Watson mums wade in for micro-forest funding

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Watson residents Elizabeth Adcock, left, and Purdie Bowden share a vision to create a local micro-forest.

A SECOND urban micro-forest is planned for the inner north, with a community group in Watson keen to mirror the first micro-forest project underway in Downer. 

Project leads Purdie Bowden and Elizabeth Adcock, both 36, say their vision is to create a densely planted micro-forest and nature-play park at Wade Street, Watson, which is an “unusable dust bowl” in summer. 

“There are some beautiful mature gums here, but it gets dry and dusty, and the kids can’t use the playground in summer as it’s blistering hot with no shade,” says Purdie, mum to Scout, two, and Aiyr, seven months.

Landscape architect Edwina Robinson, founder of the Climate Factory, coined the term “urban micro-forest” for a pocket of vegetation that cools the landscape, absorbs carbon, creates habitat and enhances community. Following her work on the Downer/Cole Street space, Edwina created a template for others to do the same in their own communities, and Purdie says they wanted to be one of the first cabs off the rank.

“I knew immediately it was what we needed in Watson, as it could be up to 10 degrees cooler in a vegetated area,” she says.

The project will generate funding for 15,000 climate-ready trees, shrubs, groundcovers and creepers, earthworks to improve the soil and naturally retain water. Irrigation will be needed for the first three years until the forest is self-sufficient. 

Elizabeth says she and her children Oliver, seven, and Genevieve, five, walk through the Wade Street space daily on the way to school. 

“This is our local spot, it’s a high-traffic area close to the shops and our kids’ school, so I’d love it to be more usable,” she says.

“There’s already some community will to improve the space, with locals doing guerilla planting.”

Purdie says the community group aims to raise money through crowdfunding, corporate sponsorship and government grants. 

“We’re hoping to raise $50,000 all up, and while we’re engaging the Climate Factory to plant with us as our main partner, it’s about them enabling us to lead the project,” she says. 

Plantings will include natives that can cope with heat, like the evergreen kurrajong from near Gilgandra, northern NSW, and drought-tolerant and fire-resistant species, as well as bush foods and indigenous medicinal plants. 

Kids will be huge users of the forest, so Purdie, who founded the group All Play Inner North and has successfully campaigned for a destination playground in the inner north, wants to include a forest playground and says they’ll reach out to kids from preschool to year six from the local primary school to share their ideas. 

“The kids might want more places to climb, or more shade, and we’d like things like sticks, water or puddles, to deepen their connection with nature,” she says.

Purdie and Elizabeth say the community would learn about drought-hardy native plants and habitats, water harvesting and climate-smart landscaping through design workshops, planting and taking care of the site. 

As this will be an ongoing project, Elizabeth says the group has applied for a Community Connections grant to create an online community portal where people can connect and maintain the site together. She hopes the portal would also help families who may feel isolated or lonely. 

“It makes sense to improve the areas we live in and the places we engage with, so we can create more of a connection, not just to the land but to our community.”

More at watsonmicroforest.com

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist.

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