Short walks and long memories 17.1.2011


Walkability is a  concept I love: high(ish)  density suburbs where you can find all or most of the services that you need within close range. There’s a US website where you can work out your walkability ‘score’ (if you live in the US…) and read about the concept. 

Every now and again I try to leave the car at home and take a better and slower look around. The world looks so different on foot. Wood Street in Newcastle West was where I went this weekend. For car addicts like me, it’s so easy: the block’s only about 200 metres long.

The building at the beginning of the post is the Newcastle TAFE and I’ve always loved it because it’s a four-storey- high building that looks smaller; I love its corrugated roof and the old brewery building it adjoins. I struggle to love the casuarinas (casuarinae?) in front but you have to admit they’re a brutally honest tree. They don’t pretend to be beautiful, just functional.

Across the road is the local ABC radio building which has a gorgeous native garden fronting the street and further down Wood Street is the former museum site.

The new museum at Honeysuckle will no doubt be wonderful when it opens – 12 months after work started and 3 years after the original museum was closed and 10 years after it was first mooted – in May 2011. The link is to a short Herald article about the commencement of work on the new site: the comments are a sad read.

Here is a sad opinion piece in the Herald by Jeane Gravolin who represented SCAMM: Support Community Against Moving Museum. 3000 signatures on their petition didn’t stop it. Of the 58 submissions to council on the move 4 supported it while 46 were ‘dead against it’. That didn’t stop the move either.

My children used to love going to the Supernova on the top floor where they could touch everything and play with Stuff.  All the old museum needed was air conditioning for the hottest days and it would have been perfect. I look at that beautiful old building sitting doing nothing and hope its owner won’t let it rot away.

Back to Wood Street. There’s a stand of white cedar trees near the corner with Hunter Street and they make a beautiful shaded area. It was an inspired planting and I’m grateful for it.

These are such a beautiful tree; they’re one of the few deciduous natives so they do that let-sun-in during winter and celebrate-the-change-of-seasons thing that was so prominent in Newcastle Council documents last year.

Am I going crazy or are deciduous exotics more fashionable lately?

Maybe if one finds oneself thinking ‘liquidambar’ or ‘pear tree’ one could substitute ‘white cedar tree’. Just a thought. Compare the amount of shade from these with the amount given by the columnar variety of pear tree that’s so popular at the moment.

We’re so lucky to be having hot dry weather where the need for shade occurs to us; half the country is in flood and having a tragic time. It was awful enough when Newcastle flooded a few years ago and up north is immeasurably worse. Poor things.



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