Et in sub-Arcadia ego

A couple of weeks ago, on the October long weekend, driving north along the Princes Highway on the way back from a dinner with friends at Arncliffe, we trailed a police panel van emblazoned “Dog Squad.” After we crossed the Cooks River, and before we turned left towards Marrickville, it hooked off the the right. I made a sarcastic comment that it was off to hound the hapless attendees at some Sleaze or similar ball.

I was wrong, not only because it was a Sunday night, and Sleaze was already over, but also because, as we read the next day, a man had been shot in the head and died in South Street Tempe. As reported in the SMH the next day:

Police believe the death was suspicious and closed the road for a forensic investigation.

Officers and detectives from the dog squad were last night searching nearby parks and bushland for clues.

More news emerged later in the week, when the press paid some attention to the funeral of Todd O’Connor, held at St Mary’s Cathedral. It turned out that he was a “Kings Cross identity,” associated with bikies, if not actually one himself, and separated from his wife and children and living in a Woolloomooloo flat where, after his death, $650,000 in cash was found in a duffle-bag.

Somewhat ghoulishly, then, when choosing a place for a brief walk last Sunday afternoon, D and I went to South Street. And we weren’t the only ones: as we parked the car, a group who had arrived just before us were at was evidently the scene where O’Connor’s body was found, and one of them was miming a shot with a hand-gun to the ground. In fact, from the accounts published this seemed misconceived: O’Connor is reported to have walked some way before he collapsed, so the place of death was not exactly the scene of the crime.

After they had gone, we walked up and had a look ourself. There were some flowers placed by the road and a number of in memoriam messages sprayed onto the pavement and some road-side bollards. One thing the Telegraph got right and the SMH wrong, judging from these, was that O’Connor left behind four children.

South Street itself runs parallel to the Princes Highway on its eastern side, from Tempe Reserve at the south, about half-way between the Highway and Alexandra Canal. To its east is what was once Tempe Tip. At its northernmost end is a container terminal. On the other side of the canal is Sydney Airport. The area has a somewhat beleagered and even desperate air. I don’t think it is just a question of my knowledge of the crime, though you can well imagine the place as a rendezvous for people planning something underhand. If it was a set for a film, Bob Hoskins might be in the film.

Eloquently, someone had gone to the trouble to walk into the reserve on its eastern side to dump this collection of rubbish:

The tip has now been “remediated” and a potentially quite pleasant wetlands park, rather in the spirit of similar works in Sydney Park, has been constructed:

The high fence above the pathway in the picture is because there is a golf driving range on the ridge (really just a greater accumulation of rubbish) behind. Amazingly, having gone to the trouble to construct the path which you can see, Marrickville Council has decided that nobody can use it because of the danger of being hit by a falling golf ball.

Perhaps the driving range will be going soon.

There are a few established trees at the edge of the reserve, but most of the vegetation has been planted relatively recently. Pictured at the head of this post is a bush in flower which had a glorious honey-ish perfume. Unfortunately, a lot of the vegetation is overgrown by a creeper which can be seen a little in this picture:

Here is a slightly tilted view of the city-skyline, looking along the verboten pathway:

South St Sydney skyline

South St Sydney skyline

We didn’t walk far. On the ridge, next to the golf driving range, is a fenced off area which although unsignposted as such was being used as a dog exercise yard. The remediation is evidently incomplete. There is also a vantage point which would presumably be much favoured by plane spotters. By the time you get to the ridge the roar of the airport is inescapable. The environment is a hostile one.

I am a fan of the urban pastoral. As the title to this post indicates, at present the reserve could be described as sub-pastoral at best. Still, it is an improvement from the last time D and I came here, some years ago, when we wandered north along the track (at that stage projected to become a bike path) on the western side of Alexandra Canal and clambered up on the still-extant tip. Controversially, Sydney Water’s desalination plant pipeline is going to be laid above ground at this point, which seems to put the kybosh on any bike path or use of this area as part of the reserve. At present, Tempe Reserve itself is substantially fenced-off and occupied with large pipes and other parerphenalia for the pipeline works. This seems extremely cavalier of them (why can’t they store these things at their own expense somewhere else?) – but then, given the entire history of the desalination works (Iemma’s most shameful legacy) one shouldn’t be surprised.

A lengthy detour is required to reach the bridge over to the eastern side of the Alexandra Canal. Faced with this and the setting sun, we went no further, returned to the car and drove home.

7 Responses to “Et in sub-Arcadia ego”

  1. wanderer Says:

    I think the flowering plant is a member of the Kunzea family (after German botanist Gustav Kunze), probably Kunzea ambigua, common name, Tick Bush. It is very common in the Sydney region and, as you note, has a heavy sweet scent. The flowers are like little exploding cluster star-burst things.

    We entered by the east on Tuesday.

  2. marcellous Says:

    Thanks, I, I was hoping you might identify the flowering bush for me. What about the creeper?

    I always seem to be coming in from the west. One day we must surely meet in the middle, though Tuesday was was my last OA outing for this year.

  3. wanderer Says:

    Likewise re OA this year and I’m afraid I lied – we came from the west into the mid-stalls, harbour side first interval, city side second interval. Agreed.

    Sorry can’t do the creeper which I assume is the pod bearer in pic 5, but Kennedia rubicunda, Dusky Coral-pea, is one guess.

  4. marcellous Says:

    Gerontius on the 19th. I’m waiting to be converted to that but I’m taking it in along with all but the Enigma one of the VA/Elgar fest. I’ve already disclosed my D&J dates, as you may have noticed.

  5. Sally Says:

    Interesting post; I’ve wandered around the area a little – not as much as you describe. You know the area near the Salvos store and that vacant land (I think it was ‘Tempe Tip’ – I read in the SMH Biz section recently that is goijng to become the Asian HQ of IKEA complete with giant megastore. Wonder if the credit crisis/meltdown is having an impact?

    I don;t know what I think about that….I think I prefer the romance of the “urban pastorale” as you put it.

    I explored around Kogarah Golf Club the other day (off Levey St / Cahill Park area, near the Rowers Club, and you can look at the spot where Alexandra Canal meets the Cooks River. I wish that area could be rehabilitated and a USEABLE cycleway running parallel to the Princes Hway and actually facilitating cycling towards the city (NOONE in their right mind does that on the PHwy)could be facilitated.

  6. wanderer Says:

    Yes, Gerontius on the 19th. Did you see my post on Newman and friend?

  7. marcellous Says:


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