Our bridge climb 26.10.2010

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I’ve meant for ages to walk to the top of Stockton Bridge and I finally did it. It’ll probably be a one-and-only because the traffic is so unbelievably unpleasant.

Maybe if one went just after dawn it would be OK. It’s a shame that the designers didn’t think of pedestrians when they planned the bridge. You walk on a footway between the north- and southbound lanes which are full of cars exceeding the already fast speed limit. On the day I went, about 1 in 20 of them felt compelled to blow their horn at us, presumably to tell us how stupid we were to be there.

 The river is stunning from the top of the bridge and you get a great view from Nobbys and the cathedral at the top of the city, across the Kooragang coal piles waiting to be either shipped to Japan or blow into our lungs, across the shorebird roosting sites and the mangroves, up the coast to the sand dunes of Stockton. It was a beautiful day without  a cloud in the sky and on our way back down the steps we saw  a pair of birds nesting on part of the bridge and a blue wren.

I’m a fan of nice/informative/interpretive signage when I’m away from home and there’s a lot to learn about home it seems so I really liked the signs about wetlands at the bottom of the bridge. There are so many different wetlands to see, apparently: 14 are listed. The Hunter Estuary wetlands (51KB) are recognised under the Ramsar convention as being of international importance.

The other thing I did on the weekend was take some more photos of the public art about town because it turns out I’d missed a heap. And what did I notice on my travels? Reasonably attractive garbage bins. It turns out that your standard issue, unadorned, visually-polluting, naked green Sulo bin is specially reserved for our showcase park in the middle of town. Elsewhere we have reasonably attractive, sleek, slimline outer casings to hide the green plastic part, sometimes with subtle patterns on them. Paid for by developers perhaps?

Before I go, here are some numbers about tree risk, a subject never far from my mind. Thanks to Mark Hartley, the arborist commissioned by the community to peer review council’s tree assessments, for working this out: the maths, the risk information and the arboricultural advice:

  • Mr Marsden’s report says that the Laman Street fig trees have an increased Probability of Failure compared to a perfect fig. The only method he uses to quantify their probability of failure is by using SULE.
  • Of the 14 trees he believes that
    • 3 trees are at imminent risk because adjacent trees were removed (now 40 months after those removals)
    • 9 trees are good but have what he claims is between 5 to 15 years because of structural issues
    • 1 tree will become unstable after trees are removed (in other words they will live 15 years plus if the other trees are kept)
    • 1 tree would need to be removed simply so they can replant.
  • Based on the time frame of Mr Marsden’s own SULE estimates, this equates to a failure rate of not less than 1 in 140.
  • In spite of the council being aware of quantifiable test methods to test the structural integrity of the trees and show if the trees are safe or unsafe the council have unfortunately made no moves to undertake these tests.
  • If the 1 in 7.5 failure rate provided by one of council’s consultant arborists is true, and there are 52 similar trees in the Newcastle precinct, then the likelihood that none of these trees would have fallen over to date is just a meagre 1 in 502,000,000.
  •  In the same way, another of council’s experts’ estimate under the same assumptions is 1 in 2.5 Million – or less likely than dying falling down stairs.

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There is a tiny tree in front of the coal loader planted to hide it…

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