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In February 2010 I wrote about the resplendent Morton Bay Fig at St Stephen’s Church in Newtown for Festival of the Trees. See https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/st-stephens-fig/ With this post, I aim to describe the cemetery as I have experienced it.   To separate the graveyard & the trees is almost impossible as they intermingle & both are quite beautiful.

We went while it was drizzling with light rain which made the whole place quite evocative

Once you walk past the massive Morton Bay Fig planted in 1848 & the 2 large clumps of Giant Bamboo, also planted more than a century ago, you follow the dirt road that takes you to the heritage protected Gothic Revivalist St Stephen’s Church & immediately into the cemetery.  The graveyard itself starts within metres of the entrance on both sides of the dirt road.

The current cemetery is about 4 acres (1.6 hectares) & is bordered by a high sandstone wall.  The land, 4 kms from Sydney’s CBD, purchased by a group of businessmen in 1845, was originally 12.5 acres (4.8 hectares).  It was the main cemetery for Sydney until it closed in 1867 because it was full.  Even so, a few people were buried here up to the 1940s.  All up, about 18,000 people were buried here, though the true numbers are not known because many of the graves hold multiple people, all buried on top of each other.  A significant number of the famous are buried here.

In 1948 Marrickville Council reclaimed ¾ of the cemetery land to create a public park & Camperdown Memorial Rest Park opened in 1951.  The headstones and other fixtures were brought inside the cemetery wall & I guess the thousands of interred are still under the park while the dog walkers & others play overhead.  Rather a gruesome thought, though I know others who question why I think like this.

gravestones line up against the whole of boundary sandstone wall

The tombstones from outside the new boundary were removed & placed inside & against the sandstone perimeter wall & fixed in place with steel nails.  Unfortunately, the nails have rusted over time & split many of the headstones.  Most of the graves & headstones are made of Sydney sandstone & have seriously weathered over the years.

The graves surround the church, then spread out through the cemetery.  I have not been on one of the regular guided tours, so I do not know much about the individuals who were buried here.  Directly behind the church is an impressive grave in the style of a boat.  My favourite tombstone is a tree stump made of cement.  Over time it has weathered & appears real until you look closely.

The cemetery is also special because of the trees.  There are Brush Boxes (Lophostemon confertus) planted in the 1960s, Blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon), a Lemon Scented Gum  (Corymbia citriodora), a Port Jackson Cypress Pine (Callitris rhomboidea), 2 African Olive trees (Olea africana), a number of Melaleucas, a grove of Chinese Elms (Ulmus parvifolia), Canary Island Palms (Phoenix canariensis), a Morton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla), a few Birch trees & a number of Camphor Laurel trees (Cinnamomum camphora).  There are also 2 clumps of Giant Bamboo.

If I were to take you on a tour, we would walk down the dirt road passing many graves & a row of Canary Island Palms planted in the 1930s.  There is a circular road behind St Stephen’s Church & many of the gravestones in this area are impressive.

many of the trees are huge

From here we would walk into the small area beside the church on the other side.  It is somewhat off the path, but it is well worth it because of the enormous Oak that spreads its boughs here.  The last time we went it had been raining heavily & the ground was very boggy, which I think would discourage people from going in this direction.  In this area the gravestones are sparser, though I would guess there are people buried in unmarked graves.  The Oak is magnificent & would be one of the trees that were planted in 1848.  The Oak tree spills out claiming a lot of space & I can easily imagine the kids playing on it after church a century ago.

A few metres away a big tree has recently been chopped down.  Judging by the side of the stump, I imagine this tree also filled the space now open to the sky.  Interestingly, the stump is one of many which is directly next to a grave & over time it has dislodged part of the stone.  I would guess there was a tradition of planting a tree where a loved one was buried.

The cemetery did have many Peace roses, but Marrickville Council removed them because it was felt they required too much care.  I found one old rose bush planted in a grave, so perhaps it is a remanent of the original roses.

Moving away from this area & rejoining the dirt path that meanders around the left side of the cemetery following the sandstone fence, you pass very old Brush Box & Camphor Laurel trees.  Their trunks are massive & they have been left to grow naturally with minimal pruning.

A special site is on your left where those from the shipwrecked Dunbar & the Catherine Adamson in 1857 are buried.  I know it is important because these graves are painted white & are well looked after.  The dirt path becomes a track & takes you to & along the back wall of the cemetery.  Tombstone after tombstone are lined up against the perimeter wall. Some are detailed & very beautiful while others are simple affairs.

The trees in this area are different.  They too are tall, but their branches sweep just above the ground & in some cases require you to dodge & walk around them.  Some of the graves here are different as well, being just headstones & you have to assess where the grave would be if you don’t want to tread on them.

This part of the cemetery has remanent Kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra) left over from when the whole area to Botany Bay was covered with this species of grass.  It’s nice to look at & I can easily imagine following the walking trail to the sea over miles of this soft grass that would have caught the light & changed colour throughout the day.

To your right is the centre of the cemetery & my favourite area.  It has no path, is dense with tall trees & you cannot see the church.  Apart from the odd gravestone, you could be anywhere. The grass is long & many of the graves are overgrown.  There is a birch wood covering a few metres that have sprung up naturally after the initial trees were planted.  There is also some Wattle, a very large a Port Jackson Cypress Pine, more Oak trees planted in 1848 & a grove of Chinese Elms.

handmade jewellery left in the hollow of the Oak stump

In the middle is an old Oak stump that stands about 6 feet high with a natural hollow that ascends to the top.  Here I found a piece of hand-made jewellery that has been carefully placed inside.  It made me think that I had come across some sort of wishing ritual, so apart from taking a photo, I did not touch it.

One branch from this tree has been left on the ground.  It had the most amazing pattern & to me looked almost like rivers taken from space.  Interesting that pictures of earth from space can look similar to what we can see in nature & even the same as inside the human body.  The patterns repeat again & again.  I hope the church authorities leave this stump as it is very beautiful.

Leaving the centre of the cemetery, you return to the path, which widens & takes you back to St Stephen’s Church.  Here there are many other tall & old trees, mostly Brush Box.

The most filigree tomb is right in the front left-hand corner behind the Giant Bamboo.  Here 4 figures act as columns for a roof structure.  Each figure looks different & holds something different.  We did not notice the bees that started to gather & had to run away because these bees were quite territorial. There are at least 2 hives situated at the back of the Lodge located a few metres away.

Once you pass the Giant Bamboo & the massive Morton Bay Fig, you return to the front gate & are in the heart of busy Newtown with it’s tiny terraces & narrow streets.  If you follow the perimeter fence to your left, you come to Camperdown Memorial Rest Park where a few of the original Brush Box trees can be seen at the edge of the park.  This much-used park is where the cemetery was originally, so remember to be quiet.  There are people sleeping under your feet.

NOTE:  I have tried to create a visual walking tour of Camperdown Cemetery.  The photos are labelled 1, 2 , 3 etc & they follow the path as I walked it.  You can view this at the following link – http://www.flickr.com/photos/savingourtrees/sets/72157623601096089/detail/

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On 19th March, the following 3 street trees were put up on Marrickville Council’s web-site for removal.

1. Mature Corymbia citriodora (Lemon Scented Gum) outside 11 Union Street Dulwich Hill.  This tree was the first campaign for SoT in June last year.  At that time Council said the problem was ‘whole tree failure’ which I & other members of the community disputed.

showing the recent splits & the 'bleeding' from the nails which were hammered in last June 2009 - using a wide angle lens makes the tree appear taller than it is

The outcome was Council surveyed the tree & intended to monitor to see if the lean increased.  Their report says a lot has happened to this tree since then.

This time they say: Asymmetric root–plate development due to restrictive growth environment. (as does a huge percentage of mature trees in Marrickville LGA due to failure to remove cement from around their trunks), buttressing of the base of the tree over the adjacent kerb.  This predisposes the tree to wind-throw in extreme weather conditions.  There is also a risk of whole tree failure if the kerb collapses. Extensive structural root & crown decay in the plane of compressive stress.  This condition is compounded by the tree exhibiting a moderate lean in the plane of decay.  The decay has been caused by the presence of the naturally occurring fungal decay pathogen Armilaria leuteobubalina.  The tree is exposed to south-easterly winds in the direction of lean & in the plane of decay.  This is compounded by the tree exhibiting an asymmetric canopy, with the majority of the canopy being present in the direction of the lean of the tree (what does Council think of all the masses of asymmetric trees which have been made this way by Energy Australia?)  Severance of structural roots on the windward side of the tree as a result of excavations undertaken by Sydney Water.

I interpret the above as: this tree is likely to fall over if there is an extreme weather event, especially if the wind comes from a south-easterly direction or if the sandstone kerb collapses.  The tree has been placed at risk because Sydney Water severed its structural roots.  Finally, the tree has caught a fungal disease & this sews up the argument for removal.  As this fungus stays in the ground for a while, Council will not replace the tree for 2 years. Council does not say what species the replacement will be.

I went to have a look at this tree & its condition has really changed.  In my opinion it needs to go.  I can’t identify Armilaria leuteobubalina, but I can tell when a tree is deteriorating & this one is.  It has recently developed 2 large vertical splits in its trunk that regardless of the other things afflicting this tree, indicate its demise.

Its loss is going to have a dramatic affect on the streetscape as it cascades beautifully over Union Street & is clearly visible from the café on the corner.  The deadline for submissions is 2nd April 2010.

2. The second street tree is a Eucalyptus scoparia (Wallangarra White Gum) outside 70 Railway Street Petersham.  Council’s report says:  Extensive stem decay & is at risk of

showing the decay & damage by borers

breakage. No disagreement from me with this tree.  It looks like it has or had borers & they entered via a newly cut branch.

I am pleased to note that Council says they will replace it with a Lemon Scented Gum.  I do know a number of Petersham residents who are worried that Council will remove their Gums.  (I just realised how this reads like & will leave it for a bit of fun).  Put in a way that does not sound like dental work, residents fear that Council will remove the Eucalypts, so replacement with a tall growing Eucalypt will please many.  The deadline for submissions is 9th April 2010.

3.  The third tree required a certain amount of sleuthing on my part to locate because I failed to notice the word ‘adjacent.’  This is another Eucalyptus scoparia (Wallangarra

massive damage to this tree as well as termites

White Gum).  It sits in a lovely little space between 2 types of stairs (ordinary/normal stairs & thrill-seeker/kill off your granny stairs – see photo in this post) that connect Day Street with Hampden Avenue.  There are a number of mature trees in this little triangle of dirt.

Council’s report says: Extensive column decay in trunk. Termite activity evident. Again, both these were easy to see.  I also think the people who live in the house directly next to & below this particular tree may breath a sigh of relief when it goes.  They may have held their breath through a few storms, worried that it would crash on their house.  I know I would have.  Council will replace this tree with a Eucalyptus microcorys (Tallow Wood), which will be nice.  The deadline for submissions is 9th April 2010.

I was enormously pleased to see that Marrickville Council had used wide sticky tape to fasten the ‘notice of removal’ signs on all 3 trees.  Thank you for doing this.  This is a big

The ramp on the right is very steep - I assume it was used when the quarry across the road was active

change from previous practice of nailing in the signs & seems more effective because all 6 signs are still in place.

I was also very pleased to note the more detailed information provided with the ‘notification for removal.’  Although I recognise this takes more time for Council staff, it helps them in the long run because the community does not have to guess why the trees are up for removal.  All 3 notifications & especially the one in Union Street gave clear & descriptive reasons.  Coupled with the use of tape instead of nails, this is a great improvement & goes to generating goodwill.

Apparently the period for submissions for public trees is 14 days, not 21 as we have experienced throughout the latter half of 2009.  Council says they allow 21 days for submissions if the tree is significant in some way.  14 days doesn’t allow much time, but if we are organised, it can be done.  It also means that I cannot be slow in noticing new trees for removal on their web-site.

I am not going to put in a submission for any of the current trees as I believe they all should be removed.

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