Monday, January 28, 2013

Cheviot Park Estate, Coldstream, Victoria

Steven Barlow writes: Coldstream is a Scottish border town north of the Cheviot Hills and Kerr and Black used this name for their estate in the 1850s.  However, the suburban Cheviot Park Estate in Coldstream may only date from the early 1960s as the local football side is recorded as having moved there in April 1961 [“More Club History. Coldstream Over the Years”] and, in the recent debate on dual occupancy in the area, one media correspondent writes that it is only about 30 years old. It does not appear on the 1935 topographic map. Certainly the housing on the estate seems to date from the 1960s and 1970s. The other name for the district, “The Lodge” is reflected in the nearby shopping centre.
A Mr McFadzean is reported to have to have been a benefactor of the football club. One William Frederick McFazdean was a VC recipient from the First World War and is a name repeatedly used by Saxil Tuxen and may have also a connection with the Merrilands and Broadmeadows estates by that surveyor.
The design of the street pattern, with its internal reserves and insistent geometry however, seems to indicate it was a product of the garden city phase of town planning from the 1920s, with affinities to other estates such as at Albion, North Altona and Yallourn. 
The estate is designed on a radial pattern, with bent spokes centred on the hub of a large park, Halley Supple Reserve, set behind a small row of shops. These shops are reported in the local media to be in a state of decline. The hexagonal hub of the half cartwheel is close to the highway.  The paired entrance roads are termed the East and West Gateways, names that appear in Walter Burley Griffin’s Milleara plan of 1927. The entrance is also flanked by two segments of stone wall  - probably of recent origin and very much in the manner of typical new estate entrances.  The central park is largely given over to sport, with an oval, tennis courts, clubhouse, toilets, etc.  Some large trees have been retained on the park boundary, but the whole is still dominated rather unfortunately by a chain mesh fence.
The streets are bent, rather than curved, which is typical of Tuxen estates (such as Eastern Gardens in North Balwyn) and differ from Griffin’s use of smooth curves and an asymmetrical plan, such as at Heidelberg and Mt Eliza.
Three internal reserves are provided. One (unnamed) has access ways from adjoining streets while the others are cul-de-sacs. In all cases the reserves appear, upon cursory inspection, to be little used and appreciated. There are no pathways provided and a seat is provided in only one.  There is no play equipment or community garden. There is very little retained or replanted vegetation and few large trees. There is no shrubbery understorey.  The rough grass was mown short and some large trees had been recently felled.  Every house abutting the reserves had high paling fences and there was no attempt to either disguise the fence lines with shrubbery or to have any linkage between private gardens and reserves.  However, the reserves were tidy and with no evidence of their use for vehicular access, storage or rubbish disposal.
Two pathways which seem to have been added to the estate to connect to Lauriston Drive, by comparison, seem to be carefully landscaped with vegetation and paving. 
Most of the houses did not show much evidence of their occupants’ interest in gardening, although most were neat. There were few large trees in private gardens (considering the high rainfall in the area) and much evidence that residents and the Shire had striven to remove large trees, perhaps for fear of fire or falling limbs. Many front gardens were given over to parking for residents’ cars, caravans and trailers, although the blocks were not unusually small.  Clearly most residents are not well to do but the possession of multiple vehicles is either considered desirable or a necessity in an area with limited public transport – only an infrequent bus services being available.
Of the three internal reserves, only Glenhurst Park could be considered to be attractive, although it did not show signs of being utilised any more than the others. This reserve has a line of old Cyprus pines, which may have predated the estate or possibly have been planted with it.  Several of these had been felled and so only a couple remain.  Where some taller trees and shrubbery threatened to mask the boundary fences in one portion, the vegetation has been cut back two or three metres.  Clearly the Shire or the residents felt that vegetation touching the fences was undesirable.  This may be due to a belief in the need to access the fences from both sides for maintenance, fear of bushfire or fear of lurking places for undesirables. This reserve was not fully enclosed by residential blocks and afforded views on the north side to farmland.
The need for internal reserves in this estate may be questionable.  In a rural area such as Coldstream there is no shortage of open land for spiritual refreshment, unlike in inner urban areas.  Also, unlike in the inner suburbs, the private blocks are not mean and so there is ample private land for growing vegetables and for children’s games.  The nearby Halley Supple Reserve provides for sporting activity and Margaret Lewis Reserve, on the southern boundary and abutting the Primary School, seems to be of a size and configuration more suitable for residents’ recreational needs, unlike the internal reserves, which are too small and fragmented for multiple uses.
Further study may reveal that typical internal reserves, with their small individual acreages and sequestered locations, are less successful than larger parks with high public visibility. Residents may actually be fearful of these small, enclosed spaces adjacent to their homes, despite the obvious advantages in safety from traffic and the possibility of intercommunication between neighbours, as pointed out by proponents such as Griffin. Thus the optimal size of reserves for their economical maintenance and for the provision of multiple sporting and recreational uses in them, including the provision of barbecues and toilets, may be greater than that of typical internal reserves.  This may be all the more important where it is left to the municipality (such as the Shire of Yarra Ranges in this case) to maintain them and where local residents do not have the income or desire to collectively maintain them under a covenant, as Griffin had hoped. The limited success of the internal reserves even at Heidelberg, where the residents are of a higher socio-economic status than those at Coldstream, Avondale Heights and Merrilands, points to this as a likely problem.
The local residents may not have the income or the free time to undertake community initiatives, such as re-vegetating the reserves behind their houses nor see them as a priority.  In rural areas, the struggle to keep land around the houses safe from bushfire is perhaps more important than the need to soften the urban-rural interface or to provide pockets of recreated natural landscape for starved city dwellers.

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