In the depths of Winter, the deciduous trees of Cambridge offer a special seasonal beauty. From a distance, their bare branches reveal the handsome distinctive forms of the various species, while up close and personal, the beauty of their bark stands out. Here are 4 examples:
Cambridge is justifiably proud of being the Town of Trees, and it is an important reason why people want to move here. The benefits of urban trees are not just aesthetic; now known as Green Infrastructure (as opposed to grey infrastructure – roads, buildings, carparks) trees provide ‘services’: environmental (cleaner air , summer cooling, decreased water run-off, biodiversity); economic (energy saving, improved house values); social (encouraging walking, social interaction, human physical and mental well-being). And the greater the total leaf surface area of the tree, the greater its benefits.
But as new developments spring up in all directions, Cambridge is in danger of losing its treed character. People want affordable housing so compact urban design is desirable. But surely there are better ways to achieve this than what we now see unfolding; individual houses crammed so close there is no room for shade trees in gardens; strips between footpath and road too narrow to support a decent-sized tree, while many of those planted in recent years have sulked, been left to grow unsightly or died.
And now Council, to its credit, is set on encouraging commuter walking and cycling, but who will be tempted to walk from their new home through hot streets to work, shop or school and then trudge home again, all hot and sweaty? We need to plan from the outset for adequate space for decent-sized street trees, determine varieties suitable to the situation, plant with care and then maintain them through their early years. We need better design, with narrower streets to slow cars, wider footpaths, separated by wider green strips for decent-sized trees that shade our footpaths and encourage people to use active transport. There is no need for compact housing to be a desert if we plan for decent-sized street trees from the outset.
The Velosolutions Pump Track in Cambridge offers a 196m long track and a 222m jump track joined by a bowl in the middle of the two tracks. It is located next door to the public swimming pools and a skateboard park. It's a great place for the entire family to enjoy and play on, and with a footprint of over 2300m2, the track is the largest pump track in Oceania.
The Waipa District Council asked us to plant the area after the tracks had been finished. We were happy to do so. When our planners went there to survey the scene, they met some riders and got into conversation with them. The result was a plan which puts low-growing plants, mainly grasses, in the heart of the tracks so that riders have good visibility and can avoid accidents. Taller plants, largely camelias, have been planted around the outside.
Here are some photos of us at work:
The land by the Gaslight Theatre at the end of Alpha St. was the site of one of our early plantings. Those trees are now substantial, and with the building of the Te Awa footpath and cycleway, we decided to add to it. Cambridge High School pupils did some initial planting in the area just past the sewer pipe, and we have maintained this and done some infill planting to replace casualties. We also had to do some thinning. The trees were thriving, and getting crowded.
We have also extended the original planting by thickening the edge of the old one. Now that those trees are large, there is room for an understory. While we were working there, we decided to make a screen of trees and shrubs to conceal the water treatment plant, and to attempt to restrict the space for hooligans to cut up the lawn with their cars.
When this land was being grazed, there was a 7-wire fence alongside the track. Grazing ceased last year (2016) and the Waipa Distric Council has agreed to put the land into the Meadow Walk project. The first step is to remove the fence to give access to the small wetland at the bottom of the valley. This wetland drains into the Waikato river via a 20-metre drop, but should be cleaned up anyway.
Work began on Friday 7th April 2017. There follow some videos showing progress. First, the fence removal.
Marking out was followed very quickly by planting. St. Peter's Baccalaureate students helped, but as the Tree Trust's cameraman was away on holiday, there is no video. There are some still shots, though, of Tree Trust members working with their usual enthusiasm.