On my way back from Camberwell South the other day, I took a little detour off my usual Anniversary Trail route to have a look at some parts of Camberwell and Canterbury that I don’t normally visit.
Back Creek, Camberwell
I came off the Anniversary Trail at Elaroo Avenue in Camberwell and meandered through the side streets trying to find the mythical Lynden Park shared path that follows Back Creek (mythical only because I’d heard of it but never been there).
After a few false turns down some admittedly nice streets, I finally discovered the path. Unfortunately, at this point I had to cross Riversdale Road. Not an easy task, especially when there is nothing at all to help people get across or direct people to the path itself. I ended up getting lost and riding across grass in an open field through South Surrey Park in order to rejoin the trail.
Back Creek in this area does provide a nice linear park around Through Road and its associated little shopping centre. It has a very English feel in many places, perhaps due to the nostalgia of the suburb’s first European inhabitants.
Chatham Railway Station wasn’t too far away so I decided to have a look at this quaint but much-maligned station (at least among my friends).
In terms of station design, it’s definitely not the worst. It seemed to have a similar layout to Glenferrie Station in particular, featured an island platform with a ramp coming from an underpass. I presume that its similarity comes from many of the stations on this part of the railway line being built at around the same time. Most of the problems that I could see were related to its accessibility, which can only improve as the commercial corridor along Canterbury Road becomes more developed.
Maling Road, Canterbury
Leaving Chatham behind, I continued west along the tree and car-lined Sherlaw Avenue towards Maling Road, Canterbury. After yet another terrible crossing of a major arterial road (intersection of Canterbury and Rochester Roads), I arrived at the newly-painted murals in the Canterbury Station underpass. They are a great idea and brighten up an otherwise dark and empty space.
Going through this underpass brings you to the beginning of the treasured Maling Road shops. It is perhaps the most ‘Boroondara-like’ part of the municipality with a narrow tree-lined shopping strip featuring more heritage buildings than you can shake a stick at. It was almost destroyed in the 1970s when Canterbury Road was grade-separated and plans were proposed to replace large parts of the area with a supermarket. Fortunately, this was stopped and the centre’s buildings preserved.
Despite the indisputable heritage and aesthetic value of its buildings, Maling Road itself suffers from a serious case of car-domination. A council plan to pedestrianise the street was also stopped in the 1970s, condemning the street to be little more than a place to store cars and vans at the expense of accessibility, aesthetic value and general peace and quiet.
As is visible in the image above, the street is barely wide enough to fit three cars across, let alone parking on both sides plus a two-way thoroughfare. Worse still, there is only one pedestrian-priority crossing along this entire stretch (which motorists routinely ignore anyway), making getting from one side to the other quite difficult.
All of this begs the question – why not make the street a pedestrian plaza? It would make it an immeasurably nicer place to hang around, shop and eat. Traders and residents alike would benefit from such a change. The best part is that such a success story already exists in Maling Road – Theatre Place. This short street was pedestrianised some years ago, and now features public seating, trees and vibrant cafes. The lived example already exists and the conditions are right – all it will take is political willpower and prioritisation of resources.