Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Farm Hedges

Hedges have traditionally been used in the country to delineate property boundaries and as wind breaks. Traditionally, in this region, Cypress trees have been planted for this purpose and it is quite usual to see rows of old cypress trees along the road sides. However 100 years or so after the cypress trees were first planted they begin to look very straggly, have a tendency to blow over in high wind days and in the past 5 to 7 years they have also suffered from Cypress canker and row after row of the trees have died. On the Koo Wee Rup Swamp it was thought that this canker took hold after the February 2011 floods. So due to these circumstances many old cypress trees are now being removed.


This is my grandmother's farm on Murray Road at Cora Lynn, c. 1957.  A good illustration of cypress trees used as wind breaks.


This is an aerial of Brentwood farm at Berwick, taken sometime before 1988. Another illustration of the use of cypress hedges as wind breaks. Brentwood was on Berwick Clyde Road, located near what is now the southern part of Bemersyde Drive. You can still see some of the Brentwood cypress trees in the Brentwood Park housing estate, especially lining Chirnside Walk.


These are other cypress trees on Murray Road, in the process of being removed - they are at the ugly, straggly stage.  Photo was taken June 2013.


Another type of hedge that was planted in the area was English Hawthorn or Whitethorn (C. monogyna). You can still see some of these remnant hedges at Caldermeade,  along Ballarto Road near Cardinia and near the Catani township amongst other places.

The Cardinia Shire Heritage Study* has this to say about the hedges In Cardinia Shire, hedges were used extensively from the late nineteenth century onward as an efficient form of fencing, particularly on the large pastoral estates in the southern parts of the Shire around Koo Wee Rup. Windrows of trees were also planted, chiefly Monterey Cypresses or Pines to protect stock and crops. These trees and hedges also had an aesthetic value that added a picturesque quality to the landscape and consequently 'bear witness to the immigrants' desire to have familiar surroundings in this strange new land'  

Usually planted in straight lines along the edges of paddocks and along boundaries, they closely followed the north-south and east-west lines marked out by the allotment surveyors and hence emphasised the grid layout imposed by the Government survey upon the landscape. 

The most common hedging plant used in Cardinia Shire was English Hawthorn or Whitethorn (C. monogyna), one of a number of different plant varieties used throughout Victoria in the nineteenth century. One of the earliest hawthorn hedges in the former Cranbourne Shire was established in 1882 at Caldermeade near Lang Lang (Gunson, 1968)

This last reference is to Niel Gunson, The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire** The hedge referred to was planted by Alexander McMillan (1825 - 1897). Alexander was the fifth son of Archibald McMillan (1789-1863) who purchased the Caldermeade property in May 1881, when the property was put up for sale after the death of Archibald's widow, Katherine. At the time the property consisted of over 3,000 acres.  Alexander kept the property in excellent condition and planted the hawthorn hedgerows around 1882. There are still hedges along parts of Caldermeade Road and the South Gippsland Highway.

The Cardinia hedges along Ballarto Road are likely to be associated with the ownership of land by the Patterson family in the nineteenth century according to the Heritage Study* You can see these hedges from the Cardinia township to Pound Road. Alexander Patterson (1813 - 1896)  had acquired the St Germains run of nine square miles (5, 760 acres) in 1848. Some of the St Germains property, facing Ballarto Road was sold off after 1906** You can read Mr Patterson's obituary in the South Bourke & Mornington Journal of December 30, 1896, here.

We will now look at the Catani hedges. The Heritage Study* has this to say about these hedges - This series of Hawthorn Hedges surround almost the whole boundary of the property that is bounded by Caldermeade, Heads, Taplins and  Walshes roads immediately to the south of Catani township.

The exact date of the Hawthorn hedges at Catani is not known, however, it appears that they may have been associated with the farm established by James Smethurst, a farmer of Yannathan, in the late 1880s. Smethurst obtained the Crown Grant for Crown Allotment 21D, Parish of Yallock in July 1888. CA 21D is the land now bordered by Caldermeade, Heads, Walshes and Taplins roads. 

Smethurst did not own the property for long. A small portion of land at the corner of Caldermeade and Heads roads was sold to William Scott in 1889, while the balance was sold in 1891 to James Greaves, a butcher from Dandenong . James sold to William Henry Greaves, a farmer, in 1899. He owned the property until 1933. In 1932, the north-east corner was sold to the Presbyterian Church of Victoria as the site of the Catani Presbyterian Church.

The Hawthorn Hedges as they exist today therefore appear to correspond with the boundaries of the land as selected by Smethurst in 1888 so may have been planted by him as a condition of the Grant. Alternatively they could have been planted by Greaves after 1891.

James Smethurst who owned the land may have been James Smethurst Snr or James Smethurst Jnr - hard to tell from the Cranbourne Shire Rate Books as they  both own lots of land and it does not seem to specifically mention CA 21D. James Smethurst (1822-1905) and his wife Sarah (nee Hulton 1846 - 1907) arrived in area at Cranbourne in the late 1850s and had land at Yannathan and Cranbourne. James Smethurst Jnr (1846 - 1909) and his wife Eliza (nee Stanlake 1856-1909) also had  land at Yannathan as did  his brother John Henry Smethurst (1849 - 1898). John and his wife Annie (nee Redfern 1853 - 1925) had the property Glen Avis at Yannathan and was also a Cranbourne Shire Councillor. (Family information come from Early Settlers of the Casey Cardinia Region)



The Hawthorn hedges in Catani that are of heritage significance.  The township of Catani is at the top left, the road on the left is Walshe's Road, at the bottom is Head's Road, on the right is Caldermeade and at the top is Taplins Road.  The little square at the top of the marked roads is the Catani Presbyterian Church (now a  Community Church) as referred to in the Heritage Study description. This photo is from the Cardinia Local Heritage Study Review  Volume 2: Key Findings & Recommendations  Revised Report  May 2011 undertaken by Context Heritage Consultants.


This is the hawthorn hedge in Taplin's Road at Catani. The old cypress trees are part of the Catani Recreation Reserve. (April 2018)


Walshes Road hawthorn hedge, looking back towards Head's Road. The pile of trees on the right are felled cypress trees. (April 2018)


Red hawthorn berries - Catani (April 2018)


Caldermeade Road hedges at Catani (April 2018)

The Heritage Study also lists a hawthorn hedge on Linehams Road at Catani and there is also a hawthorn hedge at Clyde, from around Patterson Road, down to the old railway line - it will be interesting to know how long the Clyde one will last with all the rapid development going on in the area.

The Heritage Study* quotes this passage from Early Days of Berwick*** Mr Walton, father of Mrs G.W Robinson, introduced the hawthorn hedge one of the charms of North Narre Warren into the district. He taught the art of thorn setting or layering, as practiced in England which by the interlacing of the upper and lower branches hedges were rendered cattle and sheep proof.  Mr Walton was Thomas Walton, who wife his wife Eliza,  arrived in the Narre Warren area in 1852 and built Holly Green (located where Fountain Gate Shopping Centre is today). The Waltons left the area in 1877 and  Sidney Webb purchased Holly Green in 1880. It was their daughter, Eliza Mary Walton, who married George Washington Robinson in 1867. Robinson was the Shire of Berwick Engineer from 1876 to 1890.


This is the Holly Green property in 1900 - the property has a post and rail fence facing what is now the Princes Highway, but the other boundary fences could still be Mr Walton's hedges.


*Cardinia Local Heritage Study Review Volume 3: Heritage Place & Precinct citations  - Final report, revised November 2013, September 2015 undertaken by  Context Heritage Consultants.

 ** Gunson, Niel The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire (Shire of Cranbourne, 1968)

 *** Early days of Berwick  and its surrounding districts of Beaconsfield, Upper Beaconsfield, Harkaway, Narre Warren and Narre Warren North. (3rd edition, 1979)  

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