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The GreenWay – Green VEIN of the Sydney’s Inner West

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

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Note: this topic has also been covered in this video.

Cities have a subconscious mind.

Not in a sense of archetypes, symbols, and content sourced from who knows where.

I mean a substructure that is less visible but ever-present.

It’s either completely hidden, partly hidden, or, if accessible, tucked away. An active substructure that is key in determining how a city functions. It gives it flow, sub-vitality, and profound dynamism, the way veins give dynamism to our bodies.

But let’s start with what’s visible…

The conscious mind of our city

The street level, main roads, shopping centers, shopfronts, museums, libraries, town halls, train and bus stops, schools, parks, promenades, and squares.

Well-lit places that are visible, easy to access and navigate; on display, obvious, heavily trafficked, busy, noisy, often overstimulated, facaded, and overstimulating.

The obvious places - utilitarian, beautiful, educational, functional, entertaining, and pragmatic … but also bland, dull, ugly, noisy, mediocre, and boring.

The zoo is at the street level. Animals are on display; there’re signs next to the cages, aquariums, and terrariums. (Don’t miss the seal feeding at noon!) There’re guides, apps, opening hours, carparks, and an ice-cream truck playing its devilishly maddening song on repeat.

It’s the botanical gardens. Footpaths, signs, maps, clusters of categorized plants, shrubs, ferns, and trees. Desert landscapes to the right, Japanese gardens to the left. There is a café in the middle (with accessible toilets).

The subconscious mind of our city

It’s a depository of the city’s history, memory bank, natural sanctuary, and a network of channels ... as well as the storage of its vital organs.

But not in an obvious, conscious way – for that, we have museums, libraries, zoos, botanical gardens, and ice-cream vans at the in-your-face level.

This is the city’s subconscious – the beating pulse under its skin.

The stormwater canals, drains and creeks, snaking their way under your feet without you knowing, sometimes coming out of obscurity for a block or two before slithering under the concrete carpet again. Railway corridors, underpasses, tunnels, and even urban waterholes (!)

Instead of the conscious zoo…

It’s blue tongue lizards, threatened bats and bandicoots, snakes, finches, fish, frogmouths, bush turkeys, and frogs that live in burrows, frogponds, holes, tunnels, underpasses, stormwater canals, creeks, caves, nests, boxes, cracks, and hiding spots.

Instead of the conscious botanical gardens…

It’s guerrilla, and Viet Cong bushcare sites - the green pockets and corridors full of native plants, shrubs, and trees. Plants and trees that once – aeons ago – covered what now is the city. These sites are biodiversity Martin Places, germinating and breathing life into the grey surroundings, like a network of beating hearts.

Some of these sites are full of contrasts

For example, at Richard Murden Reserve in Haberfield, you have two parallel opposites on 30 square metres...

On one side, you have the original, pre-European settlement vegetation of the Sydney Floodplain forest.

Right next to it is the Hawthorne canal – a fenced-off artificial waterway with concreted straight walls instead of meandering natural banks.

That’s the contrast -

The ancient, natural, green and “chaotic”, and, two metres away, the modern, artificial, grey and “ordered”.

Depending on how you look at it, you might say the one is “without purpose”, and the other is “with purpose.”

The thing is, at this subconscious level - life flows through both of them.

For you to experience the city’s subconscious, all you need to do is spend a few minutes among the native vegetation and observe.

Or, during low tide, get to the concreted bottom of the canal – either here, or at Cadigal reserve, the Cooks river, or any other concreted channel throughout Sydney.

Once there – between one to three meters below the street level – you might get your ninja turtle moment if you’re lucky (don’t forget pizza).

You’ll see and feel the difference.

You’ll experience the city’s subconscious mind. You’ll be in the same area, you’ll see the familiar surroundings, you’ll know it all but yet you’ll also be somewhere else. You’ll see the same from a different, more profound perspective.

But now, let’s get back to the street level and explore…

The GreenWay – the Green VEIN of the Sydney’s Inner West

Green in its natural beauty, grey in its urbanity and concreted waterways.

5.8km long, stretching between the Parramatta river in the north and the Cooks river in the south, the GreenWay is “an environmental, cultural and sustainable transport corridor”, according to the Council.

The GreenWay follows the Hawthorne canal (mentioned above) along its northern half and the light rail along its entire length. There are bushcare sites, foot and bike paths, cafes, playgrounds, fitness stations, and dog parks.

The plan is to have a continuous, uninterrupted green stretch between both ends, without having to cross busy city roads. Kind of like the Cooks river pathway.

That uninterrupted green flow is already achieved at the northern end of the GreenWay, between the P’tta river and the Cadigal reserve. There are only a few weirs (street crossings) slowing down the flow.

This greener, flowing section of the Greenway also nests two active bushcare sites – at Richard Murden Reserve (mentioned above), and at Cadigal Reserve.

Volunteers and the Council tirelessly rewild these sites by weeding and planting natives; this also provides habitat for animals.

But the other two-thirds of the GreenWay, north of the Cadigal Reserve, past the giant Aboriginal mural, it’s a chain of green dots that aren’t joined yet. And joining the dots isn’t easy because we’re in a heavily urbanized area, with many stakeholders involved in the decision-making process incl. the State and Local government, Sydney Water, the Department of Defence, Sydney Trains, and private property.

Constructing this part of the GreenWay will require tunneling through walls under the roads, along the light rail corridor, to “make way for the way”.

(This video shows you five spots along the GreenWay, and includes an interview with the Bushcare Officer who knows this area inside out.)

What are some of the local native plants, shrubs, and trees, planted along the GreenWay?

At the lower end, it’s the Sydney Floodplain forest native planting community with ground covers, e.g. Einadia hastata, shrubs, e.g. Kunzea ambigua, and trees, e.g. Eucalyptus robusta.

At the Cadigal reserve, which is higher up, you’ll find the Sydney Turpentine Ironbark forest native planting community with ground covers, e.g. Dichondra repens, shrubs, e.g. Melaleuca hypericifolia, and trees, e.g. Syncarpia glomulifera.

And heaps more.

In terms of fauna, there are threatened bandicoots, threatened bats, blue-tongued lizards, bush turkeys, frogs, frogmouths, and other 160 species of native birds, not to mention the usual camaraderie of kookaburras, magpies, currawongs, lizards, and possums.

And, of course, ninja turtles in the gutters.

So if you’re around, give it a walk or cycle – there are two frogponds at the Cadigal reserve but good luck finding them…

They are buried in the urban subconscious!


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