012.

Bain Playground Stanmore has lovely mature trees & a great streetscape.

“Jason Byrne is an urban geographer by training. He undertook his PhD at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles) where he was a fellow in the Center for Sustainable Cities. Jason is also a Senior Fellow with the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies. He has previously worked as a town planner & environmental policy officer with the Western Australian government. Jason’s research interests include: urban nature parks & green-space planning; equity & fairness in planning (environmental ethics & justice); open space & healthy cities; ecological modernisation & sustainability; & climate change adaptation & urban resilience.

Because the The Conversation allows this article to be republished I thought it best if I did just that, rather than write a description with the web-link.

This article is very relevant to Marrickville LGA.  It’s great for me to be able to share what an expert thinks about the value of green space, especially in high-density urban areas & increasing urban consolidation. The use of bold is my emphasis.

“What is green space worth?

Recent patterns of residential development in Australian cities are threatening to overwhelm green space in our urban cores. Policies of urban consolidation have concentrated medium to high density residential development in inner ring suburbs where green space is comparatively scarce. And the zoning & development regulations of many local authorities actually allow a reduction of green space for higher density development – usually without any justification. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07293682.2010.508204

The Poplar trees along the Cooks River near Mackey Park Marrickville South make this a lovely cool & shady walk. There is always lots of bird song & when there is a breeze the leaves make a beautiful sound.

Everyone likes parks, but we may be greatly undervaluing their importance to our health & wellbeing, & to the wellbeing of other species. Rather than losing our green spaces, we should be assessing the evidence on their value & making informed decisions about how much green space we need.

To the casual observer, urban parks & green spaces might appear commonplace. But even a cursory examination of green space distribution within most cities shows that urban green space is neither uniformly accessible nor equitably distributed.

Generally the older & denser parts of many cities, which often were developed during the industrial revolution, tend to have relatively poor park access. But suburbs that have developed since the late 1950s have comparatively better access to various types of green space.

The spatial pattern of urban green space distribution reflects diverse factors linked to urban land & property markets, changing land use planning philosophies, histories of settlement & development, & in some cases, institutionalised racism and elitism.  http://phg.sagepub.com/content/33/6/743.short

Before the development of formalised park & recreation planning systems in the late 1800s & early 1900s, park & green space planning in the United Kingdom, United States, & Australia was relatively haphazard.

Some cities, like Adelaide, are park rich due to visionary administrators. In London royal parks were opened to the public, a product of elite benevolence.  Other cities, like Canberra, grew while new ideas about park planning gained popularity.

But some cities are park poor. Inner ring residents in Los Angeles for example, have less public park space per 1,000 residents than the size of a suburban backyard.  http://www.springerlink.com/content/g1277273381828l7/

So can we put a value on urban green space?

Research by John Henneberry, a Professor of Town & Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield, suggests people in Sheffield may be willing to pay sizeable sums to access high quality urban green space. http://www.shef.ac.uk/mediacentre/2011/public-willing-to-pay-more-for-greener-urban-spaces.html

This should not come as a surprise. From their early origins in the UK & US, parks were known to raise property values & people were prepared to pay a premium to live near them. Frederick Law Olmsted & Harland Bartholomew openly acknowledged this when they developed Central Park in New York.

Studies by John Crompton & others have found widespread evidence supporting the notion that proximity to green & open space pushes up property values.  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13606710500348060  But reducing the benefit of parks & green space to a line on a ledger sheet can be both misleading & inaccurate.

Beyond an economic calculation, researchers have discovered that urban green spaces provide a wide variety of benefits. You don’t have to use these spaces to benefit from them. Parks can improve physical & mental health, ecosystem services & urban biodiversity.

Public health researchers like Ariane Bedimo-Rung http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379704003046 & Billie Giles-Corti http://jech.bmj.com/content/62/5/e9.abstract have found that living close to urban green spaces like parks & trails can increase urban residents’ levels of physical activity & reduce the likelihood of being overweight or obese. This reduces the risk of diabetes & several types of cancer.

Frances Kuo http://eab.sagepub.com/content/30/1/3.short & her colleagues have found that proximity to urban green space can lower the incidence of domestic violence, stress & depression & may even mitigate attention deficit disorder in children.

Ecological economists including Bolund & Sven Hunhammar http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800999000130 have found urban green spaces also provide a range of free ecosystem services. They reduce noise levels, lower pollution, & reduce flooding.  And some ecologists have also found that urban parks can harbour rare & endangered species & promote biodiversity. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1618866706000732

We need strong evidence to support the density imperative, evidence that we presently lack. Until we can accurately gauge the green space needs of higher density residents, it may be folly to blindly pursue policies of urban consolidation.

In a time of economic uncertainty, when local councils are looking to develop “surplus” land assets such as “underutilised” park spaces, we need to carefully evaluate the true values of these spaces, before they are sold off to bolster ailing municipal coffers. To do otherwise could be more costly than we might imagine.  http://theconversation.edu.au/content/4703/tracker

The link to this article is here – http://theconversation.edu.au/what-is-green-space-worth-4703

Because there is shade Wicks Park is a great place to be on a hot day.

The photo below is of public space that connects John Street to Stanmore Road in Stanmore.  Opposite is the historic & very beautiful Maundrell Park.

In this quite large space are 2 bench seats. Neither is in the shade.  There are 3 trees; one I forgot to see if I could identify & 2 Golden robinias.  The robinias are deciduous so this area would have perhaps only the shade of one small tree through the autumn & winter months. A lack of shade can still be an issue during Sydney’s winter.

There is an interesting horse watering trough that used to have an historical plaque, but that’s no longer attached.  Although the area is clean, it looks barren & unattractive.

I do not understand why our Council transforms non-park public spaces into hard surface spaces.  Perhaps it is for ease of maintenance or maybe for another reason, but with Marrickville LGA having the lowest percentage of green space in Australia, I think all opportunities should be grabbed & utilized.  It wouldn’t take much to transform this area into something that adds beauty, improves the streetscape, creates a visual continuity with Maundrell Park & becomes a place that encourages use by the community.

Even if underground services inhibited what could be done in this area, there still could be planter boxes & small gardens to soften up the area.

To say Maundrell Park is across the road does not cancel out the need to revitalize this area in my opinion. Busy Stanmore Road is not easy to cross on foot & the pedestrian crossing is a significant distance away.

Our Councillors have spoken about the need for places in public spaces where people, especially the older members of our community can get together & chat or play chess, backgammon or the like.  A table with bench seats under a shady tree would help make this area people-friendly & encourage use by the community.

I recognize that this space would have cost Marrickville Council quite a lot of money as brick paving & this kind of bollard doesn’t come cheap. However I really think this is a wasted opportunity to achieve something nice that compliments the neighbourhood & is more useable than just a pedestrian thoroughfare.

Brown, hot & barren

O'Dea Reserve looking across to the playground

O’Dea Reserve has got to be one of the better parks in Marrickville LGA.  I’ve heard it mentioned in Council meetings often enough so we decided to visit.  The previous time we were there it was the site of an old & run down velodrome.  I guess that repairing it was deemed too expensive so the velodrome was demolished & the area was made into a much-needed park.  Marrickville Council has done exceptionally well here.

O’Dea Reserve has a large & well-equipped playground currently shaded by black shade cloth. Many Eucalypts have been planted around & close to the playground so they will create natural shade once they have grown.  Perhaps then the shadecloth will be removed allowing the kids to play under the shade of the trees.

Surrounding the playground are many soft & tactile plants allowing children to explore nature. This is much nicer than simple lawn.  There is even a small hill made into the playground area allowing kids to roll & tumble on a padded rubber surface so they won’t hurt themselves.  The playground was full of families with lots of children playing while we were there.

There is also a large enclosed leash-free area for dogs to have a run & exercise.  Like the playground, this area was full of people & their dogs.  The dogs were having a great time & it was obvious that many knew each other & have regular meet ups there.  Poo bags were available for free & there were bins for doggie poo.  People cleaned up after their dogs as there were no surprise packages in the park.

Paths meander through landscaped areas

The park has an incredibly healthy & good-looking Fig tree that should be included in the Significant Tree Register.  It is definitely a tree that one hopes future generations will also benefit from.  Council has protected this tree & prevented soil impaction from people walking around the base of the tree by building a very large raised deck around the trunk & under the canopy.

This area could be used for all sorts of community meet ups & is a natural & perfect stage for music.  Perhaps we too should have evening plays like the community in Glebe who has ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ every summer.  It would be easy to ignore the fence railings just to be able to have this experience.  There is a vast lawn in front & beside the deck on both sides that would allow a thousand people to sit on picnic blankets & watch the play.  Perhaps Council could go crazy & put on Moonlight Cinema for a few weekends over summer.  Now wouldn’t that be a great idea.

Another large tree at the bottom corner of this park also has a large deck built around it.  There is also a gabion wall beside this that forms a boundary to the park.  As this is at the end of street, both the tree & the wall look very striking in the streetscape.  Gabion walls have been successfully used elsewhere in the park to create levels for landscaping. They look great & offer terrific habitat for small animals & lizards.

O’Dea Reserve has been divided into ‘rooms.’  Its not a park with trees around the periphery & lawn in the centre.  There are still vast areas of lawn, but these have been divided into areas of significant landscaping.  The landscaping does include the usual & familiar grasses that define this LGA, but also plants & small trees, such as small Bottle Brush, various Grevillea, Banksias & others, all bird-feeding Australian native plants. Sizable corridors have been created that offer real habitat for small animals.  These are dense so the dogs naturally don’t try to enter.  Small birds have lots of food & are well protected.

The sign is needed. This is taken from the footpath at the bottom of the O'Dea Reserve. Landscaping here runs the full length of the park

Quite a number of larger growing trees have been planted throughout the park. In 10 to 20-years time these should have reached a decent size, adding more visual beauty & hopefully shade to the park.  At the moment shade is the only thing lacking as one would need to find somewhere that does have shade.

Concrete paths meander around the landscaped areas. Kids whizz by on scooters, people stroll & there are cyclists as well as joggers.  Park benches are dotted all over the park & also in the playground & the dog exercise area.  Benches are placed where there will be shade at a certain time of day & all are placed to look at a view.  O’Dea Reserve is a park set up for people & as such is a surprisingly useful area of green space.

There are 2 large barbeques & an area of undercover seating with picnic tables providing shade for those who use these facilities.  In front is a large concreted area that has a design incorporated into it.  This is a safe area for little children to play whilst still being close to their family & the playground is not too far away.

We saw many birds, including Galahs feeding peacefully on the grass.  The park is clean & there is very little graffiti tagging in the park itself.

It’s a truly lovely park & proves that Marrickville Council can do what I bang on about in this blog.  It was so nice to see.  If Council can just do what they have done in O’Dea Reserve in the other parks across the LGA, our experience of parks will be much better & Council may find that the community uses them more.  Also, our parks would fulfill the role of much-needed restaurants for urban wildlife, which would be a very good thing.

Well-done Marrickville Council.  We loved O’Dea Reserve.  If you haven’t been this park is well worth a visit.

I made a YouTube video of O’Dea Reserve here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8S8jxm9scM

& one of the playground only – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrbYCDL6Uao

Showing the gorgeous Fig with decking. Most of the decking is out of view

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