It is almost three years since the trees were planted on the new cathedral site. Board member Marcus Williams and long-time Friend of Eastwoodhill Rodney Faulkner spent some time recently on site assessing the progress to date and discussing future developments and issues. Report written by Rodney Faulkner.
It is most encouraging to see the growth and health of the 140 trees that form the structure of the Cathedral. This is in part due to the detailed site work that ensured that the drainage and soil the trees were planted in was in the best condition possible. Also, the trees supplied were in excellent condition with very good roots. During the first summer, the staff mulched and watered them regularly and any weeds were controlled. All trees were planted in tree protectors which eliminated stock damage. This attention to detail has resulted in very even growth and a 100% survival rate.
Growth rates have been impressive with many of the Redwoods and Metasequoia now over 3m high. It is envisaged these two species will be gradually pruned to form the clear trunks that will form the central pillars of the cathedral. There has been no wind or pest damage and light form pruning by the staff has resulted in very even form. There is only one redwood that is noticeably smaller and this should be replaced by one of the spares on site. We notice many trees on the south west side are slightly smaller than the rest and recommend these be given a boost with fertiliser. It is likely the fill in this area was of lower fertility than the rest of the site.
The Tilia that will form the walls outside the redwoods are growing well and need little attention apart from some minor form pruning. The Ginkgo that enclose the two small “chapels” are grafted male trees so will not produce the smelly seeds that cause so many complaints when used as street trees. They should not be pruned to a clear trunk as they are to enclose these two small spaces. They coloured well this autumn and should be spectacular in years to come as will the maples that surround the north end.
There are several large Plane trees at the north east beside the Hihiroroa Road. These were left to provide shade and shelter by the entrance from the road but will require some form pruning to prevent them over shadowing and distorting the cathedral trees in this area. The Waikato Polytech students worked on some of the others in this area during one of their visits.
The drainage is working well and the raised cathedral area is quite dry even after heavy rain whereas the area beyond remains wet and soggy. Staff have kept the area mown over the summer and grazing with sheep have maintained it. By mowing the cathedral area and leaving the surrounding grass un-mown helps to emphasise the shape of the cathedral. In a few years time this will be visible by passengers to and from Auckland as it is under the normal flight path.
The Hihiroroa stream that surrounds the cathedral on three sides encloses the space like a moat. The willows and other weeds on the western side below the hill known as “The Three Kings” were all removed before any ground work on the site was started. It is important that this section be kept free of willow re-growth and that any other volunteer weeds be removed. We notice some re-growth of the willows in the stream. There are several poplars in the stream at the northern end that have collapsed into the bed and these should also be poisoned or removed as they could form a blockage during a flood.
The stream at the southern and eastern side of the site has yet to be cleared of willows and weeds. This section can be accessed by machinery from the flat between the stream and the Hihiroroa Road. This work should be done before the access foot bridge at the southern end is constructed.
This stream has the potential to become a very attractive feature of the arboretum. Even during the driest summer there is a trickle of water through the many pools. Given the interest in riparian planting around the country at the moment, this area can be developed as a showcase using entirely different tree species so increasing the diversity of the collection.
The master plan for the cathedral calls for a walking bridge at the southern end of the cathedral site. This provides walking access from “Wee Flat” which can then be used for parking or functions such as weddings in the cathedral. There can be a link to the existing track system, over the bridge to the cathedral and eventually over a second bridge at the north western end to the “Three Kings”.This can then be linked to a continuation of the track through this rarely visited part of the park.
A pair of Yew trees were planted on the bank where the bridge could be sited as part of the ceremony when the site was blessed on Arbour Day 2015. A foot bridge at this spot would need to be about 30 m. long to ensure it was above the highest flood hence the need to remove the willows and other trees from the stream bed. A raised mown track can link the bridge to the southern entrance of the cathedral. There is a stockpile of top soil near here which can be used for this track and it can then be grassed and planted with appropriate trees.
Visitors to the arboretum can now look down on the cathedral site and, with the trees growing so well, it is beginning to look like an interesting feature. It may be some years before there is any interest in using it for ceremonies and these can still be held in the old cathedral. However it might be possible to hold the Anzac Day ceremony in the new cathedral in 2019 as a means of raising public awareness. It might also provide a suitable site for an Arbour Day planting ceremony next year, that being the fourth anniversary of the blessing on Arbour Day 2015.
Credit should be given to the staff for the care and attention they have given to the site. It always looks tidy and well maintained and is a credit to all involved.