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What a positive change to this section of Unwins Bridge Road. Street trees and verge gardens on both sides of the road!

In May 2017 I posted about the new verge gardens created along both sides of Unwins Bridge Road from Tramway Street to the corner of Gannon Street Tempe. See – http://bit.ly/2r7xu1O

I was hopeful that street trees would be planted too.   Well, my wish was granted.  Not only has Inner West Council planted street trees, but they planted a lot of them in just one block.  I think this is the largest number of new trees planted in one block that I have noticed since starting this blog.

Twelve Ornamental pear trees have been planted on the eastern side & seven on the western side of Unwins Bridge Road. This is the species Council are planting along Unwins Bridge Road.

You may have noticed that many of our high traffic roads are lined with Ornamental pear trees.  I think it is because they are so robust & can tolerate poor growing conditions.  They create a fairly dense canopy, so will provide a good pollution barrier between the traffic & the houses collecting some of the particulate matter from passing vehicles.   They should also help muffle some of the traffic noise & cool the street as well.

The trees will also add beauty to this section of Unwins Bridge Road that was previously dominated by concrete for what seems like forever.  The change is quite striking even at this early stage after planting.  Imagine how it will look once everything has grown.

Council has planted a variety of plants from native grasses to native violets & other small plants.  These too will help manage air pollution, add beauty & cool the area down.

I applaud Council for doing this work & for choosing to plant street trees in that location.  The trees will work to improve the air quality for local residents who have to tolerate massive amounts of traffic passing by seven days a week & the associated pollution.

If all our heavy traffic roads could also have the same treatment, this will help improve the health of the residents now & into the future.  More & more research is finding that street trees have a considerable impact on the health of the community, so the more our urban forest increases, the better it will be for all of us.

Showing the western side of Unwins Bridge Road.

Quite a range of plants in the verge gardens.

Community compost bin in Chippendale.  Photo taken 2013.

Good news for World Environment Day.   The Inner West Council is trialling community compost huts & they say they are the first council to do so in Australia.   In 2013 I posted about community compost bins that are scattered around the streets of Chippendale.  It must be huts versus bins that make Inner West Council’s initiative unique.   Whatever the reason, I think community composting is a great idea however it is delivered.

Local residents who live within walking distance to the compost huts & are signed up to participate, can drop off their compostable kitchen waste.  The huts are not for garden waste.

Each compost hut can manage the compostable waste of between 40-60 households.

Inner West Council will manage the compost & turn it once or twice a week.  When ready, the composted material will be available for use by council in local parks or by residents.

I love this initiative.  It’s simple, cheap & totally sustainable.  To have food waste go back into producing lovely rich fertile soil to be used locally is perfect.  I really hope the trial works & compost huts will become the norm for use of residents all over the municipality.  Well done Council.

Strange split pole with a nesting hollow attached on the side. I shall be interested to see how this progresses.

Last weekend we came across something very interesting at Tempe Recreation Reserve.  A very tall power pole has been installed in the small hill next to the 2015 National Tree Day site.  Half way up the pole a man-made tree hollow has been attached.

The pole itself has three splits down its length to around half a metre from the ground.  Other people walking in the park joined us to discuss the mystery of the pole.  Was it an accident, was the pole meant to be split like this perhaps to offer shelter for microbats or had it been hit by lightning?

We decided lightning was out because there had not been a storm in the previous week when they said the pole had been installed. The conversation roamed to microbats because they like to sleep in crevices.  The wind was making the sections of the pole move, which I thought  might squash any sleeping bats, but I am not an expert of microbat habitat.

I could imagine a pole with several of these man-made tree hollows attached at various heights along the pole.  High-rise totem pole housing for wildlife & with superb water views.   You have got to love that.

Red-rumped parrots can often be seen in Tempe Reserve & these birds need tree hollows or nesting boxes to breed.  Perhaps they will move in.

It is sad that so many trees have been removed in our cities, especially older trees that have hollows, but I am pleased that Inner West Council is concentrating on this issue of hollows for wildlife & exploring creative options.  There is no doubt this pole is creative housing for wildlife.

Last month I spotted a family of Australian Wood ducks wandering along the riverbank at the Marrickville Golf Course.  This was the first time I have seen Australian Wood ducks along the Cooks River.   These ducks breed in tree hollows.  Once the fledglings are ready to leave the nest, their parent leaves & the chicks, one by one, take a death defying leap to the ground.

You may have seen videos of this, but if you haven’t, this short video of wood ducks leaving the hollow is worth watching.  I flinch watching these brave little balls of fluff tumbling through the air to bounce on the ground below.  It’s a big start to life.      See – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkBSkFyUyv0

Australian Wood ducks walking along the Cooks River in Marrickville Golf Course.  There are another three ducks not included in this photo.  

A rain garden is being created just behind the picnic table.

Murdoch Park at 171 Illawarra Road Marrickville is undergoing Stage Two of an upgrade.

Stage One was completed in June 2014.  The then Marrickville Council spent $50,000 to add a path, a new gate, a picnic table, a park bench, a drinking fountain & two sandstone sculptures.   They also planted a garden, vines along the fence & four trees.  The trees were a special treat because this green space had no trees & was just a patch of grass with a diagonal path from front to the back lane.  See –  http://bit.ly/2qvwUdj

Stage two includes a raingarden, which was being created when I went past recently.  I think Inner West Council has done well to make this small green space attractive & useable for people & a source of food & habitat for wildlife.

Green space is scarce in the former Marrickville municipality, so Council ensuring that each & every space is attractive strongly benefits the community.

The beautiful Cooks River

This is a free talk by Professor Ian Tyrrell, a local resident, academic & environmentalist who is writing a book on the history of the Cooks River since white settlement.  This event is organised by The Cooks River Valley Association.  

WHEN:          Tuesday 20th June 2017

WHERE:        School hall, Marrickville West Public School, corner Livingstone Road & Beauchamp Street Marrickville.

TIME:             7pm

No street trees is a feature of New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill. The new development in view did not include street trees, though they did include concrete.

New concrete – no street trees. Is this the best this will look?

This new development in New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill at least put in street trees. I find the power pole in the middle of the footpath odd.

We cycled up New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill last week & were surprised at the large developments happening there.  Our area is changing fast.

One of the high-rise blocks has four Brushbox trees planted out front, though one is already dead.   Street trees of this kind will enhance the streetscape and keep the footpath area cool so I am glad they were planted.

The other high-rise building has no street trees, just a long expanse of brand new concrete.

If this is going to be the future look for New Canterbury Road, then I think it is a missed opportunity.  Inner West Council needs to insist that developers include a decent number of street trees as part of the development & dare I say, verge gardens.  There certainly is room enough for them.

When NSW Transport built the light rail stations, they did not stop at station infrastructure.  They also planted trees & other plants extensively both inside & around the light rail stations & made these places quite attractive.  It is this that I would like to see developers do when they build a new building for the area – to look at the streetscape surrounding & especially in front of their development.  What they don’t spend in concrete, they can spend on street trees & plants.   I learnt from listening to the architect for The Revolution in Marrickville that if something “green” is not mandatory, then they don’t bother to include it in the development.

More & more around Sydney I am noticing busy roads including verge gardens & it all works well.  With climate change starting to really make its impact & with three heatwaves already this year, development needs to change into something that assists the community.  Concrete does not cut it anymore.  We know too much about how great expanses of concrete is bad for us & exacerbates heat.

Brilliant awning in Waterloo. Just a small change allows the community to have tall street trees. Such a sensible idea.

I also think Council should make it mandatory to have street side building awnings to be of the kind that has cutouts to allow the canopy of a street tree to grow & gain height as is the norm all along the Princes Highway in North Sydney.  They have tall Brushbox trees growing along their business/shopping strip & all the trees have space for their canopy to grow.  It looks good & not only that, it is sensible.  I’ve also seen this in Waterloo.   Why can we not have this in our area?

 

Further down closer to Dulwich Hill shops – New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill is barren in many places.

To end on a positive note, I very much like the new verge gardens on both sides, corner of Myra Street & New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill. Council narrowed the road to add gardens and slow down traffic.  They have planted Callistemon ‘Little John,’ which is a fabulous plant.  It looks terrific.  

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.

The crack is significant.

The crack is significant.  

Inner West Council has given notice that they intend to remove a Narrow-leafed red ironbark (Eucalyptus crebra) opposite 6 Tramway Avenue Tempe.

Tramway is a lovely street with lots of street trees.  The tree to be removed is the one with the sign.  I am glad that Council are replacing with another in this location.

Tramway is a lovely street with lots of street trees. The tree to be removed is the one with the sign. I am glad that Council are replacing with another in this location.

Council gives the following reasons for removal –

  • “Tree has significant crack in the main trunk causing it to be structurally unsound.
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.”

Council says they will replace with a Red Iron Bark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) as part of the 2017 Street Tree Planting Program between May & September.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 3rd March 2017. 

 

 

Brittle gum in Stafford Street Stanmore.

Sydney blue gum in Stafford Street Stanmore.  It looks like a sick tree with a poor canopy.  Unfortunately the canopy does not show well in this photo.  A tree behind makes it look fuller than it is.  

You can see the damage in the trunk of the Brittle Gum.

You can see the damage in the trunk of the Sydney blue gum.

Inner West Council has given notice that they intend to remove two public trees in Stanmore.

Tree number 1:  a Sydney Blue Gum (Eucalyptus saligna) outside 13 Stafford Street Stanmore.

Council gives the follow reasons for removal –

  • “Tree has previously had several major branch failures which have resulted in weakened structural integrity.
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.”

Council says they will replace with a Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) in the 2017 Street Tree Planting Program between May & September.

I agree this tree needs to go.   While I like Jacarandas, I think it is a shame to replace a big native tree species with an exotic.

The deadline for any submissions is Friday 3rd March 2017.

Tree number 2: a Brittle Gum (Eucalyptus mannifera) outside 62 Percival Road Stanmore.

Council gives the follow reasons for removal –

  • “Tree has poor vitality and significant canopy dieback
  • Major open wound to trunk with decay and loss of structural wood.
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public and property.”

Council says they will replace with a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) during the 2017 Street Tree Planting Program between May & September.

I agree this tree needs to go & think it is good that Council is replacing a native with a native.

The deadline for any submissions is Friday 10th March 2017.

Brittle gum in Percival Road.

Brittle gum in Percival Road.  Not much canopy left.

The trunk of the Brittle gum in Percival Road.

The trunk of the Brittle gum in Percival Road.

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet drinking nectar 

When we first moved to Marrickville just over two decades ago, there were only Currawongs & Indian mynas in our street.  The Currawongs would leave in the morning & return at dusk.  The Currawongs would move somewhere else for spring & summer leaving the Indian mynas to rule.  What we heard most of the time was traffic & plane noise.  There were very few natural sounds.

New people started to move into the neighbourhood & we all started gardening.  Some of our neighbours planted cottage garden type plants, while others like ourselves went totally native & included some natives indigenous to this area.

We had a rule – unless it was spectacular, what we planted had to be able to provide food for birds or bats & at the very least, bees & other insects.

And then it happened….. the noise of our street changed.  All kinds of birds started to visit.

It was slow at first.  We started to identify different bird calls. Sometimes small groups of around 10-20 birds would visit.  The birdbath was used every day.  Evidence of their splashing was noticed & the water had to be replenished.  We would walk out the front door only to cause a mad fluttering of wings as bathing birds got interrupted.

Every year the sounds of birds were built upon.  A common question was, “What is that bird?”  The Birds in Backyards website was used often trying to identify the latest visitor.

A nest was spotted.  It turned out to be a pair Red Wattle birds.  Having been woken up by these flying alarm clocks for many years, I don’t feel like home is quite right unless there are Red Wattle birds around, so I was very happy about this.  Unfortunately, Ausgrid pruned off the branch that held their nest (in spring when they were breeding no less) & we feared we had lost them.   It was with much joy that we saw they had rebuilt in a branch of another street tree, closer to our house.  The branch is still at risk, but hopefully we will be able to convince Ausgrid to leave it be whenever they visit.

The Red Wattle bird pair have had three successful breeding seasons now.  They must like gardeners because they fly low over our heads when we are outside & even when they see our car.  We get greeted with a “Kuk Kuk!” most times we venture outside.

Little White eyes visit every day chattering at a million miles an hour when the right flowers are out.  They sound like a party.   For the last two years Rainbow lorikeets have visited the verge garden & their idea of party noise is much louder.  This season they come every 3-4 hours.  I imagine they circle the neighbourhood visiting known food sources returning after they have given the flowers time to replenish their nectar.  It is so much nicer than listening to traffic.

Someone else’s tree planting has attracted an Eastern Koel.  These birds migrate all the way from Papua New Guinea every summer.  Many people find these birds irritating, but I like the sound of his plaintive call calling for a mate.  I don’t find it too hard to go back to sleep after waking at 3am To “Kooel!  Kooel!”  The only time I had difficulty was when he sat in the street tree that was maybe 8-metres from our bedroom window.   I did mutter a bit that night.

One of the lovely things about living in Marrickville is the nightly wave of flying foxes that travel overhead at dusk.  I think they are beautiful to watch & especially like watching them from Turrella or from the Cooks River.  It’s a peaceful thing to do on a warm evening.

A pair of flying foxes have started to spend time eating from our street – the street trees & the trees in private gardens.   Their chattering sounds are quite lovely to hear in the background.   Flying foxes are experiencing a food shortage at present resulting in the death of many of their pups, so it is excellent to know that our effort is helping provide food for them.

There are bee hives in the area, which is great for our garden.  Bees are in trouble worldwide, so again, it is wonderful to know that we are doing our bit to help them survive just by making choices with what we plant.

We have a huge Salvia, which is totally inappropriate for our small garden, but we keep it because native Blue Banded bees come to feed from the flowers most days in the warmer months.    There are other native bees that hover & feed in this plant too.

There are lots of other species of bird that visit now & some are seasonal.  I can’t express how much better it is to live with a range of bird song & not just Indian mynas.  As an aside, I often read that Indian mynas chase away the native birds.  This has not been our experience.  The Indian mynas are still here of course, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of native birds that come here & that have moved into trees in people’s gardens.  The mynas no longer own this territory & they know it, so they quietly go about their own business.

If you want Indian mynas, lay a huge concrete slab driveway or concrete your back yard because they love concrete & bitumen. 

If you don’t want Indian mynas, plant a variety of food-producing native plants & trees & before long, the Indian mynas will be overrun by the new kids on the block.  You will be too busy noticing the native birds that you won’t see the Indian mynas.

In Part 2 I will write about ideas on improving biodiversity in small gardens & even balconies.

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