Sunday, January 08, 2012

Paths and predicaments

Last September while riding out to the Elizabeth River bridge I noticed that the bicycle path had been extended beyond the bend which used to mark the end of the Darwin - Palmerston bike path. I returned a few days later excited to see how far the extension went and discovered that an excellent bike path had been created along the old Darwin Rail line, all the way to Howard Springs!

Howard Springs - Palmerston Bicycle path 1
Palmerston - Howard Springs bicycle path (crossing rail bridge)

Howard Springs - Palmerston Bicycle path 2
Palmerston - Howard Springs bicycle path (rail cutting)

According to the NT Transport Group the 5.4 kilometre path was officially opened on the 11th September 2011, just a few days after I rode it. It's an awesome path and quite easy to ride. Unfortunately I have two major complaints about the path. I can't stand those stupid bent poles which force people riding in opposite directions into each others way to avoid hitting the poles (These things are really dangerous in town where kids ride, they are just the right height to hit a child in the head!) The other thing that I can't figure out is the crossing at Howard Springs Rd which instructs cyclists to Dismount prior to crossing the road! WTF for? I presume it's purpose is designed for the safety of cyclists. However I just can't see how getting off one's bike and pushing it across a road is going to improve safety for anyone. If it's based on road accident stats I think they'll find that Pedestrians are much more likely to be hit than cyclists (OK Stats can be extremely subjective but for goodness sake!). If I'm riding my bike the safest way for me to avoid being hit by a car is to spend as little time crossing the road as I can. My bike provides me with the means of doing this, why would I want to 'Dismount'?

Car blocking divise
 What's this chicanery?

Dismount. For what?
Dubious safety research!

A technically legal predicament presents itself to cyclists most times we enter the road. Follow the ill conceived directives of road planners who appear to have given bugger all thought to the practicalities of their arbitrary designs, or follow ones own instinct for reading road conditions based on a keen sense of self preservation? Well in the case of this 'Dismount' sign I decided to follow the instruction purely out of curiosity and for the sake of experimentation. Result: I felt quite compromised standing in the middle of the road! Now I know for sure what to do next time!

Since it's construction I've ridden along the new stretch from Palmerston to Howard Springs about 6 times and have really enjoyed my experiences on the path; it's like a public esplanade in the middle of nowhere. There are always heaps of cyclists on the path and it passes through some really nice country, including a raised section where you can ride over the top of paperbark wetlands which will likely be in full flow by February.

Besides it's ride-ability there was another plus to the path which enticed me back a few times.
Last year when I first rode the path I really enjoyed riding past a well wooded mango orchard which wasn't fenced. Besides the potential to glean a few ripe mangoes the orchard created a wonderful atmosphere. It was densely wooded and had a full, lush canopy which created it's own micro climate. Riding past it was like riding through a shady grove, it was aesthetically beautiful.

I kept my eye on the orchard and wondered if it was being maintained. Some of the trees may have reached senility but most were in pretty good shape, non commercially speaking of course. There were dead branches and signs of parasites or disease among them but also thriving colonies of green ants. It appeared that the trees hadn't been tended to for quite a long time. 

As the season rolled on, the grass grew longer between the trees and I felt sure that no one cared for the crop. Eventually the fruit had grown to a size that could be picked. I decided to head out there and collect some that had fallen, after all no one seemed to care for it. I managed collect a few pieces of fruit which had fallen on the ground. By the time I visited again there were tons of mangoes on the trees and the grass was quite tall throughout the orchard. I decided to pick some fruit... and filled both slings on my Xtracycle. Technically not Gleaning but it seemed the fruit would only go to waste. After two trips I had far more fruit than I could eat in the two weeks it would take it all to ripen! I was ecstatic that I had come across such a perfect situation. Food falling from trees and all I have to do is go for a nice ride on my bike to collect it!

Well it was too good to be true! A couple of weeks ago I rode past the orchard and it had been razed to the ground! Nothing left of that little grove but a smouldering pile of smashed branches and roots, a few stumps sticking out of the ground and some mango seeds remaining from the fruit that rotted on the ground! So much for "The People's Orchard!" At first I thought it was an act of malice against the trees and those who enjoyed their bounty but most likely a simple pragmatic decision to reduce potential spread of disease or re-develop the land or something like that. Either way it pisses me off when things like that happen.

Mango trees destroyed!
Mango tree stump (100s of trees destroyed)

mango stumps burned
Pile of burned roots and branches

It was such a beautiful orchard. I guess I was always preoccupied with its fruit to bother taking a photo before it was destroyed.

So much space so few places to sit!


Judy said...

What a coincidence. Yesterday whilst driving down the highway I noticed railings through the trees, and wondered aloud to Tom what it could be. He said it's the old railway line, I said it looks like a bike path. He said there wouldn't be one there...
Very sad about the mango trees.

David J said...

Hi Judy,
Yeh it's funny every time we drive south on the Stuart Highway my attention is drawn to the left where the railway line used to run. I had been curious about it for years and wondered about exploring that path on my bike. Now we can all cruise along there in comfort. Apparently the plan is for it to go all the way to Humpty Doo!