Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Jones Park / Resurrection

When I first moved to Brunswick more than fifteen years ago, I lived in a share house backing onto a dingy oval. The oval was fenced on two sides by an old tip, a great sloping hill of dirt, rubble and weeds cordoned off by cyclone wire. On a third side crouched a shabby playground, but whenever I thought to go there for a meditative swing I felt so nervy and trapped that I left within minutes.

Now I live five blocks away, and it's one of my favourite places. Ten years ago, the council cleaned up the tip and turned it into green space. They refurbished the oval, took down the fences, and turned the two sites into one enormous park.

Let me take you on a tour. At the top of the hill is a platform. The oval and the old playground lie behind us. To the east roll hills, a hazy grey; to the south, city towers stretch up small and hopeful under the wide blue sky.

Heading down the gently winding path, you see groves of young trees. A mother and her baby picnic under the casuarinas, where the breeze flowing through the needles recalls the sound of the sea. To the left, a woman shoots hoops and you can hear the basketball chick! through the net, then thud to the ground.

Further down winds a dry creek bed. But turn towards the new playground, instead, with its concertina tyres; they wheeze notes when we jump on them. Hit the colourful mushrooms with the mallets; listen to them toll. Climb the spider web with me; at the top, hook in your feet and reach for the sky; the spider web gently sways. Below us, the creek bed curves into a large pond; let's run down the steps.

Lie on the boardwalk and peek over the edge. See the water beetles scoot through the reeds, wings flipping so fast they blur! See the tadpoles, with their translucent tails and the bulge of budding limbs! An aquatic ladybug, fat and red, bumbles and rolls on by.

Above us skitter large dragonflies, grey and fat like army helicopters; tiny dragonflies dance, blue as sapphires and impossibly slender. Every few minutes frogs start up, creaking like a hundred thumbs pulled across a hundred combs, then just as quickly fall silent again. Larger frogs add their deep popping bass notes; crickets rasp; the pond sings.

Rushes tower, ten feet tall; and behind them, the Serbian Orthodox Church soars, turrets ablaze with gold.

It will never be as it was two centuries ago, a place of untouched wilderness sloping up from the Merri Creek. But from town dump to this: a place where mothers and babies picnic in shady groves; joggers run puffing up the hill; kids shriek with laughter at the top of the spider web; men sprawl in the grass with books; women shoot hoops; couples nestle in quiet spots; and tucked right down in the far corner lie I, flat on my stomach and peering through the boardwalk at the golden light and watching and listening as the frogs and dragonflies and honeyeaters and wattlebirds and finches and lizards and beetles and countless other small creatures whose names I do not know get on with things -

Life has indeed returned to this part of the city.

Incidentally, in trying to learn about my local corner I discovered there are 324 known species of dragonfly in Australia! Who would have thought?!

The Complete Field Guide to Dragonflies of Australia The Waterbug Book: A Guide to the Freshwater Macroinvertebrates of Temperate Australia Native Plants of Melbourne: And Adjoining Areas


  1. I grew up right there off Donald st, my parents still live in the same street. 17 years ago I rented a space in an artist studio/ residence on that funny industrial area.My husband and I shacked up in that studio with no money we slept on foam blocks with bedsheets from my glory box strung from the rafters to partition our space. It was nice to live in the area where I had grown up, to walk the streets, take my hubby on the very steep slope from the park to the tip site then the velodrome retelling him all the stories i had of that very place.
    It's a great space now, I agree completely. Funny to read that you live there now.

  2. Sounds very romantic! We onced lived in an old reception centre in N Fitzroy. We had eight toilets, and would ride our bikes around the space just for fun.

    The north east corner of Brunswick has always been a great area - I lived Balmoral Avenue 16 years ago and my sister was in Donald Street! - but the slow regeneration of the tip site and along the Merri Creek is really wonderful; something to celebrate.

  3. I love the fact that the NMIT nursery on Yarra Bend Road specialises in pla nts indigenous to Melbourne's northern and eastern suburbs. So we have the delicate clematis microphylla making magical mounds of tiny creamy flowers or big feathery seedpods on my favourite hillside on the Box Hill edge of Blackburn creeklands. At least it tries to when neighbouring helpers dont pull it up thinking it is a weed.

  4. One of my neighbours has clematis microphylla heaped over their fence - absolutely beautiful.

    It's a slow road learning what is indigenous and what isn't; I've spent a lot of time reading native flora guidebooks. Now I weed indigenous plantings and take the dandelions home to the chooks, much to the delight of the council workers who tell me that when weeds are few and far between, they don't spray at all. Excellent all round!


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