Friday, 16 October 2020

Bell Common Today

I took some pictures of the Bell Common for a previous post but decided maybe it needed its own dedicated article.

As one walks up the driveway (which formerly led to the homestead) there are many large old camellia and a rhododendron on the slope. Near the site of the original gate are a myrtle, a very substantial bay tree and the largest holly I have ever come across.

On the frontage to Cambridge Road there are a kauri and totara planted to commemorate the coronation of the present Queen’s parents, George VI and Elizabeth, on 12th May 1937. There is also a medium-sized walnut and to the west a large sweet chestnut and handsome Atlas cedar.

Moreton bay fig, planted in the 1930s

However the most handsome and spreading tree in this small arboretum is beyond the popular little playground. It is a Moreton Bay fig which fully occupies its own section of the Common and measures approximately 120 metres in circumference.

Bay of Plenty Times, 4 May 1933

Margaret Mackersey (née Bell) told me of her late father William Poole Bell arriving home in the 1930s intensely angry having witnessed the demise of the second of two large Moreton Bay figs in town. At the first opportunity he planted two more on the farm to compensate for their loss.

Moreton Bay fig, root system

Not many years passed and a tank trap was to be constructed across the farm during WW2 to stop the Japanese should they invade. The Bell family realised the matching tree down next to Cambridge Road (about opposite the present day shops) was in the way. William contacted the County Engineer who quietly came at night and moved the survey pegs to save it from destruction. Unfortunately 30 years later it really did have to be sacrificed to make way for the drainage systems when Townhead Farm was finally subdivided.

Moreton Bay fig - fruit developing
All images copyright Julie Green

1 comment:

  1. Awesome article. So interesting to read a historical bit of my neighbourhood.