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This is the Victoria Road Marrickville swale just after it was created in December 2009.  Once the plants grew it changed considerably.

This is the Victoria Road Marrickville swale just after it was created in December 2009. Once the plants grew it changed considerably.

This is how the Victoria Road Bushpocket swale looked like late in the day on the 21st March 2013.

This is how the Victoria Road Bushpocket swale looked like late in the day on the 21st March 2013.

On 21st March 2013 I drove down Victoria Road Marrickville & saw earth-moving equipment with Marrickville Council workers digging up the swale on the bushpocket site.  I returned at the end of the day specifically to have a close look.  The swale had been totally removed & what was left in its place was a large hole, a flattened area that looked suspiciously like a footpath & paint markings on the dirt also looking like the outline of a footpath.

As Marrickville Council have recently built what I call ‘a footpath to nowhere’ under the railway bridge & around the curve of Victoria Road to Myrtle Street, I assumed the swale was destroyed for an extension of this footpath.

The ‘footpath to nowhere’ ends in Myrtle Street where street trees start.  To continue the footpath three good-sized street trees planted around 8 to 10-years-ago will probably need to be removed.  That is unless Council make the footpath thinner in this area, but I doubt they will because the rest of it is wide & they tend to like wide paths.

There is a footpath on the opposite side of both Victoria Road & Myrtle Street so pedestrians are okay.  There has never been a footpath on the other side of this section of Victoria Road that I am aware of.  The area is located beside the goods line & coupled with the hill, made an excellent site for a swale & a bushpocket.  There are also 3-4 large mature trees here that screen the railway line.

The swale is a major part of the Victoria Road Bushpocket site.  It was built by Marrickville Council in 2009 as part of a community environmental initiative led by local resident Micheal Easton & supported by other local residents.  The residents met regularly to plant, weed & clean the bushpocket site. Together they transformed it from a relatively empty, verging on an unsightly litter-attracting patch of land to something that was green, functional & quite lovely.

Council even installed a park bench placed under the shade of a tree.  The pathways were loose gravel & it was nice to walk here & have a look to see what was in flower at the time.  In March 2011, the project was handed back to Marrickville Council who said they would continue to manage the bushpocket.

Apparently the swale has been destroyed to accommodate a bicycle path.  As a cyclist, I think a bike paths are very important & much needed.  I question however, with this section of Victoria Road being so wide & already a Council designated on-road cycle route, why Council would need to destroy a swale that was part of local stormwater management & important for biodiversity.  The swale was built in this location to capture & clean stormwater before it entered the Cooks River, less than a kilometer away.

Something else to consider is that the bushpocket was thriving & great for biodiversity & habitat creation.  Now we will have yet more concrete.

If it costs Council $1,000 to plant a sapling, imagine how much the Bushpocket & swale cost to create & manage & how much it cost to remove it.

Will this area be concreted?

Will this area be concreted?  

Showing Myrtle Street, the new footpath & the curve of the road going under the railway line.

Showing Myrtle Street, the new footpath that stops because trees are in the way.  The outside lanes are marked with bicycle symbols.






Sometimes I get annoyed with Marrickvile Council & sometimes I think they do such fantastic things for our environment that I want to become their publicity officer.  Today was the latter.  It is National Tree Day.

Council arranged a National Tree Day working bee for members of the community to volunteer by planting the new area currently being renovated at Steele Park, Illawarra Road Marrickville South alongside the Cooks River.

My initial impression when I arrived was one of astonishment. I had been expecting to see a small area that was to be a salt-water wetland.  Instead before me were large decorative swales, at least 2 of them, with a couple more being built. One looks like a heart before it takes a winding route under a new pedestrian/bike path/bridge before reaching the Cooks River.  The car park has been removed, the soil has been landscaped to facilitate the swales & new trees have been planted.

Council supplied gloves & spades & put on a barbeque. We were given on-the-spot OH&S training before we joined around 60-100 other people to plant native grasses, ferns, shrubs & seedling trees.  The work was easy because the soil was wet after the recent rain. It looked like 4/5ths of the plants were in the ground by the time we left.

If you haven’t done this before, I’d recommend it as a nice way to spend a couple of hours. People were friendly, the work was not back-breaking & the food was probably good, though we didn’t stay for that part.  It was good to take part in beautifying this part of Marrickville.

There are a number of environmental programs in Marrickville LGA that rely on volunteers. For information contact Marrickville Council’s Biodiversity Coordinator 9335-2222.

I predict Marrickville Council will win awards for the landscaping & environmental work at Steele Park. When they do, I’ll post a reminder to say I said it first.  If this is any indication of what the waterplay section is going to be like, Steele Park is going to be beautiful.  As I write this it is raining – excellent for today’s new plants.

Showing a few shots of the swales. Second photo down on the right shows the salt-water wetland & the photo bottom left shows permeable footpaths.

Swale at the bottom of Hill Street Marrickville South

Something is definitely happening with the birds. Two weeks ago, my neighbour’s front garden & the street tree were suddenly filled with tiny birds twittering up a storm.  It was like the whole population of another suburb visited & came all at once. The bird song was deafening, like I was standing in a forest.  This has happened a couple of times since with what appeared to be the same species of bird.  Then the Ravens came, about 20 of them & they all had something to say.

This morning I dashed outside when I heard screeches.  Looking up I swear I saw around 30 eagles flying overhead, & no, I was not drunk or on drugs. The eagles were flying relatively low so I got a good look at them.  They are very big birds with a massive wingspan.  All the other birds went silent & those eating from the Grevilleas got down low in the bushes as fast as they could.  It was very quiet for a few minutes after the eagles flew away.  Even our cats were terrified.

Has anyone else seen eagles in the Inner West before or in the suburbs?  I remember seeing an eagle in Kurrajong Heights when I was

a kid, but none flying free since then.

So why did they come?  What is happening to the birds lately?  I feel like I am a shaman witnessing some kind of

New swale at the bottom of Wallace Street Marrickville South

omen.  I just hope it amounts to nothing more than the natural behaviour of birds that I haven’t noticed before. A flock of eagles has got to be unusual though.

I had been meaning to post about other works done by Marrickville Council recently.  A small garden island on Illawarra Road Marrickville  South was looking stunning until a few plants got pinched.  It still looks good, but I doubt the holes will be filled in.  The swale on the corner of Hill Street & Illawarra Road has filled in with all the plants growing well.  We also found another swale that looks like a recent construction at the corner of Illawarra Road & Wallace Street.

Both these sites are at the bottom of steep hills where stormwater will rush before hitting the flat area of Steele Park & then into the Cooks River.  I guess the planned wetlands for Steele Park will capture the water that passes through these swales doing the job of conditioning the water before it actually enters the Cooks River.

I hadn’t heard of swales until last year. Now they are popping up in a few areas near & along the banks of the Cooks River.

Garden island planting on Illawarra Rd Marrickville South

They may also be in a few other places in the LGA that I don’t know about.

I think swales are terrific.  To my uneducated mind, they seem to create a mini environment perfect for frogs & a place where birds can often find a drink.  If swales are taken up as the norm across our city, it will be fabulous.  For 200 years, everything has just washed into drains & the harbour, the nearest river or the ocean.  Not only is it a dreadful waste of water, the water itself is generally unclean & filled with garbage & whatever it picks up as it travels along hard surfaces.

The swale built by Marrickville Bushpockets near the curve of the railway line on Victoria Road Marrickville is really coming along well.  This area is not a park, yet it is a very pleasant place to sit for a while.  It used to be a weedy area popular for dumping rubbish.  I am looking forward to spring to see the Wattle & other trees flower.

Just metres away Marrickville Council has planted a Gymea Lily in a

garden island with a sentinel rock.  Behind this is one of my favourite non-park green spaces.

NSW State Rail land Victoria Road Marrickville. The arrow is a separate access road. The area surrounded in red is the unused land. In the foreground is part of the swale showing native grasses.

The area directly across the road from the Victoria Road swale is owned by NSW State Rail & is usually waist-high in weeds.  It’s quite a substantial triangular area that I thought could be used for a community garden until someone spoke about the possibility of long-forgotten toxins in the ground & I couldn’t solve the problem of the lack of access to water.

State Rail mowed it recently allowing me to get a good look at the size of the land.  It is actually a perfect space to create a mini urban forest without limiting utilityvehicles accessing the rail property.  If this area was

Section of young plants growing around the Victoria Road Swale

planted with a few trees & under-planting, it would look so much better as well as providing an area of scarce habitat & food for birds & other wildlife.  I will write to State Rail about this space.  Perhaps they will like the idea & something beneficial can be created in this space.

Tonight I learnt that almost 40% of Rome is actual farming land.   I couldn’t imagine the Roman people leaving this area bare, even if only to make the area beautiful simply for the sake of it.

Marrickville's newest swale

Yesterday I went & took some photos of Marrickville’s newest swale built recently by Marrickville Bush Pockets, though I understand it is a work in progress with a way to go.  It looks lovely & there were lots of birds foraging when I arrived.

On one side of the road is beauty created by those who built the swale  & planted trees, shrubs & grasses.  On the other side is a vacant, weedy parcel of land owned by NSW State Rail.

I wonder if they would allow planting because it is a perfect site for a small urban forest.  Right now  it is a dumping ground for all sorts of rubbish, including posters that have been ripped from the nearby rail underpass.

This land owned NSW State Rail could be a small urban forest

There are numerous small parcels of land that have remained vacant & seemingly of no utility along this railway line.  It would be wonderful if NSW State Rail could plant trees & shrubs in these parcels of land. Not only to create visual beauty & soften these rather hard corridors, but also to provide safe homes for wildlife.

Perhaps we should be influenced by the wonderful work done by Wendy Whitely over the last decade or so.  She simply went into the NSW State Rail owned land at Lavender Bay & started work.  Now there is a garden that is so beautiful, even State Rail did a turn-around.  They now support her work leaving the rather significant area that was once a weedy parking area for trains for the community to use.  It is a refuge for both humans & wildlife & something Sydney is proud of.  We can only hope.



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