In a time of major uncertainty, Emily found love in an unexpected place: her local park.
We all have a place that offers solitude. For me, my local park is to thank for my sanity during Sydney’s ongoing lockdown.
I’ve visited this park once, if not twice, every day over the past three months. Sure, it’s always been a place for a nice stroll, but something has altered, to make it feel different. I’m undeniably in love.
In the early days of this lockdown, morning walks were weighed with anxiety, the stress of monotonous, repetitive days working from home. How would I cope in the absence of camping and hiking trips, swimming in the ocean, all beyond my 5km grasp?
But the morning sun felt good on my skin, and soon I started honing in on the finer details of my surroundings to help push out the angst. I’d find a quiet spot to sit and close my eyes, beneath the park’s tall gum trees, placing my mind’s eye somewhere deep in the Aussie bush. Breathe. Listen.
One crisp July morning, it dawned on me as the lorikeets were still chirping, the wind was still whistling, black swans were birthing their cygnets. Even though city life felt at a standstill, the cycle of nature went on.
Allow me to set the scene: my local is Sydney Park, a 41-hectare haven for humans and dogs. Nestled between Newtown, St Peters, and Alexandria in Sydney’s Inner West, its large rolling hills provide beautiful views toward the city to the north, and deep glowing sunsets to the west.
Read more: 13 Picnic Spots Around Sydney
A flowing wetlands system made using retained stormwater creates peaceful cascades, surrounded by lush palms and blooming yellow wattle. Step one by one on the large stepping stones and you’ll quickly feel like you’re somewhere else entirely.
Between 1948 and 1976, this park (once a brickworks site) was used for municipal waste – a literal rubbish dump! It’s hard to believe so much life can spawn from land that was once a pile of man-made rubble. Now the council focuses on regeneration of the earth and water systems, providing clean and healthy habitats for birds and plants.
There’s a large volunteer-run community garden, which in normal times sells its produce at regular markets. Some locals have carved out some easy BMX tracks amongst the gum tree forest. A newly built skatepark teems with folks trying out their skills.
Most sections of the park allow dogs off-leash, so you’re pretty much guaranteed constant furry entertainment. You can even get coffee from the Sydney Park Kiosk, which always blasts carefree tunes from a large otto bin-turned-speaker. Even in a pandemic, there’s a vibe.
While I’ve been taking countless quiet laps with my dog around the park from behind my mask, trying to feel present in this slice of nature, I know I’m not alone in my new found appreciation.
I’m joined by runners, parents with prams, duos taking their gym routines to one of the park’s many outdoor fitness areas. It’s a space for all. It’s now picnic season and I can’t wait to wile away my hours here, throwing a frisbee, dog-watching, dozing in the sun.
I acknowledge my privilege in having access to such an abundant landscape, only a short walk from home that I can come to again and again. I feel for those who have been denied time in nature due to location, ability or circumstance. I hope the sun and spring air has somehow reached you. And even if your local park isn’t quite as fine as this one, I’m certain the need for urban green-space has never been so appreciated until now.
I still miss the bush, but I know I’ll get there soon. Until then, time for another lap.