A cleaner and greener Cottage Creek

The world needs more people who put – not so much their money – but their energy and commitment where their mouth is. Complaining is the lazy way out, we don’t need more whiners, we need more doers. In the West End one such ‘doer’ has become a wonderful agent of change, her persistence meaning that our own local watercourse, Cottage Creek, is now looking renewed and refreshed.

Jo Chisholm-Ray, Owner and Director of cstudios Art Gallery, located in the old Bellevue Hotel, was despondent about the state of the creek which runs next to her gallery. “It was congested with accumulated rubbish and debris which blocked its natural flow, a tidal wash which goes from the harbour all the way to the National Park sports ground.

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This means that harbour fish travel inland to the far side of Newcastle West at high tide. When the tide goes out they high tail it back down the creek to the harbour. It’s a beautiful ecosystem and it was heart-breaking to see how it had deteriorated.”

She successfully applied for a Make Your Place grant, part of Newcastle City Council’s commitment to local place making projects. Hunter Water came on board sending a crew of workers into the creek at low tide, along the stretch from Wickham Station through to King Street, to manually pull rubbish out of the clogged canal.

The result was eye-opening: blocks of concrete, huge rolls of carpet, nine shopping trolleys, signposts, metal pipes, tyres and large tree branches were removed, with most of the rubbish in the Hunter Street section of the creek. One of the best outcomes is that the creek can now look forward to a recurring cleanout as Hunter Water is planning to include this in their regular maintenance program.

Grant money is being allocated to removing bitou bush, weeds and introduced grasses along the eastern embankment of the creek between The Cove and Bellevue apartments. Then the re-planting of native grasses and bushes will begin with this indigenous vegetation free to do what it does best, attracting insects, which will in turn attracts birds.

The creek itself is alive with aquatic life and many species of fish such as mullet, whiting and eels have made it their home. Wading birds, including white and grey cranes, can be seen picking through the water and the creek’s concrete banks are solid walls of oysters.

What’s next for Cottage Creek? Jo has her eye on pieces of remnant stone and brick, the only remaining trace of Hunter Street public toilets which sat perched right over Cottage Creek itself (best not to dwell on that) near the corner of Bellevue Street. You can see the surviving parts just at the point where the creek disappears under the street nearby. Jo would like to see the remaining parts of this structure restored, or some signage about its history installed, along with descriptive panels highlighting the creek’s creatures and the native plants which will soon be growing along its banks.

When you are next doing a West End wander, take a moment out of your travels to pause near cstudios and look down over the railing. The best time is at high tide when the creek turns into a pretty, bucolic waterway with tree shadows flicking on its sunlit surface. Below the water line the creatures who call it home now have a more unimpeded journey from the harbour, up Cottage Creek to Parry Street and back again. They don’t know that it’s Jo they have to thank for that. But we do.

A big thank you to everyone who made this clean-up happen: from Hunter Water, Trevor and Carl and the working crew for such a sterling job (www.hunterwater.com.au); from Newcastle Council, Susan Denholm who facilitated the Make Your Place grant and liaised with Hunter Water (www.newecastle.nsw.gov.au); from Local Land Services for the Hunter, Jane Dickinson for her advice on native vegetation (www.hunter.lls.nsw.gov.au); from Toolijooa, Adam Carvallaro for his environmental expertise (www.toolijooa.com.au); from The Cove apartments Deb Murison for organising access to the creek bank.

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: kimberly@netspace.net.au; 0413 250 155.

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