During lockdown in 2020 I followed the paths of local stormwater canals. This meant I could remain physically distanced on walks that took me down customarily deserted back streets and lanes. I wrote about my ‘concrete creek’ excursions on my blogsite ‘Pavement Graffiti’.
It would have been a pretty bushland waterway but when the surrounding land was built up, houses and factories turned their backs on it. By 1892 Johnston's Creek was condemned as a 'fever bed' with calls for the construction of a canal because of 'the menace to public health arising from the sewage nuisance'.
During lockdown I am visiting sections of the canal, following it from underground suburban drains to its outlet on Sydney Harbour. Today I plunge into a light industrial triangle where the streets slope to a bleak concrete pathway covering the canal. To my left is the old sandstone bridge on Parramatta Road where thousands of cars pass the McDonald's every day. The water traces a thin silvery line through the shadows under the road.
I turn right and walk along the pathway, following the flow of the creek underneath, the rear of respectable Victorian houses on one side, factories and derelict buildings on the other. My exploration comes to an abrupt end at a metal fence. Beyond is a wide, open channel and I can hear water falling. A bird calls from the overhanging backyard shrubbery.
I scramble back to the street up a grassy vacant lot beside a warehouse. Later I read a real estate advertisement from 1850, when the farm here was broken up into housing allotments. This grassy area is described as 'a RESERVED WATERING PLACE at deep water on Johnston's Creek that will add materially to the comfort of the occupants'.