In 1908 Dorothea Mackellar wrote in her well-known poem ‘My Country’:
The tragic ring-barked forests
Stark white beneath the moon
Anyone who has driven through the Australian countryside will have seen ghostly gums dotting paddocks, a grim reminder of the breathing forests that were once there. But early colonisers saw only an inexhaustible supply of timber. First the squatters, then the settlers, ring-barked the forests and levelled the land, to transform, in their view, “waste land” to productive land – to graze their beasts, raise their crops, plant their orchards, grow their vegetables and hopefully make their fortunes.
The destruction of trees is as strong in the Australian psyche as the desire to own and defend our own plot of land.
By the end of the nineteenth century Australians were beginning to regret the devastation of forests. Some recognised the impact on soil. Legislators attempted to control the use and regrowth of forests. The Sydney Botanical Gardens stepped in with free trees to public institutions (churches, schools, councils, railways, hospitals etc); together with advice on preparing ground, planting, manuring, tree-guarding, pruning and nurturing. In distributing two and half million trees up to 1924, they were responding to widespread beliefs that trees had a civilising effect, softened the harsh lines of cities and towns, and helped cleanse dusty and industrial environments.
The more prescient companies at that time believed in the benefits of a pleasing environment for their workers. When the directors of the NSW Cement Lime and Coal Company planned Kandos, they promised “reserves for the people and an avenue to trees”. As soon as the cement plant was established, and the works office and manager’s house were built, work began on extensive gardens, including the planting of 200 trees. Over the years head gardener Bill Cant and his team produced spectacular floral displays among sweeping lawns and clusters and avenues of trees. Then the company opened up their gardens and sporting facilities to the town.
For the town’s parks and facilities, the company donated land, ash bricks, trees and bushes, cement and structures, including the Rotunda. Bill Cant’s nursery provided hundreds of trees for town plantings. In the decade to 1949 he raised 66,000 trees from seeds sourced mainly from Nullo Mountain. He then undertook an extensive afforestation scheme on company land, evident today.
Key townspeople, John Bennett Simpkins and the Progress Association, also ensured that Kandos was bountifully provided with trees. “No one can underestimate the beauty which nicely selected trees will add to the town,” one member told the Mudgee Guardian in 1922. Councillor J B Simpkins on his own organised around 800 trees, mainly for the sports ground area. No surprise that he got a park named after him.
In the 1930s children were reminded of the beauty and benefits of trees on Arbor Day (now National Tree Day on the last Sunday of July). While Kindergarten children sang “God Bless This Tree”, plantings occurred in the school grounds and adjoining streets. In 1935 duxes Lance and Lily Ford and captains Merle Brennan and Tony Hundy, as well as key adults, did the plantings. Jaques Street got an avenue of camphor laurels on both sides of the street from Buchanan through to Davies Road. Jaques Street is now denuded of trees except for a few on the south end, including two camphor laurels framing the Museum.
Rylstone Shire Council, like other councils, had a strong commitment to roadside tree plantings especially on rural roads and the approaches to towns and villages. When, in 1933, Mr Hamilton tried to get shade trees removed, which were overhanging his lucerne fields, Council refused: “A barren road affords no protection from the elements and a shaded road does not wear out as quickly”.
Early residents planted trees in their backyards decades ago, to shade and beautify their plots. However, because of a common misbelief that residents don’t need permission from council to cut down large trees on their own land, many of those majestic trees have gone, several sadly, in sight of our doorstep.
A drone with camera would best capture Kandos trees today, but a simple drive around town will show that the largest, most beautiful trees in Kandos are to be found on public land – in parks and churchyards, on railway, school and council property. Kandos, in terms of trees, no longer reflects the vision and beneficence of our pioneers.
I hear the arguments against trees. They drop leaves and branches and sap. They attract noisy birds. They break pavements and pipes. Some of them are weeds. It is the song of the tree-cutter. As you probably guessed, I am a tree-hugger. I will sing along with the kindergartens: “God bless all the tall trees still standing in Kandos and may we have more”.
A few facts about Kandos trees.
- Residents must have council permission to remove or destroy any tree on their property higher than four metres and with a trunk diameter exceeding 150mm (measured one metre above ground).
- Trees shall not be removed or pruned on Council owned or controlled land (including street trees) without permission.
- These are the trees named in news articles about Kandos in its first fifty years:
camphor laurel, eucalypts, pencil pines, peppercorn, poplar, wattle and willow.
- Here is the average life span of trees planted in Kandos:
Wattle 10-20 years
Peppercorns 35 years
Poplars and willows 50 years
Silky oaks 100 years
Camphor laurel 100-500 years
Eucalypt 250+ years
Plane trees 500+ years
Pencil pines up to 1000 years
- You might be able to identify the age of some of the trees still thriving in Kandos.
Plantings occurred in the following years and places:
St Lawrence’s Church of England 1922 (facing Angus Avenue), 1927, 1947
The White Crescent parks 1920, 1931-1933, 1940, 1951
Manager’s house 1924 (line of trees facing Buchanan Street)
Kandos Waratah Park and Simpkins Park 1926 (willows), 1928 (pine, peppercorn and eucalypt), 1929, 1932, 1933 (shade trees), 1953
Public School 1926, 1935, 1936, 1937
Jaques Street 1935 (camphor laurel), 1946 (plane trees where laurels had died)
Streets adjacent to Public School 1936, 1937 (probably silky oaks in Rodgers Street)
Other streets 1940, 1944
Convent School 1931 (privet hedge and ornamental trees)
Methodist Church 1931 (shade trees in front)
Henbury Golf Course 1931, 1932 (wattle), 1935, 1937, 1954 (driveway flowering plum and peach, pine)
Railway Station 1926 (near Station Master’s cottage)
Railway Property fronting Davies Road and Ilford Road 1946 (poplar), 1948
Angus Avenue 1935, 1951, 1954 (pencil pine)
Community Hall 1951
Park Buchanan Street mid 1950s
Darton Park 1957
Park corner Noyes and Fleming Streets 1964
Williamson Park 1964
Rotary Park 1969
Swimming Pool 1964
Bylong Valley Way (avenue of poplar 1936 or 1948)
The featured image below shows trees in the cement company property
(photo taken August 2012)